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With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Tuscany, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Classic Tuscany tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your Italian adventure.
Italy is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Like most European countries, Italy has daylight saving time which lasts from April to September. It moves its clocks ahead an hour in late spring and an hour back in the fall, corresponding roughly to daylight saving time in the United States, but the exact dates vary. When it's noon in Florence, it's 6 a.m. in New York and 3 a.m. in San Francisco.
There are so many beautiful things to bring back with you from Florence and Tuscany, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. You do not need formal clothing for this trip. Some people like to dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants, but this is optional. Some churches may require that you cover your bare shoulders and legs when entering, so it's useful to carry a light scarf with you. Since we'll be walking quite a bit, you should pack your most comfortable walking shoes to bring with you.
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport to enter Italy and the European Union, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends in Florence (you should arrive at and depart from Florence Airport, Peretola (code: FLR).
The tour starts at 3:00PM on Friday, September 11, 2020 in Florence, Italy and your flight should arrive no later than 2:00PM. You'll probably depart North America on Thursday, September 10, 2020. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Florence.
This tour ends on Saturday, September 19, 2020. There will be a group transfer from the Villa Bellpogio (Loro Ciuffenna) to the Florence Airport, Peretola at 8:00AM, arriving at the airport at 9:00AM, so your flight should depart no sooner than 10:30AM. We cannot provide additional airport transfers, but will help you make arrangements for your airport transfer if your flight leaves at a much earlier or much later time. If you are combining the Classic Tuscany tour with the Insider's Rome tour, we will arrange for and cover the cost of transfer from Villa Bellpogio to the hotel in Rome. If you need help with your flights to Italy, please feel free to give us a call.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones), you should drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Italy group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by private local guides and bus drivers, who will accompany the group throughout the tour.
In general, Italy is viewed as a "safe" destination, although problems, of course, can and do occur anywhere. You don't need to get shots; most foods is safe and the water in cities and towns potable. If you're concerned, order bottled water. It is easy to get a prescription filled in towns and cities, and nearly all places throughout Italy have English-speaking doctors at hospitals with well-trained medical staffs. Italy does not offer free medical treatment to visitors. Travelers from Canada and the United States must pay for medical services rendered, but will be reimbursed by their travel insurance. You should pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry prescription medications in their original containers, with pharmacy labels. Otherwise, they may not make it through airport security. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
Thanks to the mountains, clean drinking water is abundant and relatively available across most regions. Drinking water in Italy is cool, safe and readily available everywhere, and in some parts of Italy you can still see people meeting around the local water well. Otherwise, bottled water is readily available from grocery stores, convenience stores and vending machines.
Bars, restaurants, cafes, gas stations, airports, rail stations, and all hotels have facilities, and public toilets can be found near many of the major sights. Usually they're designated as WC (water closet) or DONNE (women) and UOMINI (men). The most confusing designation is SIGNORI (gentlemen) and SIGNORE (ladies). Most toilets are western style, so you may still come across a Turkish style toilet once in a while. Many public toilets charge a small fee or employ an attendant who expects a tip, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you. It's a good idea to carry some tissues in your pocket or purse, as they often come in handy.
Florence is one of Italy's safest cities, but be aware of petty crime like pickpocketing, especially in crowded tourist frequented spots like Ponte Vecchio. The most common menace, especially in large cities, is the plague of pickpockets and roving gangs of Gypsy children who surround you, distract you in all the confusion, and steal your purse or wallet. It is best to leave most of your valuables in your hotel's safe, and carry only a small amount of cash and one credit card in your money belt or money purse around your neck.
Italian travel is as easy for women as it is for men. You may get complimented, whistled at, pinched, prodded, or propositioned, but you’re probably physically safer there than you are at home. You should feel perfectly safe even in big cities, even at night. Of course, it always pays to play it safe and stick to populated streets after dark. One trick that has worked wonders for solo women on the road is the fictional husband, who is always just around the corner where you’re going to meet him in five minutes. It helps to dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention, and wear dark shades to avoid eye contact.
During the Classic Tuscany tour in Italy, we will travel by a private bus and on foot. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 4 miles throughout the day, frequently on uneven surface and cobble stoned streets. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although there are two busy and very full days with an early start and late return to the hotel.
The climate in Tuscany is generally very mild. The sunny days of September may be the best time to visit Tuscany. The temperatures average 72 degrees (F) with low humidity, and there is a 40% chance of rain.
Italy's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Italy's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.
Voltage in Italy is 200 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European plug with two round prongs. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival in Florence's airport. If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Any heat generating appliances that you bring need a transformer, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage. Small electronics which are "meant to travel", such as laptops, tablets, iPhone, etc., have dual voltage, so you only need a plug converter.
Italian, of course, is the language of the land, but English is generally understood at most attractions such as museums, hotels and restaurants that cater to visitors. Even if only a few staff members at a restaurant, for example, speak English, one person almost always does and can be summoned. As you travel in remote towns and villages, it is helpful to know a few basic phrases in Italian.
The Euro, the new single European currency, is the official currency of Italy. Each Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents. Some people like to bring local currency with them when traveling to a foreign country, but it is not needed, and depends on what you're comfortable with. We believe that the easiest way to get local currency is on arrival at the airport ATM. ATMs are common throughout Italy, you'll find them inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations. Before leaving, you should notify your bank/credit company that you will be using your card in a foreign country, so that it doesn't get blocked for suspicious activity. You should have a 4 digit PIN to withdraw cash. Keep in mind that your bank/credit card company will charge you for each withdrawal, so you should withdraw larger amounts of cash less often.
This custom is practiced with flair in Italy, as many people depend on tips for their livelihoods. The tips for restaurants, guides and drivers are included in the cost of your tour. It is customary to tip the chambermaid .50E to 1E per day, the bellhop or porter 1.50E to 2E for carrying your bags to your room.
What to bring home from Florence and Tuscany? Florence is the domain of world-class artisans and the selection of gifts and souvenirs is especially rich here. There are some items that are worth bringing home with you from Tuscany: Tuscan pottery and ceramics, Colle Val d'Elsa glass, alabaster, leather products from Florence, wines (not only the most famous Chianti, but also Montalbano and Chianti Rufina, Montepulciano and Montalcino, Vernaccia and Morellino di Scansano), foods, such as pecorino cheese, panforte and ricciarelli biscuits, as well as the delicious Tuscan oil.