Italy Photo Tour: Florence and the Hilltowns of Tuscany

Tour Intro

The Strabo Photo Tour Collection is proud to announce a special tour to Italy, led by accomplished photographer Ron Rosenstock. Ron will take you to his favorite locations in Florence, the hill towns of Tuscany, and the canals of Venice. He has been leading trips there for over twenty years, and would like to share these beautiful locations with you and like-minded photographers and artists.

This departure is limited to a maximum of twelve participants. It is intended for people of all levels of interest and accomplishment in film, or digital photography. While the emphasis will be on photography, this is also a cultural journey, which we believe will enhance your ability to capture the essence of Tuscany in your images. Your photography expert and leader, Ron Rosenstock, has been leading photo tours to Tuscany and Venice since 1985. Along with the local guides, Ron will take you to photo locations you could not access on your own, including monasteries, churches, and vineyards. In Florence, there will be quiet, pre-dawn photo walks led by Ron. He will take you to premier photographic locations to capture the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Corridor, and the Duomo. If you are participating in the Venice Extension, early morning shoots will take you along the Grand Canal where Ron has found the location from which Claude Monet painted his impressions of the Santa Maria della Salute Church. While we have specific itineraries, we have the flexibility to take advantage of photographic opportunities we find along the way.

Tuscany has perhaps produced more accomplishments in art and science than any other place in history. It is the birthplace of the Etruscan civilization, the Italian language, and the age that shaped modern history, the Renaissance. Imagine a small region that can claim Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, and Botticelli as its native sons! The first part of our trip will center on Florence, the capital of Tuscany, the city where the Renaissance began. It is a living museum of art and culture. We will explore its streets, piazzas, and great works of art and architecture in the company of excellent guides.

A short drive from Florence transports us into the beautiful Tuscan countryside. We will stay in Chianti, 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. Our 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.

We always welcome tour companions who are not photographers. There are interesting aspects of Italian life waiting to be explored in every location. In Florence, the countless museums, churches, markets, restaurants, and stores within walking distance of the hotel, make the city a desirable destination for any traveler. The quaint Tuscan villages offer wonderful landscapes, local markets, piazzas, and small shops to be enjoyed by all who might like to sketch, write, or simply appreciate the culture of Italy. 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

  • Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, with its rich tapestry of history depicted in its architecture, sculptures, and paintings
  • A stay in the Tuscan countryside, much of it unchanged over hundreds of years: mile after mile of orderly rows of grapevines, cypress trees piercing the skyline, the village or fortress town that crowns nearly every hilltop
  • Tuscany’s medieval towns and villages: Monteriggioni, San Gimignano, Volpaia, Radda in Chianti, and others, equally well-preserved
  • Departure limited to 12 participants to optimize your photographic experience
  • Evening photo lectures and slide shows, including discussions on creativity, creating with light and capturing the spirit of the amazing landscape, architecture and culture
  • An optional extension to the exquisite city of Venice, bounded and crisscrossed by canals with their arching bridges, and the magnificent Piazza San Marco with its Basilica and Campanile
  • Excellent, knowledgeable local guides who join us on various days through out the tour

Tour Itinerary

October 1: Home

Photo By: Ron Rosenstock

Photo Location: Florence Italy

Depart on your overnight flight to Florence. The group tour will begin tomorrow at the hotel. If you are attending the extension then your flight schedule will need t be multi city: Home-FLR/VCE-Home.

October 2: Arrival in Florence

Photo By: Ron Rosenstock

Photo Location: Tuscany Village

Meet around 6PM today at the hotel for an orientation and Welcome Reception, providing your first taste of Florence’s exceptional food and wine. Afterwards, if you wish to explore, there are restaurants and snack bars nearby. Overnight Florence (Evening Welcome Reception)

October 3-5: The Magic of Florence

Photo By: Ron Rosenstock

Photo Location: Florence Italy

The next three days will be spent exploring Florence. After breakfast each day the local guide will outline the daily activities. Prior to breakfast, a sunrise walk may be planned for those who want to walk through the deserted streets to photograph the city before it awakens.

Being in the heart of Florence, our hotel affords us a perfect location so that daily excursions can be done easily on foot. The famous Ponte Vecchio, the most popular and oldest bridge that spans the Arno River, is within fifteen minute walk. Just beyond the bridge are the massive Pitti Palace, originally built in the fifteenth century, and the Boboli Gardens, a maze of gardens and sculptures that covers acres. If you are looking for a good view, take a brisk walk up the hill, or take a taxi to the terrace coffee shop or the ramparts of Forte Belvedere, located just behind the gardens.

We will take some time to photograph Florence’s 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 bell tower — the four hundred steps are truly breathtaking!

Florence’s town square, the Piazza della Signoria, has been the heart of political life since the fourteenth century. The spacious Piazza and adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi contain numerous sculptures that hold an important place in Florentine art. Among them are the Bartolomeo Ammannati’s Fountain of Neptune that commemorates Tuscan naval victories, and Cellini’s Perseus. The Piazza also is home to the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), built in the thirteenth century, and the Uffizi Gallery, where many of the world’s great art treasures are housed.

We will also visit local markets and artisan shops, and spend time photographing sunsets or the streetlights lining the bridges across the Arno. Our last day in Florence you can choose to do additional photography with your photographic leader or perhaps wander on your own, visiting one of the city’s numerous museums, cathedrals, or attractions. Each day we will have lunch at one of the many restaurants, trattorias, or bars in the area. In the evening, you can go to a restaurant with the group, or go out on your own. (Breakfast daily)

October 6-16: The Tuscan Countryside

Photo By: Ron Rosenstock

Photo Location: Tuscany, Italy

The next five evenings will be spent at the Villa Rosa di Boscorotondo, located in the heart of Chianti, twenty-one miles south of Florence. The contrast between the city and the Tuscan countryside is striking. The narrow city streets are replaced with vineyards, woods, and rolling hills. The borders of the Chianti region are almost exactly those that were established in 1716 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany. For the first time in history, the boundaries of the Chianti wine production zone were limited by the Grand Duke’s edict. Today, more than sixty percent of Chianti remains forested, as there are strict limits on how much land can be cultivated.

Villa Rosa is situated at the base of a hill. The front looks out across the road to a forested hill and the back opens up to a hillside covered with vineyards, stone farmhouses, and olive groves. We will walk along the paths through the groves and follow a dirt road to the village of San Leolino. We will stop at a beautiful little church that has a commanding view of the town of Panzano and surrounding countryside. The hamlet of Monterenaldi is nearby on a quiet country road that winds through vineyards and farms. The area around Villa Rosa offers exceptional photographic opportunities of the Tuscan landscape. We will spend a morning here to photograph at leisure.

Day trips allow us to visit a number of Tuscany’s most picturesque towns. 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. We may have time to walk the circular main street and the enticing alleyways, where you may see a few electric cables, reminding us that we are still in the twenty first century. A bit further south is Castellina in Chianti, a charming town, featuring a tunnel street that served as a soldiers’ 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.

About an hour away from Villa Rosa is San Gimignano, 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. San Gimignano’s narrow streets and alleyways, courtyards, churches, Duomo, and stunning artwork provide a wealth of opportunities for you to explore with your camera. Near Pienza, we may visit the Monastery of Sant’ Antimo, a splendid Romanesque abbey and church built around the year 1100, set in quiet, unspoiled surroundings. There we can explore the Monastery itself as well as the olive groves, vineyards, and natural areas that surround the ancient buildings. Overnights Tuscany (Breakfasts and dinners daily, one lunch is included at a local vineyard)

October 11: Florence – Venice or Home

Photo By: Ron Rosenstock

Photo Location: Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence, Italy

After breakfast you will depart for home, or on to Venice. (Breakfast)

Tour Extension

Photo Leader

Ron Rosenstock
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Ron Rosenstock

Ron started leading photo tours in 1967. In those years he has led hundreds of tours to many destinations worldwide. Ron has retired from Clark University after teaching photography there for thirty years. He has published five books of his exquisite black and white photographs: The Light of Ireland, Hymn to the Earth, Chiostro (Cloister), Inspirations, Photographs of Iceland, and his color book Journeys. Ron’s work has been featured in over one hundred exhibitions, both in the U.S. and abroad, and his photographs are to be found in the permanent collections of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.  Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA, and the International Center of Photography in New York City.

Ron is happy to share his vision and insights to all who travel with him. Although he now only photographs with a digital camera, his philosophy of teaching hasn't changed since the early large format film days. He firmly believes that the photograph comes from within, not from without. Meaning you can't buy creativity, however, you have to learn to recognize that creative spirit within. Ron teaches exercises that will help that creative spirit come to the surface. These may consist of: 1) Entry ways to seeing, 2) photographing in the NOW, 3) practical aspects of printing, exhibiting and getting your work out there. During the photo tour he will teach and use a digital projector several evenings. Most people who travel with Ron have a basic understanding of how the camera works, and others who know everything about the camera. He doesn't focus on technical knowledge, rather places the emphasis on a more Zen approach. Ron believes it isn't necessary to know all the latest digital technique, but it is necessary to know yourself.
Please feel free to view Ron's website and e-mail regarding any questions.

Why do you LOVE nature photography?   By Ron Rosenstock

Let me use some of the same words, Nature photography is LOVE!  Since the very beginning of our species starting to walk upright, we have been recreating nature in various art forms, from cave paintings to digital photography. Technology has changed, but what is most important, hasn’t. The world’s greatest artists have received their inspiration from nature. We are as much a part of nature as nature is a part of us.  For those of us that take the time to smell the flowers, it’s so much more.  Poets but their feelings into words, painters paint and we photograph.  Each image we make is showing us on a deeper level, who we really are. “Listen, my heart, to the whispering of the world.  That is how it makes love to you” Tagore

What is your overall rating of the trip? 10 out of 10. Working with Ron, great leader and teacher. The accommodations were also a 10, a relaxing environment with local great owners. The meeting room was great for our group. Great photo shoot locations. Instruction and the opportunity to talk about photography, all lead by Ron.

David Pinkham

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 8 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $300 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.


Just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful Italy trip.

You did a great job of showing us all the beautiful areas that we would not have seen on our own. I keep trying to decide what of the three places (Florence, Tuscany, or Venice)I enjoyed the most but can not decide. The early morning shots were the best thing too.

C. Sackett

Ron was very helpful in all areas of the trip. I enjoyed his 'tutorials' each evening, especially the one where he took us through the editing process by showing us his before and after shots. He was also helpful when we were out shooting if we had any questions. He didn't speak above our heads but shared information in a clear way - the mark of a good teacher! He wa enthusiastic and fun to be with, which set the tone for a great trip.

J. Procell

I really appreciated Ron's knowledge of the area and his passion for photography. It is great to have a leder who understands the importance of lighting and who is willng to get up early to capture the early morning lighting. Without Ron's guidance there were many great shots that i would not have captured. Thanks for a great trip Ron, and I hope to meet up with you again in the future.

P. Rice

Joyce and I both felt that it was a trip-of-a-lifetime. The group was small enough so that we became friendly with everyone, and it was not too unwieldy in getting around. The places we stayed were as nice as you could ever hope for. The photographs that we were able to take make me look as though I am a pro. The quaint little villages that we visited in Tuscany have left a lasting impression on us, and the special vineyards and little churches just made the whole trip so special. The places we ate, and the food, both were first-rate. The extra effort that you made was greatly appreciated.

L. Dobens

Additional Notes

See printed brochure for additional notes. Photo Leader

Ron Rosenstock’s core teaching is based on a saying of the twelfth century theologian and philosopher, Mister Eckhart, "Art is not just for special people, but everyone is a special kind of an artist." Ron's teaching is designed to bring out the inner creative spirit within all of us. His teaching reflects the techniques of his teachers, Ansel Adams and Minor White. Learning not just to look, but to see, and then to know how to get a finished print, whether you are concentrating on infrared, black and white, or color. Ron uses a digital projector to demonstrate how he finishes his images with Aperture and Nik Software. He also shares photographic exercises that are an aid in "seeing photographically." Those participants that bring a laptop have the opportunity share their images with the group for comments. Ron’s tours will help you to make more meaningful photographs, whether you are a beginner or advanced photographer

Terms and Conditions

Unless otherwise noted, this information applies to all tours.


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.


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.


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.


The accommodations that have been chosen combine simple elegance with excellent location. In Florence, you will stay at a small, family-run hotel in an ideal location. Centrally located in a quiet neighborhood, yet just a fifteen-minute walk from the major sites of the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo. In the Tuscan countryside, you will stay at a meticulously restored country villa. It provides an absolutely perfect location for country walks and day trips to Tuscan hill towns and villages. You will have a light breakfast before departing for the day and return to a traditional Tuscan meal in the evening.

Food & Drink

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 $15 or up to $25-30 depending what is ordered. Dinners will be slightly higher or ranging from $15, cafeteria style or sit down restaurants can be $30 or $35. Venice can be 10-20% higher. Your guide will give you ideas where to eat if you wish to dine on your own, or you can go with your guide to a local restaurant s/he chooses.

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