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Marziah K

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Marziah K

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May022013

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Small Group Florence Uffizi Gallery Walking Tour

Florence, Italy

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

Let's face it. The Uffizi Gallery is a crowded place, no matter when you are visiting. Try to avoid the day after a holiday. I've been three times and even a 2 hour tour is preferable to going it alone unless you have faithfully studied all the holdings. If you travel in the spring or fall, you will still run into school groups and large contingents of Chinese visitors. Try to practice tolerance for other groups of people, many of which don't embrace the queue philosophy. It can be a challenge, even in "skip the line" but the Uffizi does work well with tour groups to get you into the facility. No water bottles or fluids due to the tempera paints. And the usual "no photo" policy applies to artwork. On the second floor camera can come out only for the outside view of Florence with a good angle on the Ponte Vecchio. Our guide (Dutch but very fluent in English and Italian) was well informed and ushered us about deftly. The ending on this tour was a little abrupt and the only improvement I could suggest would be more of a transition to what one might see on your own. The tour includes the second floor only. The steps inside are not hard to negotiate, but if you're out of shape, the elevator is available. Standard advice: do some walking before you embark on a vacation in Florence. It is a walking city and easy to become disoriented. As a courtesy to your other tour members, allow yourself an extra 15 minutes and arrive early so the group can queue on time. Stay tuned for the Uffizi expansion; it should really be something when finished. In order to exit you will walk through the new exhibition space. Don't miss the first floor artwork. If going on your own, do remember to look up and enjoy the fantastic ceiling artwork (grotesques), get a nice view from the rooftop cafe, hit the clean bathrooms (always a pleasure in Italy), and take your time. The crowds thin out on the first floor as families and the casual tourists run low on patience. Enjoy

May012013

Tour/Activity

Small-Group Italian Cooking Class in Florence

Florence, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I enjoyed this experience so much that I also took the pizza and gelato class. Looking around in both classes, everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Traveling alone, it was also a good experience to connect with other travelers of different nationalities. The chefs are enthusiastic and helpful; no Gordon Ramseys, but expect lots of talk about fresh ingredients and doing things the Italian way. Why else would you take such a class? Fun experience, very hands on. Florencetown Tours; I liked them so well I had three experiences with them.

Apr302013

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Siena Duomo and City Walking Tour

Siena, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

My apologies to the other tour members who waited 15 minutes for me when I was not in the position to call that at the last moment I couldn't reach Siena in time for the tour. My decision to travel for 3 weeks without cell phone was necessary and personally liberating but this was the one time I could have used it. Upon my return to the US, I did have a concerned message from the tour guide which I would like to acknowledge as professional and concerned.

Apr292013

Tour/Activity

Cinque Terre Hiking Day Trip from Florence

Florence, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Walkabout Tours must do the best Cinque Terre Hiking trip. They certainly have top notch guides in Chris and Sandra, a very good combination. Their friendly nature, outgoing commentary, enthusiasm and people kindness make them stand out from the dozens of other tours I have taken through the years. (And I am not a great lover of tours, but this was one of the very best I have ever experienced AND a shout out to Angel for the Vespa tour which I booked directly with the company so can't separately review. He had the same outstanding qualities. I did well on my second Vespa experience!). What a pleasure to take them at their word to "take your time and enjoy.". But, please...if you are not in decent shape, don't attempt this in the summer unless you have a lot of heart. The steps will be your undoing, given the heat and humidity. Some observations from fellow hikers: ballerina flats or sandals not a good idea (trekking sandals will do well, though), don't bring a bag you have to carry (use a backpack for the day), watch your footing at all times, and hydrate. Purchases of Cinque Terra specialities are possible and recommended toward the end of the trip when you hopefully still have the energy left to pack out small jars of Pesto Genovese or lemon flavored liquor called limoncino in this area, not lemoncello. Tour was expertly timed; lunch delicious and the scenery does not disappoint. While I enjoyed the trek a lot because we were not pressured and able to take pictures to our heart's content along the way, I appreciated Sandra coming back to check on me while I was just gazing at the view to my heart's content. She watched me, not interrupting my moment until I looked up and was ready to go on with the climb. I was doing okay at this point, having properly paced myself, but you will never feel abandoned by this group. I left the Italian rain gear on purpose for another traveler. I will bring my own trusty Goretex next time. Hopefully it won't be needed.

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