Exploring Tuscany With a Personal Tourist Guide

If you are are looking to visit Tuscany or any other area in Italy with an experienced local guide please keep reading below. This can truly enhance your vacations! 

This tour is guided by: Massimo

I started working as a tour guide in Tuscany in 1987, when I was 23. I’m now almost 51. I started with German guests. As a tour guide I travelled almost everywhere through Europe (France, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece) and also to Canada (Ontario and Québec) and to New York. In 2002 I specialized as a licensed tour guide for Lucca, a medieval town in Tuscany. I am also a graduated translator and interpreter and I’m about to get my second deegree in Mediator in Foreign Languages and Cultures’ at the University of Siena. I speak fluently following languages, beside Italian as a mother tongue: German, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese. I speak also Swedish at a A2 level and I’m dealing also with Russian (A1 level) and Chinese at the moment!

Meeting the clients.

I will meet my guests either in Montecatini Terme, a very well-known spa resort in northern Tuscany, where I am at home, or in other towns like Florence, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, etc. but also outside my region, all over Italy, and show them the beauties of my country.

In which area in Tuscany are you specialised?

I’m of course specialized for Tuscany (my ‘highlights’ are Lucca, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Pistoia and Arezzo), but I can also guide my guests through other regions like Lombardy (Milan, etc.), Emilia Romagna (Bologna, etc.), Umbria (Assisi, etc.). We will do a guided tour in town, where we can organize a lunch break in a typical restaurant, then also hire a car or minivan to travel through the countryside and see something else of our marvellous landscape.

What the clients can see? 

We can also visit some typical farms producing wine and olive oil, cheese, ham and other alimentary products, we can also taste and do shopping in town or in wholesale factories where they produce and sell typical handmade products such as leather shoes, bags, marble or alabaster souvenirs, etc. It will last up to about 8 hours with some breaks for a coffee or so.

The costs of my tours depend on how we will organize them, i.e. if I have to move to my guests hotel/house and live there with them for the whole period or just meet them each morning at their premises.


Explore Tuscany with Private guide Massimo


Villa Holidays In the Heart of Tuscany

Amazing Tuscan Villa Stay with wine and food experience.



The Soleado holidays home is situated on a beautiful hill resort in Pillo, in the municipality of Gambassi Terme. The Pillo village was founded thanks to the Old Via Francigena that crossed it and which even today numerous pilgrims still follow its historic route on foot. It is a pretty village set among the hills of the Chianti region from where you can easily reach the art cities and medieval villages.

Therefore, Soleado is located in the heart of Tuscany, a few kilometers from the most important historic-cultural city as Florence, Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano; set among hills and the most important historical tracks, it offers the opportunity to enjoy pleasant days between history and nature at the same time.

Soleado is not only that!

The enogastronomic experience that awaits you will be unique! You really have to try flavors and smells of the Tuscan tradition through itineraries in old cellars and real winemakers ready to accompany you in this unforgettable experience. Nearby the Villa you can find “Villa Pillo”, a traditional Tuscan Farm located in the heart of the Chianti area. Because of a strong focus on quality in both the vineyard and winery, Villa Pillo is fast becoming a point of reference in the Tuscan wine world.
Furthermore, they will be right the owners of the villa that on your arrival will recommend places where you can taste traditional Tuscan food or just where you can buy excellent fresh bread every day.

Why stay here?

The Soleado holiday home is thus the ideal place to spend your vacation in perfect harmony between relaxation and the desire to discover Tuscany’s artistic, landscape and food and wine attractions.


Food Lovers Tour in Florence

Florence does not only offers art, culture and architecture but as in any other Italian city it offers a vast array of foods and wines. This tour offers a possibly to explore gelato, espresso, chanti wine, and a visit to the central food market in the city. Not to be missed by any food lover!

Tour Guide: Juliane

I am German, 49 years old, deeply in love with Italy. I lived in Florence for 30 years and I am an Art History major, with 24 years experience as guide and tour manager.


Florence market food and wine tour – source

 Customized private tour, not more than 8 participants.

Central Food Market Hall of Florence, visit and tastings:
Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Truffles, Tuscan Specialities.
Walking tour along all the most important monuments: Duomo, Signoria Square, Ponte Vecchio. Stops for more tastings: gelato, lesson on Italian Coffee, Wine, Prosecco or Grappa, street food such as tripe and good Italian Panini.

Possibility to include the David of Michelangelo.

Duration: about 4 hrs

Meeting point: Pick up in your hotel, or at the Bell Tower of the Duomo.
Entrance fee for the Accademia Museum (David): 16,00 E. per person

Walking Tour of Pistoia

Michela: authorised guide of Pistoia and Florence since 1992


Guided tour with a licensed guide in Pistoia – source


Proposed itinerary:

Walking tour through the medieval paved street of Pistoia a little fascinating city in the heart of Tuscany.
We start from the church of San Andrea with the fabulous pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, after that we walk to see the Robbiane, marvellous decorations of the Old Hospital of Il Ceppo, and we continue up to the main Duomo Square, civic and religious centre of the city. Inside the Cathedral we will admire the silver altar dedicated to Saint James, famous patron of Pistoia .
The tour will finish in the lively Piazza Sala with typocal restaurant and wine bars , meeting place of local young people where you can taste good local good and wine.

Florence to Cinque Terre: an Easy Day Tour by Car

Tourists who visit Florence often use the chance to stop by proximate towns and villages renowned for their cultural value. Day tripping from Florence to Cinque Terre, which is located high on the Italian Riviera, is a popular route for those wishing to appreciate the scenery, exclusive architecture and historic background of the Five Lands.
The journey from the capital of Tuscany to Cinque Terre should take about three hours if made by train. On the way, it is possible to stop by two other locations: San Miniato – a notable commune in the Pisa province and Siena – an ancient Tuscan city rich with art and cultural traditions.

The Cinque Terre – five lands on top of the Italian Riviera

The five Mediterranean villages – Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso, Vernazza and Riomaggiore – rest on a pebbly coastline characterized by steep ground. Unique views of the stone-wall network – an admirable result of concentrated human work, alongside with the surrounding natural abundance make the main attraction of the area. Aspired for its splendor setting, Cinque Terre presents a rare combination of wildlife and antique buildings with grape terraces. Sloppy terrain, fishermen boats, local wine and salted anchovies all contribute to the memorable atmosphere. Each village has its special point of interest – Maranola, for example, being the oldest of the five villages, is distinctive with the biggest lighted nativity in the world activated during the months of December and January.

view from San Miniato Florence

Florence from Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte


San Miniato: between Pisa and Florence

Located in the Arno River valley San Miniato is famous for its ancient fortresses and cathedrals as well as modern cultural entertainments. One of the most prominent events is the annual White Truffle Festival taking part in late October and November during the season of these exquisite delicacies. For gourmet fans, wine-tasting and truffle-hunting guided tours followed by meals are excellent opportunities to enjoy real-time experience and acquire knowledge about the local traditional cuisine.
Besides culinary attractions, social venues and cultural heritage can be found around the city as well. For example, Prato del Duomo is an upraised square enclosed by impressive buildings, such as the Bishop’s palace or Palazzo dei Vicari and the Cathedral. Bordering the Cathedral is the Diocesan Museum which offers a collection of artworks demonstrated in chronological order and accompanied by annotations. The famous Tower of Frederick II named after the Emperor is another worthy location offering an outstanding bird’s-eye view from its top, which covers the entire Arno River Valley and its surroundings.

Siena – the medieval city of Tuscany

Valued for its historical center, the capital city of the province of Siena is abundant with prestigious buildings dating back to the Middle Ages. Piazza del Campo – the shell-shaped main town square, recognized for its exquisite beauty comprises two main constructions: the Mangia Tower and the Palazzo Pubblico. To get a sense of Siena air, visitors can explore both buildings with an all-inclusive ticket which permits access to the Civic Museum and the Mangia Tower with its stunning panoramic scenery.
For those seeking family-friendly outdoor attractions combined with dining, the Orto de ‘Pecci restaurant would be a favorable choice. Encircled by vast greenery and speckled by fruit trees, completed by an orchard and a small animal farm, this nature site makes a perfect setting for a peaceful lunch break. If you are looking for a tourist guide in Siena also check this page.

Visitors arrive in Maranola, which is the first of the five Terre, may later continue to the other villages by foot, car or train. For tourists without a vehicle and those who do not wish to use public transportation private chauffeured tours can be organised by Emilia Delizia.

Who is Dario Cecchini? The Butcher of Panzano in Chianti

Are you visiting Tuscany any time soon? If yes, watching a butcher at work may not be at the top of your itinerary but we recommend that you take the chance anyway. Dario Cecchini is not just the most famous butcher in Tuscany. He has been referred to as the world’s greatest butcher and it’s easy to see why when you watch him at work with his various knives and cleavers. He practically transforms the act of butchering into an art. He has been known to attract such personalities as Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen and other such greats. People travel from near and far to watch him in small shop. With only 2 rooms in his shop, you will be lucky to get a spot.

Oh Dario!

Dario the Butcher seem to be very popular – source

His butchery is typical of any Italian butcher only better. All around, on counters, there are different cuts of meat that have been prepared in different ways depending on how they are supposed to be cooked. You will see seasoned meatballs, stuffed pork loin and many more. Dario doesn’t stop there. He ensures that every visitor who goes to see him gets a taste of some meat and some red wine. As you watch him preparing different meats, his small staff walks around handing everyone something to eat and drink.

Dario didn’t get started as a butcher. It runs in his family, with 6 generations before him making a living from this humble trade. He intended to become a vet and even went to veterinarian school to learn the skills of the trade. Life had other plans for him though and they were to transform his life forever. His father, who was a butcher, died suddenly and Dario had to step in and take over the business so as to be able to continue to provide his family with a livelihood. He did prove that he had a knack dealing with meat but vet studies didn’t go to waste. To this day, he ensures humane treatment of animals before they are killed and butchered.

So what makes him so different from other butchers? This famous butcher from Panzano in Chianti sets himself apart through his personality. He is open and welcoming and don’t be surprised if you walk into his shop and he stops what he is doing, cleans himself up and comes out from behind the counter to envelop you in a giant hug. At the same time, he can sometimes be heard reciting lines from Dante’s Inferno as he works. He enriches the lives of those around him with some kind of happy magic that comes from within.

Business has been good. From the 2 room butcher shop, he was able to open an art gallery next door, a Solociccia restaurant across the street. He has also utilized the top and the back of his shop to open 2 restaurants in one. During the day, you can enjoy a juicy MacDArio and if you come back in the night you will find Officina della Bistecca which can only be described as a carnivore’s haven and before each night starts, you will hear Dario shout a poignant question: to beef or not to beef? That is the question.

The Chianti area is also renowned for its wine, you can easily tour wineries with your own car or by a chauffeured mini van if you are travelling with your family or a group.


Lardo di Colonnata….a taste of the Good Fat

What is Lardo di Colonnata?

Lardo di Colonnata is a true Italian heritage food; (it is very unfortunate that non-Italians will generally confuse the name with simple lard, which is far from the truth). This product is a deliciously seasoned, cured slab of pure fat from the back of the pig, which has been cured in a particular way, and it is a delicacy in Italy where it can often be seen on a platter of Salumi (Italian cured meats). Lardo di Colonnata is a superior product and it is protected by an IGP designation, meaning that production is restricted to the region around the little village of Colonnata. In addition, the IGP brings with it certain regulations regarding the production, and ensures that the product is matured in a particular way in the Marble caves near Colonnata.

lardo di Colonnata

Lardo di Colonnata – Source

The Marble Caves of Carrara and the Apuan alps

The magnificent mountains that surround the town of Carrara are a sight to behold! In the height of summer they appear to be covered in snow, but it is not snow but precious white marble that is gleaming in the sun. The marble from Carrara has been known since Roman times, and is where the huge block that was the basis of Michelangelo’s famed “David” was hewn. The town of Carrara is a monument to marble, and you will see marble wherever you look – marble benches, marble statues, marble steps and a gleaming marble Duomo (cathedral). Today you can go on a quarry tour to get an idea of how incredibly difficult it must have been to produce the marble here all those years ago, with no equipment! Above the town of Carrara, in the village of Colonnata, you can learn how the marble caves of the area are essential today in the production of Lardo di Colonnata, just as they have been for centuries.
Legend has it that the original Lardo was produced by the Roman quarry workers who needed a nutritious meal to sustain them during their labours in the quarries.

How Lardo di Colonnata Is Made.

Thick slabs of trimmed pork back fat are seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic (and sometimes other herbs such as star anise, oregano, coriander, cloves, etc) and packed into specially carved Carrara marble containers, which are porous and allow for the curing process to take place. Production only takes place in winter, and the vats of seasoned fat are aged and matured entirely naturally in the Marble Caves, where the micro-climate is perfect for the job of curing the meat without any additives or preservatives.
The resultant Lardo di Colonnata, shaved into delicate thin ribbons, is a delicate, creamy textured sliver, full of the rich flavours of the herbs, which perfectly complements a slice of grilled Italian bread – crostini. It tastes a little like the fatty part of a slice of perfect prosciutto, but with a lot more flavour! It is generally eaten just as described above, and forms part of an antipasti platter, along with other cured meats (salumi). It can also be used to impart flavour and moisture to roast game birds or other dishes that require a little extra fat.


The Marble containers where the lardo is cured – source

3 Reasons why Lucca is a Visitor’s Delight

Lucca has such a lot to offer visitors! This lovely town is one of Tuscany’s most outstanding medieval walled towns and a walk around the almost completely intact 4km stretch of ancient fortifications will transport you back in time, as well as help you work up an appetite for some of the lovely Tuscan food you can sample in the town. Lucca also has some outstanding art and architecture to show off, but most people who visit Lucca come to see the walls, the towers or to attend one of the many summer festivals, so we will have a look at these three attractions in more detail.


The Walls of Lucca.

Nowadays the walls are a popular meeting place for locals, and thronged with walkers and cyclists in summer, but this was not always the case and they have had a turbulent history. The original walls were defensive, and built during Ancient Roman times, and few traces of these are visible today. The original Medieval walls were built in the 11th and 12th century and in the 14th century they had to be extended to accommodate the growing population of the town. The walls you see today were commissioned in 1504 in order to keep up with “modern” military advances, to ensure that Lucca could remain safe from the Medici. These walls were extremely advanced for their time, and required the collaboration of many Military architects from other parts of Italy. They were never breached! Along the 4 km stretch of walls you will find 11 bastions (all different from one another in design) and 3 gates. Inside the ramparts were large rooms to house soldiers, horses and munitions. The walls are always accessible to visitors and children especially will love exploring these ancient fortifications.

The Towers of Lucca

Lucca once had about 130 towers – representative of the power and wealth of the families who built them. Sadly, only 2 important towers remain today, the rest having been demolished long ago. The most recognizable symbol of the city is the Guinigi Tower which has a huge Oak trees growing from its’ roof top garden! You will have a wonderful view of the town from the top of this tower if you can manage the 235 steps to the top!

In the town you will also find the Torre delle Ore, or clock tower. This one is taller than the Guinigi Tower and has provided the citizens of Lucca with a clock since 1390! It is open to the public if you fancy climbing to the top for another great view.


Festivals in Lucca

The lovely Piazza san Guisto is home to many festivals throughout the year. Some of the most important are the Summer Festival, where live music concerts featuring world-class bands are held every July, the Winter festival featuring Jazz and soft rock, the Comics Festival – all you ever wanted to know about comics – and the Puccini Opera festival in July each year – (Puccini was born in Lucca and is greatly revered in this town.)

Lucca guided tours.

If you have only few hours it makes sense to hire a local guide. By doing so you can explore on the highlights of the city and discover the long history that characterised Lucca. The guides are professional individuals who are trained by the local government, the town can be explored on foot in 2/3 hours. You can reach Lucca from Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Florence and it the the ideal destination for a day trip while you are on vacation in Tuscany.


Is San Gimignano worth Visiting?

San Gimignano and its surroundings are well worth a visit to enjoy both historical monuments and taste great wines. This town situated on the Via Francigena represents a pleasant stop for pilgrims directed to Rome in the Middle Ages and present visitors looking for ancient medieval towns in Tuscany.

San Giminiano

Beautiful San Giminiano Tuscany, Italy – Source


Discover the medieval heart of San Gimignano.

Founded by Etruscans in the III century BC, San Gimignano turned into a fortified town during the Middle Ages, when numerous towers (up to 72!) where erected. If you come from the valley, you will notice the skyline of San Gimignano, dotted with the 13 towers left and palaces dating back to the thirteenth century built by important families to celebrate their power.

San Gimignano enjoyed maximum economical and political glory till the fourteenth century, that’s why you can still admire many historical buildings from the Middle Ages but also new monuments built at the end of the nineteenth century during the Gothic Renovation period.

The city centre being situated on a hill, you will have the chance to take scenic views of the Tuscan landscape, in particular if you have a walking tour along the city walls overlooking the unique panorama of Valle d’Elsa. If you enter the city by one of the gates, the main street will lead you directly to the heart of the medieval San Gimignano. As an example you may start the tour from Porta San Giovanni walking through Via San Giovanni and reach Piazza della Cisterna, the wonderful square dominated by a well, red brick palaces and the impressive Devil’s Tower.

You will find other beautiful point of interests at the adjacent Piazza Duomo: Palazzo Comunale (the City Hall), Palazzo Salvucci, Palazzo Chigi Useppi, Palazzo Vecchio and Torre Rognosa.

If you have an appetite for excellent Italian wines, the tour continues in cellars and wine bars…

Vernaccia di San Giminiano, a unique wine of Tuscany.

Gourmet travellers find San Gimignano to be the perfect place to taste DOC wines – Vernaccia, San Gimignano Rosso and Rosato, Vin Santo, Chianti Colli Senesi – whose grapes come directly from the hundred Tuscan vineyards that you may observe along the way from Florence.

Reach San Gimignano to taste wines praised by artists and poets such as Francesco Redi and Michelangelo Buonarroti. In his L’Aione, Michelangelo describes Vernaccia wine as follows: “It kisses, leaks, bites, pricks, and stings”. Actually, this delicate white wine gained DOCG recognition in 1993 and is characterized by a fruity flavour that will catch your senses.

Much of the wine history and production can be learned at the dedicated Vernaccia Wine Museum located in Villa della Rocca di Montestaffoli on a hilly position overlooking the vineyards. At the Vernaccia Wine Museum you can book a wine tasting workshop and a tour that will help to appreciate the essence of this wine which boasts a production of 9 million bottles per year, sold in Italy and abroad.

A travel to San Gimignano represents a joy for curious eyes and fine palates!

If you want to get to San Gimignano from Emilia Romagna, the best way is to catch a train from Bologna or Pisa directed to Siena, stop at Poggibonsi station, then take the bus to San Gimignano.


© Valentina Grassiccia


Pecorino di Pienza – tour the jewel of the Val D’Orcia

The Val D’Orcia (Valley of Orcia) South of Sienna is the absolute epitome of what we all expect Tuscany to look like … a landscape of green valleys surrounded by rolling hills and a horizon punctuated by rows of lonely cypress trees. You really should take the time to visit this beautiful area of Tuscany and get to experience some of its’ wonderful artisan foods and wines at their source. The area is best known for the wonderful Pecorino di Pienza, made exclusively in and around the town of Pienza which is situated close to the wine producing towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano, home to the Tuscan classic wines.


Val D’Orcia in Tuscany

What is Pecorino di Pienza Cheese?

Pecorino, famous all over the world, is named for the milk used to create it…Pecora is Italian for a ewe, and this cheese is made exclusively from whole, raw ewe’s milk. Pecorino is made all over Italy, but the Pecorino from Pienza is unique and special; the sheep who supply the milk are a tough breed, mostly the Sarda, originally from Sardinia, and are well adapted to the terrain of the area which is not suitable for crop farming, but wonderful for sheep! They feed exclusively on the indigenous vegetation of the area, a mixture of grasses and wild herbs including wormwood, meadow salsify, broom, juniper and burnet and it is this diet which makes the cheese special, as traces of herb can be detected in the cheese. It is a seasonal cheese, made only during the Summer when the milk quality is at its’ best, so you will only find young Pecorino in Summer; the mature cheese can, however, be enjoyed all year around.


Pecorino making in Tuscany – province of Siena – source

To a certain extent the cheese has become mass-produced; demand has exceeded supply and has led to milk from other areas being “imported”, resulting in a change of the original character of the cheese. However, there are still at least two family-run Pecorino makers near Pienza where the cheese is still produced organically in the age-old way, and these are the two you should try and visit: Podere Il Casale and Cugisi.

Pecorino di Pienza Cheese tour at the local dairy.

The raw milk is mixed with rennet  to curdle it. The curds sink to the bottom of the container and are scooped out to dry before being placed in a  salt solution. The set cheese is then formed into “heads” or rounds. These are then wrapped in walnut leaves and placed in a cool humid cellar to mature. The rinds are periodically dampened with olive oil (Tuscan, of course!) and then grease and wax. At the moment there is no discipline in the production nor there is a PDO in place so production might vary from producer to producer. The only traditional pecorino is the one aged in wooden barriques.


Visit a pecorino dairy in Italy – Source

Eating Pecorino di Pienza.

Pecorino is eaten either as a soft cheese after about 40 – 60 days’ maturation, or left in the cellar for up to 15 months (5 – 12 months is the average). When young,(Pecorino Fresco), you can expect the cheese to be soft and creamy, with a spicy undertone and the herby diet of the sheep really comes to the fore. The rind will be a creamy colour.

A more mature Pecorino will have a darker rind, generally red or black, and the texture is soft and crumbly on the palate with a slightly tannic after-taste; at this point the spicy tones are no longer evident. It is generally believed that Pecorino does improve with ageing, as it acquires more character and structure.

In Tuscany, the cheese is not often used in combination with other foods or used for cooking, but rather enjoyed in its’ own right. The Fresco (young Pecorino) is eaten with a light touch of great Tuscan olive oil or a little of the regions’ chestnut honey. It is sometimes served with sliced pears or raw fava beans and prosciutto as a lovely simply anti-pasti. The matured cheese, (Stagionato) is great to grate! Serve it over a wonderful pasta or risotto, or in thin slices with Proscuitto and other cured meats..

Of course, you need a really lovely wine from the region to complete the feast; the Rosso di Montalcino is just the perfect match. This is a young, unmatured Sangiovese, (only up to a year in the cask) and “baby brother” to the famous Brunello di Montecino, for which the region is famous. Another good wine from the region to try with the cheese is Rosso di Montepulciano; this is also a young, fresh tasting wine comprised of mainly Sangiovese grapes. If you love dessert wines try the Moscadello di Montalcino, a fine late-harvested Muscat which makes the most perfect simple ending to a great Tuscan meal; serve it with fresh seasonal fruit, local honey and some Pecorino Fresco. A perfect way to savoir the essence of the Val D’Orcia!

Emilia Delizia food tours in Tuscany.

If you are set to discover Italian foods, our company would be delighted to organise a cheese tour departing from Siena or Florence and go the Val D’Orcia to experience the production of Pecorino and Tuscan wines.