I offer half-day, daily and week-long personalized tours in Tuscany and Umbria, for kids and grown-ups, for food, wine, art and garden lovers, for first-time and seasoned visitors to Italy alike. Please scroll down below the photos for more information.
Generally, we start out at around 9 am and I ride along with you in your vehicle. We stop for lunch (all of Italy takes a lunch break at 1 pm) and try to be home by dark.
I work closely with you before you arrive in Italy so that you will experience no surprises. Be sure to book your tour well in advance, ideally when you reserve your villa.
Frequently I refer clients to other expert guides with whom I have long experience. If it is appropriate for you to be guided by one of them, I can assist you in making that reservation.
I can also help you arrange itineraries to other parts of Italy, including Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, and Sicily.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you would like to see and do during your stay.
For a preview of your trip to Umbria, send for my new book, Sustenance: Food Traditions in Italy's Heartland, with a Guide to Farms, Markets, and Fairs in the Upper Tiber Valley.
'Elizabeth, if you should ever need a testimonial for food, service, friendliness, professionalism, just ask me . . . but I am sure you have a book full of excellent testimonials already!'
'Elizabeth, I know you must be weary of the praise but I can't repeat it enough. Your gracious hospitality, itinerary plans, and kind assistance are gratefully appreciated. You were definitely at the center of our successful, fun-filled trip. . . your clients are lucky to have you'.
'Thank you so much for every minute you were with us. You are a primo guide, giving us just the right amount of information. We did so much and we were a bit tired but looking back today, it was perfect'.
Our part of Italy is full of picturesque, two-lane, winding country roads, easy to drive and wonderful to meander along if you have plenty of time. If you don't, it is helpful to have someone who knows where she's going to guide you! The following are ideas for half and full day tours to interesting and educational destinations for which having a guide should increase your pleasure and decrease your stress level.
Food artisans: Try your luck on a truffle hunt, visit winemakers, olive oil producers, cheese makers and the bee keeper.
Art and architecture: Visit art-filled hill towns such as Cortona, Assisi, Perugia, Gubbio, Montepulciano, Pienza and Montalcino, each with its own history, foods and beauty.
Garden tours: Venture off the beaten track to formal, monastic and kitchen gardens.
Shopping: Experience Italian design at its best. Visit the high fashion outlets, antique dealers, linen shops, etc. Or for real bargains, enjoy the color and vitality of the weekly town market.
Crafts: Our artisans excel in weaving, ceramics, stitchery, metalwork, basketry and other crafts.
Local festivals: Plan your trip around local festivals or visits to food or antiquarian fairs.
Fun for the whole family tours: Visit a local family farm, pet a baby lamb, throw your own pot on a wheel, and see demonstrations by local craftspeople.
Learn to create a delicious meal drawn from Italy's rich and varied cuisine, in spring and autumn forage for mushrooms and other wild foods. Or have Elizabeth and Paola prepare a catered meal for you in your Italian home away from home. We do everything, from shopping to clean up. See Amore Sapore for more details.
Do you have a family or group of favorite friends who would love to come for a holiday to a beautiful valley on the border of Umbria and Tuscany, but no one has time to organize it? To stay in a lovely villa, to daily explore famous medieval hill towns, to seek out local artisans, and not have to drive? To dine on wonderful food and not have to lift a finger to cook or clean up?
Let me plan it for you. With all the arrangements made in advance, you can just relax and enjoy your vacation.
The following plan may whet your appetite!
Harvest Time in Umbria and Tuscany, A Typical Week-Long Tour
Saturday to Saturday, October
La Pietra, Umbria, Italy (www.altabella.com)
(Limited to 8-10 participants. Includes all lodging, transportation and meals listed below; does not include air or train fares. Transportation from Rome or Florence airports to La Pietra can be arranged for an extra charge.)
7-9 am. Breakfast; cook serves and cleans up kitchen afterwards
9 am. Departure from La Pietra for excursions
1 pm. Lunch in restaurant or at La Pietra
7:30-8 pm. Dinner in a restaurant or at La Pietra
We meet at 1:30 pm at Terontola-Cortona train station, halfway between Florence and Rome, and are transported by comfortable minibus to our home for the next week, La Pietra, a restored 17th century farmhouse with spectacular views over Umbria and Tuscany. At lunch we are introduced to selected foods from this region of farms and forests. After an optional country walk, we'll taste some of the best local wines on the terrace at sunset. Dinner will be prepared by the Amore Sapore cooks, followed by roasted chestnuts and vinsanto around the blazing hearth.
Sunday, Umbrian Chestnuts and Tuscan Sun
In the morning we'll visit the nearby village of Preggio, where its famous harvest fair, the Chestnut Festival, will be in full swing. The local people transform the town's wine cellars into tiny shops, selling locally-made delicacies and the new wine, or mosto. After a short, scenic drive into the next valley, we'll arrive at picturesque Cortona for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Afterwards, you are free to explore Cortona's back streets, museums and shops. The picture gallery contains one of the most beautiful paintings in central Italy, an Annunciation by Fra Angelico, as well as many works by Signorelli, who was born in Cortona. We return to our valley for dinner at a favorite ristorante, Nonna Gelsa.
Monday, Ceramics and Chocolate
Since the thirteenth century the residents of Deruta have been making ceramics. The little Umbrian town is full of shops were you can see painters working at their craft, and we will introduce you to some of the masters. Following lunch in Deruta, we'll head for Perugia, Umbria's capital, a sophisticated university city, famous for its art museum, Etruscan and medieval architecture, chocolate and jazz festivals and fashionable shops. After an initial introduction to the city, you are free to wander on your own. We will join up later for some of Perugia's best pizza.
Tuesday, Gorgeous Gubbio
Wear your walking shoes! In the morning we visit the ancient hillside town of Gubbio and its weekly farmer's market. Our guide will lead us on an architecture and history tour and we'll learn about the area's prehistoric importance, the Umbri tribal and Roman eras, and its height of power and influence in the early Renaissance. We lunch in a restored medieval cantina, returning home for a pasta demonstration and dinner with Amore Sapore.
Wednesday, Wine Towns of Tuscany
Today we'll visit the lovely wine towns of southern Tuscany: Montepulciano, home of Vino Nobile, and Montalcino, of Brunello fame. We'll also check out the ideal Renaissance town of Pienza, in recent times famous for its pecorino cheese, textiles and iron work. We'll lunch at a country osteria near Sant'Antimo, an exquisite Romanesque church of French design, reputed to have been founded by Charlemagne. On the way home we'll dine at Trattoria Mimmi in Mercatale, where Mimmi, in her seventies, still makes her own pasta and grills over the coals.
Thursday, Textiles, Artisans and Truffle Treasures
Our first stop today is at the bee keeper's for acacia and chestnut honey and lovely candles, then we head north to Anghiari for a visit to an ancient olive mill and the famous Bussati textile workshop. After lunch at a typical Tuscan restaurant we hunt for truffles with Severio Bianconi, then head back to Severio's farm for a discussion about how to cook with truffles, and an excellent meal created by Sra. Gabriella in which black and white truffles figure abundantly.
Friday, Assisi and St. Francis
Off to the region's most famous town, art-filled Assisi, where Italy's beloved St. Francis founded his order. We are treated to a special visit to the home of a private collector of medieval art followed by a tour of the town and lunch all'aperto, weather permitting. Then we return to La Pietra where Amore Sapore will serve up a fish dinner in honor of Umbria's saint (a talking fish in Lake Trasimeno figured prominently in one of Francis's miracles). We raise our glasses to the each other and to the food artisans of Italy!
Saturday, Buon Viaggio!
We depart La Pietra at 10 am. for Terontola station, carrying with us fond memories of our unforgettable week in Italy's heartland.
'Elizabeth has first-class taste and we trusted her with our wedding unconditionally'.
'You created such a beautiful time for all of us, and gave us the perfect mental and physical location for us to grow as writers and people. I found your story to be especially inspiring, the way you've carved out a life that embraces the joy of every day'.
'Wow! What can I say about my time in Umbria. You did a magnificent job as playing hostess, organizer, cheerleader, concierge, mom, creator. I will never forget my first time in Italy because of your involvement'.