Italy is endlessly attractive to travelers -- it's hard to argue with beautiful countryside, cobblestone streets, and ancient architectural wonders, not to mention wine and food that keeps bringing people back. TourCrafters (tel. 800/621-2259; www.tourcrafters.com), which specializes in Italy, is offering a mid-week package called Florence and the Heart of Tuscany for travel April 1 through May 15 priced from $979, subject to availability.
The package price includes roundtrip airfare on Delta from New York, Boston or Chicago, along with seven nights' accommodations, daily breakfast, four-day car rental, and hotel service charges and taxes. The package must be booked by April 15 and be paid for within 72 hours. The prices reflect mid-week (Monday-Thursday) departures, and airfare add-ons are available from other cities, such as Washington, D.C. ($20), Philadelphia ($99), Charlotte ($65), along with Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco ($240).
For the package's lowest advertised price -- there are higher-priced options for more luxurious accommodations -- you start off spending three nights at the centrally located Hotel Roma, a four-star property that overlooks Piazza Santa Maria Novella in Florence. From here, you can take in the art and architecture of the famous Cathedral, Baptistery, Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery. Shopping-wise, you can buy shoes, gifts and gifts at the boutiques of the Via Tornabuoni or peruse the semi-enclosed market stalls of Mercato Nuovo (the Straw Market), where you can purchase leather goods, souvenirs, linens, scarves and other items. After a few days in Florence, hop in your rental car toward the heart of Tuscany. You'll spend four nights at the bed and breakfast Canonica di Fungaia, close to the city of Siena. There's plenty of time to explore Siena and other spots, such as Moteriggioni (a walled village) and Volterra. You can also visit the wine towns of Montepulciano and wind through vineyard-flanked roads on the way to Montalcino and the town's Castello Banfi winery.
One final note: The advertised prices do not include airport taxes of about $100 or airline fuel surcharges of $210, but for seven nights in Italy, with airfare, car rental, and daily breakfast all covered, this deal is hard to beat.
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