Buddy's Itinerary

Tuscany, Summer 1998

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Saturday, June 27

Rendezvous at 3:00 p.m. at the Excelsior Hotel in Florence where you will be met by members of your balloon crew. Transfer to your hotel in Siena, the four-star Park Hotel.

Welcome cocktail party featuring a private showing of the informative BBC television film on the Palio, which will provide you with a good understanding of this complex event. Dinner at the Park Hotel.

Sunday, June 28

Early morning balloon flight. Take-off upwind of Siena to float down towards the city, crossing it at low level. You will drift over a mosaic of ancient rooftops, waving at the many Sienese who lean out of their windows to greet us with a cheerful "buon giorno." From our balloons this well preserved medieval city is visually sensational and these city crossings are spectacular.

Guided tour of Siena and its remarkable collection of 14th century private palaces and public buildings, including a stop at the Duomo, Siena's impressive striped cathedral, one of the most beautifully decorated in Europe.

Luncheon in the art-filled penthouse apartment of Marisa Cardini, overlooking the medieval rooftops of "downtown Siena" and the lush surrounding countryside.

Personal time to further explore Siena, to shop, to enjoy sunbathing and a refreshing swim at your hotel pool, a game of tennis or even a siesta. Dinner at the Park Hotel.

Monday, June 29

Early morning balloon flight through the rolling Tuscan hills and hill-top villas in the region of Siena.

An excursion by private vehicle through the beautiful rolling countryside to the south of Siena. Enjoy the constantly changing colors and textures of this dynamic landscape so often depicted in artistic renditions of Tuscany.

Tour the 15th Century Villa Greggiano with Countess Sandra Bianci-Bandinelli. Luncheon with the Countess Bianci-Bandinelli in her Villa Greggiano, still completely decorated with its 17th century furniture. It was once the summer home of the Governor of Siena.

Dinner at the Park Hotel.

Tuesday, July 30

Early morning balloon flight. Takeoff from outside the 13th century ramparts of the perfectly preserved medieval town of San Gimignano for an aerial view of this compact architectural jewel and its surrounding vineyard-covered hills. Remarkably, it remains almost exactly as it was 600 years ago.

Guided visit to San Gimignano where we will stop for refreshments in the medieval town square before embarking on a delightful walking tour of the town's principal attractions.

Luncheon with Prince Girolamo and Princess Irina Guicciardino-Strozzi in their private country home and wine producing estate. Visit the 14th century wine cellars of Villa Cusona with Princess Irina and enjoy strolling about this magnificent property with its formal Italian gardens.

Dinner at the Park Hotel.

Wednesday, July 1

Early morning balloon flight. Again, enjoy the panoramic view of the surrounding Tuscan hills and the very special scenery that is Siena.

Drive through the vine and olive tree covered Chianti hills arriving at the magnificent 14th century fortress, Castello Brolio, for a tour of the estate with the Baron and Baroness Bettino Ricasoli, the present owners. It has been in their family since it was built. Built by the Florentines to launch their attacks against Siena, it thoroughly retains its medieval look and is richly furnished in period pieces. Luncheon with the Baron and Baroness Bettino Riscasoli in Castello Brolio.

Mid-afternoon promenade through downtown Siena to enjoy the pageantry and the rapidly building festive mood that always precedes the Palio. Attend the Provo General (in reserved seats) -- the final of several practice races around the Piazza del Campo in order for horses and jockeys to become better acquainted with the course.

Dinner with one of the competing contrada at their traditional "night before the Palio" banquet. Tables will be set up in the brilliantly illuminated square of the contrada and all its members will attend. This colorful occasion presents us with an opportunity to understand the unique excitement that surrounds this ancient contest.

Thursday, July 2

Free time to explore Siena.

Luncheon at Il Pozzo, within the turreted walls of Monteriggioni, the 14th century fortress town which defended Siena to the north against Florence. Depart for downtown Siena to enjoy the colorful parade of costumes, armor, Sienese flag waving tricks and the continual slow roll of drums as each contrada's ceremonial marching group makes its way through the exuberant crowds on their way to the Piazza.

The Palio Procession and Horse Race. We have reserved superior seats for this main event.

Dinner in the Piazza del Campo at Il Mangia with tables set up on the race track so as not to miss the colorful after-race ambiance.

Friday, July 3

An excursion by private vehicle through the beautiful rolling countryside to the south of Siena. Enjoy the constantly changing colors and textures of this dynamic landscape so often depicted in artistic renditions of Tuscany.

Visit and tour the magnificent 15th century Villa Greggiano, private home of the Contessa Bianchi Bandinelli. Luncheon at the Villa Greggiano with Andrea Bandinelli, son of the Contessa, and his charming wife, Sandra.

Free time to explore Siena. Dinner at the Park Hotel.

Saturday, July 4 - Sunday, July 6

Continue three days of exploring the fabulous landscapes of Tuscany with ballooning scheduled every morning. You will enjoy lunch in various local restaurants with dinner served at the Park Hotel in Siena daily.

Tuesday, July 7

Early morning balloon flight. Once more, enjoy the panoramic view of the surrounding Tuscan hills and the very special scenery that is Siena.

Farewell luncheon at the Park Hotel.

Depart from Siena at 3:00 p.m., arriving in Florence at approximately 4:30 p.m.