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Please help me pick a day trip in the Florence / Tuscany region

Please help me pick a day trip in the Florence / Tuscany region

Old May 2nd, 2017, 08:25 AM
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Please help me pick a day trip in the Florence / Tuscany region

Hello, my s/o and I are trying to select a day trip in the Tuscany region. We're stationed in Florence, and we'd like to dedicate a full day to a day-trip. She has been poking around and found several options. Apparently these are ~11 hour long tours that take you around and stop at 4 different locations. All three of them afound stop in Siena, San Gimignano, and a winery, and two of them also stop in Monteriggioni. They're all priced around $60. I guess another option would be taking our own buses to different places, but I have a feeling that might be trickier with no real benefit. Neither of us have any desire to drive in Italy - seems like traffic laws / signs / patterns are hectic and different enough just to avoid it.

These are the tours we found (fyi these links don't display the proper info on mobile

https://www.viator.com/tours/Florenc...important-info

https://www.viator.com/tours/Florenc...important-info

https://www.viator.com/tours/Florenc...important-info


Are we thinking properly about a day trip - is a guided tour the best bet? If not, what would you advise? If so, is this the tour company to use?

Are we hitting the right places? If not, what would you recommend instead? My only real condition is that I'm able to visit at least one nice winery - I really love dry full bodied reds (my g/f doesn't drink at all so I'm not looking to make a day of winery visits though.)

I can provide additional information if necessary.

Thanks in advance!
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 08:41 AM
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I would never do a guided tour - but we are like that.
I was this morning in Florence and the trainstation is just great. You can go to Lucca, Pisa etc very easily. I didn't check other destinations, I guess it is ok for Siena but for wineries, they might not be in the vicinity of a train station.

Or rent a car. I had an offer for 8€ a day and 7€ for a full DW (damage waiver ??? - zero problem if you crash your car).
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 10:24 AM
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Siena, San Gimignano, and a winery are already too much to try to see in one day, and adding Monteriggioni (even though it's tiny and there's nothing to see but its imposing city wall) would just make it more hectic.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 01:27 PM
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I agree - we are not guided tour people, and all of these places could take a day on their own. It's actually surprisingly easy to drive down to Tuscany, though - I would also recommend renting for a day (or even better - can you rent for two days and spend a night in Tuscany? That's when you'll get the best parts of the towns - when the day-trippers have left!). We've rented cars from Florence and driven to Tuscany on two separate trips. Neither of us speak Italian, and we've had no problems - just make sure you use GPS (so easy these days to get a roaming data plan on your phone - $10 for data like at home, and then use Google Maps!). We also rented from the train station at the edge of town, so you don't have to worry about navigating out of the central city - the entrance to the highway is right there, and then bam, you're on your way.

We loved San Gimignano - we stayed at an agriturismo just outside of town last year. If you go, you MUST go to this gelato place. There will be huge lines, but it's worth it, and they've won all sorts of awards: http://www.gelateriadondoli.com (Ignore the other places in the same square that ALSO have signs saying they're world gelato champions - they're not. This place is the real deal.)

For a wine tour, I recommend Castello Verrazzano: http://www.verrazzano.com/en/
They're about halfway between San Gimignano and Florence - very easy to stop here if you have a car. Make sure to pre-book your tour, though, as they're popular. They also do tastings of fabulous olive oil and balsamic vinegar (aged 20 years - a bottle is expensive, but OMG good...), that your girlfriend might find more appealing.

If you REALLY don't want to drive, I would say just take a bus to Siena - it's still a city, and they go all the time. Siena is BEAUTIFUL, and you could definitely spend a day here strolling around and checking things out.

Or, the other option I can highly recommend is doing a private tour with Hills and Roads. We've done tours with them twice, and they're wonderful - they'll take you where you want, when you want, so it's exactly like having a car but you don't have to drive it or park it (and there's a helpful guide telling you stuff!). They can also arrange tastings at private vineyards that don't otherwise do public tours - many Italian vineyards are like this, which is so opposite to wineries here in Canada that all have public tasting rooms ready for drop-ins. This ended up being one of our best memories from our last trip, though - they took us to this one little family vineyard run by a guy an his elderly mother. The main guy showed us around, and then the elderly mom had made all these snacks for us to have with our tasting. She didn't speak a word of English, but chattered away to us anyway, and then insisted on showing us her garden (she picked cherry tomatoes right off the vines for us to eat) and introduced us to her dogs. I can't guarantee that exact experience, of course, but I certainly recommend Hills and Roads!
https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attractio...s-Tuscany.html

Anyway, I hope that's helpful, and enjoy your time in Florence and Tuscany - you'll love it!!
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 01:44 PM
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We've rented cars from Florence and driven to Tuscany on two separate trips.

Florence is in Tuscany. It's actually the capital of Tuscany.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 05:33 AM
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Viator is a reseller or OTA. They don't run their own tours and are booking you on some other company's tour. It appears the actual tour company operating the one including Monteriggioni might be Ciao Florence.

https://www.ciaoflorence.it/en/tour-detail/8

You can click search Florence and then choose daytrips.

https://www.ciaoflorence.it/en/home

I would check for reviews online, but one of the advantages of booking directly with a company over a reseller like Viator is the cancellation policy. Viator requires 7 days in advance and it appears Ciao Florence is 48 hours.

You also want to check tours that operate every day (some are only certain days of the week and might not work out for you). FWIW the tours you listed appear to be budget priced tours. I would not expect the same quality as higher priced tours.

>>>I guess another option would be taking our own buses to different places, but I have a feeling that might be trickier with no real benefit
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 06:56 AM
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I agree with the ease of a trip to Siena. My greater concern is the intent. You say you are simply looking for some way to spend a day and there is nothing wrong with that. But some of these locations listed offer more than others and hence my concern about "intent."

IMO, Siena, just as one example offers far, FAR more to see and do than does San Gim but that's subjective, obviously. Even Pisa, especially of you do more than the usual "tower" and surrounds, offers more and you can get there in one hour by train from Florence.

I wouldn't bother with a car if all you want to do is simply see things and to do that there is nothing wrong with a guided tour, either.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 08:30 AM
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I was discussing today with an italian friend and we were comparing the merits of the cities around Florence.

He said I had to go to Lucca (I did but I only saw a restaurant and the taxi), Siena, and he cited 2-3 more inc San Gimingnano.

The list didn't comprise Pisa. So I remarked that Pisa was not exceptional but nevertheless nice, even without the central place (del Duomo ? ) which I actually dislike, but ok, I have sometimes strange ideas : I don't like the leaning tower, I dislike the Duomo and the baptestrey is just ok for me...

The conclusion was : ok Pisa is quite nice but since there are exceptional places around, it stays at the bottom of the list.

La vita e bella, due birre !
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 10:07 AM
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Here's a thought:

Take a bus (not a tour) to Siena from Florence. Super easy, and the bus takes you right to the heart of the city. Read up on some sights, and conduct your own little tour. You can be on your won time table and see what you want. I would go in the morning and use my savings on a very nice lunch, or go in the afternoon when shops reopen and have dinner before returning.

Then search for a winery that takes groups or couples from Florence. Finding a winery visit that includes just one winery might be more difficult, but I've seen some that include lunch.

And really you can try loads of wines in Florence.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 10:15 AM
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and another brief suggestion:

Take a bus or taxi up to Fiesole. The ride is lovely and the views are very nice. It only takes a few minutes and the atmosphere is very different from Florence, which is at your feet.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 12:03 PM
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It's a little extra money taking a private tour from Florence to Siana and it was well worth it. Our guide was a local, had extensive knowledge of the area, and we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that treated us like royalty. She was through the hotel so I don't know how to get a hold of her and it was quite pricey but it was definitely money well spent.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 12:04 PM
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PS – sorry I forgot – we are not guided tour people at all. Never did one before or any kind of group tour anything. But we really enjoyed this private view of Siana.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 12:22 PM
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I agree with everyone about staying away from the guided tours! I feel like it takes some of the romanticism away from what you are hopefully trying to accomplish.

We drove around Tuscany and found it to be quite easy. Don't let that keep you from doing what you really want.

I love the suggestions so far. I think If you didn't want to drive you could take the train to Pisa, and then the bus to Lucca. You could do a bike ride around the city wall.

The suggestion to get a car and stay at an agriturismo is a good one. If you have not yet paid for hote,l I would highly recommend staying in the Tuscan countywide for at least one night.

Florence is busier and trickier to drive in. If it would make you feel more comfortable, train to Pisa, pick up a car there and then drive to Siena, Lucca, Volterra, or wherever you like. And if you have a car it would be easier to stay the night somewhere.
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Old May 14th, 2017, 03:23 PM
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Thanks for all the info everyone. We've decided to skip the "see it all in a day" type tours. I've been reading reviews and it seems like they are just too rushed, often make mistakes with timing, kinda skimp on the lunch portions they usually include, and usually involve a less-than-interesting winery.

Neither the S/O or I have the time or nerves to figure out the Italian rules of the road and stuff like that, so driving ourselves it probably out. We're now thinking about taking a bus to Siena (or somewhere else... not Pisa though.) We already have reservations made in Florence, so we won't be trying to spend the night wherever we end up. We might try to look at going Florence > Siena > somewhere else, but we're just worried if we'd be able to do this and get back to Florence without too much concern.

I would like to get to a winery that really looks and feels like Italy, but I've heard that it's difficult to do this, because most wineries don't allow walk-ins (not to mention a lot are a bit further out from Florence.) Anyone have suggestions this direction? I'm a dry red lover.
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Old May 14th, 2017, 04:59 PM
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Hmmm. I'm wondering if you could find a winery excursion that departs from Siena, but that doesn't take all day, but is a half day tour. Then you could spend 1/2 the day in Siena, and !/2 at the winery, and then return to Florence from Siena by train or bus. You might try a google search for just that: "half day winery tour Siena".

Or you might find a half-day tour that departs from Florence. Then you could spread your "day trip" over 2 separate days. Spend a half day on the winery tour, but on another day, go to another town for lunch. Do some sightseeing in the morning in Florence, go to the other town for lunch, then sightsee until it's time to catch a train or bus back to Florence.
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Old May 14th, 2017, 04:59 PM
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You didn't say what time of year and that can make a difference for day trips if it's getting dark early.

>>>We might try to look at going Florence > Siena > somewhere else, but we're just worried if we'd be able to do this and get back to Florence without too much concern.
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