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Old Aug 23, 17, 5:59 pm
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: SFO, VCE
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Originally Posted by roacher78 View Post
My wife and I are heading to Italy soon. One day while we are in Florence we want to take a trip out to the Chianti region to see a town or two and also a winery or two. Our hotel has offered to set up a private driver for us that would take us to Sienna and/or San Gimignano and 2 vineyards. For approximately 8 hours it would be 380 euros ($450) for the driver, no other costs included. Or we can do a Tuscany tour through Viator or Walks of Italy. There's a 4 hour tour for $185USD and 8-10 hour tours for ~$300-350.

Not sure which is our best option. Having a private driver would be great, but I'm not sure what we'd miss by not having a guide or organized tours of the vineyards. Any thoughts? Or other recommendations? We'd prefer not to do anything over 8 hours.
Paying $55 an hour just for a driver, without wine tasting and lunch included, sounds pretty steep. There are so many tours, group or private, with lunch and tastings arranged for Tuscany that I’d think twice about it. I'd do some more research, and get on the phone (Skype). They all speak English in Florence. Getting a recommendation from your hotel is very risky. They usually just steer you to a friend, and double the price as their commission. That's probably why you were offered a $55 an hour driver, proposing to squeeze in Siena, San Gimignano, plus two wineries in one day, nothing else included. Hotels can only be relied on if you have some longstanding personal connection with them. Otherwise, I wouldn't even dare to ask a concierge where to eat.

A private tour for two seeing some of the beautiful Tuscan countryside from the back of a Mercedes, which will look like you are living inside of a painting, can be magical and very romantic. However, some things are more fun with a group. I've visited wineries, acetaie (where they make real balsamic vinegar), cooking classes, wine tastings, and many other things with a group. When a group shows up they are prepared for a festive atmosphere, and the food and wine are laid out. Ultimately it's about sales, and a group of 9 in a long limo or 12 in a mini-bus raises more interest than a couple showing up. So, it really depends on what you want. I wouldn't just write off a group tour, if it is an acceptable one. This ultimately comes down to your choice, your budget and preference, but I wouldn't pay $55 an hour just for a driver who is going to zip by two cities and two wineries in one day.

Walks of Italy is one of many legitimate companies. In my opinion, speaking for myself, Viator is not. Viator is a website located an office in San Francisco that acts like a bulletin board, similar to Craig’s list. You go on their website and click on, “I want to work for you.” You fill out a brief form that asks only a few questions, and provide the link to your website. Then they tell you that they’ll put your link on the Viator website, provided you give them a cut of the money if anyone books it. That's it. You never know what you are getting. If you get ripped off, you have no one to complain to because Viator will tell you, "We just link the customer to the vendor. We are not responsible."

I could have built a website this morning saying that I’ll give you a hot air balloon tour over Tuscany and ask Viator to put it on their website and that I agree to give them a cut if anyone books it on their site. And I’ve never been in a hot air balloon.

There are many places that offer Tuscan wine tours. Call them using Skype. Make sure you check that their website has .it, so that it is based in Italy, because many of them are based in other countries and aren't an actual business, just a website, and they call people in Florence and try to arrange something for you.

When you call make sure their phone number starts with +39, the country code of Italy, and 55, the area code of Florence. There are websites located in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Berlin, Copenhagen, or as in the case of Viator, San Francisco, that offer Tuscan winery tours, although I understand that Viator recently opened up a branch in Las Vegas.

Last edited by Perche; Aug 26, 17 at 1:40 am
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