Excellent knowledgeable tour guides and a nice lunch. Sadly there were hideous queues for Accademia - and the Uffizi to some extent - even though we were attached to a tour and visiting in early October. (Note: Tuesdays are busy as these places are closed on Mondays; suspect Sundays are also busy.) So while it says "skip the queues" that depends on how many other tourists are there with tour guides. Still, a lot better than with no tour! Both guides spoke good English (1 as a 1st language; 1 as a 2nd language) and gave us lots of wonderful insights into the history, etc. Could've used longer at the Uffizi would be my only minor complaint. But by and large, very cool. Would recommend.
We enjoyed this tour - even though we paid a fortune to get a water taxi from the train station! (Note: It pays to leave heaps of time to get there if you're travelling from outside Venice as we were - from Florence - in case the train is late.) The guide was knowledgeable and friendly and did well to negotiate huge crowds in St. Mark's Basilica. I also liked that he took us a little "off the beaten track" to get a small sense of life in Venice for Venetians. The boat tour was also worth doing as it really gave you a different perspective. There were only a small number of us in our boat so there was lots of opportunity to ask questions, etc. Even though we only had a day trip to Venice, we felt we got a good feel for the city in a short amount of time. Finally, it was good that there was time between the walking tour and the boat tour to go exploring on our own.
We did this tour the day after 30 hours of travelling from New Zealand. The fact that we only fell asleep on the way home that evening is testimony to what a great trip it was! Knowing nothing about Siena, we found it was a highlight of our 6 days in Tuscany. The cathedral there is simply breath-taking. Our bus tour guide, Stefano, was perhaps the best guide we encountered in Italy (though all were good): funny, informative, friendly and helpful. The Siena guide was also witty, proud of her home town, and excellent. San Gimignano was interesting and both it and Siena felt "authentic" - like they were little changed from hundreds of years ago. Pisa was a little disappointing by comparison - though it didn't help that it poured with rain while we were there! (Plus our jet lag was starting to get the better of us...) Though it's a better known town (for its leaning tower), I'd recommend Siena if you had to choose one or the other. That said, the whole trip was excellent and we were pleased to have taken the advice of a friend and got out of Florence to explore the surrounding towns and countryside. Highly recommend.
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