Tour Details | Tuscany Photo Tour

• Tuscany Photo Tour

• May 8 to May 15, 2017 (7 nights)
• Group size: min 5, max 12
• Cost: $3,895, single supplement $495
• Tour starts and ends in Pisa

Are you looking for one of the best destinations in the world to take a photo tour and create your own stunning masterpieces? It doesn’t get any more photogenic than this Tuscany Photo Tour.

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5%_circleImagine long warm days, medieval hill towns, cypress-lined lanes, the scent of herbs and wildflowers, rolling green hills, delicious fresh food and wine, and best of all, you are there with your camera capturing stunning, professional images on our Tuscany Photo Tour.

It is hard to describe just how magical it is to be out in the Tuscan landscape with your camera. For me, I often have to pinch myself to believe that I am really there. It is that special.  Tuscany is a photography lovers paradise.

You are invited on this immersive trip with award-winning photographer Jim Nilsen, and designer Magrit Baurecht Nilsen.  On this guided Tuscany photo tour you will explore the sensual landscape and villages of Tuscany, Italy and learn how to create stunning photographic masterpieces worthy of publication. In additional to guiding you to the best photogenic locations in Tuscany, this photo tour also includes instructional sessions in workflow and post processing using photo editing software so that you can get the best images possible.

This photography tour is based out of Pienza, Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of the Val d’Orcia, a region that is universally recognized as one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. On this photo tour we will spend seven nights in a cozy hotel in the medieval hill town of Pienza, Italy. This will be our home base for daily photographic forays into the surrounding countryside.  Many of the iconic Tuscany photographs that you may already be familiar with were captured near Pienza, Tuscany, Italy. This convenient proximity offers us the opportunity to spontaneously return to specific photo sites to catch just the “Right Light.”

Join us for a wonderful Tuscany Photo Tour to one of our favorite regions of Italy.

  • On our Tuscany Photo Tour, close to Pienza, some of the destinations that we will visit include the medieval hill towns of Montepulciano, Montalcino, Monticchiello, San Querico d’ Orcia  and Castiglione d’ Orcia.
  • On some days, you will have the option to rise early to capture images such as that quintessential Tuscan farmhouse in the early morning light before enjoying your first cappuccino.
  • In addition to great dinners at cozy restaurants offering fresh Tuscan cuisine (including wild boar), we’ll enjoy a special lunch at the award-winning intimate restaurant La Porta in Monticchiello.
  • Our comfortable photo tour van will also take us to some of the famous sites within a 2-hour distance, including Pitigliano, Civita di Bagnoregio, Volterra, Asciano, Siena, San Antimo, Orvieto and the Chianti region.
  • Our lovely hotel in the heart of the charming medieval town of Pienza offers a wonderful buffet breakfast.
  • At night, when all the tourists have gone back to Florence or continued on to Rome, our small photo tour group will have the tranquil walking lanes all to ourselves. We like to think of ourselves as travelers rather than tourists and our approach to this photo tour reflects this attitude. By spending seven nights based in one location, we will be able to experience the daily rhythms of life in a small Tuscan town.
  • In addition to great photography opportunities on this photography travel tour to Cinque Terre we will have time for photo sharing and critiques. We will also be lecturing on photographic topics including:
    • Composition
    • Digital Workflow
    • Panoramic Photography
    • Depth of Field calculation
    • Focal Blending
    • Blue Hour Photography
    • Filters, Neutral Density and Neutral Density Grads
    • Photoshop & Lightroom Tips and Tricks
    • Nik software


This is a sample itinerary which is subject to change depending on weather and other circumstances beyond our control. Changes in the itinerary are always made to provide the best possible experience for our clients. 

May 7

Plan on spending this evening in Pisa or nearby if you are not already with us on the Cinque Terre Tour. This will allow you time to get some rest before the tour begins and to also insure that you arrive on time for the following day’s departure that begins our Tuscany Photo Tour. If you are flying from the USA, you will most likely have to depart for Italy on May 6th.

May 8

Our Tuscany Photo Tour group meets at the Pisa airport at 12 noon for departure to Pienza which takes approximately 3 hours. We will stop along the way for a snack at an Italian Autogrill at about 2 pm. You should plan on spending the night of May 7th in Pisa or nearby Lucca. Contact us if you would like hotel suggestions. After checking into our B&B, we will have a group meeting before heading out to explore Pienza and to photograph our first sunset at the nearby farmhouse, “Terrapille”. This is one of the most photogenic scenes in Tuscany and was featured in the movie Gladiator.

May 9

After breakfast we will head west for the 35 minute drive to a former Benedictine monastery, The Abbey of San Antimo. The Abbey is one of the finest Romanesque religious buildings in Italy, dating from the 12th century. It is currently inhabited by monks that chant prayers at scheduled times each day. Picture a small group of white robed monks at the alter of a simple stone church, chanting with streams of sun-rays flooding in from above accented by the smoke of burning incense. The exterior setting to the abbey is quite extraordinary, sitting in a peaceful valley surrounded by cypresses, olive trees and vineyards.

Leaving San Antimo we make our way north for 10 minutes to delightful Montalcino, home of the unrivaled red wine, Brunello. We will have lunch here before heading out to explore the town with our cameras and then a quick espresso and pastry break in one of Europes grand cafes, Caffe Fiaschetteria Italiana, which was founded in 1888 by Ferruccio Bondi, the inventor of Brunello. So if you would prefer a glass of Brunello over an espresso, this would be the place to do so.

We then venture further north to one of our favorite trees in all of the Val d’ Orcia. This amazing lone tree sits on top of a small hill surrounded by fields of green wheat.

Leaving “The Tree” we head south to the area just west of Pienza and do some scouting at the famous farmhouse, Il Belvedere. We like to scout this before our sunrise session here so we know exactly where we want to be the next morning.

Heading back east we will do a shooting session at the amazing Chapel of Vitaleta. This scene is one of the most famous in all of Tuscany.

It is a short 10 minute drive back to our hotel and an early dinner in Pienza.

May 10

4:15 am departure for Il Belvedere. With any luck we will have fog rising from the valley surrounding the farmhouse. This sunrise session is not to be missed as it is one of the most amazing compositions in Italy.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and a well deserved nap and free time until 12 noon.

At 12:30pm we depart for the 20 minute drive to Montichiello where we will photograph the famous “Strada per Monticiello”. This serpent shape strada is lined with stately cypress trees and is the most photographed road in Tuscany. Lunch with our host Daria at her delightful restaurant, Osteria La Porta in Montichiello.

After lunch we make our way to the second most photographed road in Tuscany, La Foce. After capturing this amazing scene with our cameras we will break at a nearby caffe for an espresso or glass of wine.(The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is especially good).

We arrive back in Pienza at 5pm for an early snack/meal in a local bar before  heading out again for our sunset session at the famous cypress grove near San Querico. We already fueled up our bodies so that we can take the time that is needed to get fantastic photographs, even well after sunset. We don’t want to rush this one.

May 11

After breakfast,  at 10 am, we will spend a couple of hours discussing post processing techniques and in the field photography techniques.

At 12:30pm we depart for the 30 minute drive to the hill town of Montepulciano. First up “Pranzo”, in other words, a delightful Tuscan lunch! After lunch we will explore this amazingly high, hilltop town with our cameras. We will descend into the bowels of the hill via a labyrinth of stairs and passages of a medieval wine cellar. Low hanging ancient stone archways and huge, oaken wine barrels provide the quintessential elements for great photos. We emerge from the depths to venture out into the town or to pause for a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Montepulciano sits high above the surrounding countryside and from it’s loftiest elevations we have amazing views and photo ops. including the very picturesque Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Bagio. Before departing this magical hill town we will stop at another of Europe’s grand cafes, Cafe Poliziano, one of our favorite cafes in all of Europe. Elegant yet welcoming with great coffee and pastries plus a very splendid view.

At 4pm we will meander towards Pienza taking our time scouting some of our favorite backroads for blooming wildflowers. This is poppy season in Tuscany. We may also find fields of blazing yellow canola.

In Pienza we will freshen up in the hotel before heading to the nearby farmhouse, “Il Cipresini”. If time permits we will venture again to the Chapel of Vitaleta to check the light and cloud cover. Many of these scenes are worth visiting more than once. You never know when something special may happen….rainbow, intense storm clouds, etc.

Back to Pienza for a special dinner at one of Pienza’s many fine restaurants.

May 12

Day four is a breather day. A day to enjoy the town of Pienza, take walks in the countryside, do some laundry, shopping, sleeping in. We will spend a couple hours after lunch doing a photo sharing session and also some post-processing demonstrations for those who are interested. In the past on our Tuscany Photo Tours we have discovered that we have not spent enough time on our tours in the town of Pienza itself. It is a delightful town and has some of the best doors for photography that we have seen in Tuscany. We will do dinner at 7pm and then head out for a blue hour session in the streets of Pienza. We will want to be ready to be shooting by 8:45pm and will be done by 9:30pm.

May 13

This is a big day. We will set foot in three of Italy’s regions. Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria. 8:30 am departure for Orvieto (Umbria) where we explore with our cameras and have lunch.

At 1pm we head east for the 30 minute drive to the delightful and minuscule village of Civita di Bagnoregio (Lazio). Before venturing into the village on foot via a quarter mile foot bridge, we pause at an overlook to photograph this ancient Etruscan village which is perched on a pinnacle surrounded by a vast, open valley. A truly breathtaking and photo-worthy scene!

At 4pm we pack up and head further west for another 30 minutes to one of the oldest looking hill towns that we have ever layed eyes on. Pitigliano (Tuscany) is built on and into tufa rock and it seems to actually be growing out of it. We will photograph this very photogenic town from a distant vantage point before heading into the town to explore with our cameras and dinner. 8:30 pm departure for Pienza.

May 14

After a long day yesterday and getting back late in the evening, we will have a leisurely morning in Pienza. This will be an opportunity to do some post processing and to learn from Jim his workflow from import to final image.

After lunch in Pienza we head out into the field at 1:30pm. We will concentrate on the area to the south and southwest of Pienza, the very heart of the Val d’ Orcia. This area has many backroads winding among the fields and farmhouses. We will explore the nearby hill towns of  San Quirico d’ Orcia, Rocca d’ Orcia, and Castiglione d’ Orcia. After our sunset session we head back to Pienza for another wonderful Tuscan dinner.

May 15

Our Tuscany Photo Tour group will depart Pienza at 10 am for the journey back to Pisa. (There is also the option of not returning to Pisa with the group if you wanted to head in another direction, south to Rome for example. In that case, taxi transport can be arranged to the nearby town of Chuisi where one can catch trains north to Florence or south towards Rome.)

We will make a stop about an hour north of Pienza at a delightful hotel that was made out of a small medieval village. It features a classic cypress lined drive and the hotel grounds offer wonderful still lifes for photography. Good espresso as well!  We plan on arriving at the Pisa airport by 4:30 pm. Again, I would suggest spending the night in Pisa or Lucca.

For those continuing on with us to Venice, we will spend the night in Pisa and hotel will be provided by Photography Travel Tours.

Dates: May 8 to May 15, 2017 (7 nights in Pienza) 

Cost: $3,895 | single supplement $495

A 5% discount will apply to those coming from the Cinque Terre tour or continuing on to the Venice tour. The 5% also applies to the Cinque Terre and/or Venice tours.

A $500 deposit will secure your spot. Click here to make your deposit »

What is included on the Tuscany Photo Tour?

  • 7 nights lodging
  • All breakfasts
  • Daily van transportation to photo locations
  • Round trip shuttle between Pisa and Cinque Terre
  • All entrance fees and tolls as well as ground transportation except for transport to and from the airport.
  • Jim’s & Magrit’s expertise in guiding and photographic instruction

Tuscany Photo Tour level of physical difficulty: 2.5 out of 5

Involves some walking on steep hills and uneven surfaces.

For Terms & Conditions and insurance recommendations, please click here »

Join us before your Tuscany Photo Tour  in the picturesque Cinque Terre or after Tuscany in Venice for an opportunity to practice and hone your new photography skills and and to experience 3 distinctly different landscapes and flavors of Italy. Diehards have been known to join us for all 3 tours.

Cinque Terre | Timeless Italy Photo Tour

May 3 to 8 | 2017 (5 nights)

Click here for more information »

The five villages of the Cinque Terre in Italy cling to the rugged and steep hillsides of the Italian Riviera, offering wonderful opportunites for creating stunning photographs.

The Magic of Venice Photo Tour

May 17 to 21  | 2017 (4 nights)

Click here for more information »

The term of endearment that best suits this idyllic and magical city is “La Serenissima,” which means “The Most Serene” in Italian. Expect a visual feast!

Personal Items and Weather Conditions | Tuscany Photo Tour

Temperature range for this time of year: 54 to 66º F

Average monthly rainfall for this time of year: 3 ”

Try to pack light, as we will not have room in the van for more than one piece of luggage plus camera bags for each of us. Most airlines are now charging for more than one piece of checked baggage. I love the Osprey Ozone series of lightweight wheeled luggage. Magrit used the Ozone 28 for 2.5 months on the road and found it perfect. You will appreciate the lighter load when you have to haul your luggage up steep streets or stairs.

Two pairs of shoes: One sturdy pair for in the field that you can get wet and muddy. One pair for evenings.

Light weight rain jacket and rain pants. You don’t have to go all out here, but if we have some wet weather and it is not raining too hard we can still go out and get some good photos. * I really suggest a rain jacket if nothing else. We have worn cut open Hefty bags as skirts and they work great when we did not have rain pants. The rain gear will keep you dry when walking in tall, wet grass.  Montbell makes an excellent parka and pants that are extremely lightweight.

Small umbrella for rain and shade. I use an umbrella often to block the sun from hitting the front element of my lens. Black is best. I have recently begun using a handsfree telescopic umbrella which I love. You can watch a video of my review at PhotographyTravelTours.

Sweater or light jacket for possible chill on early morning shoots. A light layer underneath a rain jacket can be surprisingly warm.

Hat for sun and rain protection.

For equipment recommendations, please click here »