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Por falta de gente, me cambiaron el Tour por Cortona y Montepulciano! Lo disfrute de maravillas porque solo eramos 6 personas y la guia pudo trabajar con total tranquilidad y dedicacion. No recuenrdo su nombre, creo que era Alina es rusa. Recuerdo que quedara grabado para siempre en mi memoria.
Very enjoyable tour, good guide, with a small minibus, a fairly small group. Great wines, very interesting stops, even a pit stop, not too long of a tour, very beautiful scenery. Adamo at the Contucci winery was the highlight of the whole day. Highly recommended. STAY AWAY FROM THE LARGE BUS TOURS! YOU WILL BE TREATED LIKE A NUMBER!
I arrived at the meeting place at 7:15am per my tour email - everyone else got there around 8:15am. No biggie. I have gotten used to being places on time and waiting for others to show up. We had a small group, which I was happy about because that meant we'd have a more personal experience. An 85 year old couple from Argentina and a mid 40's couple from Australia were also on the tour. I already figured I'd be the 5th wheel so no shock there. I brought my headphones and was excited about some Me time. We loaded into our comfortable air-conditioned coach, and headed for the rolling hills of Tuscany. The coach was nice. A spacious Mercedes, so yes, it was comfortable. I am not sure about the air-conditioning..it was pretty sweaty in there. Very quiet, no music so I was happy I brought my headphones. We took a not so direct way to the Autostrada freeway, which I am sure was meant to be charming. Imagine hopping up and down in your seat for 45 minutes, hitting your head on the roof of the car and falling into your neighbors' lap every other minute or so. We arrived to Cortona, where the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. The day before I was texting with my friend, who also shares my love of the movie. He was pumped, very excited for me. I thought, How did I get so lucky? Life has been good to me! I get to see such beautiful places and learn about them. Beautiful was right. Learn about them...not so much. My expert guide took off and left us to have free time for an hour and half. The town is the size of a shopping mall so after I walked the 10 minutes it took to see the entire town I decided to get a gelato and sit under a tree over-looking the Valley for the rest of my free time. Thank God the views were breathtaking because the people were rude and the shops were over priced. I'm down to spend money but not if you aren't even going to say Hello to me when I enter your shop or take a moment from your cigarette you are smoking indoors to ask me if I need help with anything. It totally crushed my dreams. There were dogs and cats INSIDE the restaurant and no it wasn't an authentic farmhouse. It was just a dirty restaurant. Well at least I was in good company, right? Wrong. Noone said a word to each other. The couples didn't even talk between themselves. At one point during the lunch, I started laughing and both couples looked at me puzzled and I said, This is the saddest lunch I've ever been to. Honestly, I have had a better meal at Applebee's. Next up Montepulciano! The moment I've been waiting for. Wine tasting!!! The first thing the woman said to our guide was, I can only give you 2 wines. No Ciao! No buona sera! Niente. So we took our two wines which was less than a shot each and in a plastic cup and moved on to, free time. During free time I treated myself to a glass of wine and enjoyed it in the piazza. My tour guide showed up and asked me if instead of having a glass of wine did I want to go and see a church. I just looked at him. Now you wanna show up? No grazie. I earned this glass of wine. The only thing this horrible trip has going for it is the beautiful scenery. I wish the advertisement said, for 125 dollars I will give you a ride to a few towns but you are on your own and don't expect much. And now for the icing on the cake. Our comfortable air-conditioned coach, broke down. Just shut off. In the middle of the freaking road. If I didn't have the pictures to prove it, I wouldn't even believe me. Even though we were sitting ducks in the middle of the road, the driver didn't feel the need to put on the hazard lights. So I grabbed the lady's cane next to me and pushed it on. He then opened the door, turned it off and told me it was too dangerous to have it on. Uh..no. I think he was confused as to how hazard lights work and why one would use them. We sat in the middle of the two lane road for about an hour when the guide came in and said that we were going to go to the nearest town and we were going to take the train back to Rome. Hurray! A game plan. Finally! Do you know what this man did? He started stopping the cars on the road was asking them if they would give us a ride to the next town over. Holding up a sign that said, Chiusi - which is the name of the town we were headed to. I don't think so! Once I realized what he was doing I got out of the car and said, Sir, I don't feel comfortable getting into a car with a stranger. You are going to have to come up with another way. So we waited for almost an hour for another bus to come to take us to the train station. The Australian couple ditched us and jumped into a VW wagon with curtains. I felt a responsibility to take care of the older couple since they only spoke Spanish and no one else was looking out for them or Me!
Best tour ever!! Charming little towns, historical landmarks, and gorgeous scenery. People in Cortona were very friendly. Great food and shopping. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable on drive up and during tour. This tour allowed for few hours to explore on your own between stops. Part of the tour we were taken to small family restaurant for 4 course meal and small wine tasting, pasta, salad, chicken, and dessert, good food and service. Recommend wearing comfortable shoes, there is some walking up incline at both towns in order to reach main area. Going up can be difficult for some. Our Tour guide assisted older couple with cab that would take them up to center of town, due to steep incline, only about 2-3 city blocks. This tour also picked us up at hotel and drop us off, which was great!
The hill villages were great, the food at the farm was average and it would have been more enjoyable to have someone with more knowledge of wine on the trip, At wasn't really a wine tasting it was a run through the grotto and small portion in a plastic medicine cup.. As Well I was tole I could leave my personal belongings on the bus later in the day and my small digital camera went missing.. I got no call back from the tour leader. I am 90 sure I left the camera on the bus. Disappointed not to get a call back after the driver and the leader were going to check on the farm restaurant on on the bus again. I'm thinking it was lifted but then what am I going to do? don't leave anything on the bus.
My family enjoyed this tour, however, I did not get to experience it. My mom was with us who is 84. She is in great shape and was able to do everything in Italy up until this tour. There are incredibly steep hills that need to be climbed. When you register, they ask for ages of people taking the tour. I listed her as 84. It would have been nice if someone had told us before we arrived that there were steep climbs. Since she was unable to do it, I stayed back with her. I never would have registered for this if we had know. I wasted 280 euros registering us for this. It says in the write up Tour is suitable for wheelchair users provided passenger is traveling with a companion who can assist them on and off the bus. Wheelchairs will be stored in the luggage area of the bus. Do not take this tour is you are handicapped, in a wheelchair or have issues climbing hills. Also, my children hiked all the way up to the Cathedral of St. Margaret only to find out that it cost 4 euros to get in. None of them had any cash on them. The tour guide should have told them before they went or announced it on the bus. I never would have booked this trip for her if I had known. That 280 could have been better spent on another tour.