Update on Italy Women 2014 Adventure

Well, there are two spots available for our September trip, and you can scroll down to see all the details, pricing, etc.

Florence, Siena, Chianti country villa, and the Cinque Terre!  A variety of beauty for the eyes  . . . I just secured our accommodations in Manarola (Cinque Terre), right at the edge of the Italian Riviera.  And the villa we have acquired for a full week . . . well, looky here, as my sister says!

Our Chiangi Country villa

Our Chianti Country villa!

Five nights in the heart of Florence, three nights in beautiful Siena, and a week exploring the Tuscan countryside from this villa . . . San Gimignano, Montepulciano, the Chianti towns (Castellina, Greve, Radda), tasting delicious food and wine, and soaking up the ambiance of the area.

Portofino harbor

Portofino harbor

Our adventures culminate on the Italian Riviera, where we can explore the coastal towns from Riomaggiore to Portofino.  As we travel, I’ll write here about our daily activities.  Will you join us?

Check through some of the archives for past years’ details. And go to the details post for further information.



Italy Women 2014

Florence, Siena, Tuscan Countryside, Cinque Terre

September 4-23, 2014

Walking across this bridge, you will find wall to wall jewelry stores . . . Ponte Vecchio means the "Old Bridge", but often people call it the "Gold Bridge".

Walking across this bridge, you will find wall to wall jewelry stores . . . Ponte Vecchio means the “Old Bridge”, but often people call it the “Gold Bridge”.

Ah, Bella Italia!  Wouldn’t we love to explore her majestic art, architecture, and cuisine, her serene villages and vineyards, her romantic coastlines for half of the rest of our lives?  Well, on this Women’s Adventure, we’ll have to settle for just a bit less than that, taking in some of the spectacular sights in the top half of “the boot”. 

We’ll begin in Florence, my favorite Italian city, full of culture and beauty, and just the right size to enjoy ourselves easily. We will stay five nights, strolling on the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the Arno, listening to the monks chant their 5:00 Mass near the Piazzale Michelangelo, stopping at a frutta e verdura market for a fresh afternoon snack.  After a half day private walking tour to get a feel for the history of Florence, we will visit the old masters in the Uffizi Gallery and the exquisite statue of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.  Franco treats us like queens at Il Porcospino, a local ristorante near the Medici Chapel..

A day trip to Fiesole will give us our first taste of some northern Tuscany towns, with a spectacular view of Florence from above, and we can explore the Etruscan ruins nestled in Fiesole’s village boundaries.  And always there is espresso, cappuccino, gelato and other delicious culinary delights.

Siena - Duomo

The Duomo in Siena

We depart Florence and travel by short bus ride to Siena, where the Palio is held each year at the Campo, in July and August.  We can see clear evidence of which contrata has won the prize when we’re there.  A half-day private tour with my friend Viviana Girola will put some of Siena in a historical context, including entry into the magnificent Duomo, as well as the side gallery with ancient illuminated manuscripts on display. Then we will be free to explore the walkways, churches, shops and alleys of this old world town. My past participants always long to stay more than one night here, so I’ve added two extra nights.  Delicious dinners await us, as well as casual daytime grazing on the Campo, full of cafes and street vendors.

Our Chianti Country villa!

Our Chianti Country villa!

After kissing Siena goodbye, we will head to a lovely villa in the Tuscan countryside, near Vagliagli, just outside of Castellina in Chianti.  We will take off most days for towns in Chianti, as well as Montipulciano, Pienza, Cortona, and San Gimignano, and perhaps visit Capalbio’s Il Giardino dei Tarocchi (Tarot Garden), a spectacular park with mosaic magnificence in the form of the figures of the Major Arcana.   

We can also just spend a leisurely day or two (your choice) at the villa itself, lounging by the pool, walking the area or napping luxuriously in the Tuscan sun.  There is always time to write in your journal, one you will receive for the trip, or one you bring with you!

Our departure from the villa, on our way to Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, will allow time to stop in Pisa for a few hours. We will see the Leaning Tower, of course, and those of you who are adventuresome can climb the tower if you wish.  The Baptistry and the Duomo are spectacular, part of the unique Field of Miracles situated within an area the size of a city block.  Then we begin our time on the Italian Riviera nicely recovered from floods and mudslides in 2011.

Cinque Terre

             Cinque Terre – Vernazza

In Cinque Terre, where we will stay for three nights, we can walk or hike from one of the five villages to another, or take the little “milk train” instead, stopping here and then there to explore Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  We will steal away one day, taking the train to the spectacular oceanside town of Portofino (remember Enchanted April, filmed in that area?) for a day of shopping (even just window-shopping) in the high end stores and galleries or just sitting by the sparkling Ligurian sea, sipping chilled Prosecco and watching the yachts come and go. 

When we depart from Cinque Terre, we will head for Milan’s Malpensa airport and our return to reality!

Our trip will include AIRFARE FROM DENVER, eighteen nights’ lodging (double occupancy), all transportation within Italy, walking tours in Florence and Siena, a half-day trip to Pisa, sixteen breakfasts, three lunches, two picnics, eight dinners, entrance to the Duomo in Siena, the Uffizi, Accademia, and Medici Chapel in Florence, combo ticket in Pisa (the fee for the Tower climb is not included), Florence Street-wise maps, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire extinguisher!

Cost for above, (including airfare from Denver) is $6200.00**  A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space.  A referral discount of  $250 is yours for early registration by November 30, 2013 OR for bringing a friend not on my list . . .

For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339.  E-mail me at jetlost@lamar.colostate.edu and check out my travel blog, http://www.woodswomanabroad.com for samples of previous trip adventures!

A very happy group of women!

Delicious food, delicious wine, very happy women!


**Double occupancy.  Single occupancy available for additional cost.  If you are flying from somewhere other than Denver, or if you have miles you’d rather use, please talk with me. Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer a group rate or individual policy for the full value of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc.  Details about that upon registration.


Monday, May 17 – A grey day, but at least it isn’t raining. Our destination today is San Gimignano because even if it rains, there are enough churches, shops and museums to protect our wet heads. We’ll wait for more sunshine before we venture to the Tuscan coast.

I am on a mission as well, finding an internet cafe so I can sent a message to Neil and my good friend Carole, a tribute to Marcia I wrote in lieu of my presence at her memorial service later today. I am still stunned by the reality of her death, and probably won’t really deal with it completely for a long time to come. But I must get this eulogy to someone who can read it in my absence.

While the traveling women wander here and there, through the many ceramics shops, jewelry shops and stores displaying beautiful stacks of olive wood cutting boards, I hunt for the internet cafe. I have brought my own computer today, making my backpack twice as heavy as it might be, but by the time I find the Bar Boboli, I see that it was to no avail. They do have computers but not wireless, so I type my entire piece of writing into their computer, sending it through the g-mail airwaves. With all the funky keyboard changes on European computers, it takes me twice as long, but I’m happy to have sent it so I can relax.

My favorite store in San Gimignano belongs to the potter Franco Balducci and it is tucked away behind the right side of the Duomo down a smaller cobblestone street. Franco is at the front of the tiny space, making bowls and cups and other vessels as his customers browse among his finished products. I have bought many of his wares in the past and this trip I’m not collecting. I’m thinking about my home and the packing that awaits me, and I know the last thing I need is MORE of anything. Less and less will do nicely. But it’s comforting to visit this artisan every two years, in the same space, with new versions of the same quality items. And I still pine for one or two of his larger vessels, the ones you couldn’t possibly hope to ship home in one piece without a lot more trouble than I’d like to take at the moment.

The day turns out to be quite nice, with cloud cover in part, but no rain. No umbrella time for a change, and we wander up and down the streets until 5:30, when we begin to make the long haul down the “hill” to the parking lot, trying to find our car. Somehow the shuttle bus to the parking lots has inconveniently disappeared or stopped running for the day, and the walk is good for us.

We return to the little town just before our villa, Torrinieri, and stop at a local restaurant, La Compania, for spaghetti al ragu, Caprese salad (tomatoes and mozarella), a glass of the local red wine, and for me, a dessert of Grand Marnier. Stefano, our waiter and probably the owner of this establishment, seems delighted by my meager attempts to speak Italian to him, and is kind and attentive to our table. He is a bear of a man, whose front teeth stick nearly straight out of his mouth, with a wide gap in between. He would have benefited from some attentive BRACES during his youth, but his hospitality is unaffected by this lack.

Home again, home again, to think about Marcia’s service coming up in Fort Collins, starting at midnight, Italy time. A bit of writing and reading in bed before sleep.

More in Part Three