Impressions of Tuscany

Tour Intro

Venice & Burano Extension

Charles has designed this amazing journey, taking you to the heart of Tuscany during the peak spring flowering season. If you have ever dreamed of a trip to Italy to photograph gardens and rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, then this is the trip for you. May is one of the best times to visit Italy, as the weather is lovely, the landscape is fresh green, and it is prior to the major tourist season.

Charles Needle and Strabo Tours have fine-tuned this trip by adding some great spots and wonderful towns that Charles has explored. The first part of your trip will center on Florence, the capital of Tuscany, the city where the Renaissance began. It is a living museum of art and culture. Explore and photograph the gardens, streets and piazzas.

A short drive from Florence transports you into the beautiful Tuscan hill towns. Stay in a country villa amidst the vineyards, followed by a stay in the lovely city of Pienza. From both accommodations, you will travel to hill towns overlooking the Tuscan landscape. You will be among the best-preserved landscapes in Italy, some virtually unchanged since artists depicted them five hundred years ago. The region has large areas of woodlands, interspersed with vineyards and dotted with medieval towns high on hills and ridges. The quality of light here has inspired generations of artists. Your journey will explore this glorious land in depth. Everywhere there is something of compelling beauty, curiosity, and interest — brilliant architecture, classic Tuscan landscapes, the daily life of the people themselves, providing continuity between past and present. There will also be time to relax and have photo discussions.

The emphasis of your trip is on photography, yet this is much more than a photographic tour. Charles welcomes tour companions who are not photographers. There are interesting aspects of Italian life waiting to be explored in every location. The trip’s leisurely pace will provide ample opportunity to wander through medieval hill towns and feast on the renowned regional foods and wines.

Tour Highlights

  • Photo tips and guidance offered by Charles Needle, with his expertise in macro-photography and his impressionistic style.
  • Maximum of twelve participants to ensure quality instruction and enjoyment.
  • Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, with the rich tapestry of history depicted in its architecture, sculptures, and Italian gardens.
  • The Tuscan countryside, much of it unchanged over hundreds of years: mile after mile of orderly rows of grapevines, cypress trees piercing the skyline, village and fortress towns that crown nearly every hilltop.
  • Optional extension to the canals of Venice and nearby colorful island of Burano.

Tour Itinerary

May 5: USA/Home
Tuscany Florence Arno

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

Depart on an overnight flight to Florence. The group tour will begin tomorrow evening from the hotel (time estimated around 4PM).

May 6-7: Florence
Florence Skyline

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

Arrive in Florence Airport (FLR) this morning or early afternoon of May 6, taking a taxi to the hotel. The group will assemble this afternoon in the hotel lobby where you will have an introductory meeting, followed by photography walks in the Iris and Rose Gardens of Florence. The gardens are on either side of the Piazzale Michelangelo, which offers a panoramic view of the city. Welcome reception at hotel.

A sunrise walk will be planned the next day with Charles to photograph the famous Ponte Vecchio, the most popular and oldest bridge that spans the Arno River. This is an excellent time to photograph Florence, as it prepares for another day. Return to breakfast at the hotel and be ready to explore the beautiful terraced garden of the Bardini family, with amazing views of the city. Taxis will be organized to take the group to the top of the park, where you can follow the paths down to the Arno. If the spring bloom cooperates, there should be wandering vines of purple Wisteria amidst to photograph. Take a short break at the hotel and then enjoy a photography walking tour of the city with your local guide.

We will take sometime to photograph Florence’s town square, the Piazza della Signoria, and the Duomo, a magnificent cathedral, whose massive dome was designed by Brunelleschi. The cathedral offers endless facets and details to explore. If you feel adventurous, climb to the dome’s cupola or to the top of the adjacent tower — the four hundred steps are worth it for a truly breathtaking scene!

We will also visit lesser-known points of interest: markets and artisan shops, and areas where scenes of daily life are played out in the squares and streets. If you want time to visit inside the many art museums of the city we suggest extending your stay and arrive to Florence a day or two ahead of the tour beginning. Excursions during the tour will be based on the weather and light. Overnight Hotel Renaissance (Welcome Reception; Breakfast next day)

May 8-10: San Gimignano - Tuscany
Tuscany Flower Door

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

San Gimignano is one of the most picturesque of the Italian hill towns. It is known as the “city of the beautiful towers”. Fourteen of the seventy original towers remain, giving the town a striking appearance. Historically, San Gimignano was very prosperous back in the middle ages when important pilgrim and trade routes passed through its center. It also was a strategic site in the political struggles of the region. The narrow streets and alleyways, courtyards, churches, Duomo, and stunning artwork provide a wealth of opportunities for you to explore with your camera. From San Gimignano, continue to your accommodations in a villa surrounded by vineyards near S. Leolino.

Your location allows you to visit a number of Tuscany’s most picturesque towns. Although we can’t visit them all, here is a sample of those surrounding this region: Radda in Chianti is a small village set high on a hill that retains its medieval town plan. Seven kilometers north we come across Volpaia, one of Chianti’s most beautiful fortified villages. Volpaia was built out of honey-colored stone and boasts a castle from the tenth century.

Montefioralle is a fourteenth century hamlet, perched on a ridge that overlooks the town of Greve in Chianti. A bit further south is Castellina in Chianti, a charming town, featuring a tunnel street that served as a soldier’s walk back in the days when the town was a Florentine bastion. Another destination is Monteriggioni, one of the most perfectly preserved fortified villages in all of Italy. Dante mentioned its vantage points in the Inferno, as the circle of Titans guarding the lowest level of Hell. One day, you will take a break in the afternoon to photograph amidst the vineyards at a special wine tasting lunch. Overnight Villa Rosa (Breakfast & Dinner daily, one wine & food tasting Lunch)

May 11-13: Pienza
Tuscany Hillside Villa

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

Pienza is a beautiful hill town that has a picturesque central plaza and was built according to architectural plans that later were used in building some of Italy’s most beautiful and famous structures. The narrow streets are lined with specialty stores, as Pienza is known for its Peccorino cheeses. You will explore Pienza and the surrounding hills from your stay at a working farmhouse north of the city.

The town of Montalcino is known for the Brunello grapes that grow on its slopes and the fortress that sits atop the town. Sant’Antimo is a nearby monastery, built around the year 1100, a splendid Romanesque abbey and church set in quite unspoiled surroundings, where we can explore the olive groves, vineyards, and natural area that surround the ancient building. Visits to other villages, such as Montichiello and Montepulciano, will be interspersed with early morning and late afternoon excursions to photograph the pastoral landscape that has made this region so well known amongst painters and photographers. Close to Montepulciano is the Villa La Foce, built in the fifteenth century as a hospice for pilgrims and merchants. It boasts your typical Italian garden style, each individual garden or ‘room’ closed off by box hedges and lemon trees. Stairs lead to the rose garden and wandering wisteria-covered pergola, with a panoramic view of over the Orcia Valley. The countryside we will be visiting has some of the most picturesque landscapes, and medieval villages, and we will take full advantage of these offerings for our photographic explorations. Excursions will be based on the weather and light, with time midday to take breaks, refreshment, and learn more about photography. Overnight Hotel Corsignano (Breakfast daily, Farewell Dinner)

 

May 14: Florence - Onward Destinations
Tuscany Florence Duomo

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

The group will depart very early this morning after breakfast, a departure time will be given for flights home or continue on to the canals of Venice. (B)

Tour Extension

Photo Leader

Charles Needle
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Charles Needle

Charles Needle is an award-winning, California-based fine art photographer, author, speaker and workshop leader with a unique eye for design and artistic interpretation. His popular “Art of Nature” creative macro workshops have attracted students nationwide. In 2011, Charles was selected as a finalist, among 15,000 entries worldwide, in the International Garden Photographer of the Year photography contest, sponsored by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (London, England). This exhibition traveled throughout the United Kingdom. He was also a semi-finalist in the 2014 Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards photo contest.

Charles has authored three cutting-edge instructional books: Tiny Worlds: Creative Macro Photography Skills (Amherst Media, January 2015), Impressionistic Photography: A Field Guide to Using Your Camera as a Paintbrush (March 2014), and Creative Macro Photography: Professional Tips & Techniques (2011). An accomplished speaker, photography juror and teacher with international workshops in Monet's Garden (Giverny, France for 10 years in a row, with exclusive private access), Keukenhof Gardens (Holland) and The Butchart Gardens (Canada), Charles is a FujiFilm USA Talent Team member and North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) Showcase Award winner six years in a row. Charles’ photographs have been selected for publication in Nature’s Best, Outdoor Photographer magazine, Nature Photographer magazine, Inner Reflections Engagement Calendar, The Chicago Tribune, SELF Magazine and are in private and public collections nationwide and abroad.

Charles workshops are the best I've ever attended.  It was good to have his hands-on instruction and lectures.  Too many workshops I've attended, they take you to a place and say 'Take photos.'  I can do that myself for free!  I enjoyed seeing your great photography, and it inspires me to keep going. The supportive image evaluations were very good as well."
 

Tom M.

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 8 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $500 if 5-7 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single rooms are subject to availability. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.

Testimonials

Tuscany Pottery

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

I learned many new photographic techniques and had ample time in the field to try out these new techniques. These techniques included many impressionistic camera techniques as well as creative macro techniques.  Charles was very helpful in the field both explaining techniques and then demonstrating them to you on your equipment.  I found this very helpful.  Charles does not do any personal photography in the field but makes his way to everyone to make sure that questions are answered and techniques demonstrated.  He also provides supportive image evaluations to help take my images to the next level.  We had a great time on the trip, made some beautiful images and met wonderful people.  Charles made this all possible.  I highly recommend his trips.
 

Bruce L.
Masks

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

Charles encouraged me to play outside my comfort zone and experiment with creative photography.  It was clear to me that he has a passion for teaching photography, helping to bring out your creative side, and his lectures were easy to follow and then incorporate in the next field session.  The techniques I learned with both my traditional SLR and my smartphone led to a gallery show where I have sold seven prints!  A week in the field with Charles will not only expand your world to creative photography, but also realign you with the beauty Mother Nature holds.  My photography has gained a new dimension of creativity thanks to Charles, and I am looking forward to my next adventure participating in of his workshops!"       
 

Melissa F.
Tuscany Hillside Cypress Trees

Photo By: Charles Needle

Photo Location: Italy

Charles workshops are the best I've ever attended.  It was good to have his hands-on instruction and lectures.  Too many workshops I've attended, they take you to a place and say 'Take photos.'  I can do that myself for free!  I enjoyed seeing your great photography, and it inspires me to keep going. The supportive image evaluations were very good as well."
 

Tom M.

Additional Notes

What to expect on your trip: 

  • Photograph for nine days during peak spring bloom in the gardens, vineyards, and rolling hills of Tuscany.
  • Extend another four days, photographing the canals and amazing architecture of Venice.
  • You’ll also have the opportunity to hone your macro skills with a palette of Iris, Roses, and Wisteria.
  • Informal image reviews and lectures will be interspersed through out your time in Tuscany. Field instruction emphasizes creative macro, impressionistic, multiple-exposure, and artistic smartphone photography.

Focus and Pace of the trip

Each of the areas we will visit has something unique to offer, and we will have time to explore them at leisure. The trip is suitable for virtually every level of photography or special interest. Although it is geared for photographers, non-photographers will get a great deal from the experience as well. The pace is suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit. To get the most out of the trip, you should be able to walk for several miles a day. There are sometimes hills to climb. Accommodations are strategically located, however, and there are wonderful photographic opportunities available without straying very far from the premises. Please call us at 607-756-8676 if you have any specific questions on fitness or health.

Terms and Conditions

Unless otherwise noted, this information applies to all tours.

Airfare

Contact Strabo Tours if you would like rates on International Airfare. Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge is added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight times with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties. Please contact Strabo Tours for destination airfare estimates, specific flight time arrivals, and departures.

The land cost includes:
  • Group transportation for tour events in the tour van.
  • Accommodations based on two people sharing a room, singles are assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Services of driver, English speaking cultural guide (if applicable) and photographic leader, during the tour.
  • Meals as listed in itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner).
  • Park entrance fees, day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary.
  • Extensive pre-departure information and services.
The land cost does not include:

Domestic or International air fare; other airfare if noted in exceptions; air fare tax; airport departure tax; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those not traveling with the group; excess baggage charges; meals not included in itinerary; activities taken on your own; passport/visa expenses; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, photographic equipment, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; fuel surcharges; exchange rate surcharges; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips for meals not included in itinerary.

Fitness and Health

The majority of trips are not strenuous (see exceptions below for particular destinations) and anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to take part in most of the activities. You may experience general fatigue due to the long flights and the change in time zones. You will need to be sufficiently agile to climb in and out of the tour van and be able to carry and manage your own equipment. We will frequently hike trails ranging from easy to moderate. Some hotels do not have elevators or air conditioners.

If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607-756-8676).

You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.

Exceptions:

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

Deposits, Cancellations AND Refunds

A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic tours) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due.

If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:

  • 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic tours), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
  • 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic tours) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of tour costs.
  • 60 days or less before departure or anytime after departure: NO REFUND.

Refunds for services that are voluntarily not used by you cannot be made.

Insurance

Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.

We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, which outlines their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.

Subject to Change

Itineraries have been carefully constructed to assure participants the best each destination has to offer; however, should events arise that are beyond our control, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. The itineraries summarize typical areas you will explore. Since there is no possible way to visit all of them, your guides will plan each day considering the interests of the group and the weather at hand. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.

Photo Release

Strabo International Tour Company, Inc. reserves the right and permission to use photographs of individuals on tour for use in promotional and publicity purposes. We also reserve the right to use clients photographs for promotional and publicity purposes, when submitted to Strabo International Tour Company, Inc.

Food & Drink

A NOTE ABOUT MEALS
Lunches will be informal, taken in one of the many shops that sell delicious sandwiches, pizza, pastry, and other delights. This will allow maximum flexibility, the cost can be reasonable at $10 or up to $20-25 depending what is ordered. Dinners will be slightly higher or ranging from $15, cafeteria style or sit down restaurants can be $30 or $35.

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