Alpine Hikes in Slovenia,
Wine Country Walks in Tuscany
& the Best of Rome
August 30 – September 15, 2008
On this exciting adventure we visit the pristine Alps of Slovenia, the Renaissance city of Florence, the pastoral wine country of Tuscany, and the eternal city of Rome. The Julian Alps of Slovenia, located between Italy andAustria, are characterized by dramatic limestone mountains up to 9,396 feet in elevation. From our cozy Tyrolian style lodge, we venture out on three days with our Slovenian guide to explore these beautiful mountains. We also kayak on a glacial lake, tour medieval castles, and visit Ljubljana, the picturesque capitol of Slovenia. Next, we travel by train to Florence, Italy to visit Renaissance art galleries, admire Michaelangelo’s statue of David, and immerse ourselves in the Renaissance culture. For four fantastic days, we explore Tuscany from our comfortable lodging on an active vineyard. We walk amid the vineyards and olive groves, visit historic hilltop towns and monasteries, listen to monks chant, enjoy gourmet food, and of course, sample the local wines. In Rome we visit the romantic plazas and fountains of the city center and tour the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine, Circus Maximus, and the Vatican with our gay guide who illuminates the gay history of Rome. We will have the opportunity t o meet local gays in Slovenia, Florence and Rome.
Day 1. Saturday (8/30). Leave the USA
Day 2. Sunday (8/31) Arrive in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Arrive late morning, check through customs, and be transferred to the Hotel Kristal located on the crystal clear Lake Bohinj, a large glacial lakeamid the majestic peaks of the Julian Alps. Our comfortable Tyrolean-style lodge has two restaurants, a bar, reading lounge, and terraces. The afternoon is free to swim, hike around the lake or in the nearby mountains, and get to know the other men on this adventure trip. In the evening, we meet our Slovenian guide and discuss the next three days of hiking while enjoying a get acquainted dinner at our cozy hotel.
Days 3, 4 & 5. Monday-Wednesday (9/1-3). Hike the Alps
For the next three days, we explore Triglav National Park, located in western Slovenia between Austria and Italy. This park is one of the largest reserves of wilderness and unspoiled nature in Europe, and has a network of exciting hiking trails. The pristine and spectacularly beautiful park is characterized by the dramaticlimestone peaks of the Julian Alps with the 9,396 foot tall Mount Triglav, as well as rivers, lakes, waterfalls, forest, pastoral valleys and alpine meadows. The park has a rich flora of plants and is home to the chamois, ibex and other wildlife.
Each day after our invigorating hike we return to our Hotel to relax, enjoy a Slovenian dinner, and have time to mingle in the pub with other international travelers. We have lunch each day in a mountain hut along our hiking route.
Day 6. Thursday (9/4). Kayak & Travel to Ljubljana
In the morning we have the opportunity to kayak on Lake Bohinj. Next we travel to Bled, Slovenia’s most popular mountain resort located on the emerald green Lake Bled. We have lunch and then visit Bled Castle, an 11th century medieval fortress with towers, ramparts, and moats. Next, we travel to Ljubljana, a city of 280,000 people and one of the smallest capitols in Europe. This picturesque city is characterized by a medieval castle on the hill above the beautiful Ljubljana River. The Ljubljana Castle was built in the 16th century and has been a royal residence, a prison and barracks, and is now used for cultural events. The city has an abundance of restaurants and outdoor cafes along the river. We lodge at the City Hotel in the city center next door to the medieval Old Town, with its cobblestone streets, restaurants, markets and tourist shops. We will have the opportunity to visit bars, cafes and saunas of this very gay friendly city. (B)
Day 7. Friday (9/5). Ljubljana to Florence, Italy
In the morning we travel by our private van west to Udine, Italy where we catch a train for a comfortable four and one half hour trip south through the pastoral and picturesque countryside to Florence. In Florence, we lodge in the comfortable and quiet Dei Mori Bed & Breakfast, located in an 18th century building in the historical heart of the city between the Piazza della Signoria, the core of pre-renaissance Florence, and the Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. In the evening after dinner, we have the opportunity to stroll around this traffic-free city and walk to numerous gay bars which tend to have an international flavor. (B)
Day 8. Saturday (9/6). Florence
Today we explore the beautiful renaissance city of Florence. With our cultural guide, we visit and the Uffizi Gallery located in a 16th century Renaissance palace, to see a wealth of Renaissance art. Later in the afternoon, we visit the Galleria dell’Academia to see the statue of David and other sculptures by Michaelangelo, On our walk around town, we have the opportunity to visit the Piazza della Signoria, one of Italy’s most beautiful squares; the Piazza del Duomo to see the pink, green and white Duomo, a Florentine Gothic cathedral built in 1296, and one of the world’s largest and most distinctive churches; and the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge built in 1220, probably by the Romans.
Day 9. Sunday (9/7). Hilltop Towns of Tuscany
Our guide picks us up at our hotel and we head south in our private van to explore historic hilltop towns in the heart of Tuscany. We first stop at Colle Val d’Elsa, a medieval town with 14th and 16th century walls, towers, buildings, a castle, old houses, and cathedral (Dumo). After exploring the town, we hike about 7 miles through the pastoral countryside to see San Gimignano, the most spectacular and best preserved hilltop town in Tuscany. The walled city of 7,000 people was built in 1213 and was originally encircled by 72 medieval towers (14 remain). The town center, Piazza del Dumo, is characterized by unchanged medieval palaces and churches. The highlight is the Collegiata, a church with 12th century frescoes depicting the last testament and stories from the Old and New Testaments.
While in Tuscany, we lodge at the Fattoria Di Corsignono, a pleasant farmhouse in the Chianti area six miles south of Siena. The Farm has 20 acres of vineyards, 4 acres of olive groves, cypress groves, and four Tuscan style homesteads with apartments. Each apartment has bedrooms, a living room, a fully equipped kitchenette, a bathroom with shower, and a TV. The Farm has a swimming pool and gardens, and is close to the hamlets of Corsignono and Vagliaglia. We lodge at the Farm for four nights. And each night enjoy a Tuscan style dinner with wine from the Farm.
(B,L,D with wine)
Day 10. Monday (9/8). Montagnola Hills and Gardens of Cetinale
Our morning begins with a hike in the Montagnola hills west of Siena. We hike on trails and cart paths though oak forests and meadows with wildflowers, and pass ruined ancient farmsteads, old walls, tiny villages, and churches dating back to the Crusades and earlier. These hills provided much of the stone and marble for the palaces and cathedrals of Sienna. En route we stop by the Villa Centinale, which was built by Cardinal Flavio Chigi for Pope Alexander VII in the 1600′s, to visit the Renaissance-style gardens. The gardens, renowned as being among the most beautiful in Italy, are filled with climbing roses, lilies, irises, vine covered pergolas, and statues.
Later in the day we drive to Siena, a well preserved medieval city with Italian Gothic architecture. We visit the Campo, the huge main central square which is shaped like an amphitheater. At the square base is the Palazzo Pubblico constructed in the 14th century to house offices of the city government. It has a bell tower, waving banners and a crenellated façade. We can climb the 500 steps for a panorama of the city. The Cathedral is an architectural fantasy with colored bands of marble and constructed in the Romanesque and Italian Gothic styles in the 12th century.
At the end of the day, we return to our farmhouse for another fantastic Italian dinner and continue to sample the local wines.
Day 11. Tuesday (9/9). Sant’Antimo and Montalcino’s Wine Trail
In the morning, we travel to Montalcino, home of the “Brunello” wines, an aristocratic red wine. Montalcino, which has remained unchanged from the 16th century, was an important medieval stronghold, as exemplified by its imposing castle with angular tower. We hike through the picture postcard Tuscany countryside to the abbey of Sant’ Antimo, founded by Charlemagne, and located in a large valley amid rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards, and forest. We stop by to see the church and listen to chants by the monk residents of this 12th century church. At the fabulous Taverna dei Barbi set amongst the Brunello vineyards, we have a gourmet lunch and sample the local wines. After lunch, we continue our hike through the magnificent Tuscan landscape. After the hike we return to the farmhouse for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Day 12. Wednesday (9/10). Chianti Classico and the Monti dei Chianti
Today we hike the rugged hills of the Monti dei Chianti, the foothills of the Tuscan Apennine mountains. This region was once the frontier between Florentine and Sienese territories, and witnessed many battles in the bitter power struggle between the two City States in Medieval times. Our hike takes us to the imposing fortress of Brolio Castle, whose origins date from the 11th century. The castle is owned by the Ricasoli family, who have ruled these lands for nearly 1000 years. This private castle is surrounded by a park with a picturesque 16th century garden, and has views across the wine country all the way to Sienna. We visit the garden and the chapel.
Day 13. Thursday (9/11). Florence to Rome
We take a private van to Florence for our one hour, thirty-eight minute comfortable and scenic train trip to Rome. Upon arrival, we take a taxi to our bed & breakfast, the Antiqua Roma, a gay establishment located in the heart of Rome in an upscale area within walking distance to important monuments, historical places and gay establishments. The afternoon is free to relax, shop or explore the city. Rome has an interesting, exciting and diverse gay culture which we explore at night.
Day 14. Friday(9/12). Rome – Plazas & Fountains
Our guide in Rome is Massimiliano Canneto, a government certified tour guide and a gay man knowledgeable of the gay history of Rome, as well as the current gay life and culture in Rome.
Today we explore the center of Rome to visit plazas and fountains, get oriented, and locate the gay venues. We visit Rome’s most famous fountain, Fontana Trevi, which foams dramatically from a wall of the Palazzo Poli. Its central figure, Neptune, is flanked by figures representing a calm and stormy sea. The picturesque Piazza Campo dei Fiori has a lively street market crammed with stalls selling flowers, fish, fruit and vegetables. The Piazza Spagna, with its Spanish Steps, is the heart of the best shopping in Rome. The Piazza Navonna, with its outdoor cafes and elegant Palazzi, is the social hub of Rome and an exhilarating spot thronged with life.
Day 15. Saturday (9/13). Vatican Tour
Our three hour Vatican tour starts at the Vatican Museums, which house one of the world’s most important art collections. We will visit the Pinecone Courtyard, the Pio-Clementino Collection (with the astonishing Laoocon Group and the Torso del Belvedere), the Corridor of the Candelabra, the Gallery of the Tapestries, the Gallery of Maps, and much more. We visit Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, one of the greatest artistic enterprises of human kind, and see some of the most attractive naked men painted in the history of art! After the museums, we go to the superb colonnade of Piazza San Pietro, where we will be introduced to the history of the basilica and of the pre-existing remains dating back to Ancient Rome. Inside St. Peter’s, we experience the magnificence of the sumptuously decorated basilica beneath Michelangelo’s vast dome. Benini’s Baldaccino and monument to Pope Alexander VII, Michaelangelo’s La Pieta, and Arnolfo Di Camio’s bronze statue representing St. Peter are only a few of the works we will see.
The afternoon is free to relax, shop, or explore Rome on our own.
Day 16. Sunday (9/14). Ancient Rome
Today, we explore ancient Rome. Our three hour tour starts on Imperial Fora Street, in front of Trajan’s Markets, a visionary complex of 150 shops built by the architect Apollodorus about 1900 years ago. Nearby stands the magnificent Column inaugurated by Trajan in AD 113 to celebrate his two campaigns in Dacia (Romania). Spiraling up the column are 2500 marvelously carved figures from the campaigns.
Next, we walk to the Capitol, citadel of Rome. It was and still is nowadays a must for every visitor, and a gay meeting place at night! A broad flight of steps leads up to Michelangelo’s spectacular Piazza. From the back terrace of the Palazzo Senatorio, we have a fantastic view of the Roman Forum in the valley below.
In the valley of the Roman Forum, the centre of political, commercial and judicial life in Ancient Rome, we see the impressive ruins of the House of the Vestal Virgins, the Curia, the temples, the triumphal arches, the basilicas, and more. Next, we visit the Colosseum, Rome’s great amphitheater, where gladiators fought each other and wild beasts from Africa. It was commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian in AD 72 on the grounds of Nero’s palace. Its 80 arched entrances allowed access easy access to 55,000 spectators. In the valley of the Colosseum we see the triumphal Arch of Constantine, dedicated in AD 315 to celebrate Constantine’s victory over his co-emperor, Maxentius.
Our tour of Ancient Rome continues on the slopes of the Palatine, one of the most pleasant and relaxing of the city’s ancient sites. According to legend, Romulus and Remus were raised here by a wolf in a cave. Today, the area is dominated by the ruins of the Imperial Residence, from which most of the known world was governed. From a terrace, we have a superb view of the Circus Maximus, once Rome’s largest stadium. The grandstands held some 250,000 spectators cheering wildly at the horse and chariot races.
The afternoon is free to relax or explore Rome on our own. We have our farewell dinner in the evening.
Day 17. Monday (9/15). Depart for Home
4-6 Travelers – $4,300 per person double occupancy
7-8 Travelers – $4,000 per person double occupancy
Lease note: if the value of the dollar compared to the euro continues to decline, the cost of the trip may be increased slightly.
Cost Includes: All lodging, meals where noted, inbound transfer from airport to hotel, outbound transfer to train station in Udine (Italy), entrance to museums and historical sites, American tour director, local guides in Slovenia and Italy.
Cost Does Not Include: International airfare, transfer to the airport in Rome, train from Udine to Florence ($123), train from Florence to Rome ($90), beverages with meals (except where noted), entry fee to gay bars, telephone calls, and gratuities to local guides.
Registration & Information
If you would like additional information, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us locally at 303-449-0990 or toll free at 1-877-440-0990. Our office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) Monday through Friday.
This trip is rated moderate in terms of difficulty. We hike for three days on well maintained trails in the Slovenian Alps and for four days on trails and country roads in the gentle Tuscan landscape.