They said they can pick us up at the train but we would be 20 minutes late for the tour at the cheese factory and they said that is the best part of the tour. Any thoughts? Is the first 20 minutes really the best? Do you think it would be easier to fly into Bologna and spend the night and take the tour early in the next morning and then just take the train after the tour to Florence? OR easier to fly into Florence and get up real early and take the train into Bologna for the tour and miss some of it? Which is less hassle? They said we can take our luggage in the van on the tour.
Italian trains are not known for on-time departures and arrivals.
The cheese factory is really outstanding, so I would try to make it on time if possible. The cheesemaking process is actually amazingly wonderful!
We drove into Bologna the night before and stayed at a nice, cheap, utilitarian hotel where the tour picked us up. (The Ramada Encore...something like €35...plus killer breakfast before you head out!)
If carriers and airfare are the same, why don't you consider flying into Bologna, do a little sightseeing that afternoon, stay overnight and take the tour the next morning. They are very accommodating and can indeed take you and your luggage to the train station afterwards. I would personally hate to get up at the crack of dawn to get to Bologna in time - pick ups for the tour start at 7 AM. Now, having said all that, if you are only going to miss the first 20 minutes and your preference is to come up from Florence, I don't think you will miss that much. Our guide spoke for almost that long standing in front of the dairy barn, which is not critical to see. Then you go into the facility and observe the vats where they mix the milk - we were in that spot probably another 15 minutes. Then you walk into the storage rooms for the racks of cheese.
I would stay the night before and not miss anything. The Cheese tour is great.
We took the train and came in a little late. It wasn't bad. There was someone there who caught us up and then we joined the main group. It would have been less hassle to have just stayed in Bologna the night before and the night of.
One tip: if you do take the train from Florence, be sure to have your return ticket. Nearly all the tickets were sold out when we got to the station for the return trip.
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