The Big Deal about a Small Group
Some people may be asking themselves: What's the big deal about being in a small group?
When touring Tuscany, there are many differences between being in a small group and a large tour. The most important difference is access!
With the exception of city buses, the city of Florence has restricted access to large buses in the city center to reduce traffic and pollution. Furthermore, most small villages in Tuscany have restricted large bus access for the same reason and there's simply no room for a large bus in their city centers. This makes a HUGE difference in how tour groups access the city. For example: If one stands outside the hotel chosen for Sprezzatura, one will see waves and waves of large group tours walking into the city center because their bus was forced to drop them off at a designated place outside the city center about half a mile from the hotel. The total distance these groups will walk to reach the city center is about 1 mile. When one adds that distance to all the other walking those groups will do in the day, that's quite a bit of walking by the day's end. Another example: Montepulciano is a wonderful medieval town built on a very steep hill. Because large tour buses are not permitted in the city, large groups are dropped off at the bottom of the hill and forced to walk up that steep hill to tour the city. Whereas, our small Mercedes Minivan is permitted to enter the city limits and drop us off at the top of the hill for a casual meander to the bottom. This principal also applies to Siena, San Gimignano and Montalcino.
Also, small groups have access to more wineries and agriturismos. Several of the smaller agritourismos that were on last year's itinerary were on narrow, curving roads that a large tour bus wouldn't have been able to navigate. We get to walk in the vineyards and actually touch the grapes! Even the only large, very well known, corporate owned winery we toured last spring only accepted groups of 15 or less for tours - and this is a growing trend.
Tuscany is a one of kind location and large group tours just don't do it justice. I hope you will join me. Ci vediamo in Tuscany!