Excellent staff at this travel company and all guides and drivers were enjoyable and informative. Especially loved the Rome, Pompeii, Praiano, and Venice portions of the travel and our guides deserved 5 star ratings!
Florence was "touristy" and we would shorten or change tour there (unless you want to shop) although guide did her best. Tuscany hotel was unpretentious and had wonderful dinners with surprise amuse bouche and complimentary chocolates following the meal in the main restaurant. I recommend the snail pasta. Bike ride was much shorter (10 miles) than we liked in Chianti but the following wine luncheon/tour was delightful. Our guide and van driver were most helpful in biking but we really didn't need as many breaks as they allowed. Additionally, the hiking tour in Tuscany was unremarkable. The guide seemed confused as to a different option when we told him we had already walked the hotel trails. The trek needed more interesting stops (ie historic buildings). Would recommend the hiking tour only if you are a city person and not used to seeing the country side.
Rarely, but did feel on occasion, the "push" to purchase a product/store that was shown to us.
Travel assistance was always (with one exception leaving Chianti and barely allowing enough time to train) on spot and helpful. Very efficient use of our available vacation time and they planned this on short notice for us.
Highlight was the Path of God's climb with our guide with his Mom's baked goods and different cheeses along with the amazing views. Would suggest combining this with an optional luncheon at the finish (Perhaps our guide's brother's place?). (Warning: you must be fit for this 5 mile high altitude climbing hike.)
Close second guide was our guide in Venice. She hit all the highlights. Skip the Murano tour unless you want to buy an expensive momento.
The homemade luncheon was wonderful as was viewing their historic Chapel. (We are not wine fanatics but we did enjoy this stop much more than expected.)
Loved to talk to the older staff that had grown up in their italian regions and hear about their political views and how the youth of the country are changing, etc.
Would definitely skip the over priced, unremarkable, luncheon in Caruso! They even seemed reluctant to show us their infinity pool/grounds. A visit to the local garden palace, Villa Cimbrone, however, was nice and a pleasant walk. Amalfi paper factory tour was an interesting short tour. Skip Emerald green cave tour.
Would LOVE to arrange to see our guide's family farm and see his Mother in action cooking.
LESS time in Florence and perhaps go to Tuscany coast. Increase to 2 days Venice and skip walking trek Tuscany or visit coast Tuscany...maybe visit the leaning tower. (Obviously, if you are a wine person or want spa treatments, spend more time in Tuscany.)
More help/information at train station for the first time would be nice.
Be aware that private cabs to dinners can get very costly especially when the hotels are further out.
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