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Back to the drawing board---Cinque Terre questions

Back to the drawing board---Cinque Terre questions

Oct 6th, 2004, 03:52 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 297
Just returned from our Italy trip last night and our last stop was the CT. It was our third visit to the CT (trained in the first two times) but decided to drive in this time. We drove to Vernazza. It takes about 45 minutes after leaving the autostrada. We left Vernazza Tuesday at 4am for a 3-1/2 hour drive to Malpensa in Milan for our 10:20 flight home. We had a group of 7 and rented wonderful rooms, two of which had large terraces with great views. My advice would be 3 nights, and stay in Vernazza. We arrived in Vernazza late afternoon and watched the sunset from our terrace and went out for dinner. The second day we took the train from Vernazza to Riomaggiore and hiked back to Vernazza. The third day we hiked from Vernazza to Monterossa and trained back. Because of our fabulous accomodations I could have stayed another night and just relaxed. I did see many people "dragging Bag" searching for rooms with out any luck. Do make reservations. I do not have the info handy as I write this as to the rooms I rented but if interested drop me an email and I will forward the info once I unpack.
One final thought on the trails - Any decent pair of shoes will work just fine. Regards - Eurotravler
eurotravler is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 06:57 AM
  #22  
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The more we look at our itinerary, we're thinking Cinque Terre just doesn't fit. Here's the original w/o CT:
Rome -- 5 nights
Montepulciano -- 3
Siena -- 3
Florence -- 3

To add CT, we take one night from Rome and one night from Siena. This being our first trip to Italy, we think we'd probably do best to stick with the original...concentrate on Tuscany rather than taking that big swing up to CT. This being early May, I think Tuscany should be quite lovely and worth the extra time.

We hate to miss CT, but there's a lot to be said for simplicity too.

JeanneB is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 07:14 AM
  #23  
 
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I don't want to throw a monkey wrench into your plans but was wondering why you're moving around within Tuscany instead of renting an apartment/villa for one week in one place and exploring Tuscany from there? I can understand wanting to stay in the towns and get a feel for them at night. But it seems that you could do a week in Tuscany in one spot, which would simplify that area and give you quite a bit of time, then have time for two nights in the CT. Just a thought . . .
Parker is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 07:45 AM
  #24  
 
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I sort of agree with Parker, although if you have two full days worth of plans for Florence, I can understand staying there for two or even three nights, but I'd sure choose staying a full week in Montepulciano and doing Siena as a single day trip rather than spending 3 days in each and moving.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 08:31 AM
  #25  
 
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I agree with Patrick. Why all the moving around? The area Florence/Siena/Montepulciano isn't that big!
MyriamC is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 09:28 AM
  #26  
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Patrick, Miriam, Parker:

I'll share our thinking with you and seek your advice. (I agree it's very tempting to unpack in one place and stay there for a whole week.)

"We" are two ladies, mid 50's. We prefer not to drive after dinner, especially after "sampling" the local wines! We like to be where we can walk back to our hotel. We considered the 1-location plan, but want to experience the different towns/restaurants at night as well as during the day. So the best plan seemed to be: choose 3 locations and spread out the time between them.

I welcome your input on this. It's so easy to get "locked in" on itinerary options, perhaps based on flawed assumptions. Perhaps driving after dinner wouldn't be so bad? Another consideration: since this is our first trip to Italy, we thought we'd do better staying in hotels where there is a staff to help out with language,plans, reservations, etc.

Lastly, I found that apartments usually have "matrimonial" beds, where we prefer separate rooms or twin beds. That cut down on our choices, whereas hotels usually have pretty good single room rates.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
JeanneB is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 10:48 AM
  #27  
 
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Hi JeanneB - I had the same concerns as you about Tuscany. The first time we went, we stayed in a villa near Siena and I was very nervous about driving back at night after dinner. The second time, we stayed in a hotel in Lucca, but I really missed a place of our own where we could have a leisurely coffee in the morning and sit out at night under the millions of stars. So, this last time we went to Tuscany, I researched to find an apartment that also offered a restaurant.

We (my husband and another couple) ended up staying at the Tenuta di Lupinari which is an old borgo that has been renovated into apartments and a B&B, and has a small restaurant that serves a wonderful dinner four nights a week. The cost was 30E per person which included four courses plus all the wine and water (more expensive than wine) you could drink. The food was wonderful and we then only had to wander a few steps to our apartment.

It's located near Bucine in a triangle between Siena, Arezzo, and Chianti area with easy access to the autostrada. We easily made day trips to Siena, Florence, towns in the Chianti area, Montepulciano, Cortona, etc. After a long day of touring, some nights we ate at the restaurant and other nights we'd stop at the market in the closest town, pick up some bread, cheese, salad makings, steak/sausages (the apt had a grill), along with the wine we bought that day on our excursions, and would have a wonderful relaxing meal on the patio! A couple of nights we drove to a local pizza/pasta restaurant (beautiful outdoor setting - and we were the only tourists in there!). We all fell in love with the place and have recommended it to everyone we know. Here's the website: http://www.lupinari.com/

Another recommendation I tell others going to Tuscany is to splurge on a convertible when you rent a car. You are then able to take in the most wonderful smells of the flowers, pine trees, etc as you drive the countryside. Tuscany is such a magical place!

PS - but I also love the CT which is why I'm recommended that you go there as well if you can. Two nights would be great! It's amazing!
Parker is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 11:11 AM
  #28  
 
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JeanneB: Why not consider the trains? I never rent a car when in Italy and I am there all the time. Train travel is convenient, direct, and economical. If you pick a nice central spot in Tuscany to make your base, you can easily go back and forth to neighboring towns for day trips; and also stay for dinner there and have that drink(s)! It certainly makes traveling easy, especially since this is your first trip to Italy. The roads throughout Tuscany and the surrounding areas might be confusing and daunting for a newcomer.

I still think you should at least try to get over to the CT and see it. If you can't stay there, then at least make it a full-day trip and leave early in the morning to get there (allow ~ 2 hours via train from Tuscany) and you can stay through til after dinner as they are evening trains going back all the time.
Huitres is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 11:15 AM
  #29  
 
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Well, JeanneB, now I'm smiling at your most recent post. With the exception of the word "ladies" in the initial description, that post could have been written by me. I'm with you and have often mentioned that I refuse to stay at a villa out somewhere as we WILL NOT drive after eating dinner and drinking. And I will still stick to that thought -- nothing that isn't in town for us! This year we stayed right in Montepulciano for a week in a wonderful apartment at Al Poggiolo.
We did indeed stay in town and eat at a different place every night and loved them all. We also ventured out during the day and had wonderful lunches as well -- and since we actually did this without a car, we took a bus or even hiked instead. It all worked out great. But limiting the wine with lunch, you could easily still drive and then have dinner back in town at night, and then splurge on the Nobile di Montepulciano!

Here's the link to the apartments if you're interested:
http://web.tiscali.it/poggiolo/poggiolo_home.htm
And by the way, our apartment (#3) had two bedrooms and even an extra half bath!
Patrick is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 12:49 PM
  #30  
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Based on all this input, I'm going to prepare an alternate itinerary assuming a week's apartment rental, preferably in the Montepulciano area (I've bookmarked the Poggiolo apt~~thx).

Huitre: Can one take the train from Siena back to M'pulciano after, say, 9 or 10 pm? That would be an ideal solution to neither of us wanting to be the designated driver.

Also: What do you think about seeing Florence through day trips? While we will visit the Ufizzi and the David, we are really interested in the ambience and history of a city. Put the two together and I've always described it as whether a city has "romance" or not. I'm not describing this very well. But I don't think one could capture it with a day trip. (Perhaps I'm trying to make Florence too much like Paris...I loved Paris at sunrise.)
JeanneB is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 01:44 PM
  #31  
 
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JeanneB, I do understand your point about not wanting to drive after wine!
Unlike the other posters, my husband and I prefer to stay in small hotels or B&Bs rather than in apartments. Mostly for comfort reasons, I must admit (no beds to make, breakfast served, staff, ...).
While we loved Tuscany (as all of Italy as a matter of fact) we found that the train was not the best way of moving between places. Trains don't run very frequently in that area and driving is much faster. For example, Montepulciano to Florence is more than 2 hrs by train (with sometimes upto 3 changes) while you can drive it in - say - 1 hr 15 min.
Re your last question, the last train leaves Montepulciano at 9.42 pm (arr. Siena 10.52).
The Tuscan countryside is beautiful but I personally think Montepulciano is not the most practical place to base yourselves. I would opt for a more central place, like Siena for instance.
MyriamC is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 01:46 PM
  #32  
 
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Oops ... mistake! Last train leaves SIENA at 8.18 pm, arr. MONTEPULCIANO 9.24 pm.
MyriamC is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 02:05 PM
  #33  
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Myriam: Thanks for all that info on the trains.

After looking at an itin using an apartment, I'm still leaning toward the option of staying at hotels/B&B's in Montepulciano, Siena AND Florence for 3 nights each. There are some great deals on "single" rooms.



JeanneB is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 02:35 PM
  #34  
 
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I would definitly vote for staying in hotels/B&Bs in different towns. While driving in Tuscany is not difficult, there is a lot to be said for staying overnight in different towns to get the "feel" for them. Plus it's so easy to just walk back to your hotel after dinner. And you get to experience a town early in the morning before the tour bus loads arrive. I can see not wanting to move every night but about 3 night in one place seems perfect. I would definitly overnight in Florence, that city was very magical at night.

And I think you have more than enough nights in each of the places you are going to. I would definitly put the CT back into your itinerary. I would take two nights - probably one from Rome and one from Motepulciano. The CT is not a bad drive at all from Siena.

Regarding trains versus cars - are you interested in seeing other towns as well as the ones you have mentioned? If so, then a car makes sense. But if you just want to do those towns/cities then I would probably go with the train. And even if you did not get a car, you could still add in a few more day trips - for example Pisa and Lucca are an easy day trip from Florence, and San Gimignano is easy from Siena.

For a first time trip with a goal of seeing the area (as oppossed to just relaxing) I would definitly not go with a week long rental.

isabel is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 04:02 PM
  #35  
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We plan to get a car between Rome and Florence. While in Montepulciano we want to concentrate on the Val d'Orcia area. From Siena we want to see San Gim, Volterra and perhaps Cortona.

I'm thinking of taking a night off Rome and adding one night to the trip to allow for 2 nights in CT. The itinerary would then be:

Rome - 4 nites
Montepulciano-3
Siena - 3
(From Siena, drive to Pisa, turn in car..take train Pisa to CT.)
CT - 2
Train to Florence-3 nights

Sound good?
JeanneB is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 04:22 PM
  #36  
 
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Not to throw you off, but Lucca would make a good Tuscany base as well.....and is a delightful city, central to everything via train, etc.

However, if you do end up choosing Siena, the train to Montepulciano isn't too far (1 hour), neither are the other towns around (Florence) for day trips, etc.

Reference the trenitalia.com website, you can get an exact print-out of the distances between the cities you are interested in going to. That might help solidify your choice of a city as a base too.
Huitres is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 04:29 PM
  #37  
 
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Jeanne, important point. There is no train to Montepulciano. Well, on some sites you may see a Montepulciano station, but it is virtually unused and is way, way out in the country. What's more there is essentially no way to get from that train station into town, unless you have a car or pay someone to come meet you -- no taxis normally and no busses that seem to match up with arrivals. Actually the most logical nearest train is Chiusi and then about a 40 minute bus ride.
On the other hand there are busses from Montepulciano to various places, but not a whole lot of service. We took a bus to Siena and back, but returned sometime in the late afternoon, I couldn't say if there was a later one or not.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 05:31 PM
  #38  
 
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Jeanne - your most recent itinerary sounds perfect. I would stick to that. Several people have suggested Lucca and if you wanted to see it you could probably do it on the way to Pisa but although I enjoyed Lucca I think the other places you have included are at least as interesting. I think your combination of driving and trains makes perfect sense. Have a great time.
isabel is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 05:44 PM
  #39  
 
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I have really been enjoying this thread as I will be in the CT probably
Oct 22-25 I have not booked anything yet because I want to check the weather just before leaving and if it looks good head directly there. If weather is not good we will stop in Lucca first. Doea anyone know if the boats are still operating between the CT towns at the end of Oct? Thanks.
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 11:53 PM
  #40  
 
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JeanneB, your last itinerary sounds good to me, too. Re Lucca. While it's a beautiful town, it 'feels' less Tuscan than the other towns. Maybe because it's the only town in the far neighbourhood that has some green inside the city walls, I don't know. It's also flat whereas the other towns are hilly.
You'll be glad having the car at your disposal in Yuscany. This will enable you to enjoy the great views and stop wherever you like.
You're going to have a fabulous time!
MyriamC is offline  

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