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Tom I

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Tom I

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Apr122013

Tour/Activity

Cinque Terre Small Group Day Trip from Florence

Florence, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Not necessarily for the faint of heart, but this was a very memorable and scenic tour, both because of the scenery and because of the terrific guide, Tiberia. There were obstacles working against us: rain and overcast skies, a railroad strike preventing the train portion, high seas preventing the boat portion. But Tiberia made up for it by taking us to four separate villages and getting us as close to the village centers as possible and letting us see some amazing sights. A word of warning to the faint of heart: the streets into and out of town are incredibly STEEP, and people show know that ahead of time. Also, because of the October, 2011 mudslide, the road leading into Vernazza is harrowing at times, and that diminished from everyone's enjoyment. Having said that, I can't write enough good things about Tiberia. He was knowledgeable, patient, very personable, and an excellent driver!

Apr112013

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Uffizi Gallery and Vasari Corridor Walking Tour

Florence, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Very informative tour, in large part because it was a small group (only eight of us) and we had a terrific guide (Vanessa). Vanessa did exactly what tour guides SHOULD do (but don't always do): she introduced herself to each couple and talked with them a bit about where they were from and engaged in real conversation. As a result, it felt like we had a personal stake in each other - a great thing. Vanessa was highly knowledgeable, very passionate about the subject matter (a huge plus!), and very personal. These are enormously important qualities for a tour guide. And it was obvious in how she treated the Uffizi staff - and how they treated her - that there is mutual respect there. The only negative: we sometimes strained to hear, because the Uffizi is so crowded, but we loved this tour.

Apr082013

Tour/Activity

Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Sightseeing Tour

Venice, Italy

My Rating
1 star rating: I do not recommend this

My Review

Interesting islands, very disappointing tour. The primary problem was we couldn't hear word the tour guide said; her voice was drowned out by the boat's engines. The only times we could hear her was when we came into port and the engines idled; then we heard what time we needed to meet back at the boat. So we learned nothing from the guide. Incredibly disappointing.Also, there was no personalization on the tour. We've been spoiled by Viator tours in the past (and on this trip) where there is more personalized contact between guide and tourists; and here, there was practically none. Felt entirely too formal. Also, the Murano glass-making factory felt a little creepy, a little too slick. It was less about a true demonstration and far more about getting us to buy. And when the salesmen took us upstairs in small groups, my wife and I felt used. Burano was a cute and interesting town, and we loved Torcello, especially Santa Maria Assunta. But all in all, this was not Viator's best tour, and I hope Viator doesn't offer so many tours that some of them suffer in quality.

Apr072013

Tour/Activity

Venice Gondola Ride and Serenade

Venice, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

The gondola ride itself was amazing - a true highlight of Venice. And while we thought going into it that iit might be cheesy having a singer and an accordion player along, I must confess that was somewhat magical: those sounds echoing off the narrow, ancient walls as we wended our way through the canals.
We do have one criticism. There was zero personalization for the tour. No one greeted us (they merely took our vouchers). The gondolier didn't introduce himself. We weren't introduced to the two other couples in our boat. We didn't get to meet the musicians (they were in the next boat). We were just ushered into a boat and away we went. So that aspect felt highly impersonal and a real turnoff. Still, the ride and serenade were lovely.

Feb212011

Tour/Activity

Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour

Florence, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

We LOVED the tour. We'd just arrived in Florence the night before and it was a great way to start our vacation. Becky was a terrific guide: patient, kind, informative, and fun. The stops were terrific. While I loved Siena, my wife liked San Gigmignano. And we both loved the farm and the food, as well as socializing with the others on the tour. Just enough time at each place, a knowledgeable guide in Siena, and a well-organized itinerary made for a great day. We'd definitely do it again.

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