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Italy Itinerary Help

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Hello,

I'm working on the itinerary for our October 2015 honeymoon and need some advice on the Tuscany portion of the trip. Here is our itinerary as it stands:

Our trip is October 5 - 24, 2015. We are starting our trip with 5 days in Paris (Oct 6 - 11). On the morning of October 12, we fly to Florence and are spending three nights at JK Place (we visited Florence together four years ago and saw a lot of the big sights, so this portion of the trip will be more relaxed than a typically 3-day first timer trip).

Once we check out of our Florence hotel on the 15th, we don't have anything set except a couple of nights in Rome at the end of the trip (we are flying open jaw Paris / Rome), arriving Rome on either on either the 21st or 22nd (haven't decided). That basically leaves us a week undetermined, which we would like to use to rent a car and explore Tuscany. One of the ideas we had was 4 nights in Lucca, 3 nights in Siena with day trips from each place. For day trips, our radius is about 90 minutes each way. Some of the ideas we have are (from Lucca) Cinque Terre, San Gimignano, Vinci, Viareggio, (from Siena) Volterra, Montepulciano. Here are my questions/concerns:

- Will it be difficult to have a car in these cities?
- Would we be better off only spending a couple nights in each place and add some overnight stays in the smaller hill towns moving South to Rome over the course of the week?
- Should we rent a car as we are leaving Florence, or should we train to Lucca, spend a day or two exploring Lucca, then rent a car for, say, 5 days?
- Should we drive all the way to Rome, returning the car there? Or drop it somewhere else and train into Rome?
- Would it be more relaxing to base up and then train to various other locations?

A few additional notes:
- We have never rented a car abroad, but have always wanted to so we could get off the main drags and really explore. That said, any tips, tricks, suggestions are welcome.
- We love food, wine, and getting a local feel from the places we travel
- With it being our honeymoon, we want a laid back pace to the trip.

Really appreciate any guidance. Thank you in advance Fodor community!

Tera

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    1) Cars in Lucca, don't but you can park outside the walls, very easy to do. Lucca is so small it is not a problem unless you have walking issues.
    2) Siena will take cars up to a point, so basically you don't you leave them in the carparks outside and catch elevators into town, though some hotels will take them.

    3) Car rental. So much to say

    Check your local insurance details, for instance in the UK it is far better to buy damage waver here for 365 days than buy that which comes with the car.

    Do get to understand if you have to return the car full of fuel or empty and where the nearest fuel is OPEN on the day of return, it being Italy realise that weekend fuel stops are fully self service (including payment with a card you do not own).

    Do take a 'photo of every part of the car, the milometer etc, before you drive away day one.

    Train to Lucca or Florence airport or Pisa station might be good to pick up a car, check out Chiusi as well.

    Oct, I'd look for some sort of festival at that time (walnut picking, late wine harvest?) 'cause October is a bit quiet normally.

    Generally you can do bits of Tuscany on the bus/train but I'd use a car as you will want to explore.

    There is wonderful thread on how to drive in Italy on this Forum, read it.

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    There is a TV programme called top gear, a few years back they challenged the 3 reporters to drive from Lucca centre to outside the town walls, only 2 made it.

    Do you speak any Italian, if so you will have fun, if not I'd arrange some sort of activity that you can do with Italians who speak English, painting, pottery, food making just to get a feel for the energy that this nation has.

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    Spent about 2 months in Italy after retiring. After a month in Florence rented a car for Tuscany portion before departing Rome. Yes a car is and was great for that portion.

    Issue: got car, pulled across the street from apt to load up the car. I stayed with the car. Unfortunate in one of the horrible Italian parking zones which I thought we had avoided since I stayed with the car. Got a parking ticket 6 months later as well as a fraud alert on my credit card and had to get a new one. Municipality attempted to get ticket paid from the cc and it triggered the fraud alert. So only rent car in Florence as you are on your way out of town and know exactly how to get out of town.

    All the towns you mentioned to do not allow cars in the city center, so you will park mainly outside the city walls. No problems with that.

    Where to stay with car: we found great places to stay. A farm apt outside Siena. We had bus close to apt so we parked there and rode the bus to the city center. Easy.

    Perugia had a great place right in the middle of the Old City but one way streets, narrow streets, construction allowed us to see our apt but not get to it as the other side of accommodations right in these medieval city centers.

    Speaking of Perugia: was there on a Sunday. I don't know that we had to skip a meal but certainly remember had a hard time finding someplace open to eat. So with a car it can be easy to drive out and find a place but then finding a place to park becomes a hassle again. Keep snacks/food handy. Keep gas tank full as you don't want to be someplace on a Sunday in particular with a need for gas and no stations open and you wander the countryside. Rent a car large enough to have a trunk for your luggage.

    Was in CT in Nov and trains are plentiful between towns.

    Check out KarenBrown.com for really unique places to stay. You might also want to figure out about laundry and find a apt every so often so you can do a wash in the apt and let it dry on the line rather than waste time trying to find a laundry and then sitting there for an hour or two.

    I also make it a point to hit the Sat and/or Sun markets as well--really fun.

    We always travel Sept-Nov and the weather is wonderful. I bring a light jacket but am usually in short sleeves. Did Sept to Nov for our 2 month trip and just did late Oct/early Nov 2014 for Med/Adriatic cruise--great weather.

    Enjoy!

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    October is a great time of year for Tuscany. I would rent the car in Florence and drive to Lucca (less than an hour). Lucca would make a good base to explore Northern Tuscany, easy day trips to Pisa, Barga, Castiglione di Garfagnana, and the Cinque Terra.
    And then Sienna makes a great base for day trips to San Gimignano, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, and Orvieto. Renting a car is great way to explore the numerous hill towns, castles, villages throughout the region. I love driving in Tuscany, in the countryside there is little traffic and the roads along the vineyards are amazing.

    We too wrapped up in Rome, but a bit of advice: Don't try to drive in Rome. We dropped the car off at the airport (which is outside the city) took a train into Rome, spent 3 days in Rome and then taxi back to the airport.

    Mike

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    For your October time frame, I suggest putting Viareggio and le Cinque Terre on the *maybe* list. Viagreggio will be deader than a doornail. Le Cinque Terre only makes sense if you are going in perfectly dry weather, and if you want to hike, it needs to have been dry for a few days running (meaning, the day after a heavy rainstorm, the trails are too muddy even if the day is sunny).

    Personally if it were me, I would tack a day onto Florence and visit Lucca from there by train as a day trip. Then I might leave Florence, take a train to Siena, rent a car, put my luggage in the trunk, park and sightsee Siena, and then at the end of the day head off to a farm or small village for a week. The most famous scenery of the Tuscan countryside is just a bit south of Siena, either the area of le Crete Senesi or the val d'Orcia, or some people like to go to the Chianti hills.

    However, if you prefer to actually stay in Lucca and Siena, it's not hard to find parking in October and walk to lodgings. If those are your first choices, don't let me dissuade you, but I will point out that for many people the charm of visiting the wine country of Tuscany is to stay in the countryside/ villages rather than in the small art cities like Lucca and Siena. But it's a subjective call: some people find it boring to stay in a small town where there are only 2 restarants (at most) or on a farm in the evening. Small art cities like Lucca or Siena have 20 or more restaurants, and although it is likely to be quite cool at night, some people want to walk around a small town after dinner rather than hang out by the fireplace in a village or on a winery.

    So your call, but I will also say that for your October time frame, 90 minutes of driving one way to go sightseeing, and then returning to the same base is a lot driving during a time when you have decreasing daylight hours. Remember too that most Tuscan towns have a long lunch time, when shops and small museums close up, so unless you are early risers, you can persistently find yourselves arriving at your daytrip destination with not much time before things close for lunch, and they won't re-open until 3.30 or later. Also, while it is easy peasy to drive the roads that connect the villages and castles in the wine country, driving back and forth out of Lucca generally means using the busy major highway. Siena also sees a fair amount of traffic.

    But I am very biased in favor of staying right in the wine country, on a wine estate or a food producing farm, eating on the farm and spending the days visiting someplace like Volterra or Pienza, etc. Although most of Tuscany is tourist oriented, places like Siena and Lucca end up feeling more like tourist pods or set-ups to me than do the working farms. So if you are looking for local feel, and understanding Tuscany from the ground up, it's an interesting place to be -- but like I said, some people are bored blind by a rural stay.

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    I see this as a lot of driving. If it was my trip, I'd shrink the geography. My preference would be the part of Tuscany between Florence and Montepulciano-Pienza-Montalcino, but I admit I'm not a big fan of Lucca.

    I probably wouldn't include the CT unless I spent a night there.

    San Gimignano is closer to Siena than Lucca. Depending on your interests, you could possibly visit SG and Volterra from Siena in the same day.

    Siena is probably bigger than you're imagining. It has some wonderful sights and good restaurants, but you'll encounter significant traffic as you leave and return from excursions.

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