Luca is a very energetic and enthusiastic tour guide. His Engliah is excellent and easy to understand. His knowledge, interest and lore of Tuscany makes the destinations all the more interesting.
He met us in the town center of Lucca, where we were staying. It was not automobile accessible, so he came to our Bed and Breakfast and escorted us to the air-conditioned Mercedes van that was located about three blocks away. He was right on time.
He was both the tour guide and driver. He then picked up the other riders in Lucca and Pisa and drove us on toe San Gimignano. He gave us the correct pronunciation so we could practice it a few times before our arrival. Meanwhile, we would point out sites along the way. We saw the Tower of Pisa from a distance, the olive orchards, vineyards, marble quarries, the Apennines, ruins from the middle ages and explaining some of the histories in the locations that we were driving through. Luca explained the importance of the different types of marble and how green marble was often used in the churches. Today the green looks almost black. The supply of green marble is so rare now, that it is hard to find to mine nowadays.
He provided us with maps of San Gimignano and walked us through the town, pointed out several points of interest, explaining their significance and allowed us about 45 minutes of free time to explore on our own. With the town being relatively small but with a lot of interesting shops and architecture, it proved about the right amount of time. After a 15-minute wait, one of our guests never showed up. Lucca walked back into town and found her. We waited perhaps another 15 minutes. He was very good about handling the situation and not embarrassing the lady nor making much mention as to what occurred.
Our next stop was Siena. What a magnificent town. We opted for the personal tour. A local guide, Michela, who grew up in Siena, gave us a detailed account of the town. He started by taking us into St. Catherines Cathedral. There, he was able to explain to us the significance of the large paintings, the viewing of her head and finger. He did thoroughly explain her history.
We then walked around the town where he pointed out the architecture, its significance, the place where St. Catherine grew up, the neighborhood boundary markers that are still used today, whereby there are about 16 major groups that make up the annual horse racing that each neighborhood sponsors horse and rider. Micheles descriptions made the place come alive at times. We also saw photos of the horse racing in Sienas main plaza.
Michele then gave us free time, about 45 minutes to get back to our van and to grab a bite a lunch. This proved to be exactly the time we needed. We all got back into the van and toured the Tuscan countryside as we headed back toward San Gimignano. We went to a reconverted farm house that now houses an organic winery just across the valley, where you could easily see many of San Gimignanos towers.
The wine and olive oil samplings were served on outdoor tables under needed umbrellas as the sun was out and no clouds visible. It was very relaxing, peaceful. We had plenty of time to stretch our legs, purchase any wine/olive oil that we may have wanted.
Then we had another beautiful drive back to Pisa and Lucca to drop off us passengers. Luca was very attentive, fun to be with, and drove quite well. We had zero white knuckle moments!
The tour, the Mercedes van and Luca made this tour an exceptional value for the money spent. Trying to find places to park and negotiate driving in these towns would be difficult for a person unfamiliar with the region. The tour in small groups may cost a little more, but you get so much more out of it. You are able to ask more questions, hear everything that is going on, have a tour that may be slightly tailored to the groups interest.
Thank you, Luca!