Some of our most memorable vacations to date have involved spending a week or more in a city hotel, with flexibility for day trips and expanded sightseeing coupled with peace of mind in knowing that we’d have a home base to return to at the end of a long day. Finding the right balance between comfort and budget, we spent three weeks in Tuscany, splitting our stay between San Gimignano and Volterra.
Being based in one spot during a vacation means getting to know a new neighbourhood’s amenities and transit options. Whether you’re the type of traveler that likes to wander carefree and discover a new place without a schedule, or one that sticks to a guidebook (or travel app), it’s less stressful knowing that you don’t have to face repacking and switching to a new part of the city right in the middle of a vacation.
On our Tuscany trip, we were able to pack the car and head out for the day at leisure, or (as in the case of San Gimignano) just walk out the door and head down the cobblestone streets towards the town square to enjoy a cup of gelato (there are actually TWO gelato shops right in the same square of that tiny village!).
Master gelato maker Sergio (of Gelateria Dondoli) has been crowned with Gelato World Champion (2006/2007, 2008/2009); if the line is too long, the gelato shop just across the square is also quite good (I’ve enjoyed the dulce de leche there on a few occasions, alternating our afternoon gelato fixes between the two).
Florence has so much to offer that we were glad to be based close by, giving us the time needed to properly soak in the rich atmosphere and architecture of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And we were so close to Lucca, Pisa, and Siena at that point that it was well worth tacking on a few days to the holiday to tour those cities as well.
After all, we’re not in this neck of the woods that often, and truth be told, we could have spent a couple of months in Italy and not have been able to have seen everything we’d hoped to!
Although we lived in The Netherlands at the time of our Tuscan vacation and had the luxury of driving from door to door, we have flown over to Europe from Canada and know how comforting it is to have a hotel arranged upon our arrival.
We also enjoyed a milestone birthday in Tallinn, Estonia in much the same way, basing ourselves in the heart of the city and heading out in a different direction each day we were there. Our hotel really began to feel like home after a couple of days, and the longer you’re in a city, the more you feel part of its vibe and less a tourist just passing through.
Guided travel is also a popular way of touring, whether as a first-timer or returning to a city after falling in love with it years back. Collette Spotlight Tours combine a love of travel and discovery with a single hotel stay, making for an educational, relaxing, and fun vacation. Collette’s been in the business of travelling the world since 1918, and offers everything from river cruises, small group tours and family trips to rail journeys and comprehensive land tours.
Spotlight Tours include bag porterage and express check in at the hotel, two more things to make life easier while on holiday. Many of their tours also offer the option to start or extend the trip with pre- and post nights in the chosen destination, because sometimes it’s nice to linger after a full week in a city, checking out a couple of favourite spots or perhaps dinner and a show before flying back home.
You’ll have the chance to learn about a city’s culture and history through local guides and get some time on your own to explore as well. We’ve often combined independent travel with a couple of local tours and discover so much more when an iconic treasure such as Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is deconstructed by a local expert.
There are currently 16 Spotlight tours available, ranging from five to nine days. From Florence to Beijing, Collette has itineraries arranged to showcase the best of each city.
Visit Collette Spotlight Tours online for detailed itineraries and pricing. This article was produced in partnership with Collette Spotlights.