Frequently asked questions about tailored travel packages, retreats, workshops, teachers, course content, accommodation and southern Tuscany in general.
We ask that you read the FAQs very carefully and if you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Before You Book...
IS A CREATIVE GROUP TOUR OR A TAILORED PACKAGE FOR ME?
The all-inclusive creative package tours are open to artists of all creative levels unless otherwise stated on the actual tour (occasionally we will host a masterclass workshop that requires at least a basic knowledge of the medium).
We also tailor tours for non-participating spouses and friends, and we customise boutique tours for couples and small groups. Please ask us about cost adjustments and design of a non-participant package, or a customisable tour.
HOW FIT AM I?
Before you consider booking a larger retreat or workshop package, you must be reasonably physically fit. This is because you are part of a group and will be expected to keep up with your fellow travellers, you will be walking uphill, downhill, on uneven ground, on ancient roads in ancient towns - we’re in Tuscany after all. Those rolling hills bathed in light mean steep ups and downs! On our group tours there will be some walking on streets that may be steep, cobbled or were paved some time in the distant past.
IMPORTANT: On group oriented retreats you will need to be agile enough to get in and out of the minivan unaided. If you are unable to walk 500 metres on flat ground, have trouble climbing stairs or traversing uneven ground, we’re sorry but the group retreats are not for you and you may wish to consider a specially tailored tour for you - which we are more than happy to do, because you shouldn't have to miss out! The larger workshop retreats are not equipped for wheelchairs and we need to make sure that every individual can keep up with the group.
On group tours, if you're over the age of 60 we require a copy of a medical certificate from your doctor to say that you have been through an exam to ensure that you are fit and well enough to travel unaided.
The customised tailored tours are made with everyone in mind. Within reason we will tailor to suit all levels of fitness and needs.
WHO ARE THE WORKSHOP TEACHERS?
We personally know and adore all our workshop teachers.
The teachers vary according to the workshop you choose. Depending on the workshop you may have one teacher who takes you through an entire duration of a workshop, or several teachers who take you through shorter-duration workshops. Whatever workshop/s you choose, you can rest assured that your teacher/s are all experienced in their field, and experienced at teaching in schools, universities, colleges, as well as for workshops and specialist classes.
Most of our Italian teachers conduct their class in English. Other artisans feel comfortable teaching in Italian, in which case you will have Ali or another assistant on hand to translate for the duration of the workshop.
WILL THERE BE EXCURSIONS?
We offer full and half day excursions as part of each package (please see each retreat package for the itinerary). For art-making participants we aim to connect the excursion to your art-making. For the boutique tailored tours, Tuscany is your oyster!
WHAT ARE THE PLACES AND PEOPLE LIKE?
The retreats and workshops are set in the Maremma, the Amiata region and Firenze in Tuscany. It’s hilly and beautiful, and that also means steep and uneven terrain. Tuscany is old, which means there are often stairs as opposed to lifts in centuries-old buildings; it means winding roads instead of straight ones.
Santa Fiora, like most Tuscan towns, is on a hill. It’s a town, though historically important, is off the beaten tourist track, and contains della Robbia ceramics and was mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy.
Transport services away from the city are limited to what you may be used to: a good bus service, limited taxi service, the nearest train station to Santa Fiora is 50 minutes away in Grosseto.
Florence is gloriously beautiful and is on a river, which means mosquitos. It is an ancient city, so the drainage system under the roads can smell. The city works endlessly to rectify that - there will be roadworks and diversions. You will see cranes on the skyline in juxtaposition to ancient monuments. Since Renaissance times these roads and buildings have been in use and require constant maintenance.
You will meet incredibly generous, warm, wonderful people who can trace their ancestry in these Tuscan towns for centuries.
WHERE WILL I BE STAYING?
In Florence we aim to book a 3 or 4 star hotel, depending on the hotel. The star rating is quite different to what an Australian, English or American person may be used to, so we go on quality, amenities, service and distance to the centre rather than the appeal of the star rating more defined in other countries.
In Florence, due to the fact many buildings were never designed with being utilised as hotels in mind, rooms are sometimes irregularly shaped, not necessarily consistent to their neighbouring rooms, or have floors that creak. We ourselves take the time to stay in each of the hotels so that we have a clear idea on what works and what doesn't.
In Santa Fiora and elsewhere we use agriturismo accommodation run by personal friends of ours. The accommodations are clean, new and regular. What you won't find in your rooms are kettles and ironing boards ( due to the local laws) but on request we can arrange these for you. Please see below for "Laundry" and visit the accommodation page for detailed information and photos of Le Citte and Il Duchesco.
CAN I HAVE A ROOM TO MYSELF?
Yes, absolutely. Our packages are promoted on a per person twin share basis but we understand the need for privacy and retreat at the end of a busy, creative day. Please be aware there is a single supplement cost extra to the package tour price. We'll inform you of supplements for each retreat and workshop.
TOUR PRICE, DEPOSIT AND PAYMENTS?
As we cannot predict currency fluctuations, prices are quoted in Euro.
Everyone participating in the tour must complete and sign the booking form and pay a nonrefundable deposit of €500. Your booking will be secured upon payment of the deposit.
HOW DO I PAY?
If you are in Australia, payments are accepted via bank cheque or electronic bank deposit without commission.
We accept payments via Paypal at 5% surcharge to the overall package price.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I HAVE TO CANCEL?
If you have to cancel your participation on a tour, there will be a charge which varies according to the period of notice you give. Up to 57 days before the tour the deposit only is forfeited.
Thereafter a percentage of the total cost of the tour will be due:
- between 56 and 29 days: 40%
- between 28 and 15 days: 60%
- between 14 days and 5 days: 80%
- within 4 days: 100%
We take as the day of cancellation that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.
If we were to cancel the tour it would be due to illness, compassionate reasons, hostilities, civil unrest, natural disaster or other circumstances that could affects the region in which the tour was due to travel.
In the case that we cancel a tour at any time up to eight weeks before travel there were insufficient bookings for it to be viable, we would refund everything you have paid to us.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
For workshops and excursions, please wear comfortable clothing and good comfortable footwear. We are in the mountains, so weather can be unpredictable and the higher we go the windier it can be, even if in the valleys it's warm. Check the weather daily. Pack a waterproof jacket, particularly during workshops from October through to April.
The Italians make an effort when dressing for dinner.
Shorts and thongs are considered beachwear.
Women must cover bare shoulders and have their legs covered above the knee when entering churches.
I AM INJURED OR FEELING UNWELL, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Alert the elected head of the group immediately, who will alert Ali or Anne-Maree. There are doctors on hand in Santa Fiora, Grosseto and Firenze during the day, as well as emergency services that work 24 hours a day.
It is at our discretion to request that any persons refrain from participating in any of the activities should they not have the required level of fitness on any particular day.
PHONE, CHECKING EMAILS AND USING INTERNET?
All accommodations offer WiFi. At Le Citte the WiFi is throughout the establishment and at Il Duchesco you can connect online in the communal areas and restaurant.
Please bring your own phone or portable device.
WHAT IS THE CHECK IN PROCEDURE AT THE AGRITURISMO AND HOTEL
We will arrive together at your accommodation.
On arrival please make sure that you have your passports ready for Ali, Anne-Maree or Marco to collect. Please be patient while we go through the check in process for everyone.
Your keys will be allocated to you and your passports will be returned to you after they have processed each person. Marco, Ali or Anne-Maree will bring your luggage from the bus into the lobby.
The hotel in Florence has a lift, though Le Citte does not. Il Duchesco accommodation is on ground level. We will help you with your luggage.
ARE THERE LAUNDRY FACILITIES?
All accommodations offer a washing and ironing service for a fee that is an additional extra not included in the workshop tour package price.
WILL THE BUS BE WITH US AT ALL TIMES?
On workshop retreats: The bus will deliver you to your destination and will pick you up at the designated meeting point at the allocated time. The bus is there for transfers and transport that is stated on the itinerary. Beyond this, if you require a taxi service around town, or airport transfer to airport or station, or wish to leave early from the group itinerary, it will be at your expense.
Please Note: Shuttle service stated on itinerary is for before and after class times to and from Santa Fiora only and to and from Il Duchesco to the beach only.
Boutique tours: On tours that have been customised, you generally will have the minivan at your disposal, depending on how your tour has been designed. We will define that the times and requirements together with your itinerary.
CAN I BOOK FLORENCE AIRPORT AND STATION TRANSFERS?
On workshop retreats: Yes, you'll need to organise this with your driver, Marco.
Boutique tours: Your airport transfers will be included as part of your package.
HOW LONG WILL I BE IN THE BUS?
We have created our retreat workshop itinerary and customisable tours with minimal driving times in mind. Please be aware that we are in Tuscany, which is very mountainous and hilly. This means that driving distances aren’t always what they appear to be on the map. A winding road of 10km is very different to the same distance along the autostrada. We aim to keep you in the car for as little time as possible and in keeping with this we have created the itinerary to fit.
We aim to be punctual always. Please allow variations and flexibility due to traffic, emergencies, diversions and unforeseen events.
Estimated time between locations.
Firenze to Monteriggioni = 50 minutes
Monteriggioni to Santa Fiora = 1 hour 20 minutes
Santa Fiora to Siena = 1 hour 10 minutes
Santa Fiora to = Montalcino / Pienza 45 minutes
Santa Fiora = Pitigliano = 35 minutes
Santa Fiora to La Foce / Montepulciano = 1 hour
Santa Fiora to Alberese = 1 hour
Alberese to Firenze = 2 hours
Alberese to Rome = 2 hours
HOW FLEXIBLE IS THE ITINERARY?
We will be on hand to discuss the itinerary for the following day. We may be required to make changes to the itinerary according to weather conditions, road closures, etc. Please make sure you are up to date with the briefing and for any updates or changes. If you have been absent during discussions, please refer to the group head.
It is our responsibility to ensure that the tour activities have been organised as stated in the program. It is also our right to alter the itinerary as necessary in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
WHAT ABOUT FOOD AND DRINK?
On Retreat Workshops: Breakfast at 8am. Lunchtimes will be at 12:30pm. Dinner at 8pm.
Please be aware that being in rural Tuscany, restaurants open in the evening at 8pm. In Florence it will be possible for you to eat at any time you desire.
We want you to enjoy the seasonal produce that the mountain has to offer. We take pride in being meticulous and we book restaurants where we know the owners and chefs personally. Your meals are authentically from this region and menus are created just for you in advance; some will be set menus while others will be open for you to decide. As restaurants are booked and paid for in advance, if you decide to stay behind from excursions, or you decide not to eat out with the group, any meals you require outside of these allocated times will be at your own expense.
If you decide not to eat out with the group at lunch or dinner and would prefer to stay at the accommodation, any other meals you require will be at your expense.
Inclusions are stated on your detailed itinerary. Aperitivo and other drinks and meals not listed will be at your expense. Extra wine, aside from the allocated quarter litre of wine per person at lunch and dinner times, is at your expense.
On Boutique tours: we will advise you with a daily itinerary according to your requirements.
SHOULD I BE A TRAVELLER OR A TOURIST?
With gusto we can answer that!
Tourists are easily spotted: they're the ones complaining loudly and making comparisons about how "they don't do it like that at home."
We encourage you to be adventurous and tread lightly, and to take responsibility for yourself as an adult out in the big wide world.
In Firenze and Santa Fiora you will be walking on uneven terrain. Remember where you are: hilly, beautiful, ancient Tuscany.
Go slowly, watch where you are walking and allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the experience of being in the real Tuscany. Please, please, leave the stilettos for dinner time. WEAR GOOD WALKING SHOES, ones that have been worn in and not bought a few days before your trip. Blisters are the pits!
While you get to see the beauty of places such as Firenze and Siena, we aim to take you off the beaten path, to places that are genuine and traditional. That is, places not portrayed as Disney might have you believe. There will be realities that may jar with your own experiences, religion, upbringing and values as you immerse yourself in another culture. Be mindful that this is another culture other than your own, and that you are a guest in someone else’s country.
A few things to remember while visiting Italy:
Most churches require that women cover bare shoulders, and mini skirts and very short shorts are frowned upon.
- Shorts and thongs are beachwear.
- Photography during mass in church is a no no.
- Italians eat their evening meal later than you probably do.
- Cappuccino after 11 in the morning will draw audible gasps from surrounding Italians!
IF TOURS TRULY TUSCANY MAKES CHANGES TO WHAT'S ON THE ITINERARY?
Circumstances might arise which prevent us from operating a tour exactly as advertised. In this case we would devise an alternative to be satisfactory. However, if the change represents a significant loss to the tour we would offer compensation. If you decide to cancel because the alternative we offer is not acceptable we would give a full refund.