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25th Anniversary Trip to Florence, Tuscany

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Mar 10th, 2013, 01:59 PM
  #1
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25th Anniversary Trip to Florence, Tuscany

I’m turning to my trusty Fodorites to help me plan our belated 25th anniversary to Italy. We just had our 25th anniversary in December and hubby (B) was out-of-town for it! Having an anniversary in December has proven tricky over the years. We are usually so busy, and tapped out $ wise that we do something quick and cheap, if anything! We promised ourselves we would celebrate this anniversary big time. And of course B has his big Five Oh coming up in April. Italy it is!

We are flying into Rome on Sunday 5/5 and leaving Sunday 5/12. While a week might not seem long to most people, it is the longest vacation we have ever taken, and the first one abroad without our children.

5/5 Arrive
5/5-5/8 Florence
5/8 -5/10 Montepulciano or San Gimignano (other suggestion?)
5/10-5/12 Rome

Our flight arrives Sunday morning and our plan is to take the train on Sunday straight to Florence. I would love for any suggestions as to where to stay. We will be in Florence for 3 nights. Our budget is around $150 per night but would be willing to be flexible for a really fabulous place. A bed and breakfast would be really nice. Historic building a plus!

5/6 I have reserved a bike tour http://www.ibiketuscany.com/tours/view/e-bike-tour which includes the area near Chianti, wine/olive oil tasting, lunch at a winery. Best part is these are electric bikes. You can pedal as much or as little as you want.

5/7 http://www.tasteflorence.com/ I’m really excited about this! It goes until 2:30 so we still have a good portion of the day. Could we fit in The Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia here?

5/8-5/10 rent a car and drive to a small town in Tuscany. Suggestions of town welcome. Would be willing to spend more here. Suggestions for an agritourismo or Palazzo? Day trips to wineries? Wandering and shopping.

5/11 Rome Vatican & Sistine Chapel (B’s choice) or Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Forum etc. (my choice). We will be flying out the following day. Is it recommended to stay closer to the airport or is it easy to get to the airport? Our flight leaves at 9:40 a.m.

It might seem sacrilegious to only spend one day in Rome, but we want to focus this trip more on the countryside and people, shopping and eating than museums and churches. Since we have so little time, this is what we thought would be best for us.

I am open to critiques, suggestions and adjustments!
Thanks in advance!
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Mar 10th, 2013, 03:02 PM
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Listing a day by day itinerary may help us all understand more clearly how much time you have in each location.

Sun, 5/5 Arrive Rome in morning; arrive Florence early afternoon
Mon, 5/6 Florence - bike tour to Chianti
Tue, 5/7 Florence - half-day food tour
Wed, 5/8 travel to Montepulciano or San Gimignano or other Tuscany location
Thu, 5/9 Tuscany
Fri, 5/10 travel to Rome
Sat, 5/11 Rome
Sun, 5/12 early flight home

This trip really has you on the move, but it seems like that's what you want. For me, it seems a bit odd that you have the bike tour to Tuscany from Florence, only to go driving in that direction two days later. With so little time there, I might delete Rome altogether and just split the week between Florence and Tuscany to give you more time in the two places in which you seem more interested. Or just arrive in Rome early on 5/11 for one night and a stroll through the old center for a taste of Rome before returning home.
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Mar 10th, 2013, 04:00 PM
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Thank you, elenem, that does make it clearer when you list the itinerary like that. I know the bike tour out of Florence sounds strange when we are heading back to Tuscany. This is a unique tour and its only out of Florence. Are Chianti or the other towns very far from Florence? Curious as to what we could expect in terms of travel time between Florence and those towns in Tuscany. Also, from Tuscany to Rome?
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Mar 10th, 2013, 07:51 PM
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IMHO you need to go at least 20 miles south to see even the homogenized version of Tuscany. The best hill towns are 50 to 75 miles south. I would think again about a bike tour with such a short time.
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Mar 10th, 2013, 09:16 PM
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I agree with bobthenavigator. The bike tour may be "unique," but IMO it's not the best use of your limited time. In looking at the tour itinerary (San Donato, Cortine, Tignano, Tavernelle Val di Pesa), some of the route is on single-lane roads lined by trees and vegetation. This makes for a cooler ride on hot days but doesn't allow for much viewing of the surrounding landscape. I think the route was selected for safety and comfort but isn't in what I would consider the most scenic part of Chianti. You can follow most of the route on Google's Streetview. Just plug in the route and drag the little yellow man to various points.

However, this is your trip, so you should do what you would most enjoy.

But are you sure a shortened afternoon is enough time to see everything you'd like to see in Florence? There is so much more than the Uffizi and the Accademia...

Driving out of Florence can be tricky. If you decide to rent the car in Florence, make sure you identify a route out of the city that avoids the Limited Traffic Zone so that you don't get a surprise ticket in the mail after you get home.

Visiting wineries in Tuscany involves some planning. Most wineries are not set up for drop-in visitors and require appointments. Some towns (Montalcino and Montepulciano, for example) have in-town tasting rooms.

At the other end of your rental, consider dropping the car at Chiusi or Orvieto and taking the train to Rome.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Okay, just what I wanted (more like needed to hear!) I am taking the bike tour off our itinerary. Maybe we can rent bikes in Tuscany. This will give us one full day in Florence in addition to the two half days (arrival day and Taste Florence tour day.) Since that full day is a Monday we will have to strategize as I understand several museums are not open that day.

Thank you, Jean, for looking deeper into the bike tour for that insight. While it might have been fun, it doesn't seem like it would be as scenic as I hoped. Would it be easier to get out of Florence to rent the car? Is it easy to drop it off at a different location (Chiusi or Orvieto).

Bob, we are willing to drive further away to experience a "less homogenized" version of Tuscany. Do you have any favorite hill towns? We would love to stay at a place that would help us feel immersed. For example, we once stayed at a B & B where the owner totally rewrote our travel plans, to our delight. We ended up feeding newborn calves at his family's dairy farm. We ate ice cream from their own cows. He arranged the most exquisite drives and local gems that weren't listed in any travel books we had seen.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 09:16 AM
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Of course--get south of Siena:


BOB’S FAVORITE DIGS IN TUSCANY
A. RURAL LOCATIONS: All have parking and good food options nearby

1. Relais La Saracina www.lasaracina.it 230 to 300E
Fabulous country home near Montepulciano—helpful owners

2. Cretaiole Agriturismo http://www.cretaiole.it/ Good value for families
Isabella also has 2 apts. in Castelmuzio for rent—wonderful—see her site.

3. Terre di Nano www.terredinano.com 100 to 155
Both rooms and apartments at rural Agriturismo near Monticchiello

4. Casanova di Pescille http://www.casanovadipescille.com/ 100E
Rural B&B 3 KM from famed San Gimignano—we loved the views of San Gim.

5. Fattoria Tregole www.fattoria-tregole.com 110E to 180E
Has both B&B and apartment accommodations. Near Castellina in Chianti

6. Agriturismo apts. near San Quirico— www.poggiolo.info/ About 110E

7. New historic B&B north of Pienza. http://www.camprena.it/index.htm
Site of filming for THE ENGLISH PATIENT About 90E for double

8. http://www.borgoargenina.it/index.html A special rural B&B in Chianti.
The lovely owner, Elena, will make you feel like family. 170E for double

B. IN-TOWN LOCATIONS: For walking convenience to shops & ristorantes.

1. Palazzo del Capitano www.palazzodelcapitano.com 170 to 210E
Very nice small hotel in center of San Quirico—perfect location to explore.

2. Vecchia Oliviera www.vecchiaoliviera.com/ 150 to 200E
Nice 4 star hotel at the gate into lovely Montalcino---has pool.

3. Palazzina Cesari www.montalcinoitaly.com 80 to 110E
Lovely small B&B in heart of Montalcino—great value—2 night stay minimum.

4. Locanda di San Francesco www.locandasanfrancesco.it 180 to 200E
New boutique B&B in a lovely location in Montepulciano—great reviews !

5. Politian apartments http://www.politian.com/ Good value apts. with
minimum stay of 3 nights in Montepulciano---helpful host---85E

6. Palazzo Ravizza www.palazzoravizza.it 170 to 250E
Very nice & popular hotel in Siena with parking.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 09:45 AM
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jayhawk,
This may help http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm
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Mar 11th, 2013, 10:05 AM
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I get the impression you're more interested in rural Tuscany and not so much in Florence. So why not stay in rural Tuscany and daytrip into Florence? If you stayed in Siena, you could take a bus into Florence. Farther south traveling to Florence is not so quick.

The archetypical Tuscan countryside is farther south, in the Val d'Orcia. I like the towns of Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia as bases; they're easy to drive in and out of. You do need a car for this area. But don't plan to drive immediately. If you arrive after a long, overnight flight, you'll be jet-lagged and sleepy for the first day or so.

And I assume you already have your plane tickets. Otherwise consider flying into Pisa. It's an easy train ride to Florence.
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Mar 12th, 2013, 04:49 PM
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Thank you, everyone, for your input. Bob, I love all your suggestions. Just the kind of place we are looking for. Saw a couple that aren't available so that helps a bit. Ha ha!

Mimar, we really do want Florence AND Tuscany. Actually, we want Florence, Tuscany, Venice, the Amalfi, Rome, Milan etc. I thought I was being good to cut it down to just two areas! Lol!

I feel kind of behind as I am booking lodging. Many places I was interested in we're already booked. I was able to secure this B & B. http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/tren...buPTs3xyNzqfM=
I understand it is out of the city center a bit. Is that a big deal? I hope not because the reviews look really good.
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Mar 12th, 2013, 05:52 PM
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With the really short amount of time you have in each location, it is really important to stay in the city center. There are lots of options but it's best to stay as close to the center as possible to avoid spending a lot of time getting to the main sights.
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Mar 12th, 2013, 06:01 PM
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I can't believe you can't work Venice in. The most beautiful and romantic city.
Florence can be crowded but really a nice place with history, museums and ambiance.
Rome is big, busy and crowded.
You can see my trip reports at - http://www.rimerson.com/
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Mar 12th, 2013, 07:38 PM
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I for one applaud the OP for NOT trying to work Venice in. This is only a 7-day trip!
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Mar 14th, 2013, 03:37 PM
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My husband and I spent a few days in the Tuscany Florence area last October and I have to say of either place I would spend more time in Tuscany than in Florence. If you are going to the Ufizzi or the Accademia GET RESERVATIONS! (the concierge at your hotel can do it for you) It will cut your wait time in half, do the same with the Vatican (this must be done online). Also, paying the extra money for the high speed train from Florence to Rome is well worth it! We stayed at a very nice and reasonably priced hotel( which included breakfast) right across the street from the train station in Florence. It was very convenient when it was time to leave, no need for a taxi, we just grabbed our luggage and headed across the street. It was called Hotel Ambasciatori.
You have probably made your hotel reservations by now but I just have to add the Villa Vignamaggio in Chianti Tuscany was a heavenly place to stay. Like many it is a working vineyard and the former home of THE "Mona Lisa". The staff was very friendly and accommodating. We would stay there again in a heartbeat. The movie "Much Ado About Nothing " was filmed on this property, there is also a delicious restaurant with a gorgeous view at the Villa. I think the best advice for any trip is do your research then make your trip your own! The most magical moments on a trip happen when least expected and many times in the unplanned.
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Mar 14th, 2013, 04:30 PM
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Yep, I agree that Venice should be left for next time.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 11:37 AM
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I just booked this Agriturismo as recommended by bob. Thanks, bob!! The reviews seem like just what we looking for.

http://www.terredinano.com/index.asp?lang=eng

Just have to get our digs in Rome arranged!
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Mar 15th, 2013, 01:12 PM
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I noted your 25th Anniversary posting with much pleaseure - we visited Venice, Florence and Rome last year to celebrate our 25th AND DH's 50th. We had a wonderful time, of course!

I think that B&B is a bit away from where you'd want to be, and in a direction of Florence that's less interesting. Consider Casa dei Tintori - we'd didn't stay here on our anniversary trip, because they were booked, but stayed there previously. It's near Santa Croce, the rooms are delightful, clean and beautiful, in a historic building. The owners are helpful and welcoming, and serve a very nice breakfast.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 01:57 PM
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Terrific---you will love it.

Be sure to eat at least once at Osteria La Porta---book in advance.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 02:19 PM
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Lex, I'm having trouble with that b and b's website. It won't accept my email address when I try to make an inquiry. How about this one? http://www.florence-view.eu/bed-and-...nze/index.aspx

Will do bob! Thanks
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Mar 15th, 2013, 03:01 PM
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Bob, I hope I can pick your brain again. I just heard back from Elena at Borgo Argenina. She has a room available but for three nights minimum. We had only planned two in Tuscany. Her letter was lovely. She mentioned how much she would like to help us enjoy the area. Should I cancel Terre di Nano, book Borgo and cut Rome down to one night? I know this sounds sacrilegious, but our time is so limited. This trip is kind of last minute, but this is the only time frame that works for us.

So it comes down to this, is staying at Borgo Argenina worth changing our plans?

Thanks in advance!
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