We have put together some “tips” to better ensure your comfort and enjoyment of Tuscany. We hope you find these suggestions useful.
Private Guides Insider Travel Tips
Dress—Daytime: comfortable shoes (you will be walking on cobblestone streets) and layered clothing work well for touring. Remember that you will not be allowed to enter churches in sleeveless or off-the-shoulder attire. Evening: Restaurants are generally casual… khakis and collared shirts for men and slacks, skirts, or dresses for women. If we have booked you into a restaurant that is more formal and in which gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie, we will be sure to inform you.
Tipping—Check your restaurant bills closely as there is usually a tip or cover (“coperto”) charge or service already listed on the bill. No extra tip is required in this case. Otherwise, 15% is customary. As for your guide, a 10-20% gratuity is customary, depending upon your satisfaction.
Taxis—In Florence, it is not possible to “wave down” a taxi; rather, you must find a taxi stand or have any hotel, shop or restaurant phone for one. There are taxi stands conveniently located near large piazzas, and “radio taxis” arrive in minutes. Tipping in taxis is not necessary, but a small offering is always appreciated. Please note: Taxis are more expensive at night than during the day.
Coffee/Wine Bars—Be aware that you will pay extra to sit down at any of these places. Most Italians, you will notice, stand at the bars to drink their coffees or wines.
Money Exchange—We have found that the best rates for currency exchange are at the ATMs. These are easily found both in Florence and beyond. Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards add 3% to every purchase. AmEx adds 2%, although it is not universally accepted. Bring both cards. Capitol One and some AmEx cards don’t charge the extra fees for international purchases.
Safety—Custom Tours in Tuscany takes your safety seriously and we make a point of recommending hotels, restaurants, and shops in only the safest areas of the city. Florence, in general, is not considered a dangerous place. Violent crime is not the norm. However, please be careful of your belongings while at the train station and whenever standing in or walking through crowds … two instances where you may encounter pickpockets. When walking along the street, make sure your camera and bag are on your inside shoulder.
Telephones—We recommend bringing your US cell phone and making sure it operates in Italy. You may be able to purchases inexpensive phones with a prepaid card. For making calls from your hotel, purchase a phone card from any newsstand (for 10 euros you may get up to 6 hours of talk time).
Traveling with a lot of luggage—Traveling by train is a nightmare with heavy luggage. Most train stations do not have porter service and you will find yourself hauling your own bags. Think about using our transfer service!
Language—Italian not required! Hand language, facial expressions , high school French or Spanish……all is welcome and with good humor. We have yet to encounter an Italian who is unable to communicate somehow!
Museum Entry—Museums and even some churches nowadays have an entrance fee. These fees are generally in euros. Some fees are: Uffizi Museum (E.6,50), Accademia Museum (E.6,50), Church of Santa Croce (E.4), the Duomo (free), the Duomo Bell Tower (E.6), the Opera del Duomo (E.6), Brancacci Chapel (E.4). Reservations can be made at the Uffizi and Accademia for a charge of E.3,50. See the Official Florentine “Polo Museale” web site for up to date information: www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/
Time Change—Florence time is:
- +6 hours Eastern Time
- +7 Central Time
- +9 Pacific Time
Weather—Spring arrives in late March in Tuscany and Fall is mild…sweater or light jacket weather. Bring a raincoat and travel umbrella! Summer can be quite hot and winter can be cold in December and January.