2 Chicks Driving From Rome to Tuscany...

Old Aug 16th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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2 Chicks Driving From Rome to Tuscany...

OK, our first trip to Italy, trying to figure out this Tuscany thing...So should we just drive straight to Siena (how long is that drive from Rome to Siena?), and then have a home-base there for a few days and drive around Tuscany for various day trips? Or, is there somewhere else absolutely amazing that we should stay instead, or should we try a few different places, i.e. B&B's, Villas, etc? I was thinking that packing/unpacking every night might be a bit more cumbersome...We're really not sure how best to plan this....Thanks!
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 09:58 AM
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Driving in and out of Siena is not easy.

If you want to visit the countryside of Tuscany then I recommend staying in southern Tuscany near Pienza or Montepulciano. Very beautiful and plenty to keep you busy for a few days. Stay at an agriturismo with a pool.

Here's where I like to stay-

http://www.fontebertusi.it/eng/

You can train from Rome to Chiusi and pick up the car there. It is an easy 45-60 minute drive from Chuisi to the area I recommend.

Get a good guidebook (I like the Insight Guide for Tuscany for suggested places to visit) and a detailed (1cm = 2km) map.

Guidebook- http://tinyurl.com/n6xvqd

Car rental- autoeurope.com or kemwel.com
Be sure to check not only the rental price but also the deductables. Lately, I have found that Kemwel has the best rates with no deductables.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 10:08 AM
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None of the cities in Italy were designed for the car. (kinda came later) some are pretty bad like Siena and Florence. Luckily many of these places had walls around them which have now been pulled down to make car parks. So where you stay is effected by where you want to park (if you must use a car.... trains and buses can be good too).

I'd chose somewhere right outside and drive in or find a hotel in the core with a carpark
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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We stayed in Florence (car in garage) and saw quite a bit of Tuscany without having to change hotels all the time: Pisa, Siena, San Gim, Assisi, Perugia and a couple of others. Caveat: This was May when florence had ice weather and wasn't totally packed with tourists. Generally you have to park the car at a lot outside the town walls and walk into the center. Most towns are small - but they are hilltops.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 11:02 AM
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If you want to drive to Siena for a day trip, is parking available outside the City? Is there a bus or something that takes you in from the car park?
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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nancythenice,

http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/parking_siena.htm
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 11:24 AM
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zoecat, great link. laughed like a drain. I used a bike to visit Siena so I can laugh
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 11:45 AM
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Thanks zoecat.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 12:08 PM
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NYTraveler's trip must not have been this past May. We were there in May and it was in the high 90s and incredibly crowded. There's a parking structure just outside the walls and a short walk to the Campo in Siena. You can try to park on the street outside the walls but it's pretty packed.

I agree with the suggestion that you stay somewhere in southern Tuscany; Pienza would be great, Montalpuciano, Montisi... Lots of options, and lots of agriturismos. We stayed just outside of Montalcino and it was a good location for seeing much of Tuscany.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 12:36 PM
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Make sure you have a GPS. Signage in Italy isn't great and even a good map won't keep you from getting lost. We drove without a GPS (after having no problems in Northern Europe) and regretted not having one.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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I stayed in San Gimignano and we took day trips to Pari, Siena, Radda, Bolgheri as well as other spots in Tuscany.

As far as driving, I did not have to worry about that as I was with ten people. We had one American who drove the Audi Quatro and an Italian (who is a winemaker and, race car driver by trade) who drove the Fiat Van.

Be sure to pay attention to the drivers. They do communicate via headlights. If you see someone flash their headlights in your rear view mirror, they are letting you know that they intend to pass you on the left. And yes, they drive fast. We were at 132MPH (not Km) a few times. Woo whoo!
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 09:02 PM
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OK, so we just chose Siena to stay in because we thought it central to most of Tuscany...We're not married to it! Any suggestions of another place to stay in the region that is easier to drive to? I took note of the Southern Tuscany suggestions, as well as San Gimignano....Again, this is our first time, I'm really wanting it to be special!
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 09:47 PM
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Pezlie, my daughter and I drove all around Tuscany and had no problems at all. Be sure to be prepared to drive a stick shift. The Slow Traveler website has great tips for driving, parking, buying gas, etc. We rented a GPS and turned it off on the way out of Florence. It told us to go the opposite direction that the signs directed us. We found the signage in Tuscany very easy to follow.

From Montalcino it was 50 minutes to Siena, easy to visit Pienza, Montalpuciano and a host of other cute Tuscan hill towns.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 11:06 PM
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Hi Pezlie, my girlfriend and I did the same drive in 2006. First off, do not pick your rental up in Rome...oh my...what we went through can very impolitely be described as a total cluster f**k. By the time we got to FCO (pit stop to pick up lost luggage) we were laughing so hard we were crying! From there on it was an easy drive to Montepulciano, where we rented an apt for a week.

I thought this location was perfect for exploring Tuscany. I had visited Siena a few times and while it is an amazing city, I much preferred Southern Tuscany for a longer stay. From here we easily visited Montalcino, Pienza, Cortona, Arezzo, the two beautiful abbeys, Greve and a few others. We also drove to Assisi. We didn't have maps or GPS, relying on my print outs from Michelin and signage, you can probably guess that we got lost a lot. It was always beautiful and we would eventually end up somewhere or figure out how to get back on track. I have such great memories of that week and I'm sure you will too!
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 10:14 AM
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We trained to Orvieto from Rome and spent the night there and picked up our car in the morning at the base of the funicular. Great town, nice church, good resturant, nice pottery. Highly recommend.

Drove to our base in Tuscany in Pienza. Easy parking just outside the wall area. Many really good restaurants here. Drove to Multipulciano, Montalcino and the S'ant Antimo Abbey to listen to the monks chant. Spent a day at Bagno Vignoni in the thermal baths. Many colorful poppy fields of red.

Also spent time in Castellena in Chianti where we visited Greve and Siena.

I prefer the Southern part of Tuscany. Very easy driving and cute little towns with GREAT restaurants with fine wine.
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 11:10 AM
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Thanks everyone, SO much, for all the advice...This forum has been the most helpful thus far, in sort of blindly planning this trip. JenV, thanks for the advice about not renting the car in Rome, will probably train to Chiusi as ZoeCat suggested, and get the car there. Then, everyone's suggestions of staying in Southern Tuscany sounds great. Now, going to look for B&B's in these areas. So many options!!
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 11:52 AM
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A friend is now trying to urge us to stay in Cortona for our Tuscany visit...Anyone??
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 01:06 PM
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Pezlie, everyone will try to talk you into staying where they stayed. If I were you I'd just start researching some of the towns where you might go and see what calls out to you. What are you most interested in? Wine? Art? Food? Architecture? History? Let those be your influence. Go to Yahoo Images and do a search on Tuscany. It will lead you to lots of photo albums that may lead you in a direction you want to go. The good news is, whatever you choose, it won't be wrong. Have fun!
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 02:33 PM
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Exactly ! Cortona is not the best location nor the best hill town. Stay further SW of there. Buy and read TOP 10 TUSCANY by Reid Bramblett and then decide.
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 03:27 PM
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I agree with Bob- Cortona is not the best location. The area surrounding Cortona is not a lovely as the area surrounding Montepulciano or Pienza.
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