Photo by: Charles Needle
Location: Tuscany Italy

Italy: Impressions of Tuscany with Venice Extension

• Photo tips and guidance offered by Charles Needle, with his expertise in macro-photography and his impressionistic style.
• Expert hands-on smartphone photography instruction from Melissa Needle in the field.
• 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 the nearby colorful island of Burano.






April 21-May 1 2025


10 days

Available Post-Trip Extension

Venice and the Island of Burano


per person, double occupancy*

*U.S. dollars based upon minimum of 9 participants. There is a small group surcharge of $500 if 6-8 participants. 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 (subject to availability), or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, there is a single room surcharge of $845.

Tour Overview

Charles and Melissa have led this amazing journey previously and can’t wait to return. They will take 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. The end of April and beginning of 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 and Melissa have led this amazing journey previously and can’t wait to return. They will take 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. The end of April and beginning of 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.

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 throughout your time in Tuscany. Field instruction emphasizes creative macro, impressionistic, multiple- exposure, and artistic smartphone photography.

Charles Needle and Strabo Tours have fine-tuned this trip by adding some great locations, unique visits, and wonderful towns that Charles & Melissa 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. Explore and photograph the gardens, streets and piazzas.

Depart city life and be transported into the beautiful Tuscan hill towns. Discover picturesque medieval villages surrounding San Gimignano. Then travel south to photograph iconic Tuscan landscapes surrounding Pienza, one of the most charming, quintessential villages in all of Tuscany, with its charming narrow streets and artisan Pecorino cheese shops.

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. The Needle’s welcome 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 Itinerary

April 21: Home

Depart on an overnight flight to Florence. The group tour will begin tomorrow evening from the hotel (time estimated around 4PM). PLEASE NOTE: If you are taking part in the extension you will need to book your flight multi-city, Home/FLR, VCE/Home.

April 22-24: Florence

Arrive in Florence Airport (FLR) this morning or early afternoon of April 22, 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.

A sunrise walk will be planned the next day with Charles and Melissa 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 on a city walking tour with your local guide. After a break at the hotel organized taxi rides will take participants to the beautiful terraced garden of the Bardini family, with amazing views of the city. Begin at the top of the park, where you can follow the paths down to the Arno. If the spring bloom cooperates, there may be wandering vines of purple Wisteria. Take a short break at the hotel and then enjoy a sunset shoot with the Needle’s at the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.

 Enjoy another full day on foot with your photo leaders, taking time 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! You can also visit the local markets and artisan shops, and areas where scenes of daily life are played out in the squares and streets. There will be free time this afternoon to enjoy on your own at one of the many art museums of the city. Late this afternoon or early evening there will be a photo presentation, or lecture by Charles at the hotel. Excursions during the tour will be based on the weather and light. Overnight Florence (Welcome Reception; B, L; B)

April 25-26: San Gimignano*

* An optional hot-air balloon ride over the Tuscan landscape at dawn may be available (weather permitting) for those wishing to do so.

The next to evenings of the tour you will stay in the heart of 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. The narrow streets and alleyways, courtyards, churches, Duomo, and stunning artwork provide a wealth of opportunities for you to explore with your camera.

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: Volpaia, one of Chianti’s most beautiful fortified villages. It was built out of honey-colored stone and boasts a castle from the tenth century, 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. 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 San Gimignano (B, L winery; B, D)

April 27-30: Pienza

Check out of San Gimignano hotel and drive to 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. Photograph among Pienza’s charming narrow streets and visit specialty food stores. Pienza is known for its Pecorino cheeses. You will explore Pienza and the surrounding hills from your stay at a lovely hotel.

Rise early the next day for a sunrise shoot in the Val d’Orcia, where you will photograph a Tuscan villa with rolling hills and valleys bathed in golden morning light. Return to hotel for breakfast and then visit other villages, such as Monticchiello and Montepulciano. There will be an afternoon excursion to photograph the pastoral landscape of San Quirico d’Orcia, which has made this region so well known amongst painters and photographers.

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. Evening light field shoot at Bosco di Cipressi, an iconic group of cypress trees on a hillside.

Your last full day in Tuscany takes you to Villa La Foce, a fifteenth century 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 mid-day to take breaks, refreshment, and learn more about photography. Overnight Pienza (B, L cheese tasting; B; B; B, D)

May 1: Pienza-Florence-Venice or Home

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 with your photo leader. (B)

Post-Trip Extension

Extension Name

Venice and the Island of Burano




May 1-5, 2025


4 days

* Based upon minimum of 8 participants. There is a small group surcharge of $200 if 4-7 participants. Single room surcharge is $695.

Venice, legendary city of art and the capital of the Veneto region, is built on an archipelago of more than 100 small islands separated by a dense network of 177 canals and joined by 400 small bridges. Water is everywhere, shaping the life of the city, and reflecting its compelling beauty. The city is an exotic blend of Gothic, Byzantine and Renaissance styles and appears today much as it did in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Venice is a wonderful city to explore on foot. As you wander the streets and alleys, you’ll see dark passageways that end in sunlit squares, palatial buildings lining the canals, ornate bridges spanning the waterways, and beautiful cathedrals in every quarter. You do not have to go far to see gondolas moored under tiny stone bridges, and laundry hung out of house windows or across the alleys to dry.

Your tour will include a visit to the tiny island of Burano, scarcely more than a half-mile wide and a forty-minute boat ride across the lagoon. Burano is one of the most colorful and photogenic places anywhere.

May 1: Tuscany-Venice

After breakfast, those staying on for the extension will board the coach or highspeed train, arriving in Venice after lunch where your Venetian guide will assist us in getting to the hotel. After getting settled, meet your local guide for an introductory tour of the city. Your first stop will be the Ducal Palace, one of the city’s most significant monuments. The palace is situated at one end of the Piazza San Marco along with its great Basilica and its towering Campanile or bell tower. The Piazza is flanked by arcades of shops and open-air cafés and was built in 1340 to be the home of the Duke – the head of the Venetian State – and the seat of government. Nearby, the famous Bridge of Sighs arches over a narrow canal. Overnight Venice (B, D)

May 2-4: Venice & Burano

The next day you will take a walking photography tour with your guides after breakfast. Given appropriate weather conditions, The Needle’s will plan sunrise photo shoots along the Grand Canal and in other scenic locations. Be back at our hotel in time for breakfast. Laura will then begin acquainting you with some of the less frequented, yet equally fascinating areas of the city. You will surely enjoy this off-the-beaten path, through narrow alleyways and across bridges to discover the beauty and structure of Venice. Cross the Grand Canal to reach the Rialto, once the commercial heart of the city. Now it is a colorful and bustling market with fresh fish, fruit and vegetable stalls. This evening, you may want to stroll around the city on your own; it will be quieter, except for the occasional singing of a gondolier. Venice is full of magical places to explore with your camera. The evenings offer wonderful sunsets over the Santa Maria della Salute Church, lights reflecting in the canals, and buildings lit by the glow of lanterns.

The following days explore more of Venice with Charles and Melissa, with one them visiting the several islands in the lagoon. The public water taxi system will take you across the northern lagoon where we find the islands of Burano, Murano, and Torcello. The boat ride gives a unique vantage point from which you can enjoy the beauty of Venice’s lagoon, an extensive waterway dotted with small islands and sandbars. Burano is a quiet island of winding streets and canals lined with fishing boats. What makes it especially picturesque are the tiny houses washed in bright colors, resembling something from the pages of a storybook. You will find Torcello Island to be quite the opposite; it is practically deserted with a population of only sixty people. Despite its low census, the island houses the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Venice’s first cathedral. Those interested in glassware may stop at the island of Murano, famous for its unique and colorful selections. Overnight Venice (B, L; B; B)

May 5: Venice-Home

Depart late morning or after for your flight home. (B)