The Best of Tuscany Tour from Florence is a wonderful way to experience the colors and flavors of a beautiful part of Italy. There is no hotel pick up for this excursion. You should make your way to the meeting point at Santa Maria Novella train station, where you will find your English-speaking guide and air-conditioned coach.
On your drive through the Tuscan countryside, your guide will tell you about the day's program and you can watch a video of the Palio horse race. After about an hour, you will arrive in Siena where you can join a walk with a local guide tracing the history of the city. Or if you prefer, you can explore on your own.
Your guide will explain how Siena's prosperity was built on wool and finance in the 12th century. In the Palazzo Salimbeni, you will see the headquarters of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena . Founded in 1472, it is the oldest surviving bank in the world.
You will also visit the Cathedral di Santa Maria, (or 'Duomo'). Richly decorated inside and out, it is a treasury of 13th and 14th century Gothic art. A famous feature is the marble inlaid floor, which took nearly two centuries to complete.
If the Cathedral is closed for special Services, you will visit Santa Maria della Scala hospital instead. This former hospital is a museum complex.
Your guided city tour ends in Piazza del Campo, one of Europe's greatest medieval squares. Twice a year this is fenced off and covered with sand for the celebrated Palio horserace.
You will have time to enjoy a drink (payable direct), at one of the open-air cafes, or to do some shopping. Altogether you spend about one and a half hours in Siena before boarding the coach for your visit to a farm and vineyard in the countryside.
At the farm, you can take an escorted stroll among the vineyards, olive groves and cellars, and enjoy a delicious four-course lunch of Tuscan specialities and wines. Vegetarian and gluten-free diets can be catered for. A wine-tasting class will be held during the lunch. Your meal will include the following:
• Bruschetta with Vernaccia white wine
• Pasta with meat ragout with Chianti red wine
• Salami, ham, pecorino cheese, Tiscan bread and mixed salad with aged red wine
• Almond biscuits with dessert wine
After a delightful hour at the farm, you set off on the next leg of your journey. You will visit the beautiful medieval hilltop village of San Gimignano, just a short distance away and famous for its 14 towers.
You have 1 hour 15 minutes to explore San Gimignano's maze of ancient cobbled streets and learn about its tumultuous history. You can also check out the craft shops and sample some of the best ice-cream in Italy.
Leaving San Gimignano, you will set off across the enchanting Chianti countryside, scattered with hilltop hamlets, churches and castles.
The drive to Pisa takes around 1½ hours. You will see the legendary Leaning Tower, which is actually the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of Pisa's cathedral. If you like, you can climb the Tower. The entrance fee is approximately 15 euros (not included in your tour price).
You can also admire the exteriors of other magnificent medieval buildings in the 'Field of Miracles' close to the Tower, namely the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the monumental Cemetery.
You have an hour in Pisa before boarding your coach for the journey back to Florence. At the end of your delightful tour you will be dropped back at the starting point at Santa Maria Novella train station.