We were excited to tour the villa where one of our favorite movies, Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing," was filmed, but were very disappointed with Villa Vignamaggio's tour experience. Located about an hour outside of Florence, this lovely villa is in the hills of Tuscany and is the spot where Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. We booked a wine tasting tour for the day our cruise ship docked in Civitavecchia, which fit nicely into our schedule after a couple of hours in Sienna and before checking into our rented apartment in Florence.
Our first problem with Villa Vignamaggio occurred as soon as our driver delivered us to the entrance. We were on time, but the tour, we were informed for the first time, began on the other side of the villa. We had no cell reception to call for our driver's return and were told to walk along the road around the entire villa. We met people from another tour group and followed them up a very steep driveway where we arrived at "the meeting point." Here we joined with "our" group and the tour began. When the tours of the winery and gardens ended, everyone was seated in a dining room for the wine tasting. After much rearranging, half the group was told to leave! It seems they had paid for the tour only and should not have been seated.
After tasting only one of the wine selections, I checked the time and discovered that the tour/tasting was already running 45 minutes late! We apologized and said that we had to leave as we had a check-in time in Florence. The tour guide took offense and became quite rude, making us walk outside in the pouring rain rather than through the gift shop to exit! To make matters worse, I was given no chance to purchase a bottle of Chianti!
In spite of our bad experience, was the tour worth it? Yes, barely. The villa and gardens were beautiful, the tour of the winery was very interesting, the drive through Chianti country was breath-taking!
Tips: Wear mosquito repellent. Know that the tour can be long-winded and run over-time. If you are planning to go early in the season and will book online off-season, know that the office is closed and it may be a while before you receive a response.
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