Saturday, February 25, 2012

A driver guide in Tuscany and how to get the best from him.

Part 2. You can find a plate of fettuccini with Genovese pesto sauce at 3:00 in the morning in New York. Don't expect a driver guide in Tuscany to be able to do the same, even if you're in Genoa where the dish comes from. The first thing to bear in mind is; don't assume anything will be open or available on the day you require, even during normal business hours. Museums are often closed on Mondays, and wineries are often closed on Sundays, and some on weekdays too.

My comfortable minivan with AC
I had clients who had booked a Val d'Orcia Tuscan photography tour, for a day in October. They told me well into the tour on a Saturday, that the only reason they had booked the tour, was to visit wineries in Montalcino and do tastings of Brunello. The tour was a disaster! As of October, wineries in the Montalcino area close on Saturdays, and despite my knowledge, I couldn't find anyone willing to open for "just two" customers. If you have a winery, museum, restaurant or shop you really want to visit, ask your driver to check it will be open in advance.

Photo from my Val d'Orcia photography tour
Another common assumption that can put your guide in difficulty, is your perception of time and distance. You've been studying your map of Tuscany at home, and you've decided you'd like to go on a Siena and Chianti Tour then finish your day with a visit to Pisa. Unless you want to spend most of the in the van, and a tour lasting upwards of twelve hours, this isn't advisable. (Some tour companies do offer this type of tour…I don't).

Italy is about the size of Arizona, so compared to the states it's tiny. Tuscany is only a twentieth of Italy, so it's easy to be mislead into thinking it can be seen in a day. However it's still 8,900 square miles, which is much the same as new Jersey. Another mistake that can be made when considering travel times, is assuming there are fast road connections. With few exceptions roads are busy if not very busy, and most of the places you will want to see are on winding country roads. Your driver can probably drive them like the Indianapolis 500, but you won't thank him if he does. Ask your driver to advise you on travel times.

And finally...when proposing a tour, your guide has used his knowledge and experience to give you the best in terms of sites and activities, and he will have optimized times. Read the tour description carefully and ask yourself if you really need to make variations? If you do that's fine, but ask for custom Tuscan tour.

Last minute requests may give your guide problems that he may not be able to deal with on short notice. Give him as much up front information possible, and put him in the condition to give you a great day.

Sergio Ceccherini