Visiting Tuscany with a Small Group Tour vs Independent Travel
Let me say straight away that I am not a person who joins tours. The idea of traveling with a group of people I don’t know gives me anxiety.
Did I also mention I hate getting up at the crack of dawn, having to report for breakfast at a certain time, and board any kind of a bus that there is no chance of escaping from?
Diane Lane’s character in Under the Tuscan Sun leaps from the tour bus when she catches sight of the villa that has captured her heart. Stop the bus! Yes, I am that girl.
There is a lot to be said for traveling on your own, as a couple or with a friend. It would take me counting on both hands a few times to rattle off the places I have been to in the world, blissfully on my own.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
When no one else is traveling with you, what experiences you have are singular. They have opened the doors for me to places and encounters with people I would not have had if I had been in company with someone.
It is a luxury to be able to look at Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne in Rome for a good hour or so (which I have done on several occasions) and not worry if my partner is bored and ready to go.
On the other hand, it is wonderful to share awe-inspiring beauty and moments of enchantment with someone I love.
And here I am, putting small group tours to Tuscany together twice a year and oftentimes traveling with people I don’t know!
For those of you reading this who are not “tour people,” I understand your preference to plot it all out yourself. And whether you are a planner or an adventurer, traveling independently does give one a sense of being in control of one’s time.
So, if traveling to Tuscany is something you have always wanted to do, or want to do again, and you cannot imagine joining a tour, I invite you to consider the “It’s Really Not a Tour, Aria Tour of Tuscany.”
Because it really isn’t. I wish there was a word I could use instead of Tour to describe it. Trip or Excursion? Sounds like an afternoon out. Pilgrimage? I happen to love that description of travel, but somehow it sounds too serious.
I often find myself saying to people, “I am not a tour operator.”
Instead, I say things like, “I open the doors of beauty for people in Tuscany” or “I have created a week in Tuscany the way I like to do things and invite friends to enjoy it with me.”
Visiting Tuscany with a Small Group Tour
Like what things?
- Like living in a spacious and luxurious villa that has become a second home, starting the day with views of olive groves and vineyards flooded with morning light when I open the bedroom shutters….then following my nose to la cucina where my cappuccino is waiting for me and where the housekeeper, dear Bruna, has just taken a lemony ricotta torta out of the oven.
- Like spending my day adding another layer of learning to my knowledge of the Renaissance by visiting works by Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Donatello, Cellini, Leonardo, enraptured as I listen to the stories that Alessandra (my business partner and art historian) tells about them, their genius, eccentricities, how they illuminated the world.
- Like driving with Alessandra and Paolo, her husband (and our driver) laughing and them correcting my Italian as we wend our way through curvy roads to our next winery stop. (A plus is going with people who know where to go and who are fun, besides).
- Like letting my eyes close to take an afternoon pisolino (nap) in the hammock near the pool and feel no cares at all.
- Like picking olives knowing they will be pressed and on my plate drizzled on top the best bread in the world the next day.
- Or following the darling truffle-hunting dog Luna as she scampers through the trees sniffing out earth’s most precious funghi that will be shaved on a nest of handmade tagliatelle that evening.
- Or foraging for purple saffron to make a special tiramisu later, instructed by Erika whose ancient land she cultivates makes me believe she had a lifetime as an Etruscan noblewoman.
- Like going to the goldsmith or the leather artisan who makes the real thing and gives us a friendly price, rather than wasting hours searching for the real thing in the markets and never really knowing.
- Like having the days stretch out in front of me, each one like a work of art – because they are filled with the best, the absolute best of Tuscany’s abundance.
- Like enjoying the Italian table with sensational food prepared by people I know and love, people who want to nourish my soul as well as my stomach.
Small group or independent #travel - what's your preference? Do you like to map out all the details yourself, or let someone else do the heavy lifting?
This didn’t happen overnight. Imagine if you made 50 trips to Italy by yourself, then sifted the most beautiful, tastiest, memorable, nurturing and inspiring experiences from the ones that were just okay, “touristy,” mediocre, confusing, disappointing, waste of time.
Well, I have done the sifting for you.
As one of my guests, Joanne A. from New York City put it, “By the end of the week, it felt like we were all family sitting around the table. Everyone should do this, at least once.”
So, if you want to travel on your own, I am the first to cheer you on. But if you have always dreamed of coming to Tuscany, why not come as a guest to my home, where the best of everything is already in place just waiting for you?