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are hotel reservations a "must" in Tuscany?

are hotel reservations a "must" in Tuscany?

Jun 20th, 2008, 10:52 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 36
are hotel reservations a "must" in Tuscany?

My husband and i are traveling to Tuscany in mid-October. We are staying 3 days in Florence and have hotel reservations. I've been researching hotels, agriterismo's and apartments in the Chianti, Siena and Montelpulchiano areas. It is much cheaper to stay at an apartment or agriterismo, but I've been ill and depending on what happens between now and then, we may not get to go at all. The cancellation policies for the apartments and agriterismos are quite strict and can be costly if we can't go. My husband wants to take a chance and not have reservations and just find something as we drive from Florence. We'd like to stay probably 2 or 3 nights in the Chianti area and then 2 or 3 nights in the Montepulciano area. Is it too risky not haveing reservations? I'm not a big fan of sleeping in the car!
lsugirl01 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 12:42 PM
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I think it's generally possible to travel in October without reservations as long as you have a flexible budget (meaning you may have to pay more than you planned), flexible expectations (meaning you may not end up in the type of place you planned) and a flexible itinerary (meaning you may spend more time looking for lodging than you planned). This doesn't work for me, so I'd probably book lodging before leaving home.
Jean is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 12:53 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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We have traveled off season and looked for places to stay as we went along. Since you won't be traveling with a large party, and as long as you are flexible with the price you can pay, you should be fine. You might want to check to make certain there are no major (school) holidays during that time as that would make a difference in room availabilities.

I hope it works out for you to go!
Trophywife007 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 01:10 PM
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My first trip to Tuscany included a couple of unreserved nights and it did not work out well. This was because of a couple of factors, unfamiliarity with the areas and very little signage for accommodations. Southern Tuscany rarely has places that are obvious to a newcomer, especially places with local charm. It wasn't a disaster but I haven't done it again during our last 10 trips.

I think you can do it with a fairly good list of options previously researched for your likely areas. Say 5 or 6 for each of Chianti or Montepulciano and knowledge of amenities and costs. That along with advice from locals in each area should get you what you need.

That being said, I'm with Jean and do not enjoy taking any time while in-country locating my next bed. Good luck. Paul

macanimals is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 01:49 PM
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One thing to be aware of that makes finding lodging in the countryside more difficult - in addition to the factors already mentioned - towns are small, hotels/agritourimos/B&Bs are small too. Not very many rooms available at each place.

How much time do you want to spend driving from place to place, trying to locate a place, only to have to go on to the next which may be in a whole different town?

Like the others, I don't want to spend any of my vacation time frustrated. I like to have my reservations and directions. Makes things much less difficult.

I would try for hotels in small towns that have a liberal enough cancellation policy for your situation.

Buona fortuna!
Dayle is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
Hi Isugirl,

first of all, in October you'll have no problem finding somewhere to lay your heads, but it might take you a bit longer to find somewhere you like. taking a good guide book like michelin and /or a laptop would surely help.

but if you decided to pre-book, you don't have to do it yet. a few days before would be fine, that time of year. you could research the places you wanted, with a few reserves, and the wonders of e-mail should allow almost instantaneous booking and confirmation.

that would avoid incurring concellation charges if you book now. i suppose that a few places may be ful that time of year, but most wil have some availability, and at last minute, might cut you a deal.

hope you are able to go ,and have a great trip,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Also check out if there are any local festivals when you're there. That could result in town being completely sold out. Agree you will find SOMETHING if you're flexible on amenities, location and price.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 03:54 PM
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I agree with Ann.
Do your homework in advance so you know what you want and how to find it, but only book it when you are ready. Do not totally wing it---too much waste of time.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 04:39 PM
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Thank you all for your advice. I'm a reservations person myself, but my husband says we should be "adventurous"! I'm all for adventure, but just want a clean place to sleep in a bed. My idea of "roughing it" is the holiday inn! I hope we can go too since I've already booked airfare.I'm going to Houston next week for second opinion and hope somebody can at least make a diagnosis, fix me, and I can get on with my life. I do like the advice of waiting till a few days before and making reservations. But if my husband insists on adventure, I had planned to do my research, have a list of several places in hand with directions so that hopefully, we could first, find it and second if they are booked we could move on to the next.
lsugirl01 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 05:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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We booked our hotels for a May, 2008, trip in January, and we're glad we did. Every room was ready for us upon arrival and they were all spacious or with great views.

Why spend any part of your few days in Italy wandering around looking for a room that is more costly and not as nice as they one you could have booked in advance?

happytrailstoyou is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 11:31 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 36
The simple answer is no, of course you don't need to book for October.
However, if you really want a guaranteed standard of accomodation and booking it would make you feel more relaxed about it, then go ahead. As you are going to the Montepulciano area I am attaching some notes I wrote for a Fodorite a couple of weeks ago which may be useful.

Yes, you’ve chosen one of the loveliest spots in Italy. Montepulciano itself is just over the crest of hills from the Val d’Orcia which, as you probably know, is a UNESCO designated “area of outstanding natural beauty”. For me this area together with the Val Gardena in the Dolomites are THE most beautiful parts of Italy.

As with my notes on Venice, I don’t intend repeating here all those things you can find in the guidebooks. I’ll just give you a few ideas and perhaps some practical tips. On the town of Montepulciano therefore, I have not much to add. If you are not staying in the old part of the town, driving in and parking can be a bit of a problem. I usually go quite early (before 9) and if you take the main access road (don’t turn off up any narrow lanes as the locals do otherwise you’ll never get out again!), just before reaching the centre you’ll see on the left-hand side a Banca di Roma. You can’t park there but from that point on grab the first parking place you see (for some you’ll need a ticket from the machine, others – with the white lines -not). If you arrive at the end of the access road (a roundabout, and you can’t go any further because it’s pedestrians only) there is a small car park facing you and I often find a space there. The tourist office is located in this car park. It’s a long steep climb up through the old town to the main square at the top, but well worth doing. Now, you remember my mouth watering at the thought of Florian’s in Venice? Well, half way up the climb in Montepulciano, on the left hand side going up, is a café called Poliziano (it has a small frontage and is not well marked, you might miss it first time). This is almost on the level of Florian’s. It was a favourite with writers, artists and other intellectuals during the Grand Tour in the 19th century and it has not changed. The décor is the same as it was then, and the view from the tiny balcony is splendid. You’ll still find elderly English gentlemen there in their panama hats. So, if the climb is getting to you by now, stop off for a coffee or a gelato at Poliziano’s.

Pienza is a gem and for the first time it should be approached on the road from the south. Follow me carefully here – this is an order! If you take the main road from Montepulciano to Pienza you’ll just think you’ve arrived in a pretty but not unusual Italian medieval town. But if you take the road that climbs up out of the Val d’Orcia from the south you’ll get a breathtaking view of the town rising above you. I used the word “sublime” once in my Venice notes, and I’ll use it again here for this approach to Pienza. Get a good map and you’ll see roads leading out of Montepulciano southwards to Montichiello (well worth visiting itself) or “La Foce” (which I’ll come back to later). Some of these country roads are not paved but are quite passable and in any case very short. Take this route and then turn northwards to Pienza. Sublime. For Pienza town see the guidebook. Don’t go on a Friday as it’s market-day and the main car park is given over to the market stalls. The view from the town walls over the Val d’Orcia is magnificent and you will understand the reason for the UNESCO designation. In Spring the green is intense. In July and August is gets dry and brown – still lovely but…different. The “passeggiata”: Pienza is very small and if you go through the town gate at the end of the main street (to your right as you are facing the Cathedral) you’ll find yourself in a little park with a war memorial in the middle. There is a signpost for the passeggiata, follow it. This is a charming walk (1/2 mile?) with again stupendous views out towards Monte Amiata. This paseggiata is mentioned in, for example, Henry James and Charles Dickens, and at the very end you’ll find a tiny church dedicated to Santa Caterina of Siena. It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that there is a little notice on the walls saying that the pictures have had to be removed to protect them from vandals (the church is unattended).

La Foce: Are you interested in literature? Have you heard of the American writer (married to an Italian count) called Iris Origo? Well, La Foce is (was) her home. If you want some serious holiday reading I can recommend her biography written by Caroline Moorehead “Iris Origo – Marchesa of Val d’Orcia” published by D.R. Godine, Boston, Mass. You can get it, in English of course, at the little book/newspaper shop at Pienza, in the piazza with the park mentioned above. You’ll learn a lot about the Val d’Orcia, particularly during the first half of the 20th century. You can also get international newspapers at the same shop if you want to catch up on the news back home. The thing about La Foce is that the gardens were designed by a famous British landscape gardener called Cecil Pinsent, who designed the gardens for many villas in and around Florence. The house is inhabited by the Origo family but the gardens are open to the public for guided tours one afternoon a week, on a Wednesday. If you can, go see. A short walk down the road on the right-hand side of the house and through the trees and you’ll come to the lovely private cemetery where Iris, her husband and her son, as well as many estate workers, are buried. There is a huge old oak tree outside the cemetery gate where I often park the car in the shade and read a book. Very peaceful.

Montalcino: I’ll leave completely to the guide books. If you are going I guess you are interested in wine. Have a glass of Brunello for me!

Val d’Orcia: I suppose you know that this part of southern Tuscany is geologically active and is full of hot springs and thermal waters. Monte Amiata is an extinct volcano. That is why I go there.
I “take the waters” as the Victorians used to say at Chianciano Terme every year in the spring. There is no point in your going there and gulping down some foul tasting water for just one day.
12-15 days is the minimum period for it to do you any good. But, there are other places nearby, usually called “Bagni” which are well worth a visit. Bagno Vignoni is one. In the main piazza you’ll find the original medieval pool where even Popes came from Rome to soak in the health-giving water. Santa Caterina came from Siena as well. Some 5 star hotels have grown up around Bango Vignoni which open their pools to the public, but it’s a bit posh for me. However, a few miles down the road ( south on the Via Cassia) is Bagni San Filippo. Here there is a fabulous pool where plebs like me go (entrance costs about €10, less in the afternoon). It is a normal swimming pool except that the water is warm/hot. It is not for swimming in (except perhaps a few strokes) but for soaking in (not more than 20 minutes at a time with an interval of 20 minutes between each soak). There is a waterfall where the hot water comes shooting out of the rock but this is really hot and absolutely not for children. The pool is at the very end of the village, when you think you’ve missed it. There is a free car park.

I think by now you’ve got the idea. There are many other places to go in the area such as San Quirico d’Orcia, the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Casciano dei Bagni (another one), or if it’s hot, drive to the top of Monte Amiata (1738 metres or about 5000 feet) and have a walk in the cool woods (the road goes to about 100 yards from the summit).
Take it easy, relax, have a good holiday, and buon viaggio!

Cymraeg46 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2008, 09:06 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4,252
Can you book now, in places that have a liberal cancellation policy, such as 2 days notice?

If you're not feeling 100%, and still want to take the trip, this might not be the best time to 'wing it' with no reservations.

Good luck with your health and I hope you get to go on the trip and have a fabulous time.
travelgirl2 is online now  
Jun 22nd, 2008, 01:18 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,480
I always make reservations wherever we go but I make sure that I reserve in a place where they let me cancel usually within 48 hours of date of arrival with no penalty. This of course does lessen the amounts of maybe even types of places we can book with, but since I am never sure until the last minute that I can actually take this trip, I have no choice.

I have NEVER been disappointed. I usually choose my hotels/B&B's from tripadvisor and other web sites such as this one and just nix right away places which need 25% or 50% of the total cost up front and if you cancel even one month in advance you are penalized. It is just not worth it to me.

Everyone is different. You need to figure out if it is worth it, in order to be "adventurous" as you wrote, to possibly waste precious time looking for places to stay, and/or paying more than you wanted and/or feeling like you "settled".

We spent mid-October once in Tuscany and in the Val d'Orcia region and I can tell you it is one of THE most gorgeous areas in the world!! Enjoy!!
Flame123 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2008, 04:42 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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you will have no problems except in Siena which can get busy at the weekend. Oct a good time to visit

We toured the whole area in early june and knocked on doors and was never sent away
bilboburgler is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2008, 05:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 15
Mid October is a popular travel time and I wouldn't travel without reservations. But if you must, I agree with a previous traveler, find hotels and small inns with a liberal cancellation policy.

Yes, the agriturismi and apartments are more economical but also consider booking the least expensive hotel room - one without a view since you will likely be out of your room most of the day.

Although we usually book a week or two in the countryside, I really love staying in a small town. After traveling the hills and valleys all day, it's nice to return to the hotel, rest a bit, and then walk around the town before dinner.

In the Chianti region, consider the Palazzo Squarcialupi in the town of Castellina. The town has much to offer the traveler in terms of restaurants and shops. Or there's the Belevedere di San Leonino, not too far away in the countryside. I think there is another hotel in the same group, a bit closer to Castellina - the Colle Etrusco, I think.

In the Val d'Orcia, there are agriturismi galore, some more acclaimed than others. And you may find one that will allow a stay of less than one week. Many do not and instead have a strict Saturday to Saturday booking policy.

There is a nice, modest hotel in Montalcino, Il Giglio, and I know there are lots of rooms to rent in Montepulciano, many with great views over the valley below. However, both towns have some steep streets, most especially Montepulciano, and may not be for you.

San Quirico d'Orcia is a lovely town and would be a good base. There's a hotel there that receives lots of acclaim. The Capitano, perhaps.

Also consider that every time you transition from one area to the next, you will probably use one-half of your day in the packing and driving. I wouldn't want to use more precious hours searching for lodging.

Having said all that ........ I have friends that travel lots and never make reservations. They are in their 50's and prefer to travel with abandon since their everyday existence is very structured. I know last year they stopped to visit a winery and after the tour asked the owner if he knew of any lodging nearby. They were directed to a relatives agriturismo, where they were treated like family.

Have a wonderful trip and stay well.

JaninLucca is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2008, 06:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,408
Go for it. I have done this many times and it did not take me long at all to find a nice place to sleep. We would ask a shop owner for advice and we were always happy. When asking for a place to stay do not forget to tell them you would like a hotel or a B&B. Sometimes they only give you hotel options and not B&B. We stayed in some of the most wonderful places (not expensive) in Umbria, Tuscany, France and Greece doing this. We usually travel at the end of June. The reason we do this is we are not sure exactly where we are going to end up that day. Some days things take longer than others.

Have a great trip!!
yipper is offline  

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