Take to the hills of Tuscany and Cinque Terre with your camera in hand and capture stunning scenes of the countryside, villages, and everyday life in two of Italy’s most beautiful regions. Frame cypress-topped hills and silvery olive groves as we hike through Chianti, and photograph the exquisite details of medieval and Renaissance architecture in hilltop towns like Siena and San Gimignano. Then head to the seaside slopes of Cinque Terre to photograph stunning views of terraced vineyards and orchards stacked high above the colorful hamlets that cling to the Mediterranean shores.
Arrive in Florence and meet your trip leader this afternoon. Travel south along the ancient Roman road, Via Cassia, through the countryside to the hilltop town of San Casciano. Set out on our first photo hike, capturing the shimmer of olive orchards and against hills striped with vineyards. Our destination is the 15th-century home of a local Tuscan family, where we’ll enjoy an olive oil tasting and a hearty dinner—and a great chance to photograph a centuries-old country house and its surroundings in the evening light. (3–4 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Hotel Lungarno (D)
After breakfast, visit the Benedictine church of San Miniato al Monte, perched picturesquely above Florence. Take advantage of this bird’s-eye view of the city to capture the sweep of red-tiled roofs and the iconic dome designed by Brunelleschi. Then drive into through the hills to Greve in Chianti, where we’ll wander with our cameras through vineyards dangling with ripening grapes and the sample the region’s celebrated wines. Set off on a photo hike to the fortified village of Lamole. After a lunch of local specialties, take a short drive to Volpaia, a fortified village where the famed Chianti Classico wine is produced. From here, depending on the terrain, we’ll continue on foot to the Romanesque church of Santa Maria Novella and photograph the historic site in the golden light of late afternoon. Our home for the next two night is a charming hotel in Radda in Chianti’s center. (4–5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Palazzo San Niccolò (B,L,D)
Today’s hike winds through vineyards and fields to the medieval town of Panzano, known for its traditional cured meats. Photograph panoramic views of the valleys below as we continue to the Badia a Passignano vineyard abbey, home to a 15th-century fresco of The Last Supper. If you wish, choose a more challenging hike back to our hotel. Later, we’ll return to Volpaia for an early evening photo shoot within the castle walls, followed by a private wine tasting and dinner. (4–5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Palazzo San Niccolò (B,L,D)
With its winding lanes, Gothic churches, and redbrick palaces, Siena begs to be photographed. Spend the morning exploring with your camera. Capture the jarring contrast of black and white marble in the cathedral, and frame the graceful curves of the great central piazza, Il Campo, known for the medieval horserace that continues today: il Palio. Then visit Monteriggioni, a well-preserved walled village mentioned in Dante’s Inferno, and photograph its evocative ramparts and towers. Later, transfer to our hotel set in a 15th-century villa. (2–3 miles walking, 4 hours)
Hotel Villa San Lucchese (B,D)
Begin the day at Colle di Val d’Elsa, where crystal and glassware have been produced since the 17th century. Then hit the trails on a spectacular hike to San Gimignano—one of Tuscany’s most beautiful hill towns and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Of the 72 medieval towers that once soared above the rooftops, 14 towers remain. Try out different angles on this much-photographed town, and explore its maze-like streets. View the frescos in the Duomo, or climb one of the towers to photograph a vista of rolling hills specked with pointed cypress trees. (2–3 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Hotel Villa San Lucchese (B,L,D)
At the Tuscan town of Carrara, photograph the ancient quarries where sculptors, including Michelangelo, have sourced marble for centuries. After lunch, a two-hour drive takes us to the seaside town of Levanto, our launching point for exploring the Riviera di Levante. Unwind with a seafood dinner and a photo walk along the waterfront.
Hotel La Giada del Mesco (B,L,D)
Take a short train ride to Monterosso al Mare, one of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, or “five lands.” Clinging to cliffs above the Mediterranean, these hamlets are incredibly picturesque, with dazzling clusters of pastel-hued homes overlooking harbors dotted with fishing skiffs. After time to photograph the village, embark on a more challenging hike along the trail that links the neighboring villages of Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Climb steep hillsides past terraced vineyards and olive groves with your camera in hand, capturing stunning views of the coast. (5–6 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Hotel La Giada del Mesco (B,L)
Set out from our hotel on a coastal trail to Monterosso that meanders past fragrant lemon groves and hilltop farmhouses, offering spectacular photographic opportunities. Enjoy a refreshing gelato or lunch on your own in the main square. Return to Levanto by train, and celebrate our adventure with a farewell dinner in town. (3–4 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
Hotel La Giada del Mesco (B,D)
After breakfast and a final cappuccino, transfer to Pisa and connect to your return flight home.
National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Born and raised in Italy, photojournalist Massimo Bassano has published his work in National Geographic Traveler and on the National Geographic website, as well as in numerous European publications. He regularly teaches National Geographic photography workshops in Tuscany and Venice. His acclaimed photography book The Color of Silence detailed the 12 weeks he spent in a little-known Italian monastery.
This expedition is not currently being offered.
We will be hiking 2 to 5 hours per day (2 to 6 miles), on moderate to steep grades at low elevations. We will stay eight nights in ideally located hotels that reflect the local character.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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