Arrive at our group hotel in the medieval city of Assisi, Italy by 12pm today. Assisi can be reached via direct rail connections from Rome. It is the birthplace of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment. Assisi's finely preserved marble buildings and scenic location on the slopes of Monte Subasio contribute to its reputation as one of the most beautiful towns in Umbria. This afternoon we enjoy a walking tour to see the Basilica of St. Francis, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We also visit the 53 Romanesque arches of the Friary of St. Francis and the Cathedral of San Rufino. We overnight in Assisi. Dinner included.
Walking: 2.5 miles, 3.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 440'.
Today's hike begins in Eremo delle Carceri. This small hermitage, located in Monte Subasio Natural Park, served as a spiritual retreat for the young St. Francis and is still home to a small group of Franciscan monks. We follow in the footsteps of St. Francis, hiking on a mix of dirt and gravel trails through the Vale of Spoleto's rolling hills, verdant valleys and thick oak forests. Our destination is the quiet village of Spello with its beautifully intact pink-stone medieval center. Time permitting, we stop to view Pinturicchio's superb Renaissance frescoes in Spello's church of Santa Maria Maggiore before heading back to Assisi. All meals included.
Hiking: 10 miles, 5 hours; Elevation gain/loss: 1,100'/2,400'. Walking 1.5 miles.
The medieval hill town of Perugia was founded by the Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago and conquered by the Romans in 309 BC. We tour Saint Lorenz Cathedral and view paintings of the Renaissance master Pietro Perugino, one of Umbria's native sons and Raphael's teacher. A short transfer brings us to Panicale, a tiny architectural gem set amongst rolling hills with vineyards and olive groves. We stroll through narrow cobblestone streets and enjoy lunch. Next, we visit Orvieto which stands high above the Paglia valley on a crag of soft volcanic stone called tufa. We walk through cobblestone streets and visit the town?s unusual black-and-white banded marble cathedral. This Gothic building has an intricate and colorful fa�ade made up of both mosaic and sculptural elements. We take a guided tour of the underground city, following winding passageways to discover a 2,500-year-old world. We overnight in Orvieto. All meals included.
Walking tour of Perugia: 2.5 hours; Orvieto underground tour: 1 mile, 1 hour; Driving 3 hours.
Departing Orvieto, we follow an ancient Roman road to reach Bolsena. En route to the eastern shores of Europe?s biggest volcanic lake, we stop at an historic agriturismo to try the local produce and specialties. Following lunch, we continue our hike to Bolsena, a medieval Roman town with a rich history. Archeologists have identified Roman baths, temples, a small theater and amphitheatre to be from the 3rd century AD. The surrounding landscape is equally rich with black volcanic sands and beaches stretching for miles. Our waterfront hotel lies below la Rocca Monaldeschi dell Cerva; this impressive historical building has been a fort, castle and prison and now houses a museum. We overnight in Bolsena. All meals included.
Hiking: 8.2 miles, 4 hours; Elevation gain/loss: 713'/370'.
Tuscia Laziale is an agricultural region known for its volcanic lakes, flower-filled fields and olive groves of rare beauty. Our path heads south as we hike along a scenic ridge trail overlooking Lake Bolsena. We follow a stretch of the ancient Via Cassia en route to Montefiascone, the next stop in our modern-day pilgrimage along the Via Francigena. This important Roman road once connected Rome with Italy's northwestern coast. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Montefiascone and nearby Viterbo became safe havens for numerous popes. This was during a period when the papacy had difficulty asserting its authority over Rome. Today, the town's historic buildings, churches and piazzas allow us to imagine what medieval life might have been like for its former inhabitants. Upon reaching Montefiascone we enjoy a tasting of famous wines of the region. All meals included.
Hiking: 8 miles, 4.5 hours; Elevation gain/loss: 2,000'/1,500?; Walking: 1.2 miles.
The ancient beech forest of the Cimini Mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We hike the lush slopes of Monte Cimino (3,455'), an extinct volcano, following forest trails surrounded by 200-year-old trees that tower up to 130'. The next section of our hike takes us into a chestnut forest, where we learn about this important staple of the area?s cuisine. Following a lunch that focuses on local products, we have free time to visit Soriano nel Cimino and the impressive crenellated Orsini castle. Our adventure continues as we explore the Parco dei Mostri?the Park of Monsters. This open-air museum is comprised of dozens of huge, Renaissance-era stone sculptures. Dragons, giants, lions and other fantastic creatures were commissioned in the 16th century by Prince Vicino Orsini to express his grief upon the death of his wife. A transfer brings us to Viterbo; we become acquainted with this town, then have free time for dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 10 miles, 5 hours; Elevation gain/loss: 430'/1,900'; Walking: 1.4 miles.
Today?s countryside hike follows trails through chestnut, hazelnut, oak and beech groves which are divided by old dry-stone walls. Our trail ends on the shores of Lago di Vico (1,673'), which occupies the old crater of the Cimino volcano. The horseshoe-shaped lake lies in the shadows of Mount Venere (2,792'), a small volcanic cone that emerged after the volcano?s last eruptive phase more than 100,000 years ago. In the afternoon, we return to our hotel in Viterbo to freshen up, then transfer to one of the area?s most celebrated restaurants for a cooking class with the head chef. We learn to make a classic Italian meal, then dine on our creations to celebrate a week of exploring with new friends. We overnight in Viterbo. All meals included.
Hiking: 6.2 miles, 3.5 hours; Elevation gain/loss: 1,300'/1,480'; Walking: 0.5 miles.
Following an early breakfast, we transfer to Rome?s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino (FCO) airport. Departing flights can be book after 11:30am. If you are extending your stay in Rome, you will transfer independently by taxi or train to your next destination. Breakfast included.
Driving: 1.5 hours.