The issues of sustainability, health, and the physical environment are multifaceted and intricately interwoven.  There are places that illustrate the factors in relationships that cannot be found in the U.S.  Places where you can see how those factors interact to provide a habitat in which the human organism can thrive, both physically and emotionally and without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive as well.
This trip is an exploration that will delight you over and over again.  You will be traveling with a small group of people involved in planning, health, and community design.  You will experience a built environment you can only find in the remote corners of Europe.  We’ll have discussions, both formal and informal, about how you can use what you see here.
Sit at a café in a plaza that is 500 years old, enjoying the local food and wine and imagine life right here during the Renaissance, or to be a child or senior here today.  We’ll visit several towns and villages:  some famous, some unknown to American tourists.  Each one is filled with delights of taste, view, and history.  And filled with inspirations about how we could live, if we could only remember.  We’ll look closely, as we savor our last sips of wine, and see what features make spaces that are so compelling. 
Beyond the villages is country side: farms and forest.   
We will take a relaxed pace.  And still you will find what it is to live an active life-style.  There is the countryside. We will walk miles each day.  This is how we can best experience how farm and forest so closely integrate with the center of the towns.  From the Tower it is a mile to the town, and we will walk through olive grove and field.  Though you will be on vacation, you will be able to experience the activity of daily life in such a place.

All to answer the question “How do you make a settlement so excellent that for hundreds of years it is prized as a place to live?”

This program is limited by our accommodations to 8 people.  With a group this small, your trip will be a personal experience, not a production tour.

We will do and see lots of things.  But we will come home to our castle each night, where we can sit on the roof terrace and watch the sun set over the Casentino Valley.  
The Castello di Porciano was built 1,000 years ago.  It was home to "the Supreme Poet," Danté, following his exile from Florence in 1301.  
The Tower was remodeled in the late 20th century.  The first 3 floors of the tower contain a museum, and the upper 3 floors are a 4 bedroom home like you have never seen.  You can walk up through the museum, or take the tiny elevator.  The tower, with walls 5 feet thick and a living room 20 feet high, will take your breath away before you even make it up to the roof terrace behind the battlements.  
The Castello di Porciano has a laundry room with washer and dryer.  So pack as light as you can.  Your travel information package will have suggestions for what clothes to include.  The tower has a full kitchen with dishes of handmade Tuscan ceramic of traditional patterns.

It’s important to realize that the castle is comfortable, but it is not luxurious.  The baths are down the hall and have tubs with hand showers.  Most of the bedrooms have twin beds.  One has a double bed.  

So the Tower does not offer the maximum of luxury.  

It offers the maximum of experience.

The owner of the Tower, the Contessa Corsi, warns her visitors “You can make excursions to other towns, or you can stay right here all day.  My guests always regret that they did not spend more time in the castello.”  We will face the same dilemma.  Do we stay and steep in the ambience of the tower, or venture out to other delights?

The program also includes 2 other nights in Florence at either the beginning or end of your trip. 


The program includes continental breakfasts.  The kitchen is always available, and you can stock the fridge and pantry with whatever you want.  We will dine out or in whenever you wish.  The castle is equipped with a small, but amazing kitchen.  There are arched openings 10 feet high, and a door onto a balcony that is 4 stories above the garden.  
Stia is deep in the Apennine mountains, and so has a tradition of hunting.  Many local restaurants feature a culinary experience of authentic regional specialties including venison, wild boar, and rabbit as well as chicken, beef and pork.  The Canto della Rana in particular has a hunting lodge atmosphere and serves game.  You will find Tuscans are passionate about freshness in their food, and you can taste it at their table.  Fresh seasonal vegetables from the area are always featured.  Cooking classes can be arranged at small additional charge.

Your Guide

Your trip will be led by Clay Preston.  He is an architect and certified planner whose projects have been recognized nationally and internationally as the best examples of ecologically sustainable community.  Clay has led this trip many times and is very familiar with the region as well as being conversant in Italian.
“There are many things I love about leading this trip.  There is the food and wine, of course.  And there is the delight I see in people as they build their understanding that sustainability is about abundance and enjoying a high quality of life.  But there is something special about giving people a real cultural experience.  This is not one of those historic hamlets that was converted into a hotel complex.  This is a living community with people of all ages.  They have opened their hearts and homes to me, and allow me to share that with my guests.  Their generosity to me and my guests moves me each time I visit.”

Program Highlights

During our week in the Casentino Valley we will come to understand what features make a community so compelling, so rich in life that it is continuously inhabited for 500 years with only a minimum of change.  We will visit several towns in the area, each with an historic center hundreds of years old, with farm and forest within easy walking distance.  Each with a different way of creating the places that nurture community. We’ll also visit tiny hamlets, including our own Porciano, and see how built forms can be compact, accommodate privacy, and enjoy fresh food and nature at your doorstep.  Porciano alone contains almost every lesson you need to create an exquisite community of health, wellness, and prosperity.
We will be staying a short walk from Stia (included in “The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany”).  We will get to know this little community well as our daily shopping takes us to the green grocer, baker, butcher, and wine shop.  And as we walk to the local train station for our excursions to other towns.
From our tower windows you can see Poppi (Also included in “The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany”) that played a major role in the battle that led to the Medici’s dominance in Florence (and led to Dante’s exile).  Its castle is renowned for the ghost of the Count Guidi, who still resides there. In Poppi we will begin to recognize the patterns that create community space and a sense of identity for its inhabitants.
From Poppi you can see Bibbiena.  Bibbiena is noted in the guidebooks as an industrial center (they make precast concrete there).  But the historic town, on the hill above, contains beautiful examples of superb 400-year-old urban place making.  Again we will see how density is paired with views and open-space to achieve a lifestyle so successful that it has changed very little over the centuries.

The choices are far more than could be visited in a single trip.  Some of the possibilities include: 

Forest walks in the “dark wood” of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  A ridge top walk to Mt. Falterona where you can stand atop the divide that separates the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian watersheds.  On a clear day you can see both seas.
Anghiari is little known to American tourists. But it is the town that native Italians go to when they want to experience a superb historic village.  
Cortona (Also included in “The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany”) is well known for it’s role in “The Light in Tuscany” and the art schools there.
Laverna, (the home of St. Francis and whose mystical beauty is recognized by the faithful and secular alike) A World Heritage site.
The hermitage of Camaldoli, (whose location was considered the most remote in Italy in 1200 AD and still isolated today).

 Lectures and Discussions.  Your program leader will facilitate discussions of urban design, land planning, health impacts, and economic planning.   

Program Fees
per person,  double occupancy.  
Single supplement: $550
Group discounts available
May Trips          $2435.00
October Trip      $2350.00


All trips are subject to registration of the minimum number of participants.  Typically, this is six registrations.  For trips that are cancelled because they do not meet the minimum number of participants, the reservation fee will be refunded. 

The trip begins and ends in Florence.  If you want information on how to reach Florence, or other places to visit while you are in Italy, your trip leader will be glad to provide information.

Fee includes:
 Seven nights of unique accommodations in the Castello di Porciano
 Two additional nights in Florence.
 Continental breakfasts
 A group dinner
 Transportation from Florence to the Castello and return.
 Educational programs, presented by a Village Habitat principal.
 Travel and destination information to assist you in your planning.
 Certificate of completion

Does not include:
 Air transportation
 Meals other than noted above
 Land transportation other than noted above
 Single occupancy

For more information please do not hesitate to contact Clay Preston


Hidden Tuscany

Forms and Flavors 

Led by 
Clay Preston, 

Oct 26-Nov 9, 2015
May 12 - 23, 2016
Oct. 12-23, 2016

Other dates by request
Contact Clay Preston about custom trips on other dates.mailto:CP@VillageHabitat.com?subject=Village%20Tourshttp://www.villagehabitat.comshapeimage_3_link_0
“The Casentino is an absolute delight, and this trip gives the perfect introduction to the region!  We will return as soon as humanly possible."
   Harvey Young
   Open-space Program Coordinator
   State of Georgia
“I have studied livable community for years on my own.  This trip week really brought it all together in a way I could not have imagined.  This was one of those revelation experiences."
   Vijay Varma, MD
   Director of Pathology
   Atlanta VAMC
“I have understood the health impacts of lifestyle for many years.  But this trip pulled together so many of the large and small factors in existing communities.  And what commu-nities!  We have never had more fun on any travel."
   Bill Falinski, MD

Photos from

previous trips


CLICK HEREReservations.html
“This was a great learning experience for me.  And it was also one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken."
   Bob Rolader
   Real Estate Developer
“Your fondness for the country and the people, coupled with your passion for people-oriented development helped make this trip particularly wonderful."
  Tom Johnson
“What an incredible experience.  I have been inspired by my European travel for years.  So often we see projects in the U.S. where they try to make the thing look like a village.  But this trip allowed me to really see the elements that make such inspiring places.
I am using what i learned in a new project called Sewanee Close.  It isn’t trying to reproduce an Italian village.  But the lessons we learned there really enrich the community design."
   Dede Dubose
   Real Estate Developer
“One great thing about this trip is that these are places where few Americans go, so you get more of a real cultural experience."
   Rita Wilson