This week's smart deal is for a fall package to Tuscany and Cinque Terre, with a combination of activities and leisure time in the Italian countryside. TourCrafters (tel. 800/482-5995; www.tourcrafters.com) has a five-day, four-night Tuscany and Cinque Terre package starting from $819 per person for travel October 1-31 or $910 for September 7-30, includes roundtrip airfare to Rome from Boston or Philadelphia, along with four nights at the four-star Tenuta La Bandita near Sassetta, daily breakfast, hotel service charges and taxes, and a half-day excursion to an olive oil press and a winery, with tastings at both.
La Bandita is located halfway between Rome and Pisa, and it is a charming 18th century villa with two dependencies and with two dozen guest rooms total. Guests can enjoy the onsite restaurant (which grows its own organic produce in the garden) tennis court and a swimming pool, along with views of the hills of Tuscany. La Bandita is surrounded by gardens, olive groves and vineyards. The package comes with the use of a car rental for four days for exploring the terrain on your own, whether it is the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea, about seven miles from the hotel, or Florence, Siena, Pisa, all within driving distance, or La Spezia, where you can get a ferry to the five seaside villages that comprise the Cinque Terre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can take walking trails from one Cinque Terre village to the next -- some of them are steep and some of them are easier -- as it's all part of a national park.
There is the possibility to extend this trip to a seven-night stay for an additional $245 (staying at La Bandita), or to move on Rome and stay at the three-star, centrally located Hotel Brasile, a late 19th century property near Porta Pia for an additional $299. Other departure cities are also possible: New York, $80; Washington, D.C., $20; Miami or Chicago $85; Los Angeles, Seattle or San Francisco, $120. The package prices are based on double occupancy in a classic room (you can upgrade to a charming room for an additional $55 per person) and do not include airline fuel surcharges or airport taxes. You must pay the reservation within 72 hours of booking, and it's advisable to book at least a week before your departure.
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