Tiny Farmhouse Tours: Culinary Tours in Italy

Chiarentana, our home for the week of the tour

Having been married in Montepulciano in 2003, and having visited the Val d’Orcia and Valdichiana frequently since that time, we’ve made a lot of friends in the area, and we’ve worked with those friends to come up with a way to share our love of this region, its food, wine, and people, with you.

Starting in 2013, my husband, JR, and I will be leading culinary tours in Italy’s Val d’Orcia, about an hour south of Florence, and one of the most stunning landscapes of the Italian peninsula, famous for Nobile di Montepulciano wine, Pecorino di Pienza cheese, and pici pasta, among other culinary delights.

Tours will run in the spring, and in the fall, and include visits with a local cheesemaker, winemakers, and a hands-on pasta-making class. The complete itinerary is below, and though spring is particularly lovely in the Val d’Orcia, one fabulous aspect of our fall tours is that if the olives at the estate where we’re staying are ripe, we can participate in the olive harvest there.

Tiny Farmhouse Tours in Italy

leccino olives harvested on Chiarentana’s estate

Be sure to practice an overhead raking motion with your favored arm – you’ll want to have a little extra muscle built up for the olive oil harvesting task. But what an exhilarating one it is, particularly when you see the deep chartreuse color and taste the piquant pepperiness of the oil you harvested.

Dates for 2015 will be announced shortly. In the meanwhile, if you would like to book a specific week, please contact me at amy (at) tinyfarmhouse (dot) com.

Arrival is on Saturday afternoon after 3pm at La Foce. We’ll provide ground transportation from the rail station in Chiusi to La Foce. The station is about equidistant from Florence and Rome, so you can fly into the city of your preference, and I’m happy to help guide you on planning your flight to Italy. Saturday night, we’ll meet for dinner at 7:30pm in the Chiarentana restaurant, where breakfast will be served each morning during the week as well.

Sunday morning we’ll take an hour-long hike down the strada bianca (white road) that leads from Chiarentana toward Castiglioncello del Trinoro, a tiny hamlet that we’ll visit later in the week. On our walk, we’ll be able to see to Rocca d’Orcia, where later in the week we’ll have dinner at a trattoria that specializes in Bistecca Fiorentina, the famous T-bone steak from local Chianina cattle. Vegetarians, not to worry, one of the owners, Marta, is vegetarian, and there are delicious options for you as well. From our vantage point on our walk, we’ll also be able to see Pienza, famous for its Pecorino di Pienza cheese.

After our walk, we’ll head to the medieval hamlet of Monticchiello, known for its theater company, charm, and the restaurant La Porta, where we’ll have lunch (which arrives in the dining room from the kitchen via dumbwaiter), and enjoy a stroll through the town afterward.

From Monticchiello, we’ll go to Pienza, where you’ll be free to explore the Renaissance town once known as Corsignano, the hometown of Pope Pius, who redesigned the town and renamed it in his own honor. Modesty might not have been his strongest suit.

We’ll stop for a quick visit at the rustic church of Corsignano on the outskirts of the walled village of Pienza in order to contrast it against the much more sophisticated town square of Pienza. You’ll have some free time to explore Pienza and take in the views of the Val d’Orcia, which are vast and stunning. We’ll stop for a drink at the local bar that benefits from those views, and will have dinner in Pienza before returning to Chiarentana.

On Monday, we’ll visit Montepulciano, famous for its Noblie di Montepulciano wine. We’ll visit the tower in Montepulciano’s city hall, a building that was created in the image of Palazzo Vechhio in Florence. We’ll climb the tower for yet another stunning view on the countryside. We’ll stop for lunch, then head to a wine tasting in the cellars of Crociani, a winery in the historical center of town, run by the very lovely Susanna Crociani. We’ll return to Chiarentana before heading out for dinner that evening.

Tiny Farmhouse Tours in Italy

Tuesday brings us to the organic farm Podere Il Casale in Pienza, where we’ll watch a cheese-making demonstration in the farm’s caseificio, followed by lunch prepared by the owner, Sandra, an enthusiastic proponent of the ideals of slow food. In the afternoon, we’ll make a trip by Chiesa della Madonna Vitalena, the small and oft-photographed church (pictured above), as well as a side trip to the location where The English Patient was filmed.

After breakfast on Wednesday, we’ll make pasta in the kitchen of the Chiarentana restaurant. Everyone will make his or her own batch of dough (with assistance, with assistance!), and we’ll work together to make ravioli for lunch. We’ll eat lunch in the Chiarentana restaurant, then, later in the afternoon, will tour the gardens of La Foce before returning to Chiarentana for a dinner highlighting their award-winning olive oils that evening.

Thursday morning we’ll be up and at ‘em a little early in order to visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, where the monks perform Gregorian chant at 9am each day. The Abbey is conveniently located quite close to the growing region for Brunello di Montalcino, which, along with Piedmont’s Barolo, is one of Italy’s finest wines. We’ll have a wine tasting in Montalcino, followed by a visit to the Fortezza, an old fortress now converted into an enormous enoteca (wine shop). Dinner on Thursday will be in Rocca d’Orcia, at Cantina Il Borgo, where meat-eaters will be able to get that steak I’ve been mentioning, non-meat-eaters will enjoy a fabulous vegetarian dish, and we all will conclude the day with more excellent vino.

Friday is the last full day of our tour. I don’t know about you, but I’m sad already. We’ll visit the hamlet of Castiglioncello del Trinoro, precariously positioned upon a hilltop above La Foce. We’ll enjoy lunch at the cafe there, followed by free time at Chiarentana in the afternoon, and a farewell dinner at the Chiarentana restaurant that evening.

Saturday morning, we’ll gather for one last breakfast together, and we will provide transportation back to Chiusi that morning.

Upon booking, we’ll send you additional information about La Foce and the area. When you arrive, you’ll find a welcome basket in your apartment with goodies from some of the wineries and farms we’ll be visiting. After the tour is over, we’ll send a photo book to your home commemorating the trip.

The cost of the tours is $3,800 per person. A 50% deposit is required at the time of booking; the remaining balance is due 120 days prior to departure.

Included in the tour fee are accommodations at La Foce/Chiarentana from Saturday evening through the following Saturday morning, ground transportation from the nearby Chiusi rail station and to all activities throughout the week, the welcome basket with local treats, all scheduled activities including wine tastings, the cheese-making demonstration, cooking class, continental breakfast each morning, all lunches and dinners throughout the week, and wine with meals. Airfare is not included.

If you’re interested in joining us, please drop me a line at amy {at) tinyfarmhouse {dot} com to let me know – we’d be thrilled to share this area that we love so much with you.

I hope that you’ll be able to join us in Italy at some point – it is truly a magical, gorgeous, friendly, delicious, inspiring (still feeling that these superlatives aren’t quite enough, though I bet you get the idea!) place.

Thank you!

Buon appetito,

Amy & JR

Tiny Farmhouse Tours in Italy

there we are, harvesting olives at Chiarentana

And now, for the fine print:

*Please note that each tour requires a minimum of 6 people. Until we have confirmed that we have enough participants, we will hold your payment. If the week you prefer doesn’t book fully, we’re happy to suggest alternate weeks to see if one might work for you. If the alternate dates don’t work for your schedule, we will refund your deposit in full.

*This outline represents our planned itinerary, however, there may be times when specific activities must be shifted to different days, or, due to scheduling conflicts, replaced with comparable activities.

*There are discounts for groups of 4 or 6 who are interested in sharing an apartment. Please contact me if you’re interested in this option.

*We do understand that sometimes circumstances change and may render you unable to attend after making a deposit. Our official refund policy is that we will refund 75% of your deposit if you cancel 120 days or more in advance of the trip. From 119 days to 30 days prior to the trip, the refund will be 50% of fees paid. 29 days or less until departure, fees will not be refunded unless we are able to fill your space in the tour. In all cases, we will do our best to fill your spot(s) so that we may issue a full refund. We appreciate your understanding.