To be brutally frank, the tour provides a limited view of pretty Tuscan countryside that finishes with a (typical) non-memorable Tuscan lunch at a restaurant owned by the Tour company.
The first winery (Gabbiano) is pretty, and the tasting well conducted. However, this is a mass producer and nothing really exceptional. The sommelier initially seemed authoritative, but on deeper investigation we were surprised by his dismissive and somewhat condescending attitude since his understanding of well-known Tuscan wines, when queried, was missing.
The second winery (Ruffino) was just “fill time” in that we had a quick look at some cellars, no tasting and a view of some steel fermentation units. The guide, at this point, was not interested and essentially said ‘my colleague - the “sommelier” - told you all this before, so here it is’. We felt that this guide simply wanted to move the small group on as quickly as possible and had no interest.
The hard sell – well in fact the encouraged purchase at the tour company’s restaurant – of a limited selection of relatively poor quality Tuscan wines at inflated prices then followed. What really annoys me is being led to believe that you’re getting something special – they offer a 10% discount - but in fact it is for average wine and can be bought significantly (25%+) cheaper in the UK… and that includes the heavy UK taxation charges on wine.
There are better wine tours and better sightseeing tours available and, unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you go for the reasons of a day out and some wine tasting introduction, you make get more from the experience. But for me, I’d look elsewhere. Sorry!
Initially, the visit to the Accademia saw an extremely interesting, informed and considered presentation of the meaning behind some of the world's most famous sculptures. It guide was really good and passionate about the subject!
The second part - the walking tour - was more limited, since we were left wanting a bit more and, in fact, you invariably discover most of the sites (if not more) by simply walking around the compact centre of Florence.
Please note that if you book this tour for a Sunday, you'll not get internal access to the Duomo. This isn't obvious at the time of booking. There were some unhappy faces in the group when this statement was made at the beginning of the tour.
In summary, the insight provided by the guide at the Accademia was excellent and deserves 5 stars. I already can't remember much about the walking tour and feel that you might get more from good tour guide book, although at the expense of not being able to ask questions. The walking tour gets 3 stars because it just doesn't quite deliver... and we were disappointment in not being shown inside the Duomo and neither did we "cross the Ponte Vecchio... and then rub il Porcellino's nose for luck". Unfortunately, something was missing in that the walking tour didn't live up to its billing!
A well-informed and interesting tour of some selected art in the Uffizi Gallery from a good guide. Making the effort to book access to the Vasari Corridor puts a new perspective on Florence and the power of the Medici Family - this really made a good tour exceptional. The Vasari Corridor is a pretty special place...
Guide was fantastic. Very very knowledgeable. Highly rate her. BUT why do they let so many people into the Sistine Chapel and then keep telling them all to shoosh! I know it's a holy place. Therefore don't let in so many people at once or expect the consequences.....
I was very nervous, but the guide was excellent. Small woman but fierce. Loved her personality and her presentations of various places we visited. She helped to put me at ease and although I didn't lose my nerves with the Rome traffic she got me though it. I think her name was Amanda. Go Amanda!
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