The absolute best day trip that we took while in Europe for our 24-day honeymoon was a day trip to Tuscany from Florence. This excursion took the entire day, about 12 hours, but it was absolutely packed with fun stuff and we loved it. Plus our tour guide, Lavi, from Walkabout Tours, was absolutely wonderful. She provided the perfect mix of interesting information while we were riding on the bus, but also knew when to let people nap. And we were able to have a lot of free time in each stop rather than following a guide around when we wanted to be off exploring on our own.
Meeting Place: The tour lined up right out front of the Santa Maria Novella train station, an easy walk from any hotel in downtown Florence. Both of our tours met at the Santa Maria train station, so it’s a great idea to stay somewhere close like we did. We stayed at the C-Hotels in Florence which is about the closest you can get to the train station at 1-block away.
Stop 1 – Siena: We boarded the bus and had just about an hour drive to our first stop. While we drove, our tour guide told us lots of interesting things about the City of Florence and pointed out interesting things like the city walls that are still standing. She also told us all about the Palio de Siena, an annual horse race held by the City of Siena that is like no other horse race in the world. It was so interesting to hear about the different neighborhoods of the city and how each neighborhood is named after a different animal. We also learned that the horse race is held in the center of the city with huge crowds, which is hard to imagine when we stood in this space later during our trip.
After arriving just outside the center of the city of Siena, we had a short 10 minute walk to the city center. The streets are very narrow which is why the buses park a ways away and people need to walk. I should stress that this happened in each stop, so people who take this tour should wear walking shoes and while the walks aren’t too strenuous, it’s a great way to get your steps in for the day (our step counter was just under 23,000 for the day!).
In Siena, most of the group chose to follow the tour guide and tour a church museum right next to the Duomo di Siena. My husband and I elected to skip this tour and started our free time early. After visiting the beautiful church with it’s gorgeous tower of striped black and white marble, we wandered the streets of Siena. After the entire group enjoyed some free time, our group met back up underneath the clock tower in the main piazza (where the horse race is held) and headed out for our next stop.
Stop 2 – Tuscany Vineyard: Our next drive was probably about an hour and 15 minutes, although the scenery was so beautiful, you honestly don’t really notice. After winding our way through the Tuscan countrywide, we found ourselves at an organic vineyard where we were given a tour of the farm and served a homemade traditional Tuscan lunch with a wine tasting of 4 different wines.
For lunch we were served locally cured meats and cheeses, a garden salad, homemade pasta, and got to try biscotti and dessert wine. The dinner was really nice. And after enjoying our meal, our awesome tour guide took some great pictures of us on the balcony with the city of San Gimignano and the Tuscan countryside in the background.
Stop 3 – San Gimignano: The drive from the vineyard to San GImignano couldn’t have taken much more than 20 or so minutes. During the drive our tour guide, Lavi, made lots of helpful suggestions about ways to spend your time in “San-G”.
The actual city made a huge impression on me that I wasn’t expecting because San-G just wasn’t on my radar. I was mesmerized by the view of it sitting on it’s hilltop with all the towers and the wall surrounding it. And really and truly feels like you are walking back in time just as soon as you enter through the main gate.No matter what you decide to do in San-G, I highly recommend walking down the main street until you come to the public square. I really and truly felt like I was back in the middle ages.
We used our hour of free time in San Gimignano to wander around, we went to the city park (Rocca di Montestaffoli) which just past the main square and then you follow the street to the left. After taking some pictures we got gelato from Gelateria Dondoli, an award winning gelato restaurant which had a long line. After buying our snack, we wandered in and out of souvenir shops on our way back out of the city where we had to meet our bus.
Stop 4 – Pisa: After leaving San-G, we had about an hour and a half drive to Pisa which our tour guide let us use for napping. It was nice and quiet on the bus and she very kindly woke everyone up just before we arrived in Pisa.
Again in Pisa, we had to park the bus and walk a bit of a ways to get to the actual site of Pisa. If you want to climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa, you have to book those tickets when you book the tour. If you book through Viator like we did, it’s an option that you can add to the tour. I highly recommend it. It’s very noticeable that the tower is leaning as you climb it. We didn’t really have any issues, but I can see how people with vertigo/balance problems might have trouble with it.
Pisa! It really leans! I actually thought the entire space was beautiful. There was just something about the white buildings against the green grass and the blue sky. It was beautiful.
After spending our free time at Pisa, we met up with the tour group to walk back to the bus. Another memorable thing about Pisa was the pickpockets. Our guide, Lavi, was wonderful at pointing them out and telling the people in our tour exactly what to look for. No one ended up getting pick-pocketed thanks to Lavi’s care.
Return Home: After Pisa we had a short 1-hour drive back to the City of Florence, arriving right at about 12 hours after we started.
All in all we had a wonderful day and would highly recommend this trip to anyone interested!
Pro tip: If you book through www.Viator.com early enough, you can generally get a discount on the tour! 🙂