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Alumni and Friends Trip
Unknown Tuscany With Dr. Paul Treherne

 Tall are the oaks whose acorns
    Drop in dark Auser’s rill;
Fat are the stags that champ the boughs
    Of the Ciminian hill;
Beyond all streams Clitumnus
    Is to the herdsman dear;
Best of all pools the fowler loves
    The great Volsinian mere.

Thomas Babington MacaulayLays of Ancient Rome (‘Horatius’), 1842.

Come join us for four nights and five days exploring the unknown fringes of southern Tuscany. This is a walking trip - off the well trodden tourist circuit, on foot across not one but three regions of Italy! For centuries, the meeting point between southern Tuscany, northern Lazio and western Umbria was an international frontier, the haunt of medieval anchorites and 19th-century brigands alike. What lends this borderland its unique identity is the myriad of rock cut roads and tombs hollowed in the soft volcanic tuff, deepest and most lasting testimonies of the Etruscan civilization. The native land of Etruria is ringed round by extinct cinder cones, crater lakes and thermal springs, relics of a remote age of volcanism. Here lost cities lie steeped in mystery, in the puzzle of Etruscan origins and language, which live on in the traditions of their medieval and modern heirs. Come discover another side of Tuscany, far from the madding crowd, where you can still enjoy authentic encounters with local people who are only too willing to share their love for this unique land.


Monday, September 30

From Rome, we travel up the Tyrrhenian coast by minibus to the Etruscan city of Vulci (1.5 hrs), with its Farnese castle guarding the dantesque Ponte della Badia, romantic setting for the remarkably improbable story of Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon, and his Etruscan discoveries. From Vulci we cross the Tuscan frontier for Pitigliano (45 mins), “La Piccola Gerusalemme,” rising like a vision of the Holy City on its rock. Its Baroque synagogue and old ghetto once were home to a thriving Jewish population, for which the town receives its nickname. From Pitigliano, after lunch, we follow an ancient Etruscan rock cut way (via cava) on foot to Sovana (2.5-3 hrs), former bishopric of the region and our home for two nights. Dinner is in the nearby Taverna Etrusca, known for local dishes like nettle soup and award winning wines such as Sasso Tondo, whose vineyards we walk past on our walk.

Walking distance / time: 4.9 miles / 2.5-3 hrs.

Tuesday, October 1

Morning walk from Sovana to Sorano (3.5-4 hrs), through vineyards planted by the Marchese di Antinori, whose wine we will later taste at dinner. We enter town via a dramatic and thrilling approach, once used by medieval travelers and indeed by locals right up until the end of the last war. After lunch, we return by bus to Sovana for a visit of the perfectly preserved Romanesque basilica (ex-cathedral) next to our hotel and a walk round the Etruscan cemeteries hidden in the forested gorge below town (2 hrs). Dinner again in the Taverna Etrusca and night in Sovana.

 Walking distance / time: 7.49 miles + 2.5 miles / 3.5-4 hrs + 2 hrs.


Wednesday, October 2

Morning departure by bus for the Etruscan and papal stronghold of Montefiascone (1 hr), named for its trademark white wine and perched high on the crater rim of Bolsena, Europe’s largest volcanic lake. From below Montefiascone, we continue on foot along the eastern shore of lake Bolsena (3.5-4hrs), following a well-preserved stretch of the ancient Roman via Cassia, busy medieval pilgrim road to Rome - the Via Francigena. En route we pass through the picturesque parco di Turona, named like its bubbling spring-fed cascades for the Etruscan goddess of love. We walk right to the front door of our hotel beside the lake shore, on the little marina of Bolsena town. After settling in, we stroll to the local Basilica, with its early Christian catacombs famed for the child saint Cristina and the blood miracle of 1263, celebrated annually by Catholics the world over. Options for swimming. 

Walking distance / time: 6.83 miles / 3.5 hrs

Thursday, October 3

Picking up yesterday’s story, we walk in the footsteps of Bolsena’s miraculous altar cloth, along an ancient Etruscan route to Orvieto (5 hours), where in 1263 pope Urban IV received the holy relic. Stopping en route to enjoy a simple picnic, we arrive in time to visit Orvieto’s cathedral, with its famous Brizi chapel, frescoed with Renaissance scenes of Last Judgment by Luca Signorelli, a master of Michelangelo. We return to Bolsena by private mini bus for dinner and the night. 

Walking distance / time: 10.5 miles / 5.5 hrs.


Friday, October 4

After a morning swim, we enjoy a private visit by boat to Isola Bisentina, one of two volcanic islets rising from the depths of Bolsena’s submerged caldera. Bisentina has only recently reopened to the public after years of restoration, with many hitherto inaccessible sites opened for us. We enjoy a walk round this former papal summer retreat and hunting lodge, with its idyllic gardens and seven chapels, designed by the likes of Benozzo Gozzoli, Bramante and Antonio da Sangallo the younger. Pontiffs who stayed here, like Pius II Piccolomini or Leo X de’ Medici or Paul III Farnese, once made the rounds of Bisentina’s chapels, like the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome. After lunch, we return to the Eternal City (2 hrs) by minibus ourselves, only not dressed in the muddy hunting boots which used to embarrass the throngs who turned out to greet Pope Pius II on his return from Bisentina, hoping to kiss his holy feet!

Please note: The walking pace is gentle by design (2 miles/3 kms per hour). This allows people to enjoy conversation and points of interest along the way. There will be options for drop off and pick up points to shorten the walks if requested. All luggage will be transported when moving between hotels. 

30.09-02.10 Sovana Hotel and Resort ****
02-04.10 Hotel Royal, Bolsena ****

€1000 per person in double occupancy
€1150 per person in single occupancy

Minimum number of people: 10

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