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I had an excellent experience with this tour, and would recommend it without reservation. We were a small group with our guide/driver Giuliano and our guide in Siena, Adele. We rode in a clean mini-van and were not crowded at all. Giuliano spoke excellent English and was an expert with wines - from grape growing, wine making, aging, bottling, distribution and even to grappa. He was able to answer all the questions in a very clear, very pleasant and helpful way. Our guide in Siena, Adele, is Sienese, and we learned a lot about the various churches and saints as well as the various contrade in Siena that compete in the famous Palio. We stopped at a family-run farm just outside of San Gimignano, where we had the various wines from the family's properties in San Gimignano and in Siena. The wines were excellent. All of the family were helping - we had Pietro, one of the sons, to help us. He explained everything in great detail, very clearly, and very thoughtfully. It was a pleasure to meet him and to taste his family's wines. We were served lunch, as part of the wine tasting. Because we were a small group, we were able to also see Monteriggioni just outside of Siena, the walled village built by the Sienese as a outpost against the Florentines in the 1200's. We also drove through Chianti on our way back and saw the Abbey of Badia a Passignano, as well as the little medieval town of Montefioralle. A very memorable trip!
Sadly, this was the one thing we did during our two weeks in Italy that I actually regret. I spent hours researching tours and finally chose this one based on the towns, description, and premium price tag. However, we spent most of the day in the car! We started the day by stopping in a small town not Sienna and were told we had 10-15 minutes to explore and then to be back at the car. You can't do anything in 10-15 minutes?! We then drove to Sienna where we were dropped off by our driver and had a private 2 hour walking tour by a local guide named Isabella. Isabella was wonderful! However, the tour does not mention that you are going to a church, so I didn't have anything to cover my shoulders with. I specifically chose this tour because it doesn't mentions churches. We wanted to see and explore the town. We had no free time in Sienna to explore, shop, eat etc. The description mentions to start the day in Siena and then go to lunch - so we assumed there would be more free time to enjoy Siena and not feel rushed again. We then loaded back up and drove 30 minutes to another tiny town. Again we had 10-15 minutes to quickly explore and be back at the bus. After another 30 minute drive, we went to a vineyard in Chianti. This part of the tour was accurate and we enjoyed the quick winery tour, tasting, and lunch. We started the tour at 9am and did not eat until 2pm, so I would bring a snack! Our final stop was San Gimignano. We had about an hour to explore and hang out. The tour mentions that you will take a walk with your guide. Nope..driver stayed with the car and we were on our own. The town was a bit of a tourist trap and hard to navigate by ourselves. Many other large tour buses stop here, so it was crowded and not ideal. We then headed back to Florence. The description says Sip on more flavorful local blends before returning to your original departure point in Florence. That didn't happen at all. The only wine we had a day was at the vineyard. So, with all of that being said I would recommend getting a private tour guide and creating your own itinerary or renting a car and driving yourself! We spent more time in the car driving from place to place than we actually spent in all of the towns! I would have much rather taken the 15 minutes plus driving time from the two tiny towns and spent that time in Sienna. For 250 pp, I would have expected a much better experience. Regardless of the money, it was time we could not get back. I would have much rather spent those hours exploring than sitting in a van all day.
This trip was amazing. It was great having a small group. You didn't feel lost in the crowd. Our driver/main guide was very charming and fun. Siena and San Gimignano were so beautiful and interesting. Our guide in Siena was lovely and very knowledgeable. She is from Siena and that made it even more fun. The vineyard we visited was beautiful and the tour was very informative. More importantly, the wine was wonderful and the lunch served was excellent. Be prepared to walk a lot and keep in mind that you will be doing a lot of climbing. The cities are built on hills so you have a great deal of climbing and steep inclines but the pace was slow so not too difficult. Wear good walking shoes. Also, you will be visiting a lovely church, so no shorts and no bare shoulders ladies. Carry a light shawl or scarf with you to put over your shoulders.
A great tour. Our tour guide, Jakamo, knew the areas very well and was a really valuable part of the tour. Each town was unique and really gave us a good sense of Italy that we couldn't have gotten in Florence or as part of a large group, and the winery visit was a nice addition. Definitely a fun and interesting day.