Drifter Sister
Small Group Tour of Tuscany

 

 

Africa

Tours to AfricaThis is a thrilling two-week safari to Kenya during the annual migration. Plus, your photos will be amazing because renowned photographer and teacher, Jeff Sink, will be along to help you get stunning photos.

 

We are also offering a 10-day pre-trip that begins in Victoria Falls, and then heads to Botswana for game drives in the Okavango Delta.

 

The 8-day Namibia post-trip treats you to the unique experience of the Sossusvlei desert featuring the famous red, and tallest, sand dunes in the world.

 

Croatia & Montenegro

Tours to Croatia-MontenegroThis small group tour combines one of the latest ‘must see’ destinations, Croatia, with a wonderful little country under most folks’ radar, Montenegro – a hidden gem if there ever was one.

 

We begin our adventure in Dubrovnik, Croatia, as we board our mega-yacht, M/S Splendid, and begin our exciting 7-Day Island Hopping Cruise through Croatia’s Dalmatia Coast

 

Week two is on land, exploring the wonders and mysteries of lovely Montenegro. Transported by deluxe motor coach, we begin our journey by climbing the scenic old mountain road to “Old Montenegro,” and each day a new adventure awaits.

 

 

Cuba

Tour Cuba

If you have been wanting to see Cuba, now is the time to do it, before it becomes spoiled by a rush of American tourists.

 

Come with me… experience the quirky, sometimes unpredictable and chaotic, yet enterprising life of the Cuban people. Witness their spirit and ingenuity. Marvel at what they can do amidst the crumbling infrastructure. Travel the nearly deserted highways through the gorgeous countryside, with cowboys on horseback, and horse-drawn carts interspersed among the classic cars, trucks and buses.

 

This is a Catch the Wind tour you won’t want to miss, especially now, before Cuba changes, and before the onrushing crowds ruin it.

 

 

France

Tours to FranceDuring the two weeks of our small group tour of France, we will discover the beautiful Minervois villages and the fascinating Languedoc region of South France.

 

This tour is a balance of relaxation and discovery. The region is rich in history (primarily Roman Colonization, and the Cathar movement, which provoked the Albigensian Crusade) and wine production.

Greece & Turkey

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Can you imagine two weeks immersed in two of the most exotic and archeologically rich civilizations of the world? You can experience it all on our small group tour of Greece and Turkey.

 

Our tour of Greece will combine conventional cruising with private yachting aboard the 25-cabin Harmony V mega yacht. We will visit the famous islands of Mykonos and Santorini along with many of the smaller, beautiful islands.

 

An optional small group land tour of the Pelloponnese is available for touring classical sites like Olympia, Delphi and Meteora.

 

Our small group tour of Turkey includes the enchanting city of Istanbul, a cruise on the Bosphorus strait, and a visit to the Cappadocia region.

 

Istanbul is a unique city combining Eastern and Western cultures. It is set in an amazingly beautiful location that everyone should visit at least once.

 

Cappadocia is a stunning area of other-worldly rock formations, subterranean churches and underground dwellings.

 

Ireland

Tours to IrelandFor two weeks our small group tour of Ireland will explore the Emerald Isle, escorted in our luxurious and spacious motor coach.

 

We will discover the myriad beautiful, charming and mysterious sights, sounds, and tastes of the Emerald Isle, making a wide circle, primarily around the coast. ‘Must See’ locations, such as Cliffs of Moher, Kilkenny Castle, Ring of Kerry, Killarney, the ‘Quiet Man’ country of Connemara, and more will be interspersed with lesser known local gems, such as Cobh, Doolin, the Aran Island of Inish Mor, and New Grange.

Luxurious Spa

Luxurious SpaOur small group tour of a week of pampering at Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico is an experience you don't want to miss.

 

This family-owned and operated Spa has been in operation since the mid 19th century and is the most relaxing and beautiful place one can imagine. And it’s a great bargain!

Spain

Tours of Andalucia, Spain

This small group tour of Spain is an in-depth exploration of a most treasured region - ANDALUCIA!

 

Rich in Spanish traditions influenced by the ancient Moors, sunshine, olive groves, white pueblo villages, tapas, Sangria... Spain's Andalucia contains all this and more, and we will have two weeks to enjoy it to the fullest!

 

Highlights include three guided tours, a visit and show at the famous Andalucian Equestrian School, and an authentic Flamenco Show at an intimate, locally owned establishment. Two meals are included daily, as well as rental cars, including gas.

 

Lodging will be in Haciendas and hotels, conveniently located within walking distance of historic city centers, shops and attractions. Three 4-night stays help make this an in-depth experience and adventure you don’t want to miss!

 

Let's Go to Tuscany!

Two Villas - One Week in Each

 

May 12-26, 2018

Cinque Terre Extension

May 26-31

 

 

 

Summary

 

Staying in VillasStaying in villas in Tuscany is the least expensive, but one of the most rewarding, travel experience one can have touring Italy. This small group tour of Tuscany is what launched Catch the Wind Tours in 2007, and has been its main stay, introducing many clients to the Drifter Sister travel philosophy (laid back yet organized). A simple concept, we stay one week each in two villas (strategically chosen for convenient day trips throughout central Tuscany), I rent cars, pay for the gas, and off we go, following the carefully crafted itinerary. Five special meals are provided (2 dinners at the villa, 3 lunches), plus breakfast items and evening snacks, but most of your main meals will be lunches on your own while out and about, allowing you to sample the unique and extraordinary Tuscan cuisine (including the requisite daily gelato, of course). Small group tour of TuscanySome enjoy a full-course sit-down feast; others prefer to grab a quick slice of pizza while on the run to the next museum or cathedral, guide book in hand. If you want to cook an evening meal at home, each villa has a fully stocked kitchen, as well, with convenient grocery stores located nearby. And if you prefer to stay back and enjoy the villa and lovely grounds, you are welcome to do so. Most seem to enjoy the camaraderie of the group outings and evenings sipping wine (furnished), noshing on bread and cheese (also furnished), and comparing notes about the fun adventures of the day. This is truly your time, to enjoy as you wish. I provide the means to do it.

 

For our tour of Tuscany, we have two cars holding 4 passengers in one, and 4-5 in the other. Each day we head out to a Tuscan hill town, according to the provided itinerary. Train tickets to Arezzo and Assisi are included, as well as a bus ticket to Siena. Once at a hill town, we review the city map (provided), I point out the ‘must sees’ and a good restaurant or two, and then you are on your own, to visit the museums, cathedrals and Shopping in Siena while on Drifter Sister Catch the Wind Tourother attractions. Some people choose to spend their time hiking to the top of the hill, exploring the little alleyways along the way. Others prefer to shop til they drop. Most combine visiting the churches and museums with a little shopping. The choice is yours. Those who want to eat together meet up at lunchtime, and we all meet again in the early afternoon (usually at the fountain – every hill town has one), to see who wants to go back to the villa, and who wants to stay longer. If you have never been to Europe or traveled much, you can stick with me. If you are a seasoned traveler and know the ropes, so to speak, you can enjoy as much freedom as you wish.

 

The first destination, Borgo Corsignano, is a renovated medieval village in the lovely Casentino Valley, near the hill town of Poppi (about 30 miles north of Arezzo), which sports its very own castle that can be seen from our villa. We stay in two adjacent rustic ‘apartments,’ each with its own large, fully equipped kitchen, dining room, and living room, as well as a comfortable patio. There are no TVs, radios, or telephones. There is wi-fi access in the apartments, however, and there is cell phone reception. From here we can visit the prime hill towns of Arezzo, Assisi, and Cortona, as well Visiit to Ceramics factory near Poppi, Italy while on Drifter Sister Catch the Wind Touras several lesser known gems, such as the Franciscan monastery of La Verna, the nearby village of Stia, and of course our very own castle hill town of Poppi. The nearby ceramics factory is a ‘must’ visit, as well.

 

The second villa is San Giuseppe, near Siena. This is a new building, but it gives the feel of a big, old farmhouse. There are six bedrooms (all with ensuite bathrooms, of course), plus a big, fully (and modernly) equipped kitchen, large dining room, and lovely grounds for enjoying an evening outdoors. There is a TV in each bedroom, and they have recently added wi-fi capability. From here we can visit Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Florence (optional excursion or on your own), the Chianti Country, and Colle val d’Elsa, our closest village, in addition to a couple little gems nearby.

 

If you want to do Tuscany in-depth, up close and personal, this is the small group tour for you.

 

A 5-Day extension to Cinque Terre is offered, including 4 nights in Cinque Terre and 1 night in Pisa. Two meals daily, plus park pass for trails, and all transportation including train and ferry tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Itinerary

 

This itinerary has been well tested and refined over the years. The daily order may change, but the destinations are set. Each evening around 7pm, we will have a little meeting to discuss plans for the next day. At this time, you will receive maps of the suggested hill town, learn about special features and ‘not to be missed’ attractions, as well as suggestions of restaurants for lunch.

 

If you want to go elsewhere (and there are enough cars to accommodate independent travel), Ihla will provide advice for that destination if she can. There are also a few hidden gems not listed, such as the nearby village of Stia, which has a great wool museum and shop, and the ceramics factory a few miles from Corsignano, but time and inclination permitting they will also be fun to visit.

 

 

Day 1 - Arrival and Settling In

 

(Corsignano Apartment)

Villa Borgo Corsignano, Poppi, Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Arrive in Florence, pick up rental cars, and drive to Borgo Corsignano
  • Ihla and volunteers go to COOP to pick up groceries
  • Dinner: LIGHT MEAL FROM THE COOP DELI
  • Early to bed

Day 2 - Special Welcome

 

(Enjoying special meal)

Lunch at Orcello Restaurant in Talla Italy

     

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Relax around villa in the morning (those who wish may go to mass)
  • 11:45 – Leave for ORCELLO RESTAURANT IN TALLA A family owned and operated Ristorante frequented only by locals
  • The meal will be served family style and will last several hours

Day 3 - Short Train Journey to Arezzo

 

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Visit Arezzo by train - (specialty - Gold and Antiques
  • Lunch on your own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 4 - Local Market Day & Poppi Castle

 

(Poppi Castle)

Poppi Castle in Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Visit local market at Ponte Poppi (9-noon)
  • Lunch on your own
  • Afternoon visit Poppi Castle
  • HOME-COOKED DINNER using ingredients found at market

Day 5 - Day together in Cortona

 

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Drive to Cortona (of “Under the Tuscan Sun” fame)
  • SPECIAL LUNCH at Osteria del Teatro, one of Cortona's highest rated restaurants
  • Explore Cortona
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 6 - Full day train journey to Assisi

 

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Visit Assisi via train (included)
  • Full day outing visiting this amazing birthplace of St. Francis, as well as the awesome cathedral containing his tomb
  • Lunch on your own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 7 - Visit to La Verna, Franciscan Monastery

 

(Statue of St. Francis)

St. Francis Statue at La Verna, Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Morning visit to nearby village of Stia
  • Lunch on your own
  • Afternoon visit to Franciscan Monastery of La Verna (some find this the highlight of the trip)
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 8 - Travel Day

 

(San Giuseppe)

Villa San Giuseppe Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Pack up food to take to next villa
  • Drive to our second villa (San Giuseppe), arriving early afternoon
  • Lunch at rest stop on the way
  • SPAGHETTI DINNER ‘at home’

Day 9 - City of Towers, San Gimignano

 

(San Gimignano Piazza)

San Gimignano, Itlay

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Early departure to San Gimignano
  • Taste gelato at Gelataria di Piazza, World Champion several years in a row
  • Find all 13 remaining towers
  • Lunch on your own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 10 - Fun Bus Trip to Siena

 

(Siena's Piazza del
Campo)

Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Visit Siena by bus (included)
  • SPECIAL LUNCH at Ristorante le Campane, one of my favorite restaurants in Tuscany
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 11 - Chianti Country - the drive is the thing

 

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Drive through Chianti Country
  • Visit Castellina in Chianti & Radda
  • Lunch on your own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 12 - Florence Excursion (optional)

 

(Replica of David in
Piazza Signoria)

Replica of David in Piazza Signoria, Florence, Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Meet guide at 9:30am
  • SPECIAL LUNCH at small restaurant off main square
  • Afternoon free to explore Florence
  • At 5pm, meet at bus stop in Florence, arriving home at 7pm
  • Those who choose not to do the excursion will either stay home and explore independently or ride bus to Florence and spend day on their own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 13 - Local Area

 

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Visit Colle Val d’Elsa (specialty crystal) and Monteriggioni or other nearby locations
  • Lunch on your own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 14 - Lovely Drive to Volterra

 

(Roman Amphitheater)

Roman Amphitheater in Volterra, Italy

 

  • Breakfast at Villa
  • Visit Volterra (specialty – Alabaster)
  • Lunch on your own
  • Evening snacks at Villa

Day 15 - Departure Day

 

  • Up very early
  • Breakfast at Villa
  • All leave villa at same time, to arrive at airport 2 hours before flights – this could be very early
  • Drive to Florence airport, turn in cars
  • Fly home

Back to Top

 

Inclusions

 

Included

 

  • 2 Weeks Lodging in Villas (one week each in two separate villas)
  • Rental Cars (including gas) – (4-5 per car)
  • Supply of Breakfast Items, and Fruit, Bread, Cheese & Snacks, (plus a little wine) for evenings; During second week, pasta is provided for meals at home
  • Four Special Group Lunches, plus Farewell Catered Dinner at San Giuseppe
  • Train Tickets to Arezzo and Assisi/Bus Ticket to Siena
  • Logistical Guidance, City Maps

 

Not Included

 

  • Airfare
  • Train and Bus Tickets other than mentioned above
  • Meals other than those listed above
  • Optional Florence Excursion
  • Trip Insurance (Highly Recommended – ~5% of trip cost – Travel Guard available)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

Accommodations

 

Breakfast on the patio, Corsignano while on Catch the Wind tour

WEEK ONE

 

BORGO CORSIGNANO or FATTORIA di CELLI

Ponte Poppi

 

  • Restored Medieval Village
  • Some of the apartments on the grounds are restored originals; the ones we stay in are new, but made to look old to fit in with the others
  • Two Apartments (upstairs/downstairs), 3 Bedrooms each
  • One Additional Apartment, 2 Bedrooms (if needed)
  • Bedrooms contain one queen-sized bed each, with modern, ensuite bathroom
  • Fully Equipped Kitchen, Dining Room and Living Room in each apartment
  • Washing Machine in laundry room near office
  • No Dryer available but there are drying racks for use in apartments
  • Computer in office for guests’ use during office hours
  • Free wi-fi in office and apartments

 

No TVs or Radios

 

 

Borgo Corsignano Apartment, Poppi, ItalyBorgo Corsignano, Poppi, ItalyBorgo Corsignano, Poppi, italyBorgo Corsignano, Poppi, Italy Borgo Corsignano, Poppi, ItalyBorgo Corsignano, Poppi, Italy

WEEK TWO

PODERE SAN GIUSEPPE

Colle valle d’Elsa

 

 

Villa San Giuseppe, Italy

 

  • Large Renovated Farmhouse
  • Six Bedrooms with Ensuite Bathrooms
  • (two on first floor, four on second floor)
  • Beds can be one king, or separated into two twins
  • Fully Equipped, and Modern Kitchen
  • Very nice Laundry Room with Washer and Dryer
  • Additional Service Bathroom on First Floor
  • TV and DVD player, Radio with CD player
  • No telephone, but decent mobile phone reception
  • Wi-Fi connection

 

Adjacent building with two additional bedrooms if needed

 

 

Villa San Giuseppe, ItalyVilla San Giuseppe, ItalyVilla San Giuseppe, ItalyVilla San Giuseppe, ItalyVilla San Giuseppe, ItalyVilla San Giuseppe, Italy

 

 

Price

 

LET’S GO TO TUSCANY

 

$3,300* per person, double occupancy
Single Supplement $900 (limited availability)
(an attempt will be made to pair you with a roommate if you want, but there is no guarantee)

 

DEPOSIT AND FINAL PAYMENT DUE DATES

 

Spring Tour

$500 Deposit due December 5, 2017, or upon sign up after this date

$2,800 Final Payment due March 23, 2018, or upon sign up after this date

 

CINQUE TERRE POST-TRIP EXTENSION

$1,150* per person, double occupancy

Single Supplement $350

 

Includes:

  • 4 Nights in Monterosso, Cinque Terre
  • 4 Breakfasts & 4 Dinners in Cinque Terre
  • 3-Day Train/Park Pass for Cinque Terre
  • Ferry to Porto Venere
  • 1 Night in Pisa (Hotel near train station – 15 minute walk to Tower, etc.)
  • 1 Dinner in Pisa, plus one breakfast at hotel
  • Train Fare from Pisa to Cinque Terre and return

__________________________

 

*All prices are based on a currency rate of euro 1.2 or less. If it goes above this rate, the price of the trip may go up.

 

Cancellation Policy: If you must cancel 120 days prior to departure (for any reason), you will receive 100% refund of any monies you have paid to Drifter Sister, less any prepaid nonrefundable purchases made by Drifter Sister. If a cancellation occurs between 119 and 75 days prior to departure, you will receive a 75% refund of any monies you have paid to Drifter Sister, less any prepaid, non-refundable purchases made by Drifter Sister. In the case of a cancellation after 75 days prior to departure, a 50% refund of monies paid to Drifter Sister, less any prepaid, non-refundable purchases made by Drifter Sister, will be allowed only if the trip is full and a replacement can be found for you. Otherwise there will be no refund.

 

 

How to Book

 

How To Book

 

  • After assuring there is room on the tour, secure your spot by sending $100 Good Faith check (made out to Drifter Sister) to:

 

Drifter Sister
P.O. Box 60042
Boulder City, NV    89006


OR

 

Pay through PayPal

 

(For your convenience we offer this credit card payment option. There is no fee for the Good Faith Deposit. However, for the Trip Deposit and Final Payment, we must include a 3% fee.)

 

Select Payment Type

 

  • When the Good Faith deposit is received, sign-up paperwork will be sent to you.
  • Deposit for this trip is $500, and is due by Dec 5, 2017, or upon sign-up after these dates.
  • Final payment of $2,800 will be due March 23, 2018. A separate invoice will be sent to you for this payment (adjusted for Early Bird Discount if applicable).
  • Payments can be made by PayPal (see above). To avoid a fee, however, you may prefer to make your payments by check made out to Drifter Sister.

 

NOTE: Your Good Faith deposit is applied to the cost of the trip, and is fully refundable if you must cancel for any reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAQ

 


 

 

GENERAL QUESTIONS

 

Q. Are there physical limitations for this trip?

A. You should consider this a moderately physical tour. Active adults of all ages are welcome. You will need to be able to get on and off trains, take care of your own luggage, and walk a lot. Hill towns of Tuscany are just that – hill towns, and parking is often at the BOTTOM of the hill. There is a lot of going up and down stairs, both in the hill towns and at the villas. The train stations have a LOT of steps. Some accommodation can be made for those with less stamina, such as dropping you off at the top of a hill before parking, and there are 'lifts' at most of the train stations (but not all, and they are not always working). If you feel you might be somewhat limited, give me a call and we'll assess your situation.  I am sorry, but I cannot accommodate wheelchair-bound clients.

Q. Is there a limitation on luggage?

A. I strongly ask that you not bring large pieces of luggage. I cannot emphasize this enough. People that bring too much or too-large luggage suffer and, probably more importantly, so do their fellow travelers. I get small rental cars – for two reasons. First, they’re cheaper, which helps to keep the price of the trip reasonable. Second, and probably more importantly, driving small cars in Italy is more convenient and, believe it or not, safer, as you negotiate those narrow roads and small parking spaces.

Q. What is a reasonable size for luggage?

A. One medium-sized bag (26" or smaller) and one small carry-on per person is reasonable. As you pack, remember that nothing fancy is planned. One nice-casual outfit for evening dinners is appropriate, but t’s and jeans (or equivalent) are fine for daytime outings. There is a washing machine at each villa, so one week’s worth of undies and coordinated attire should suffice. If you are a couple, each should have his/her own medium-sized piece of luggage, instead of sharing one big one.

Q. What is the dress code for this trip?

A. We will not be doing anything fancy, so casual is fine. Jeans or equivalent and casual tops or T-shirts are fine. However one or two nicer casual outfit(s) is appropriate for evening and special meals. One of the reasons for going to Tuscany is to visit the churches, so keep in mind that most churches do not allow sleeveless tops or shorts.

Q. What will the weather be like?

A. We can expect chilly evenings both in May and September, getting a little warmer toward the end in May, and chillier toward the end in September. I suggest at least a light jacket, and an umbrella or raincoat. The following is provided as a guideline.

- Florence (Tuscany)

   Average May/Sept: hi 74/70, low 52/59, Precipitation: 2.9 inches

- Cinque Terre

    Average May/Sept: hi 70/76, low 60/59, Precipitation: .7/1.2 inches

Q. Do we need airline tickets?

A. No. But remember to bring your flight e-ticket documentation to the airport with you, and keep it with you the entire trip. You will need it to do your initial check in, both coming and going. You should be able to log on to the airline web sites to print your boarding passes in advance if you like (within 24 hours of the flight). Don’t be alarmed, though, if it won’t let you print your boarding pass; often international flights must be done in person at the airport. You may also call the airline and give them your frequent flyer number to ensure you receive credit for your miles. Or be sure to have your frequent flyer number with you and do it at the airport upon arrival. Also, be sure to check your luggage all the way to your final destination.

Q. Do you have any recommendations for reading prior to going on the tour?

A. I will bring many books for everyone’s reference use, however Florence & Tuscany in the DK Eyewitness Travel series is excellent, and seems to be helpful to those who bring a copy with them. I will have one for all to share, but you may want your own. Although I provide city maps for most of the towns we visit, Rick Steves has some nice walking tours you might look into as well.

-   Although I will furnish pocket-sized Italian Language dictionaries, you might consider getting a copy of Say It Right in Italian. It is very important to show an attempt to speak the language, and it is even more important to pronounce the words correctly. This little book helps simplify this process. One way to purchase this book is to go to my website, www.driftersister.com, where there is a link to MacGraw-Hill in the article Learn a Little Language.

-   I highly recommend you read Alice Maye’s Under The Tuscan Sun. It will give you a wonderful feel for Italy.

 

VILLAS

 

Q. Can we prepare our own meals at the villas?

A. Yes. There are fully equipped kitchens at each villa, and convenient grocery stores nearby.

Q. Do we all have our own bathroom?

A. Yes. The bathrooms are en suite (each bedroom has its own bathroom).

Q. Are the beds twins or doubles?

A. In Corsignano (first week), each bedroom has one large bed (~ queen). In San Giuseppe (second week) you will have a choice between one large or two twins.

Q. Do we need to bring our own bedding, towels, etc.?

A. No. Bedding and towels are furnished by the villa. However, wash cloths are not provided. They are rarely provided in Italy. (Tip: consider cutting up an old towel into wash cloth sized squares. Bring a supply along, use one for a few days and then throw it out. Your luggage will get lighter each time, and you won’t have to worry about carting a damp wash cloth from place to place.)

Q. Do we need to bring our own laundry and hand soap?

A. Laundry soap is provided (they like a certain type to be used in their machines). Small hand/body soap is provided. You may want to bring a bar, or several small bars. (Tip: save the last little bits of your big bars during the year, and keep them to bring along on trips.)

Q. Are there clothes washing facilities at the villas?

A. Yes. At Corsignano there is a small laundry room near the office with two washing machines (one coin-operated, and one free (slower)), an iron and board. No dryer, but there are drying racks that work quite well. Not many people staying at the villa seem to use this room, so we can usually snag a washer. San Giuseppe has a very nice laundry room equipped with both washer and dryer, ironing board, etc.

Q. Are there hair dryers at the villas?

A. No at Corsignano. Yes at San Giuseppe. You will need to bring your own hair dryer.

Q. Is there daily maid service at the villas?

A. No.

Q. What about TP. I've heard the quality in Europe is not good.

A. Their TP is just like ours now.

Q. Will TP be provided?

A. Yes. Some is provided by the villa to get us started. I replenish as needed.

 

ELECTRONICS

 

Q. Is wi-fi available at the villas?

A. Yes.

Q. Is there a computer available at the villas?

A. There is a computer in the office at Corsignano for guests' use for emails, etc. during office hours (9-noon, and 3-6pm). San Giuseppe does not have a computer (however they have wi-fi). 

Q. Are electrical outlets different in Italy?

A. Yes. You will need to bring an adaptor for Western Europe. This can be picked up at most luggage stores, and K-Mart or Wal Mart, or ordered on line through TravelSmith.com or Magellan.com. You can get some practical advice from my website, www.driftersister.com and the website www.enjoy-europe.com. This is an excellent site. In addition to “Electricity in Europe,” check it out for articles on “Riding the Rails & Waves,” “What to Wear,” Driving the Roads in Europe,” “Communicating as You Travel,” and more. Converters will not be necessary for your electronic gadgets, however if you are bringing an American hair dryer and/or curling iron you will need a converter.

Q. Are there TVs?

A. Not at Corsignano. However there is a small wall-mounted TV in each bedroom at San Giuseppe, as well as a large one in the sitting room.

 

RENTAL CARS & DRIVING ARRANGEMENTS

 

Q. How does the rental car arrangement work?

A. We will have two rental cars. I can only rent one in my name. We will therefore need one person who is willing to put the other car in his or her name.

Q. Can more than one person drive each car?

A. I pay for one driver per car, and reimburse that person's IDP costs. One other person can be put on the contract as additional driver (at an additional cost (not included). The rental car company will need both principle and secondary drivers’ passport and IDP or driver’s license at time of pickup.

Q. Is an International Drivers Permit (IDP) mandatory?

A. No. However, it is highly recommended. It does not replace your U.S. driver’s license, but is merely a translation of your U.S. driver’s license into Italian. You get it from a AAA office (you don’t have to be a member), at a cost of about $35 or so, $25 for members, and less if you already have an extra passport-type picture. Otherwise AAA will take one for you. The main reason to have an IDP is in case you have a mishap in a remote location where they do not speak much, if any, English. Another good use for an IDP is as an additional piece of ID for times when you must leave an ID (for audio guides in a museum or church self-tour, for instance) and would rather not hand over your real driver’s license or passport.

Q. Can everyone drive if they want?

A. No. Only the person(s) on the contract for that car. If you have a desire to drive, and are not a primary or secondary driver, we can put you on one of the contracts. You will need to provide your own IDP, and pay the cost of an additional driver.

Q. How does insurance work for the rental cars?

A. Italian law requires rental car companies to provide collision and theft insurance, so the rental car rates are higher in Italy than other places in Europe that do not require this. The rental car contract for the second car will have a 0 deductible insurance policy.

 

SIGHTSEEING DESTINATIONS, MEALS, & LOGISTICS

 

Q. How far will we have to drive to the sightseeing locations?

A. Other than the town in which each villa resides (both hill towns), most of the daily outing destinations will be between 30 minutes and an hour away. And in some cases, the journey might take up to two hours. The train ride to Assisi is a couple of hours by train, albeit very pleasant ones. The drive through Chianti country takes a full day – but in this case ‘the drive is the thing’ because the landscape is so beautiful. A few of our day trips, therefore, are just that. You may leave at 7 in the morning and not get back until 7 at night. There are also several fine towns to visit within the vicinity of the villas that can be done in half a day. It seems to work best if we alternate full and half-day trips.

Q. What if I don't want to go to a particular hill town?

A. I provide an itinerary that will be followed in almost all cases. If you wish to go a different way I will need to know in advance, and will provide advice about the feasibility. Arrangements to go by bus or train can usually be arranged. And there is nothing to say you must cram sightseeing into every last minute you are there. The grounds of the villas are beautiful and peaceful. Some plain-old R&R at the villa might be your pasttime of choice.

Q. What type of food will be served in restaurants?

A.-  Italian, Italian, Italian. There are very few ethnic restaurants. However, it is not just pasta. Chicken, pork, and beef main courses (secondi) are usually on the menu, as well. There are also options for vegetarians.

   -  Salads are more prevalent now than they were in 1998, when I was first there. However, they are not automatically served with a meal. And you are not asked what dressing you prefer. It will come plain, with oil and vinegar on the table to be applied to your liking.

Q. How much will the meals that I have to furnish myself cost? 

A. A lunch in a nice restaurant will cost ~ 30 to 40 Euros for 2, and will include a pasta and main course, or side dish and main coourse, and ½ liter of wine.  It will be less if you do not have the wine, of course, or only have one or two courses.  Full dinners will be 10-20 Euro more. Pizzerie, trattorie, osterie, and rosticcerie are cheaper. For instance, you can get a nice size pizza, good for one person, for 6-8 Euro. Italy for Dummies says: “You can generally count on all of these having traditional fare served in simple surroundings. Pizzerie specialize in pizza; trattorie and osterie are casual, family-run restaurants serving full, hearty meals at relatively inexpensive prices; and rosticcerie are cafeterias with pre-prepared hot dishes, and roasting chickens in the window.” There are also places that serve sandwiches, sort of deli-style, which have little counters where you can stand and have a quick snack or meal.

- A table & bread charge (listed as coperto on the bill) will often be added to the bill, ranging between 1 and 3 Euros. It’s like a cover charge.

Q. Do you have any advice on how to save money on meals?

A. One way to save is to eat at a bar. To the Italians, a ‘bar’ is a place to have a quick espresso and possibly a pastry – if you stand it will cost less than if you sit at a table.

     - Caution: In many tourist locales, it will cost you more to eat outside than inside a restaurant.

     - One common mistake is to look at a menu and say, “Wow, this looks cheap. You can get spaghetti for just $7.”  But you soon learn that meals are served a’la carte. That listing for pasta will be a small portion, as it is considered just one of many courses, usually listed as a primi, or first course. The main course is called secondi, and a side dish (a vegetable, for instance, or salad) is called a contorno. Desert is dolci. You can order as many or few courses as you like.

Q. What hours do I need to look out for? For instance, do the Italians take a siesta mid-day like some other countries?

A. Yes. The Italians go home mid-day for lunch. Most restaurants, many attractions, and shops close mid-day (between ~1:00 and 3-4:00pm). And restaurants close between 2:00 and 7:00pm. So you need to be mindful of this and plan your day strategically. My suggestion is to arrive at a destination early morning, check out the shops and attractions, find a restaurant around 1pm (they stop seating by 1:30 or 1:45, and actually close at 2pm, but they will stay until everyone has finished their meal). You might find a pizza or sandwich place that stays open all day, but if you miss this 2pm cutoff time, you will not find an actual sit-down restaurant open again until 7pm, or later. After your lunch, you can visit more attractions and window shop until the shops open again at around 4pm.

 

MONEY

 

Q. I heard that credit cards are not always accepted and that we should bring debit cards for the ATM machine.

A. I have never had (or known anyone who has had) a problem using their Visa card. I’ve noticed some merchants will not take American Express, though (Discover might be a problem, as well), but usually Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere. You will need some cash (euros) while there, and it is best to use your ATM cards to withdraw from the ATM machines. Remember to check that it is has a 4-digit pin number. Foreign ATMs won’t accept more than 4 digits.

Q. Should I get euros before I leave?

A. That’s up to you. If it’s convenient, through your bank, perhaps you might want to do so. But it’s not necessary, and I wouldn’t recommend it because there are usually fees involved. There are several ATM machines in Cinque Terre, and in our first little town, 5 minutes from the villa.

Q. How can I get euros while there?

A. ATM’s are everywhere, so you should have a debit card that enables you to withdraw funds

-   Know your network

-   Cirrus (Master Card) and Plus (Visa) are the most common. There is a Plus ATM location in Ponte Poppi, near our villa, which is very convenient. In fact, there are several.

-   Make sure your checking account has enough funds in it to cover your anticipated withdrawals, just in case. The ATM’s don’t give you a choice of checking or savings, and they don’t transfer funds.

-  Check your daily withdrawal limit before you go so you will know how much you can take out in a day.

-   Check for fees imposed (so you won’t have any surprises). My credit union charges a 1% International transaction fee, banks may charge more. The ATM’s charge as well.

-   European ATMs accept only 4-digit pin numbers (no letters).  If yours has more than that, be sure you get it changed before you go.

-   This is very important. Let your bank and credit card company know you are going. Otherwise, they may put a hold on your card and/or not allow your purchases.

NOTE: Please think of how you will be dealing with this before you leave. Although Drifter Sister usually has extra euros to 'front' you until you get to an ATM machine, she is not responsible to provide them for you during the entire trip.

Q. What can I expect to spend?

A. The Euro is worth more than the U.S. dollar, but as of December 2016, the exchange is favorable, at less than 10% higher. However, this could change at any time. Over the past 10 years I have been going to Europe, the euro has fluctuated based on the economic climate, and has been anywhere from 20% to 50% higher than the U.S. Dollar.

Q. What is paid for?

A. As delineated in the itinerary,

- Your breakfasts and some snacks will be furnished at the villa.

- I will pay for three group lunches, and three dinners during the two weeks at the villa, including a catered Farewell Dinner the final night. If you choose not to eat with the group for the special lunches, you will bring me the receipt for your meal and I will reimburse you the actual amount, up to 20 Euro/person. Other than the four special group lunches called out in the itinerary, you will be expected to pay for your lunches.

- Those going on the Florence excursion will also have lunch paid for that day.

- Gas for the rental cars will be furnished. If you are out and about and need gas, go ahead and pay for it and then give me the receipt so I can reimburse you. Gas stations are not open all the time. When not open, they have self-serve accommodations, but you can’t get a receipt. So think ahead. I will not reimburse without a receipt unless it was in an emergency situation.

- Those going on the Cinque Terre extension will have breakfast and dinner each day, and all transportation paid for.

- Train tickets to Assisi and Arezzo, and bus ticket to Siena and Florence, are included

- Any time I pay for something, such as a bus or train ticket, meal, or whatever, please save the receipt or ticket and give it to me for my records. It is my only proof that I paid for it.

Q. What will you need to pay for?

A.-   Meals other than those listed in the Itinerary.  You will need to provide one major meal most days.  I suggest a lunch while out and about as opposed to waiting for dinner, because lunches are cheaper.  Keep in mind that most restaurants close at 2pm, and don’t open again til 7pm.

-   Train or bus tickets, and taxi rides you choose to take. Relatively short train rides will cost 5-20 Euro. Long rides (to Rome, or Venice, perhaps) will cost 50-100 Euro or more.

-   Alcoholic and other beverages not listed in the itinerary

-   Museum and other attraction tickets

-   Gelato and Souvenirs – that’s up to you

Q. What is the tipping etiquette in Italy?

A.-   Restaurants

-   If you see the term servicio incluso on the menu, or an item entitled servicio on the bill, it means the tip is included in your bill. This is a common practice, and is usually no more than 10%.  No more is needed, but if it is really good service, you might leave an additional Euro or two on the table. If the tip is not included, 10% is an acceptable amount. Waiters are paid a reasonable wage and do not rely on tips the way they do in the U.S.

-   Another common practice is the ‘bread’ or ‘table’ charge (called coperto or pane e coperto).  It’s like a cover charge. Before you even order, 1-3 Euro is put on your bill. This is irritating, but let’s not complain and be ‘ugly Americans’ about it.  It is especially prevalent in the nicer restaurants.

-  For baggage handling:  A tip of 1 Euro per bag

-  Taxis: Just round up the fare

 

COMMUNICATING WITH THE HOME FRONT

 

Q. Is there a phone at the villas?

A. No.

Q. How can we get in touch with friends/relatives at home?

A.- You can use your mobile or SmartPhone. (You will need to talk to your carrier about coverage and charges while in Italy.) If you have an iPad, you can use Skype.

- I have an iPad, which can be used for emails, and you are welcome to use it when I am not.

- I have Skype on the iPad, too, which allows free calls to others who also have Skype. You can also use my Skype to make safe arrival and/or emergency calls.

NOTE: Please be advised that if you have important business to conduct while on this tour, it is your responsibility to make arrangements for communications.

 

Finally, please read the following Thoughts and Considerations before you Decide

 

SOME THOUGHTS & CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE YOU DECIDE

 

This is NOT a tour, in that every minute of every day is planned out for you. An itinerary is provided, which has been developed over the last several years in which I have lead numerous trips to the area. We all go to the same hill town, but once there, you are not required to stay with the group. Using the map provided and advice received the previous evening, people usually spread out and 'do their own thing.' Those wishing to eat together meet up at noon or 1:00, and then, after lunch, we determine a time to meet that afternoon to find out who wishes to leave and who wishes to stay longer. Most are ready around 4pm, so time can be spent relaxing at the villas. Once in awhile, a couple or little group wishes to head out to a different location than called out on the itinerary. There is no guarantee, but most of the time train and bus arrangements can be made to accommodate this, and you will be dropped off at the station as the rest of the group is departing for the day, and picked up at the end of the day. Some may even want to hang out at the villas – they are very beautiful and relaxing, each with a nice pool, and the countryside is conducive to long, leisurely walks.

 

Keep in mind, we need people that are physically fit and mobile, can get on and off trains, take care of their own luggage, and walk a lot, plus 1 or 2 besides Ihla who can drive the (manual transmission) rental cars, and put them in their names. Hill towns of Tuscany are just that – hill towns, and parking is often at the BOTTOM of the hill. The train stations have a LOT of steps. Some of the places to visit are nearby, and some take a couple of hours to get to. Most are less than an hour’s drive, but Assisi, for instance, is a 2 hour train ride. When a trip is described as a day trip, it could mean 7am to 7pm, including a 1-hour drive time, or 2-hour train ride each way.

 

Corsignano is not a fancy place. It is a converted medieval village, after all. It is, however, very comfortable, with BIG tables for group meals, and decent beds. Each bedroom has its own bathroom. Each room has one queen-sized bed. The plumbing is modern. There are large kitchens for making meals ‘at home’ to save money.  San Giuseppe is more modern, but also has the ambience of a country villa.

 

If you are traveling as a single, you can be matched up with a single of the same sex. All beds at Corsignano are queens, however. If you prefer to have your own bedroom, a single supplement will be charged, and only on a limited basis.

 

I have maps, English/Italian dictionaries, Italian driving rules/signs, and so on. If you have never been to Italy or done much traveling, don’t worry, I will take care of you. If you are a seasoned traveler and wish to be more or less left alone, that’s no problem, either. The only thing I hope for is a group of flexible, sociable individuals that can adapt to changes or glitches, turn them into adventures, and have a good time together. No matter how hard we try, one thing is certain: no trip is ever perfect. But I will do the best I can to make any bumps we encounter as smooth as possible.

 

Due to the small size of the rental cars, it is extremely important to limit the amount of luggage you bring on this trip. One medium bag (maximum 26") and one small carry-on is all that is allowed. If you bring too much it will not just be hard on you. More importantly, you will be impacting your fellow travelers. You will get sick of me saying this, but it is really important for the enjoyment of all. There is a laundry room at each villa.

 

Back to the Top

 

Photos

View of Poppi from Villa

 

Statue of David on Florence Tour

 

Volterra Amphitheater

 

Testimonials

 

2013

 

"The trip was well organized and planned. The villas were more than I expected and the food/restaurants were consistently good... felt like the Italy I had wanted to experience." - Sonja B.

 

"For anyone who wants to experience a true Tuscany tour this is the one for you! Great villas as a home base, easy pacing with a lot to see and not just the well known places. Ihla is up on some lesser known gems like La Verna." - Tom G. and Bob R.

 

"A great way to visit this area in depth without a lot of hassle. Your day is planned without feeling like a herd of sheep." - Tom G. and Bob R. (Cinque Terre Extension)

 

"I think it was a great trip.  I would recommend it to anyone... You did a great job dealing with all of us." - Josephine R.

 

"Ihla is supremely organized and flexible. You'll have many options, all of them good.  Plus she certainly knows how to be sure her guests have fun." - Ellen Shea (Cinque Terre Extension)

 

"Being on Ihla's planned trips is like wrapping oneself in bubble wrap and arriving safely to the destination." - Myrna H.

 

2012

 

"Before this trip, I was apprehensive about a tour with such a small group. Ihla's demeanor made me lose those thoughts from day one. If you enjoy good food, wine, fun times and making new friends, you'll enjoy this intimate touring experience." - Diane R.

 

"Trip was low keyed and relaxing. Lots of time on our own." - Sharon K.

 

 

 

"Ihla shares her love of Tuscany in a way that makes you love it too." - Cheryl L.

 

"My wife and I joined Ihla on a spring Drifter Sister trip to Tuscany.  It was my first experience traveling with a led tour group.  The trip met and exceeded my expectations.  We had the opportunity to visit numerous hill towns that allowed one to compare how past civilizations built their structures and lived their lives.  The group also had the opportunity to live like the locals by staying in home-like villas and dining in eateries that aren't catering primarily to visitors.  Not only did we eat in local restaurants, we sat down and spent time chatting amongst ourselves and eating at a leisurely pace as opposed to grabbing a bite and heading out to the next item on a list of must-sees.  This relaxed pace was a new way of traveling for me and I found it very rewarding and satisfying." - Mark L.

 

"Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy Cinque Terre with Ihla. She provides an authentic Italian experience. ... Ihla's tour is tops." - Diane R.

 

2011

 

“It was a wonderful trip. I enjoyed all of the places we visited.” – LueAnn A.

 

2009

 

“Well planned and coordinated. Tour leader was well organized and met the needs of the individuals who varied in interests and physical abilities.” – Phyllis V.

 

“The great thing about the Tuscany trip … is that it’s great for the seasoned traveler and first timer alike – I did feel secure all the time.” – Shirley N.

  

Drifter Sister Catch the Wind Tours client“Ihla exceeded all expectations. She lead us to areas totally unknown to tourists. The ‘snacks & breakfasts’ wanted for nothing. Lots of surprise gourmet treats. She was always there for any questions and when we were on our own in villages and cities, she always seemed to know where we were! And if we were unsure of ourselves she was always willing to accompany us. She was always loaded with ideas. I can highly recommend her trip to all ages.” – JoAnn H.   

 

“You … made this trip a dream come true.” – Rosemarie I.

 

“A must see experience! The setting, church bells, roof top garden, interesting villages.” – Phyllis V. (Cinque Terre Extension)

 

2008

 

“A refreshing adventure!” – Philip E.

 

Drifter Sister Catch the Wind Tours clients“A wonderful adventure in small towns with kind merchants. Escape in trails of park or relax by the sea sipping local wines. A great value for the experience.” – Peggy & Phil E. (Cinque Terre Extension)

 

“A beautiful experience I didn’t know existed.” – Terry R.

 

 

2007

 

“… a beautifully executed trip with the perfect mix of structure and freedom.” – Margaret K.

 

Drifter Sister Catch the Wind Tours client“The whole adventure went like clockwork… You can see and do as much or as little as you want. The villa … and scenery were outstanding.” – Jennifer S.

 

 

“… a unique blend of independent travel and guided tour. It was a wonderful trip. Thank you, Ihla.” – Phyllis B.

 

“An amazing adventure.” – Jeff F.

 

“Obviously this trip was carefully planned and executed. It brought to us a wonderful experience that would be difficult to find anywhere else.” – Terry J.