Italy Photo Tour: Impressions of Tuscany

Tour Intro

Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring have designed this amazing journey, taking you to the heart of Tuscany. If you have ever dreamed of a trip to Italy to photograph, 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.

Here’s what you’ll learn on our trip: 
• How to see more creatively and translate what you see
• How to create visual depth in your images
• How to incorporate the elements of visual design to make your photographs stand out
• Special in-camera techniques for interpreting your subject creatively
• How to make the best picture you can with all the above and with an honest, helpful critique of your images during the tour

Brenda and Jed have fine-tuned this trip by adding some great spots and wonderful towns that they have 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. We will explore and photograph its streets and plazas.

A short drive from Florence transports us into the beautiful Tuscan hill towns. We will stay in San Gimignano and Pienza, villages on hillsides overlooking the Tuscan landscape. We will be among the best-preserved landscapes in Italy, some virtually unchanged since artists depicted them five hundred years ago. The region has open areas of rolling pastures and wheat fields, dotted with medieval hill towns and farmhouses. 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. You will be out early to photograph the sunrise over the landscape, or to photograph in the quiet alleys and lanes of the villages. We'll make time for photographing vineyards, fields of wildflowers, and more as they present themselves in our wanderings. What would a trip to Tuscany be with out a wine tasting? We will explore a vineyard and winery as we photograph the grounds.

Due to Brenda and Jed’s familiarity with the region, they will guide you each day during this tour, working with local drivers to get you to the right place at the right time. Each of the areas we will visit has something unique to offer, and we will have time to explore them.

The emphasis of your trip is on photography, but Brenda and Jed welcome tour companions who are not photographers. There are interesting aspects of Italian life waiting to be explored in every location. The trip’s 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 Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring.
• 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 paintings.
• Stay in the hill towns of Pienza and Gimignano.
• 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.

Tour Itinerary

May 5: USA
Hilltown Tuscany

Photo By: Jed Manwaring

Photo Location: Italy

Depart on an overnight flight to Florence. The group tour will begin tomorrow evening from the hotel (time to be announced). 

May 6-8: Florence
Florence Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Photo By: Jed Manwaring

Photo Location: Italy

Arrive in Florence Airport the morning or early afternoon of May 6, taking a taxi to the hotel. The group will assemble this evening for an introductory meeting and welcome dinner.
The next two days will be spent exploring Florence. A sunrise walk will be planned each day prior to breakfast, an excellent time to photograph Florence, as it prepares for another day. After a light breakfast each day at the hotel, we will outline the day’s activities. On one morning, we may walk up to Piazza Michelangelo for sunrise views over the city.

Being in the heart of Florence, our hotel affords us a perfect location so that daily excursions can easily be accomplished on foot. Photograph the famous Ponte Vecchio, the most popular and oldest bridge that spans the Arno River. There are several gardens in the heart of Florence. You will enjoy photographing late one afternoon in either the Rose or Iris gardens, depending on the bloom season.

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. We will photograph sunsets and the evening lights shown on the bridges of the Arno River. There will be plenty of time with the group or to wander on your own where you may wish to visit one of many museums or attractions.

Each day we will have lunch at one of the many trattorias, or you may wish to stay out and photograph, meeting the group later. Excursions during the tour will be based on the weather and light. Brenda and Jed look forward to discussing everyone’s photographic passion. Overnight Hotel Renaissance (Welcome Reception)

May 9-10: San Gimignano

Photo By: Jed Manwaring

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 we visit Volterra, located between the rivers Bra and Cecina. You will find the ambience extremely attractive, photographing the fine castles and numerous Etruscan remains. Late afternoon we visit Colle di Val d’Elsa, followed by late light landscape photography. Overnight Leon Bianco (breakfast daily, one lunch, one dinner)

May 11-14: Pienza

Photo By: Brenda Tharp

Photo Location: Italy

Pienza, 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.

We will also visit the town of Montalcino, 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. The countryside we will be visiting boasts some of the most picturesque landscapes, and medieval villages, and we will take full advantage of these offerings for our photographic explorations. Including photographing amidst the vineyards at a special wine tasting.

Excursions will be based on the weather and light, with time midday to take breaks, refreshment, and learn more about photography. Brenda and Jed look forward to providing a review session and informal discussions on photographic technique and insights on their photographic passion. Overnights Hotel Piccolo (breakfast daily, two dinners)

May 15: Florence - Onward Destinations

Photo By: Brenda Tharp

Photo Location: Tuscany

The group will depart early this morning after breakfast, returning those to Florence Airport for afternoon flights home (time to be announced). (B)

Photo Leader

Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring
read more
Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring

You have the advantage of having two photo intructors on this trip with the expertise of Jed Manwaring and Brenda Tharp, and the tour size still remains at 12 participants. Brenda is a professional photographer, speaker and educator with a life-long wanderlust for exploring the world and photographing it. The travel bug bit when she was young, reading the pages of National Geographic and Life magazines. Today, she loves to escort people to a variety of wonder-filled places to share in the adventure of the place and to help in the making of memorable images. Brenda believes that in the process of exploring and photographing the world around you, wherever you are, you gain so much more than just photographs - you bring back the experiences from those places that remain with you forever. She advocates photographing with a sense of purpose, keeping your eyes and your soul open to what's going on around you. Brenda's sensitive approach to photographing people has her often trying to blend in with the 'background' to capture special moments of daily life. Even her portraits are approached with sensitivity and respect for the person and the culture. Brenda has an untiring desire to help participants with their photography. She challenges you to see in new ways. Topics of discussion on each trip are tailored to the groups' needs, yet typically include: how to photograph people/strangers, paying attention to the light, using elements of design in a scene to help create more impact, creating visual depth, and storytelling with your images. Additional discussions often include processing and workflow, which Brenda often covers while on the bus on longer drives, or in the hotel lobby. There or in the field, she is always available for technical or visual help, offering tips and suggestions to help you to refine their own vision of the place.

Jed Manwaring specializes in travel and outdoor photography. His photographs have appeared in a variety of magazines including Alaska Airlines, International Wildlife Conservation, Navigator, Outdoor Photographer, Outside, PC Photo, Sierra, Sunset, Via, and Wilderness Society magazines. His images have also been used in books, calendars and cards, most recently in Golden Gate National Parks: A Photographic Journey and Guardians of the Gate. He has worked in a variety of challenging situations, including running the Colorado River in a dory, sea kayaking in Costa Rica, llama trekking, and exploring in Italy, Mexico, Hawaii, and throughout the west. Jed’s passion for photography and teaching make him an amazing instructor and leader. You can view Jed's photo tours at

Welcome back to you! Chris and I just returned from our own extension to Venice you planned for us.  Wonderful!!!
Attached is my evaluation of the tour with Brenda and Jed!
Loved every minute…! Many thanks to everyone who took part in the planning…and to Brenda and Jed for the expert  execution of the plan!

The tour was perfect, I would highly recommend it. Both Brenda and Jed were knowledgeable about each location, and knew the very best places for photo shoots. They were not rigid, in fact, they were flexible and were able to 'read' the interests of the participants very well and make any changes to our schedule to fit the desires of the individual wishes. So well done.... so difficult to do. I would travel anywhere with Brenda & Jed.

Gretchen Taylor

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 10 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 5-9 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.


The two photo reviews during the trip were very useful. Both Jed and Brenda were outstanding, helpful, and easy to interact with. The photographic locations were excellent as well.

J. Levin

We always have wonderful trips with Brenda and Jed. With them, I always see in new and unique ways and come home with wonderful images. They adjust their teaching skills to meet the needs and desires of all the participants and make us all feel like family.

A. Glazier

Additional Notes

Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring, 
both accomplished professional
photographers, will share ideas and tips
for creating dynamic travel photographs
while on this photo program. Prior to your
tour departure Brenda & Jed will email
you a visual presentation, providing tips
on capturing a sense of place,
photographing people, capturing candid
moments, working with available light,
and how to simplify your pictures to give
them more impact. Both bring untiring energy and a passion for photography to their trips, and love to share in the adventure of travel and photography. They believe that in the process of exploring and photographing the world around you, you gain so much more than just photographs – you bring back the experiences that remain with you forever.

“We focus on creative nature photography on our tours. We welcome all skill levels, yet having a good foundation of the basics of photography will help you be more prepared for making successful nature images. We enjoy helping participants expand their skills and are there to help you make the best pictures you can on the trip, whatever that takes.

Brenda & Jed will offer photographic advice and some instruction on the tour, and will also be available to answer questions. There will be informal discussions during midday when the light is not optimum for photographs.

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. 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 1-2 miles each 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.


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.

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 $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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