When Beppe and Andrea, the owners of the 500 Touring Club here in Florence, emailed us about coming along on a vintage fiat tour of the city you know we jumped at the chance! Kate's uber-pregnant state combined with the 100+ degree temps meant that she had to stay home, but luckily her mom was in town to fill the empty seat. The first thing to know about this tour is that you will travel in - or drive - a vintage, double clutch, Fiat 500. What is double clutch? I'm glad you asked. It is a type of transmission that requires the driver to shift into neutral before another gear. It sounds strange, but once Beppe explains how it works, it's easy to get the hang of it. However, if you are unfamiliar with manual transmissions, you might ask Beppe for a little extra guidance.
After Andrea introduced everyone to the fleet and Beppe instructed the drivers, we were off. Now, the day we went was incredibly hot - daytime highs while we were out were probably near 100F - but the 500s are rag-tops so we stayed cool while driving. Though it was hot, the skies were clear and the views tremendous. Beppe guided the convoy up to San Miniato al Monte, located above Piazzale Michelangelo. This was a great spot to view the city. It is not as crowded as Piazzale Michelangelo, every bit as nice, and there is a beautiful church to visit while you are there.
After San Miniato al Monte, Beppe takes you down into the city, through a nice part of the Oltrarno, across the river into town, and then back out into the countryside for the second really nice view on the trip, the Chianti countryside. This stop is a great place to get pictures in, out, and standing inside of, the cars. As you can see below, we took full advantage of this stop.
The final stop of our tour was for wine tasting. Beppe and Andrea took us to a fantastic Renaissance villa, complete with formal gardens, for the tasting. The estate produces small-scale, high-quality red and white wines. Our tasting was held in their cellars, with the French Oak barrels of wine lining the walls around us. The wine tasting was a great opportunity to get to know the other people on the tour as well as Beppe and Andrea. In fact, Beppe and Andrea really seemed to enjoy talking about the wine, its qualities, and how to appreciate the differences in varieties we tasted. By the end of the meal we had essentially received an introductory course in wine appreciation.
After the tasting we got back in the cars for a short drive back to the clubhouse. Mary and I were full, happy and had really enjoyed the experience of driving through Florence in the 500. I think she may try to take Jesse on the tour next time they are in town.
A big part of what makes this such a great tour pick for folks visiting Florence? Beppe and Andrea! They love Florence, love the cars and really take the experience to the next level. They offer other types of services, too, (including gastronomic tours of the city), so be sure to ask about those!
Beppe and Andrea make their fleet available for private hire (including weddings!), so even if a tour isn't your thing you can still travel around town in style!
For more info, visit: www.500touringclub.com