Our Italy travel agent did a fantastic job the whole time we were planning the trip as well as during our vacation. She immediately understood that my first priority was to find a villa to rent and then to plan activities later. We weren't going to do a tour of multiple cities; rather we were going to settle into a home base for a week. I was given four fantastic choices with different price levels, which I appreciated. As we got closer to the date, she would remind me of the need to sign up for activities. Our agent took my varied desires for activities and put together a great itinerary. My initial fear was that we would hit up the big touristy spots, which my friends - mostly seasoned travelers - wouldn't care for. She came through with great suggestions.
Additionally, my agent helped us secure last minute reservations at the two-star Michelin restaurant Arnolfo which was excellent. She also helped us secure golf reservations for part of the group.
This agent was responsive to my needs and questions, especially while the trip occurred. She would check in with me almost on a daily basis, even calling me on Sunday to discuss dinner reservations. I also appreciated the choices that she provided to me and my friends.
In Florence, we had aC fantastic tour guide who walked us through the Uffizi and explained the major pieces to us. I would highly recommend going with a private guide (great resource, in addition to being able to skip the long lines). Next we did a fantastic tour of Montepulciano, where we stopped at the Avignonesi winery and Cigusi cheese farm. Both were fantastic spots and we learned much about the grapes in the area, biodynamic wine production and the many variety of excellent pecorino cheese from Pienza. There were stops along the way in cute towns. Another day, we toured the Chianti region. Another day, we had a cooking class at a lovely agriturismo that also produced its own excellent wine (we bought at least 5 cases). I am most certain we would not have found many of these places ourselves.
I would spend more time in Florence. I would also add 1-2 more wineries to each tour. While tours are nice, my friends and I were more interested in tasting as many different wines as possible. With more time, I would have added Montalcino as another area in which to go wine tasting.
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