A Garden Escape – past program

September 28th – October 5th 2019

7 Night / 8 Day

Price US$ 4995 per person land only for PHS member
Price US$ 5085 per person land only for non-members

Based on double occupancy
– Single supplement US$ 950, available upon request –

Tuscany is renowned for its culture, delicious cuisine and breathtaking art and beauty.
It is also the ideal setting for a garden tour!

Led by garden specialist Amy Kupec Larue and hosted by Pacific Horticulture SOCIETY Board member Linda McKendrY, this carefully crafted itinerary has been designed to explore the charms of this cherished land.

Enjoy 2 nights in old-world Lucca, a quaint town in Western Tuscany, 2 nights in the Val d’Orcia area of Southern Tuscany, with its spectacular landscapes, and 3 nights in the capital city of Florence. Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, abounds with art and historical masterpieces, stunning 15th century homes and stately formal gardens.

Our program has a lovely combination of historical and contemporary gardens, villas, and palaces which we plan to visit while also enjoying the culinary delights of this land, complete with a delicious cooking demonstration. Many venues are open to the public while others are privately owned and require special permission to visit, which can only be confirmed closer to the tour date. There may be slight modifications or rotations in the itinerary to accommodate changes in opening hours, and private visit confirmations. A final itinerary will be sent to participants prior to departure.

Breakfast is included everyday with lunches and dinners indicated as follows : B = breakfast, L = lunch and D = evening meal.

Day 1 : Saturday, September 28th 2019


Group meeting at the Florence airport dependent on arrival times. Afterwards we will travel by private coach directly to the charming walled city of Lucca (1.5 hours) where we will be staying for 2 nights. The handsome town of Lucca has been attracting visitors for centuries and was an important Roman colony that Julius Caesar visited frequently. The old center is still surrounded by defensive walls constructed during the Renaissance which have been turned into a lush tree‐lined promenade. It is also known as the city of 100 churches with one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. After settling in, we will meet in the lobby for a short orientation walk through the quaint allies and backstreets to conclude with a visit to the elegant and privately-owned Palazzo Pfanner, a baroque garden where portions of Portrait of a Lady were filmed. Afterwards enjoy an Italian welcome aperitivo and then a group welcome dinner in an upscale local restaurant.

(Overnight in Lucca at San Luca Palace or similar) D

Day 2 : Sunday, September 29th 2019

Lucca Gardens

Our tour commences exploring the hillsides around Lucca where a concentration of countryside villas dating back to the 17th century were built by wealthy noblemen having made their fortunes in the textile trade. In the hamlet of Caponnari we will discover the colorful Torrigiani villa with its ochre façade and white marble statutes. The surviving garden dates back to the mid 17th century and illustrates the refined harmony between an aristocratic villa, the surrounding countryside and Italian garden design. In addition to its majestic entrance and rows of cypress trees there is a secret garden with a hidden nymphaeum. Once enclosed, it was used as an aviary and fish farm with numerous water features that surprised unwary guests. After a break for lunch we will carry on to the Villa Grabua, which is entirely furnished with period pieces and paintings and surrounded by a botanical park. The park is divided into different garden rooms and punctuated with fountains, majestic old trees and botanical rarities. The winter garden here is known as the Limonaia or Lemon house and was built to preserve a precious collection of citrus plants. There is also the romantic atmosphere in the green theater with clipped boxwoods to discover and an English garden with majestic trees and exotic plants. Return to Lucca and dinner at leisure.

(Overnight in Lucca at San Luca Palace or similar) B, L

Day 3 : Monday, September 30th 2019

Cooking Experience in Chianti with arrival in Southern Tuscany

We depart from Lucca this morning by private coach to travel towards the very picturesque Val d’Orcia area of Tuscany. Its gentle, cultivated hills are punctuated with vineyards, olive trees, farmhouses, and charming villages which have been captured by the finest painters through the centuries. As we venture into the heart of the Tuscan countryside we will stop along the way to a farm and winery for a culinary adventure. Here we will learn the intimate story of Chianti’s famous wine followed by a cooking demonstration of regional specialties using seasonal, locally grown ingredients. Afterwards, continuing south of Siena, we arrive at our hotel in the small village of San Quirico d’Orcia. A short orientation walk of the town will be given, which was an important stop on the Medieval pilgrims’ route to Rome. Dinner can be enjoyed in the town at your leisure.

(Overnight Val d’Orcia at Villa il Capitano or similar) B, L

Day 4 : Tuesday, October 1st 2019

Siena Gardens

We will begin the day riding through the picture perfect countryside, our destination being the Villa Chigi Cetinale, nestled against the Montagnola hills among plentiful olive groves and vineyards. Carlo Fontana transformed this Tuscan farmhouse for the Cardinal Chigi by placing it at the center of his north south axis with views stretching from the cypress lined main entrance to the valley below. The lower garden and its semicircular theater are linked by 200 steps up to the charming hermitage on the hill. The garden was also extended to the east with a “sacred” forest, complete with frescoed chapels and statues. Siena’s world famous horse race, Il Palio was run several times here during the early 1700s. The estate now belongs to an English couple who are restoring the grounds and have added a romantic cottage garden as well as a collection of espalier fruit trees. Afterwards enjoy an authentic Tuscan meal in a countryside agriturismo farm. In the afternoon we will visit Bosco della Ragnaia, a contemporary woodland garden created by the American artist Sheppard Craige.The whimsical garden design reflects his spirit using classic renaissance elements with a modern twist.The park was recently awarded a certificate as a finalist in the category Innovative Contemporary Design by the European Garden Heritage Network. Returning to Val d’Orcia in the late afternoon, this evening we will enjoy a group dinner at the hotel restaurant.

(Overnight Val d’Orcia at Villa il Capitano or similar) B, L, & D

Day 5 Wednesday, October 2nd 2019

La Foce and Pienza

Today’s program will start with a drive north towards Florence stopping first at the enchanting La Foce villa overlooking the Orcia valley and Amiata mountains. Built in the 15th century, it served as a hostel for travelers before being purchased by Antonio and Iris Origo in 1924. In addition to possessing one of the finest gardens in Italy, they developed the farming activities and schools in the area, improving the local economy and living conditions greatly. This impressive garden was re-designed by the English landscape architect Cecil Pinsent in the 20th century. Following a Tuscan buffet lunch with local specialties we will travel on to the town of Pienza. The Piccolomini family put this village on the map when the poet and diplomat Aenius Sylvius became Pope Pius II. Its town center was one of the first to implement Renaissance design principles and has served as a model for urban planning. A visit to the Palazzo Piccolomini to the right of the cathedral will also illustrate another Renaissance principle, the importance of the relationship between architecture and the natural landscape, as revealed from the portico. The square, walled garden inside was also the first hanging garden created under the Renaissance. In the late afternoon we will continue on to our hotel in Florence with its remarkable rooftop terrace overlooking the city. Dinner can be enjoyed at your leisure, choosing among the many nearby typical trattoria and ristorante.

(Overnight Florence at Grand Hotel Cavour Firenze or similar) B, L

Day 6 Thursday, October 3rd 2019

Fiesole Gardens

The Fiesole gardens will be the focus of today’s travels, beginning first with the Anglo-Italian style garden made popular by expatriates in and around Florence. The Villa Le Balze is now owned by Georgetown University and has been maintained for three decades as a study center overlooking Florence. Despite its awkward shape, Cecil Pinsent was able to make one of the finest gardens of his career with interlocking, enclosed spaces and long perspectives. To the north of the Villa is an elaborate grotto embedded with shells & stones worthy of the Medici’s themselves. We will then move on to see one of the earliest Renaissance gardens in Italy that belonged to the Medicis in the 15th century. Chosen for its amazing views across the Arno Valley, there are a series of terraces with emerald lawns, potted lemon trees and geometrical parterre beds linked together by a raised pergola. Afterwards, time to enjoy lunch on own and explore the town of Fiesole. We will end the day at nearby Gamberaia, one of the most famous Florentine villa gardens. It has a savant combination of the simplicity of an early Renaissance garden complimented by the rich decorations from the Baroque style. Features include one of the finest “bowling greens” in Italy, punctuated with statues on one side of the villa along with a lemon garden, fountains, magnificent topiaries, a nymphaeum and two grottos. However, Gamberaia’s most bewitching feature is the water parterre dating from its early 20th century owner, the Serbian Princess Ghika and her American companion Miss Blood. We will then return to Florence for a free evening, with dinner at leisure.

(Overnight Florence at Grand Hotel Cavour Firenze or similar) B

Day 7 : Friday, October 4th 2019

Florence Gardens

For our final day together, a private guide will share with us the treasures, charms and masterpieces of Florence. Starting in Piazza della Signoria with the 13th century Palazzo Vecchio we will admire the imposing statues which adorn the piazza, the courtyard of the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Crossing the bridge we will explore the understated Oltrarno, home of artisans, craftspeople and fashionable cafés followed by a visit to one of Florence’s hidden gems. A private visit has been organized with the owner of the Torrigiani gardens, the largest privately owned garden situated within city limits in Europe. Known from the 16th century for its botanical collections, today it reflects 19th century additions and alterations. Following a light lunch, we will finish the afternoon in the grandiose Boboli gardens, where the majestic fantasy of the Florentine princes reached its apogee… amphitheater & tunnels, pools & fountains, grottos & statues, enclosed gardens & groves… these ancient hunting grounds were transformed to display all the splendors of the Florentine court in one of the most remarkable Italian gardens. We will return to the hotel in the late afternoon, ending our week with a special farewell dinner.

(Overnight Florence at Grand Hotel Cavour Firenze or similar) B, L & D

Day 8: Saturday, October 5th 2019


Breakfast and scheduled transfers to airport or train station.

Guests wishing to prolong their stay or arrive early are welcome to contact Ilene S. Koenig at Let’s Travel ! (a division of Plaza Travel). Her complete contact information can be found below.

Price US$ 4995 per person land only for PHS member
Price US$ 5085 per person land only for non-members

Trip departure guaranteed with a minimum of 14 participants.


7 Nights in double room basis in charming **** accommodations with breakfast included, Welcome Aperitivo, 3 Dinners, 4 Lunches, 1 cooking demonstration with meal, 6 Full day explorations in private coach/mini-van around Lucca, Chianti heading to Val d’Orcia, Siena, Pienza and Fiesole, Half day exploration of Lucca, Full day exploration of Florence, Garden entrances as indicated in program, Scheduled arrival pick-up at Florence airport, Scheduled departure transfer to Florence train station or Florence airport, Local taxes, hotel taxes if applicable, Tour manager Amy Kupec Larue for the duration of the tour, Signature Italy Assistance


Dinners (except for day 1, day 4 and day 7), 1 Lunch (day 6), extra entries, extra gratuities, and anything not mentioned in the item “rate includes”.

Completion of enrollment form and a deposit of US$ 470 per person is required to hold space on the trip.
The deposit is refundable, minus a US$ 115 cancellation fee, until July 1, 2019, at which time the non-refundable final payment is due.

Final payment: Final payment of US$ 4525 for each tour participant (PHS member) or US$ 4615 (non-members) is requested 90 days before the date of the beginning of the tour (July 1, 2019).
No cancellations will be accepted and no refunds will be paid after this time.



Connecting People with the Power of Gardens

The goal of the Pacific Horticulture Society (PHS) is to foster curiosity and respect for natural systems-pollinators and insects, the preservation of healthy soil, and the impact of a changing climate. Since 1976 the Society has been publishing Pacific Horticulture, a trusted resource for West Coast gardeners, designers, and horticulturists. The Society offers educational programs and inspiring garden events, as well as international and domestic PHS tours.

PHS Website


Amy Kupec Lerue has been living, working and traveling in Europe for 30 years and has guided many groups including Pactific Horticulture Society tours through public and private gardens in Paris, Normandy, the Loire River Valley and the South of France. She is a permanent member of the Bagatelle Rose Commission as well as judging at other rose gardens in Europe.

Linda McKendry is a Board member of the Pacific Horticultural Society. She is a garden designer in Southern California and a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Linda has a passion for travel, roses and all things Italian.


Contact Ilene S. Koenig, CTC
For airline tickets, pre or post tour hotel reservations and other travel information at
Let’s Travel ! (a division of Plaza Travel)
711 Montana Ave, # A
Santa Monica CA 90403
Tel: 310 451-5805
Toll free number: 800 458-7477* ext 1258*
Fax: 310 458-2938
E-Mail: ilene@letstravel-sm.com
WEB: http://www.letstravel-sm.com