The driver was on time to collect us from the meeting point. 45 min drive and then a quick stop for coffee/toilet break before heading out to the Hot Air Balloon site. Great to watch the steps involved with setting it up and getting ready for flight. Floated over the countryside for approx. 40mins, over a couple of villages then landed in a field. Assisted with packing up the balloon then headed back to our original location where our 'pilot' made beautiful toasted sandwiches over the gas flame and washed down with a sparkling red. Was great fun and taking home a certificate with our name on it made for a memorable experience.
We began the tour at the central spot of Ponte Vecchio bridge @ 9.00am before the crowds started. Audio head sets made listening to the guide easy (English) and small group numbers made things quicker when trying to work our way through the crowds as the morning progressed. Our guide for the morning - Francesco was very knowledgeable on all attractions and more. Found we had "limited" time at each of the attractions however got to see the basics and due to the time and the "skip the line tickets" at the Duomo it allowed for a little extra time inside. Walked through the old historical part of town and stopped at a famous Gelato store for a free ice-cream which was nice after 2hours of walking. Had to wait 10 min in the skip the line at Accademia Gallery however due to the time of year and time of day thought we were admitted quite quickly. My only reservation about doing both tours in one day is the afternoon tour started in approx. 1.5 hours after the first so we found there wasn't enough time to stay and really look at anything else in the Gallery besides the statue of David as well as try and get some lunch before walking the 30mins back to meet the afternoon tour (2 hours), a little rushed I felt (we are young and fit). Meeting point for the Uffizi Gallery is again in a nice central location and our guide Donnatella was also quite knowledgeable. Skip the line again is extremely helpful in saving time. Overall really enjoyed the morning tour however for the afternoon tour felt that if you bought skip the line tickets and audio guide yourself you would still have a great tour through the Uffizi.
Met at the main train station @ 8am start and everyone was on time so onto the brand new and clean bus for the day's adventure. Stefano our guide was a fun and easy going person with a wealth of knowledge on everything and everywhere we went on the day. An easy drive through the countryside to Siena where the local guide took us on a walking tour of the city central showing us the main plaza where the famous Palio horse race is conducted as well as the history of banking. Stopped at the beautiful Cathedral and had enough time to wander around as well as free time. Another beautiful and educational drive to our lunch stop at a winery/farm. Amazing fresh food for lunch all accompanied with matching wines then a quick tour of the boutique winery as well as the farm animals. Stopped at the beautiful city of San Gimignano - given free time to either wander the shops, stop for a gelato or just take in the scenery. Bit of a drive but last stop of the day Pisa. Again enough time to wander around for photo's and see all the market stall selling touristy stuff or just time to sit and relax. Bonus was the little trip on the train that took you through the town with commentary throughout. Back to Florence late in the day. Well worth every cent and even though a long day thoroughly enjoyable and recommend to anyone and everyone.
We were the only people on the afternoon tour, collection at the hotel was on time and our guide (Pam) was fantastic, she was full of interesting info re the Palace and the Emerald Buddha. Best to have the guide to explain everything and guide you around. Side trip to the Gem Gallery was a bonus.
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