Subject: To Pisa or Not to Pisa
Ok Italy experts ... I have two questions

1) My tour in June stays in Montecatini for two days. It is early afternoon when we arrive there the first day. At this time, the tour company offers an optional excursion to Pisa. One the SECOND day in Montecatini, the tour company goes to Florence where we receive a guided tour of the city followed by 4HOURS of free time. (then back to hotel in Montecatini) Here is my question .... rather than try to squeeze it all in, what if we skipped the optional to Pisa and instead took an early afternoon train on our own to Florence? Then we would have two trips to Florence, and more time to see the museums, churches, and just wander. (I mean, I'm sure the Leaning Tower is wonderful ... but we like art and shopping) If you think doubling up on Florence is a good idea, can you tell me any info on the train system -- approx. cost one way, as well as how late we could stay in Florence before catching a train back to Montecatini. (I'm assuming we don't need reservations, that we can just show up at train station)

Question #2) One morning in Venice, our tour wakes us up and does a tour of St Mark's Basilica, a glass factory, and then offers an optional tour to the Island of Burano. This optional costs $58 and includes a guided Lagoon cruise to Burano and a 6 course lunch (with time to shop for lace), then they return you to Venice for 3 hours of leisure time before taking you back to the hotel in Mestri. Now -- we only have this one FULL day in Venice (we arrived late afternoon the day before) SO -- should I be using up time visiting Burano (is the island worth it?) or would we be better off to just stay on our own, going into Venice in the morning from Mestri hotel with group -- but then just taking Venice by foot on our own for the day?

Thank you for all your seasoned advice. I hope I can offer someone help one day! Sincerely, Marcy in Ohio