Italy & France Renaissance VIP Tour™

In the Footsteps of Catherine de Medici ~ Florence to the Loire Valley ~ 5 Days, October 14-18, 2020

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Walk in the footsteps of Catherine de Medici and the Renaissance.  Join us in Florence and the Loire Valley to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the glorious Renaissance ~ an explosion of food, art & culture!

In 1519, Catherine De Medici was born in Firenze, Leonardo Da Vinci died in Amboise, and work started on the Royal Chateau of Chambord in the Loire Valley. For this occasion, Cooking Vacations Italy & Lifestyle Vacations France join their expertise to create an authentic Renaissance culinary and cultural program highlighting Florence, Tuscany and the Loire Valley region.

Cooking Vacations Italy & Lifestyle Vacations France have joined to design this original culinary and cultural tour celebrating the glorious Renaissance era and lifestyle from the 16th century to now. You will be cooking, enjoying the finest food and wine, touring, visiting and walking in the footsteps of Renaissance genius who pioneered heritage, arts and letters, music, gardens, science and technological revolutions, architecture, craftsmanship, and of course gastronomy and the art of living in its widest possible sense. The tour is personally escorted by Lauren Birmingham-Piscitelli of Cooking Vacations Italy and Corinne Preteur of Lifestyle Vacations France.

Travel with us through the Renaissance era when Italy and France were experiencing an explosion of new ideas; when Catherine de Medici married King Henry II of France, and learn how she transported her Italian cooking style, chefs and ingredients to the French Court.

Discover the era of the Renaissance, a time of liberation in cooking, art, dress and table art thanks to Queen Catherine.  She invented la vita di tavola, where she expressed her passion in Italian hospitality with lavish dinner parties, table decorating and brought sorbetto, orange duck and onion soup to the French Court.

Walk in the footsteps of the de Medici’s in Florence, visit their palazzo, villas and amazing gardens… Discover Leonardo Da Vinci’s last residence in Amboise, as well as the Loire Valley royal chateaux such as Chambord, Amboise, Chenonceau, and Blois where Queen Catherine de Medici lived and died.

Cooking Tour is set from October 14 to 18, 2020

Indulge in the Italian and French Renaissance 

The Renaissance intellectual and artistic movement started in the Quattrocento in Italy, and Florence was its birthplace. A magical time with an artistic explosion of new food trends thanks to the sea traders who were coming from the East carrying exotic spices and coffee, as well as velvety and silk fabrics.  We can certainly give thanks to Catherine de Medici and other Italian women who turned the page on freedom for their female compatriots. Food, art, music and literature soared during the Renaissance.  It was a time of expression that followed the Dark Ages.  Italian artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Giorgio Vasari, Raphael Sanzio and Leonardo Da Vinci were dedicating their lives creating works of art such as: the statue of David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and La Primavera, Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgement; Titan’s Venus of Urbino; Brunelleschi’s Dome, Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise; and Fra Angelico’s San Marco frescoes.

The Glorious Renaissance Movement In France 

From the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 17th century, the Court of France was mainly based in the Loire Valley, moving from towns to chateaux, and offering the region a rich political and cultural history and heritage, especially under the reigns of Charles VIII and Francis I.

Italian artisans, garden planners, architects, artists were hired to transform the towns and the Loire Valley countryside and to build elegant chateaux, manors, private mansions and churches. It totally revolutionized the art of living, the way of building, and made the Loire Valley the cradle of the Renaissance with outstanding chateaux such as Chenonceau, Blois, Chambord and Amboise. We owe this to men like Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini.

As the epicenter of political life from Charles VII (1422-1461) to Henri II (1547-1559), and Francis I (1494-1547), the Loire Valley was also an intellectual haven where humanism and reform bloomed. Scholars who attended the University of Orleans include John Calvin, Erasmus, Guillaume Bude (founder of the College de France), François Rabelais and later Theodore de Beze. At the University of Bourges, Milanese jurist Alciato revolutionized the teaching and practice of law.

Florence, Italy ~ Loire Valley, France Boutique Hotel Accommodations

Florence (3 nights)

Check into the 4-star Hotel Balestri Firenze in the heart of Florence, the city of art and history.

Elegant bedrooms with private en suite baths, modern amenities including comfortable beds, security boxes, air conditioner and TV in the room.  Traditional décor is subtly blended with a touch of modern color in larger size rooms for your stay. A professional concierge is at your service, daily breakfast is included with Wi-Fi too. When you are not relaxing in your room looking out onto the rooftops of Florence, you can step out your door and find everything from designer shops, artisan boutiques, bookstores, restaurants, and of course, the Uffizi, Accademia and all Florentine museums and landmarks large and small.

Loire Valley (3 nights)

Welcome to the Manor of Amboise 4-star boutique-hotel overlooking the Loire river.

This 18th century elegant manor, built on the foundations of a medieval convent, was the residence of a high aristocratic French baroness until the 90’s before its renovation into an elegant boutique-hotel of 15 rooms and suites. Each one is decorated in a pure French style and furnished with stylish antiques. Each room and suite has a private en-suite bathroom with walk-in shower. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, mini bar, room service, TV with international channels, and a hairdryer. Breakfast buffet includes tea, coffee, hot chocolate, freshly squeezed fruits juice, baguette, croissants, brioches, jam butter, yogurts, fruits, ham, eggs, etc.

The Manor of Amboise overlooks a walled courtyard and manicured garden and it offers a breathtaking view of the royal chateau of Amboise and the Loire river. It’s also just steps to the lively quarter of Amboise with shops, cafés, salon de thé, and restaurants.

Italian and French Food Experiences 

In Florence, program includes a market cooking class, and a gourmet walking tour as well.

Join Chef Mariangela in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio to experience the local market before partaking in a hands-on cooking class which is private. You will learn how to prepare and cook a 3-course menu featuring the Renaissance and Florentine cuisine, that you will taste accompanied by wine afterwards. You will discover Florence through a cultural and gourmet tour guided by Luca. You will taste your way through the City of Art, sampling all of the famous foods, while visiting historic shops and landmarks.

In the Loire Valley-France, you will enjoy the finest French cuisine accompanied by the best organic wines in traditional and Michelin-star restaurants.

Visits and Excursions


In Florence you will discover the amazing Galleria degli Uffizi through a private tour guided by Luca. On you own, we suggest to visit Palazzo Vecchio, Pitti Palazzo, Villa Castello (today known as the premises of the Accademia della Crusca – literary academy established in Florence in the 16th century to preserve the Italian language), Boboli Gardens, one of the most grandiose and elegant gardens in Italy, with natural architectural styles, etc. Oltrarno (which is the Left Bank of the Arno river) can be another option to consider, far away from the crowds of tourists. Oltrarno features an unspoiled atmosphere of the medieval city with a myriad of craft shops using all kind of materials. Craftsmanship is the Italians’ true genius, the conscious transmission of the beauty and wisdom that flourishes in the imagination and intelligence.

For your free time or at lunch time, the colorful San Lorenzo quarter is a great choice with its market for leather items and other things, and the restaurants in the old market.


In the Loire Valley, France you will explore Blois, Amboise, Chenonceau and Chambord and visit the royal chateaux where Catherine de Medici lived, the Clos Lucé which was Leonardo Da Vinci’s last residence, invited by King Francis I. From villages to chateaux, you will discover the beauty and scenic landscape of the Loire Valley region, listed as part of the Unesco World Heritage. Corinne will leave you time free for shopping in Blois and in Amboise, and for resting.


Day 1 – Welcome to Renaissance Florence!

  • Group transfer from Florence airport to the Hotel Balestri Firenze. Check in.
  • Quiet walk through Florence’s historic quarter around the Ponte Vecchio.
  • Welcome aperitivo where you will meet other participants and go over the week’s itinerary.
  • Chef’s Tasting dinner featuring antipasto, fresh pasta and sauce or main course, dessert and a toast of local red or white wine included.
  • Overnight.

Day 2 – Market Tour & Cooking Class & Galleria Degli Uffizi Tour  

  • Breakfast. At 10:30am, join Chef Mariangela in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. Experience the food market and shopping tour through the heart of Florence’s historic Sant’Ambrogio. You’ll make tasty stops, speak with producers and sample, all while learning how to shop like a local. Your cooking class, which is just steps from the market, lasts about 2 hours, the right time to prepare a three-course menu celebrating the Florentine and Renaissance cuisine. Tasting lunch accompanied by local wine, water, tea or coffee follows.
  • At 3pm, meet our professional English-speaking guide in Piazza Della Signoria in front of the statue of David. Enjoy a private guided tour of the Galleria Degli Uffizi. This is one of the most important Italian museums and one of the largest and best known in the world, holding a collection of priceless works especially from the period of the Italian Renaissance.
  • Late afternoon resting time.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 3 – Renaissance Florence Food Lover’s Tour & Afternoon Stroll in Florence  

  • Breakfast.
  • At 9:30am, meet your guide Luca at the reception of your hotel. Experience a delicious tour of Florence while indulging in its history and culture. Taste your way through Florence, sampling all of the famous foods, while visiting historic markets, shops and landmarks. Luca’s interest in Slow Food and local culinary traditions, along with his passion for art history makes him the perfect food and history guide for your tour.
  • Afternoon free at leisure.  Stroll Santo Spirito, Santa Croce, Piazza della Republica and soak up the Florentine culture.
  • 1/ Visit to Palazzo Vecchio which was La Signoria’s headquarters and De Medici’s family residence (the sobriety of the façade contrasts with the refinement of the sumptuously decorated apartments).
  • 2/ Visit Saint Stefano and Oltrarno – Stroll the old quarter of San Stefano visiting the church and its courtyard or slip into a cozy caffè and soak up the Florentine culture.
  • 3/ Shopping in our favorite Renaissance boutiques – walk along cobblestone paths to Florence’s most coveted tiny  Renaissance boutiques including paper, leather and perfume.
  • Dinner in one of our favorite trattorias to enjoy a traditional dinner with a toast of wine included.
  • Overnight.

Day 4 – From Florence, Italy to Paris & the Loire Valley, France

  • After breakfast, check-out and transfer to Florence airport.
  • Morning flight to Paris CDG airport (flight is not included).
  • Group transfer to the Loire Valley by private van (it takes approximately 3 hours). Coffee or tea break on the way.
  • Check in to Le Manoir d’Amboise boutique-hotel and relax.
  • Food & wine pairing dinner in Amboise.
  • Overnight.

Day 5 – Amboise & Chenonceau Tour

  • After breakfast, walk through this picturesque town to the Clos Lucé which was the childhood residence of Francis I and where Leonardo Da Vinci lived from 1516 to 1519. The visit starts at 10am and lasts about 2 hours.
  • Lunch break in an elegant Salon de Thé, next to the Clos Lucé.
  • Afternoon guided tour of the royal Chateau of Chenonceau whose unique architecture is reflected in the water. Sitting over the river Cher, this chateau is also called the “Ladies Chateau” as it owes a large part of its charm to women. It was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, then made even more attractive by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, and saved from the rigors of the French Revolution by Madame Dupin. The chateau is surrounded by very pretty formal gardens and to reach the chateau and gardens you walk up a gorgeous tree-shaded road. A must!
  • Dinner in a Michelin-star restaurant nearby (round-trip transfer by private van)
  • Overnight.

Day 6 – Blois & Chambord Tour

  • After breakfast, transfer to Blois by private van (approximately 30 minutes’ drive).
  • Morning 2-hour guided tour to the royal Chateau of Blois scheduled at 10:30am. The chateau features three architectural styles including the exceptional Renaissance wing with its lavish ceremonial polygonal stone staircase. In the 16th century, despite the fact the Court of France was itinerant, Queen Catherine de Medici mainly lived in Blois where she raised her ten children. She died in Blois in 1589.
  • Transfer to Chambord.
  • Gourmet lunch nearby Chambord in one of France’s top-ranked Michelin restaurant.
  • Afternoon guided tour to the Chateau Chambord whose construction was ordered by King Francis I as his “hunting lodge”  It is one of the most unique Renaissance constructions to be seen and visited, nestled in 13.344 acres of walled park and forest. It features 440 rooms, 282 chimneys, 15 staircases. 1,800 workers built Chambord over forty years.
  • Dinner in Amboise.
  • Overnight.

Day 7 – Transfer to Paris CDG airport.

  • After breakfast, check-out and transfer to Paris airport.
  • End of the tour.

Program Includes:

  • Transfers to and from Florence & Paris airports by private van.
  • 4 full-days of transportation by private van in the Loire Valley.
  • 6-nights in boutique hotel 4-star accommodations.
  • Market tour and cooking class in Florence.
  • Gourmet and cultural walking guided tour in Florence.
  • Guided visit to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.
  • Breakfasts, luncheons, gourmet and Michelin-star dinner (wine included).
  • Guided tours to cultural sites, museums and chateaux in the Loire Valley (entrance tickets included).
  • Welcome Bag with Chef’s apron.

Program Prices

$4,695 per person per person, based on double occupancy in our 4-star properties.  All VAT included.

If you are a single traveler, please call us for the best single rate.

Check Availability

Cooking Tour is set from October 14 to 18, 2020

Other dates can be added upon request.

This original Renaissance VIP tour is confirmed with minimum 6 people.

Rates are subject to change based on extreme currency exchange. Call for updated rates. Airfare not included, airfare transfer from Florence to Paris not included.  Miscellaneous expenses and personal shopping monies, not included. Group transfers for any cooking tour or tours that include transfers, are for the group and are not private. Transfers before, after or to another destination outside of your cooking tour are not included in the program price. If you would like to add on a private transfer or transfers, let us know and we will send you pricing.