Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

1st time to Italy...Cinque Terre, Florence and which Tuscan hill town?

1st time to Italy...Cinque Terre, Florence and which Tuscan hill town?

Jun 1st, 2010, 08:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 464
1st time to Italy...Cinque Terre, Florence and which Tuscan hill town?

My husband and I would like to go to Italy in October 2011, which will be for my 30th birthday! We have been to Europe once which was our trip to Paris in October 2008.

This being our first trip to Italy, I would love to visit Cinque Terre and Florence. I also want to visit a Tuscan hill town or two...depending on how much time we have. I am thinking, as of now, we will have 10 days in Italy excluding travel days.

1) Which Tuscan hill towns should we visit?
2) Which are your favorites?
3) What order will be best to make the most of our time? How many days in each place?

Thanks in advance!
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 09:17 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 9,023
My favorite is Siena - even though a large Tuscan hilltown - it is superb and IMO rivals Florence in its main square - actually Siena was an ancient rival of Florence but lost out due to some plague if i remember correctly

Easy to get to from Florence by car or bus (less than an hour and just a few euro.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 09:51 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,209
Siena and Lucca are my favorites. However, I have not been
to many of the places not accessible by train so you may find
quaint villages you would like much more if you have a car.The
"car fodorites" will be able to give you lots of other suggestions.
violetduck is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 09:52 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 164
We love Montepulicano and Pienza - beautiful hill towns with great wine and cheese - and wonderful food. The entire area is breathtaking!
bab706 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 10:32 AM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 171
Stay in PIENZA and visit-
SIENA - full day
PITIGLIANO (must visit this incredible hill town), SORANA, SOVANA - about 1.5 hours drive from Pienza
for this will need a minimum of 3-4 nights

barry3040 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,913
Will you be renting a car? Any special interests?
zoecat is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 01:11 PM
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 23
Are these all accessible by train?
DaniGirlTravels is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 01:56 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 9,422

Siena has to be my least favorite hilltown and Pitigliano is very far south of le Cinque Terre. To me, the pleasure of Tuscany is not in any of the hilltowns but in seeing the scenery. (Lucca is not a hilltown, by the way.)

I point all this out because you are really only going to get a shout-out here of people cheerleading for what they like to do on THEIR vacation.

It really does matter whether you rent a car, and what YOU like to do on your vacation. If you tell us more about your curiousity in seeing a hilltown -- a quiet one? one in wine country? One with dramatic architecture? One with a destination restaurant? -- maybe people can pinpoint one you would find most rewarding.

As to le Cinque Terre and how much time you should spend in it, there is often a big difference in weather between the beginning of October and the end of October. Are you planning on doing a lot of hiking? By the end of the first week in October, it will probably be too chilly to swim, and maybe too cool to eat outdoors at night. How much do you like to be in an extremely quiet village? Do you just want to see le Cinque Terre or spend days there? Because in October, it might make sense to base yourself in Lerici, or even Lucca, and day trip to le Cinque Terre with a car.

How interested are you in art and art history? Many people feel one day in Florence is enough, and find the large museums there overwhelming and tiring. Others who have a lifelong interest in Renaissance studies want to spend as much time as they can there.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,237
Just curious as to why Venice isn't on your wish list. I can't imagine a first trip to Italy without seeing Venice. That said, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and hill towns of Tuscany are fabulous. I like Siena, but it is pretty large. Pienza is very cute. I'd consider it. I'm really glad we got to see Florence (especially the David, my favorite sculpture anywhere in the world), but Florence is jam-packed with people, and a day and a half were enough for me. I enjoyed the smaller towns more.
althom1122 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 02:51 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 9,422
I'm always curious why people can't imagine going to a first trip to Italy without seeing Venice -- other than... lack of imagination?

Pienza is a Tuscan town entirely remade by Pope Pius II in the 15th c. to be THE Renaissance ideal city. Little did he imagine one day people would deem it "very cute" before heading off to suffer 10 hours in Firenze.

Imagination, as Jimmy Scott once sang, is funny.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,209
Oops, sorry about saying Lucca. Think I didn't read the OP's
question very well and was just thinking Tuscany. However,
don't know that I realized Lucca was not a hilltown, so thanks
zeppole. I need lots of help!!!
violetduck is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 05:29 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 119

What are some of your favorite Tuscany hill towns? What is it about Siena that makes it one of your least favorite? Reason asking is because we were thinking of basing out of Siena for a few days & plan to visit a couple other places. We are more interested in scenery, wine, food ...

We will rent a car or hire a driver. Which places do you recommend?
mykidsmom99 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 05:59 PM
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 30
We stayed in Arezzo for about a week (rented an apartment on the Grande Piazza) and did day trips to Siena, Florence and my daughter traveled to Cinque Terre (she was at Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo) which was a few hours train ride from Arezzo. It was a good base; not touristy.
susiebgood is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 07:51 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 464
Our trip will be the first week in October. My birthday is October 4.

zeppole: We don't mind renting a car if we will need one. I don't have a particular reason (such as you said: architecture, restaurant or quietness) for visiting a hilltown. I just want to experience Tuscany! As for Florence, I don't dislike art but I don't love it either. Florence to me is the main focal point of Tuscany and where to start. How can you go to Tuscany and not go to Florence? As for Cinque Terre, I would like to do some hiking. I love the look of CT, how the towns are hugging the cliff and spill out to the sea. I love how it seems quaint. We want to stay at La Mala in Vernazza.

I read adventureseeker's trip report and was mesmerized by her writing and descriptions. She is the reason for me wanting to see Cinque Terre. I've always wanted to go to Tuscany.

althom1122: You can't imagine that I would take my first trip to Italy without seeing Venice. I would love to see Venice but for my first trip I did want to focus on Tuscany and Cinque Terre. Also I will only be there for 10 days. With our jobs it is hard to take off for longer than a week. I would love to go to Italy for two weeks or a month but we can't.

For future reference: My reference to Tuscan hilltowns is to experience Tuscany! I don't have any particular interests of why I would choose one town over another. I would just appreciate recommendations on which you think I would get the most out of my Tuscan experience!
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,941
"I love how it seems quaint." Maybe in October, but it would have to drastically change from its state in May.
If you don't want to see Firenze, then don't. Really, with 10 days pick your priorities--I just spent 9 days and don't regret seeing Firenze. I can go back--it will always be there. And if I don't, I have the satisfaction that I mostly spent my precious time where I wanted to be.
yorkshire is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 07:59 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,941
I meant I don't regret NOT seeing Firenze. I did regret CT a little bit.
yorkshire is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 08:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 464
yorkshire: I do want to see Florence. What was CT like for you?
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 08:16 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 9,422
Louise traveler,

Perhaps the main reason Tuscany has become so popular as a tourist destination is because it is very easy to drive in some areas of Tuscany's farmlands and vinyards, and for many people -- perhaps most -- the "Tuscan experience" is precisely about driving the country roads of Tuscany, through the rolling hills, with castle-towns in the background. Like you, most people don't have a reason for chosing one town over another. The experience they are looking for is a town that hasn't seen any modernity, that is still a medieval village. They like wandering in these towns.

So you probably want to rent a car for that part of your trip, but not for Florence or le Cinque Terre.

If you don't love art, consider seeing Florence as a day trip and walking around the Renaissance city to take in its grandeur without going into museums. I do recommend that you visit the interior of the Bapistery.

And since you are going in October, consider basing somewhere near le Cinque Terre with a car, and visiting le Cinque Terre only if the weather is nice.

For a true Tuscan experience, I suggest you divide your 10 day stay into two parts: Stay half the time in a farmhouse in the hills of Lucca or Pisa, and stay half the time in a farmhouse just south of Siena.

From the farmhouse near Lucca or Pisa, you can visit le Cinque Terre, Lucca and Pisa, and probably San Gimignano and Volterra. Park the car one day at a train station on the way to Florence and visit Florence by train for a day.

From the farmhouse just south of Siena, you can visit Siena but then the most famous hilltowns of that area: Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano and any others you discover on your own. My feeling is that people's favorite hilltowns are the ones they discover on their own and where they find the smallest population of other tourists.


In general, I take less pleasure in walled cities than other people do, and Siena in particular has the feel of a violent fortress, with a dark medieval current. Even the fresco art of Siena runs toward the dark. It has spectacular features, which I find it incredibly rewarding to see, but is is often so clogged with mobs of tourists it can just be downright unpleasant to be there. I don't enjoy spending time there.

While the wine of Siena is justly famous, I don't think much of the food. As for scenery, I most like the area around Montalcino (also famous wine) and Buonconvento, generally known as "le Crete," and also la Maremma, which opens out to the sea and which most people don't think of as "Tuscany" when it comes to tourism. I prefer open spaces and open views, and prefer undisturbed nature as opposed to intensely cultivated farms and vinyards.

I think if you use Siena as a base you will find yourself cut off from scenery in the evenings, in a competition for parking and road space and with a paucity of good restaurants. You might consider basing in a smaller town or on a farm that serves dinner. However, if you are traveling with kids, they might like the lively crowds of Siena and the medieval-castle feel.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 08:30 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,049
sap is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 08:38 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 464
zeppole: Any recommendations for a B&B/farmhouse/hotel we could stay so that we can drive through the Tuscan hills and stop at towns?
louistraveler5 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:35 AM.