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Best of Tuscany Tour

I would love some feedback from those of you who participated in this tour last year. What did you love about the tour? What did you find challenging? Is there a tip you’d like to share with those that are taking this tour in 2023? Is there something that you wish you had known prior to doing the tour?

I am looking forward to reading your insight! I’ve read the reviews but am eager for additional information.

Thank you!

Posted by
16 posts

I was on this tour last April. The 2nd and 3rd lodging spots were outstanding (Castello di Gargonza and La Moscadella). Challenging? Saying "No" to extra helpings of food and another glass of wine. The one tip I would offer is to visit Pisa in the evening, before or after the Tour. I've read it's kind of a zoo during the day, but I found the evenings there to be very pleasant.

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for your response and tips, Art!

We are wrestling with returning to Florence after the tour concludes OR staying an additional night in Lucca OR skipping the closing breakfast and heading up to Cinque Terre for a day, spending the night, and catching a train back to Florence for our return trip back to the States? Any thoughts?

We are really looking forward to our Best of Tuscany Tour but still are wrestling with the disappointment of not seeing CT and Lake Como.

Posted by
16 posts

I flew in and out of Pisa (better options for me than Florence). The morning our tour ended, I did a day trip to Cinque Terre.

Posted by
22 posts

That is exactly what we were thinking of doing, Art! Did you find the one day trip difficult to make?

Posted by
14153 posts

"OR skipping the closing breakfast"

There really isn't a "closing" breakfast. You have breakfast provided on the last morning by the hotel but you'll find, as with all the other breakfasts, that people don't really eat together for this meal. Some will have left before breakfast for early flights or may be getting a slow start to the day or are off onto another adventure so you'd not really be missing a group activity. This is the case across all RS tours I've done.

I've not done this tour but have visited Siena on several RS tours. Make sure you include hills or stairs in your fitness routine!

Posted by
16 posts

Left Lucca after breakfast, made it to Vernazza for lunch, walked around and took a few photos, and made it back to Pisa in the evening, before flying back the next morning. It was a short visit, but wanted to see it because I was so close, and also figure out if it warranted more time (which it probably does). Near the end of April the crowds in Vernazza were not bad at all. I hear that's not always the case.

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you SO much for sharing such valuable info with me, Art and Pam! The tip about how informal the breakfasts are sealed the deal for me in heading CT!

Happy New Year to you both!!

Posted by
7388 posts

Hi, I haven’t been on this tour, but I have been at several of the locations. For Pienza, the best gelato shop is definitely Buon Gusto! The owner is friendly and speaks English. He has some wonderful creative flavors, too. Within a block of his shop is a door that had an archway of ivy with pots of hydrangeas on each side. It’s made a beautiful photograph that I had enlarged to a canvas print for our home.

Also in Pienza, there’s the Etruscan history and also the planned city concept that I’m sure your guide will explain. But they may not mention that Pienza is one of the sites that was used for the filming of the Romeo & Juliet Shakespeare movie directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It was one of my favorites & a reason I wanted to see it, and I found a wonderful display in the Palazzo Piccolomini, including old b&w photos of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey walking through the town to the set.

Pam mentioned the steps & stairs. If you stop at Montepulciano near Pienza, it’s quite a steep uphill or downhill - wonderful town! Just be ready for some good walking with non-slippery soles.

For Lucca, you should take a walk or a bike ride on top of the old medieval city wall. It’s a nice wide area; you won’t feel like you’re walking a narrow wall. If you rent a bike, there’s several options near the wall entrances. You need to leave your passport or ID sometimes to secure to the renter that you’re bringing back the bike. In that case, I bring my drivers license to leave it with them.

It’s a wonderful area! Have a great time!

Posted by
22 posts

Jean—you shared some wonderful tips—THANK YOU!!
I am jotting them down in my travel notebook and look forward to exploring the things you mentioned.

Posted by
547 posts

I took this tour in September and really enjoyed it. I had 2 nights in Florence ahead of the tour and enjoyed taking two different food tours (one each day). After the tour ended, I took the train to Bologna for two nights. Once again a great food tour. Wish I had more time to explore Bologna and the nearby region, but had to get home. What is it that you want to see do at the Cinque Terre? Just take the boat along the coast for the view or hike a bit? What time of year are you traveling? Have you already purchased your airfare because there are other cities to fly home from. You can PM me with any exact questions about the tour. You will really enjoy it!

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Barbara!

Thanks for your response!!

We are participating in the May tour. We are looking for another area to explore for two days after the tour. Interesting that you mentioned Bologna. We are considering either Cinque Terre or Bologna. Unfortunately, we don’t feel we have enough time to visit Lake Como. We will have to save it for another trip. 😉

Do you have any tips about visiting either CT or Bologna? We love to walk/hike but I am thinking that the ferry boat around CT might be better in the interest of time. Any thoughts on that?

If we go to Bologna—can you share what you did on your visit and where you stayed?

We booked our flights in October and are flying into/out of Florence. Since flight costs have risen, I don’t think we will change our departure flight at this time.

Also, which food tour did you use in Florence? That is something that interests us in both Florence and if we end up in Bologna.

THANKS again!!

Posted by
7388 posts

Since you asked about cooking classes in Florence, I have taken several, and this one I mentioned in my September trip was wonderful!

Two other activities that we definitely recommend were a city bike tour with “I Bike Florence – Original City Bike Tour” and a cooking class, “Pasta Class Florence, The Art of Pasta – Authentic Recipes”. I have been to Florence a couple of times. The bike tour took us to some of the places I hadn’t seen previously, and it was an overall fun experience for both of us. We saw so much during the three hours! Our guide, Martina, was excellent with lots of info, too. The pasta class was excellent! Our chef taught us how to make three different filled pastas and three widths of straight pasta. He offered me a job after seeing my rectangle of pasta dough & shapes. Hmmm! ; ) (Probably from my experience of making lots of croissants after a class in Paris.) His sauces were wonderful – some new excitement added to traditional recipes. We will definitely be making these recipes at home! (I have made these a lot since September!). Two places across the Ponte Vecchio bridge to recommend: I found my favorite Florence gelato shop again – Gelato Mancuso on Via Guicciardini, the main street up from the bridge. Also, we ate dinner at Trattoria Vasari – same street, closer to the bridge. The staff there were very nice, and we liked the meals and the desserts.

Posted by
20 posts

Went in May. Fantastic tour! Really the biggest challenge was avoiding Covid. Two of our 18 tested positive the first day, several more later in the trip. We truly fell in love with rural Italy. Fantastic accommodations!

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks for your feedback! We are also going in May and looking forward to the trip!

Posted by
3 posts

My wife and I are also going on this tour in May (29th).

I'm looking forward to the wine. I'm assuming there are abundant opportunities to sample chianti and brunello varieties. Did the tour stop in the town of Montalcino? Is it possible to purchase a case (or 4) of local wine and have it shipped back to the states?

Thank you again.

Posted by
22 posts

Good questions! We are on the tour May 22nd. We are also looking forward to trying some great wine!

Posted by
118 posts

We're going on the May 28th tour as well; really looking forward to it.

Posted by
22 posts

Bob—have a great time! As I mentioned, my husband and I are on the tour that begins on May 22nd and we can’t wait!

Posted by
118 posts

I just finished changing our trip to add two days in the Cinque Terre, and have lots of information.

The earliest train is at 9:30am; it’s a 30-minute trip to La Spezia, the closest town to Manarola, where we’ve chosen to stay. Then it’s only 10 miles to Manarola, so we’ll take a cab or Uber.

To get to Florence, there are 3 options: car, train, or bus. The earliest train is at 7:25pm, so we chose a bus (FlixBus), which is cheaper and leaves at 10am. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes longer and $35 cheaper. The bus takes about 2 hours. We’ll spend the night in Florence and fly out the next morning.

A half day in the Cinque Terre just didn’t seem like long enough, so we decided on two days.

Posted by
1 posts

This is all great information. I’m also going in May but on the tour beginning on the 15th. I’ve been jotting everything down in my notebook and can’t wait to experience as much as possible!