Release the Past & Reclaim Your Joy – Schedule
We have some great excursions planned for this retreat. We have found that starting with a general schedule and then focusing in on specific outings as our time together unfolds creates a more powerful offering. Below are some of the areas we will be exploring together.
As you arrive into the Tuscany region, you are greeted by the amazing landscapes of rolling hills covered by vineyards, olive groves and scattered villages throughout the region. After you settle in, you will have time to relax, explore the area, sip some mineral water or wine and breathe in the fragrance of the countryside. You will stay at the villa for the next seven days, so get comfortable and enjoy the splendor. Each morning we will offer a yoga and meditation session to start the day followed by breakfast. Sandra will be offering sessions at various times of the day including presentations on some of the bus rides and you will be exploring some fascinating areas and sites in Tuscany. Please note…we know there are a multitude of ways that people wish to enjoy seeing a new place. Given all the individual desires, we do not give guided tours or walk around with an umbrella herding you to different places. We give you general information and support you in having an experience that works for you. If you wish to have a guided tour, we are happy to assist you in finding one that works for you at an additional cost. Here is a little information on these excursions:
GENERAL Schedule for the week
Day 1 – A day of arrival, settling and beginning to get acquainted. A delicious Tuscan dinner will be provided for you and you will be introduced to the program and the surroundings. Go to Accommodations for more information about Villa Cornacchi. (D)
Day 2 – Sandra will offer a morning session after breakfast, then we’ll take you to a lunch/wine tasting experience at Tenuta Torciano. Your afternoon will be spent in San Gimignano and you’ll have dinner at a restaurant in Castelnuovo Berardenga. We will pfovide the lunch/wine tasting experience and dinner is at your own cost (B,L)
Day 3 – After breakfast you will have a session with Sandra and then depart for Siena, a medieval wonder. You’ll have abundant time to explore this fascinating city and enjoy lunch on your own. In the evening for dinner, at your own cost, we’ll take you to a popular restaurant near our villa. (B)
Day 4 – Begin the day with another delicious breakfast followed by a morning session with Sandra. We’ll treat you to lunch at the villa and we’ll then depart to Montepulciano and explore one of the most attractive hill-towns in Tuscany. Dinner is on your own and we’ll then return to the villa. Scroll down to learn more about this beautiful town. (B,L)
Day 5 – After breakfast we’ll take you to the town of Assisi, with its Roman ruins, winding medieval streets and sacred shrines. This is a magnificent place to immerse yourself in this revered location and to continue to explorer the teachings of the week. Scroll down to get a bit of information about this incredible city. Lunch is on your own and we will treat you to dinner back at the villa. (B,D)
Day 6 – Enjoy breakfast before we head out on the Chianti Trail on the way to Florence. You’ll have a full day experiencing one of the most amazing cities in Tuscany. Lunch is on your own as you meander the streets of this historical marvel. In the early evening we will go to the Basilica of San Donato where you can hear the ritual of the monks chanting their vespers. Dinner, on your own, will be served at the top of a Tuscan Hill that overlooks valleys and Florence.. Scroll down to learn more about this incredible city. (B)
Day 7– Our final full day together will be spent at the villa. Sessions with Sandra and personal time to enjoy your surroundings will be the mainstay of the day. We have scheduled an “a cappella” choir to perform for us at our Villa before dinner (B, L, D)
Day 8 – Lots of hugs and good-byes, plenty of smiles, and maybe a few tears as we get everyone to the airport.
B – Breakfast is included
L – Lunch is included
D – Dinner is included
FLORENCE…A CITY OF STONE
Florence is an amazing city situated in the Arno valley. Its historic importance and artistic contributions make it a city that is a must to visit. At the heart of the city is the Fountain of Neptune, which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct. The Arno river, which cuts through the old part of the city, is as much a character in Florentine history as many of the men who lived there. Historically, the locals have had a love-hate relationship with the Arno — which alternated from nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood. Many of the bridges across the Arno were built by the Romans.
One of the bridges in particular, however, stands out as being unique — The Ponte Vecchio, whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges, held up by stilts. First constructed by the Etruscans in ancient times, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact.The most famous palace in the city is San Lorenzo, which has become a monument to the Medici family who were one of the most powerful families in Florence during the 15th century. Nearby is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest art galleries in the world.
It is a vast geographic area from the hilly landscape placed at the center of the Tuscan region, between Siena and Florence, whose limits are distinguished at the North in the Ombrone river; at the East in the Monti of the Chianti, at the South in the Arno and at the West in the valley of Elsa.Its hills, crossed by a rich network of short rivers, those of the Pesa, the Elsa, the Greve, the Ombrone and the Arbia, are everywhere famous for the incomparable naturalistic beauty and as an example of harmonious union between environment and human activity, which is reflected by the orderly cultivation of vines and olive trees and by the golden expanse of grain.
The rural reality of the Chianti region is not however monotonous, it also presents, in fact, woodland areas composed essentially of oak and chestnut trees of coppices that cover the slopes of the surfaces. The fascination of this territory lies in the perfect equilibrium between the soft forms of slopes and the thousand nuances of color and crowded woods, populated by ancient castles, secular parishes, pleasant villas and large Jarms, in which the tradition well mixes with the most modern criteria of organization and production.
A region, so to say, with a primarily agrarian vocation, whose roots go back to a very remote past, as it is shown by it’s name, “Chianti, ” that according to some scholars would derive from the Latin clangor which stands far “sound of the trumpet”: referring to the noise produced by the instrument anciently used during the hunting parties in this territory; according to others, from Clante, the name of Etruscan families who lived here between the VII and the VIII centuries BC and to whom the introduction of the vine and it cultivation in Tuscany is attributed.The term appears far the first time in 790 in a manuscript drafted by a monk in the Badia of San Bartolomeo a Ripoli, even though the description that he gave of the territory does not seem to correspond, since the monk describes it as a very humid zone as opposed to the mountainous and dry characteristics of the Chianti region. Later, in documents of the XIII century, the term comes to refer to the Monti of the Chianti (which in reality, in spire of their name, are little more than high hills).
Already around the year 1000, these lands began to appear among the possessions of the marquis Ugo of Tuscany and of his successor Bonifacio, who donated ample portions of them to the Fiorentine abbey. An approximate division of the territory between rural earldoms and the great abbeys of Passignano, Montemurlo and Coltibuono dates back to the same age: an equaI partition between civil and religious power.This is the period of maximum expansion of a demolished domain that covers the region with a great number of castles spread for the most part on little hills, in militarily strategic positions. Among them are those of Cintoia, Lamole, Montefili, Montefioralle, Panzano, Verrazzano, Uzzano, Vicchiomaggio, Cacchiano, Brolio, Meleto, Tornano, Vertine, and Aiola.In this time originates the long easting contrast between Guelph Florence and Ghibelline Siena for the supremacy on a such a vast and rich area.
A curious legend narrates an episode which illuminates us on the grade of existing rivalry, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, between the two republics for the attribution of their boundaries. The argument was centered on a competition of speed between two horsemen, who were to depart, one from Florence and the other from Siena, and meet at a point which would then delineate the limits of their respective territories. The hour of departure was fixed at the first calI of the rooster: The Florentines, astutely would use as an alarm clock a young black rooster which, kept without food, launched his calI much earlier than dawn. It was in this way that the florentine horseman, departing earlier could cover a greater distance than his rival, conquering more land for his republic. The place in which the two horsemen met still carries the name of Croce Fiorentina.
SIENA… A MEDIEVAL WONDER
Surrounded by olive groves and the vineyards of Chianti, Siena is one of the most beautiful cities of Tuscany. Set on three hills, the city is drawn together by winding alleyways and steep steps, whilst the Piazza del Campo stands at its heart, and the Duomo and St Maria della Scala serve as additional cultural landmarks. Famed for the “Palio”, the annual historic horse-races that take place on July 2nd and August 16th, it is also home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, which ensures a vibrant Italian student atmosphere throughout the academic year.
There are so many great things you will see in Siena. It has uniquely preserved medieval architecture, and you can walk from tiny piazzas shared by you and a couple of pigeons to stately 14th and 15th century buildings. There is always something to notice and admire as you explore this unique city. Limited traffic within the city centre enhances your experience and adds to the feeling of stepping back in time into a medieval world.
Here’s a bit of history about Siena and links to find out more about this enchanting place. Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the provincial capital of Siena province.The historic center of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. Siena, like many other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900 BC to 400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina. The Etruscans were an
advanced people who changed the face of central Italy through their use of irrigation to reclaim previously un-farmable land, and their custom of building their settlements in heavily armored hill-forts.
It has been argued that their Pagan society which practiced matrilineal inheritance, and was devoted to their goddesses was one of the reasons why Roman Goddesses such as Diana and, with the arrival of Christianity, the Virgin Mary came to be of such importance to the people of the Italian peninsula. If this is true, it suggests that the Cult of the Virgin which is omnipresent in the fabric of Siena’s ancient stones has an origin which is older still.
What we can say for certain is that the Romans founded a town called Saenna Julia on the site of a pre-existing Etruscan settlement, and from this has grown modern Siena. Siena may then have been under the control of invading Gaulish forces – who are known to have sacked Rome in 390 BC. Some archaeologists assert it was controlled for a period by a Gaulish tribe called the Saenones. The Roman origin accounts for the town’s emblem – a she-wolf suckling the infants’ Romulus and Remus. According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Statues and other artwork depicting a she-wolf suckling the young twins Romulus and Remus can be seen all over the city of Siena. Other etymologies derive the name from the Etruscan family name “Saina”, the Roman family name of the “Saenii”, or the Latin word “senex” (“old”) or the derived form “seneo”, “to be old”.
SAN GIMIGNANO…LA CITTA DELLE BELLE TORRI
Perched on a hill with its towers thrown into sharp relief by the deep green mountains behind it, San Gimignano looks like a town plucked from a fairy tale and set into the Tuscan countryside. Of course, it’s not. Nor has it always been the sleepy little town it is today: In the late middle ages it was one of Central Tuscany’s most important trading centers, strategically perched astride the intersection between the main highway from Rome to the Alpine passes, and the road connecting the Tuscan heartland to the maritime republic of Pisa and the coast.
We will spend a half day or so visiting this ancient village that affords wonderful opportunities for unique photography and marvel at the beauty and spirit of its structures. Here’s a little more information about this charming town. San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill-top town in Tuscany, Italy, about a 35 minute drive north-west of Siena and about the same distance southwest of Florence. It is mainly famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers. In Tuscan medieval walled towns, rich families competed in the erection of high towers, that served as lodgings, fortresses and prestige symbols.
Because San Gimignano sits atop a hill the skyline can be seen for several miles outside the town. In medieval and Renaissance times it was a stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican. While in other cities like Bologna or Florence, most or all of the towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes or urban renewal, San Gimignano managed to conserve about 15 towers of varying height. The modern town has extended some kilometers out and is no longer affected by this race.
San Gimignano is also famous for its Torture museum, with a display of instruments and devices for torture in various times and places, complete with multi-lingual descriptions of their use.There are many churches in the town: the two main ones are the Collegiata and Sant’Agostino. The town is also known for the white wine grown in the area, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. A fictionalized version of San Gimignano features in E.M. Forster’s 1905 novel Where Angels Fear to Tread as Monteriano.
ASSISI…KNOWN FOR THE SACREDNESS OF ITS ARCHITECTURE
After an early breakfast, we’ll go to Assisi a small Umbrian town in central Italy, located 12 miles (19 km) east of Perugia at an elevation of 1,300 feet (400 meters). Assisi is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi — patron saint of Italy, founder of the Franciscan order, and one of the most popular Catholic saints in history. Assisi’s main attraction is the 13th-century Basilica di San Francesco, which contains the sacred relics of Francis and beautiful frescoes of his life. And there are at least seven other churches well worth visiting for their history, beauty, and connection with Francis or his friend Clare. The town of Assisi, with its Roman ruins, winding medieval streets and sacred shrines, has been a major Catholic pilgrimage destination for centuries and is today one of the most popular destinations in Italy. And several sites outside of the city walls remain quiet and frequented mainly by pilgrims. The town is dominated by two medieval castles. The larger, called Rocca Maggiore, is a massive reconstruction by Cardinal Albornoz (1366) and expanded by popes Pius II (polygonal tower, 1458) and Paul III (the cylindrical bastion near the entrance, 1535-1538). The smaller of the two was built in Roman era: it has been only partially reserved, a small portion and three towers being open to the public. Now the site of many a pilgrimage, Assisi is linked in legend with its native son, St. Francis. The gentle saint founded the Franciscan order and shares honors with St. Catherine of Siena as the patron saint of Italy. He is remembered by many, even non-Christians, as a lover of nature, his preaching to an audience of birds is one of the legends of his life.
MONTEPULCIANO…IN THE HEART OF THE BRUNELLO REGION
Brunello di Montalcino is one Italy’s most famous and prestigious wines. In Tuscany, its homeland, it shares the top spot with only the highly-prized Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and of course the ubiquitous Chianti.
All Brunello di Montalcino wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown on the slopes around Montalcino, a classic Tuscan hilltop village 20 miles (30km) south of Siena. The word Brunello translates roughly as ‘little dark one’, and is the local vernacular name for Sangiovese Grosso, the large-berried form of Sangiovese which grows in the area.
Montepulciano, located in the Val di Chiana of Tuscany, Italy, within easy reach of the Val d’Orcia, is one of the most attractive hills towns in Tuscany. It is built on a ridge of Monte Poliziano in the province of Sienna in Tuscany. It is the ancient Etruscan city of Nocera Alfaterna, which in 308 B.C. made an alliance with Rome against the Samnites. In the Middle Ages it was under the control of Florence, but was conquered by Sienna in 1260. The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 11.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The cathedral was built in 1619, from plans by Scalzo and until the 18 C it held the tomb of Bartolomeo Arragazzi, secretary of Pope Martin V, a work of Michelozzo. The church of the Madonna di San Biagio was planned by Antonio da Sangallo (1518-37).
The façades of the church of Saint Agostino and of the Oratorio della Misericordia are worth seeing. Notable among the civic buildings are the Tarugi palace, like the Mercato, a work of Pignola, the Contucci palace designed by Sangallo and the fourteenth-century Palazzo Municipale, which contains a small gallery of Sienese and of Umbrian art. The most famous men of Montepulciano are Cardinal Bellarmine, Pope Marcellus II, Cervini, Angelo Ambrogini, better known as Poliziano (1454-1494), and the humanist Bartolomeo of Montepulciano. St. Agnes of Montepulciano died in 1137.