Base in S. Tusvany and Umbria

Jan 13th, 2009, 04:42 PM
  #1  
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Base in S. Tusvany and Umbria

We are heading to Italy in Early April, and would like to spend a week in Southern Tuscany and Umbria after 5 days in Rome. We visited Florence and Siena in 2006, and will pass it this time. Is Perugia a good base for day trips by public transportation? The places we want to visit include Assisi, Gubbio, Orvieto, Arrezo, Cortona, Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino. (I know it it would take more 1 week, and we will slow down to enjoy what we can, and leave the rest for next trip.)

On a related issue, we never drove in Europe before and a little nervous to try it in Italy. On the other hand, Tuscany and Umbria seem to call for our own wheel. We would try it for a couple of days. With this in mind, is Perugia still a good base?

Thanks,
foggy27 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 04:54 PM
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Hi foggy,

I would train to Orvieto and spend a day and night. Pick up your car there and drive to your base. From what others have said, Perugia has good public trans connections, but would be a nightmare to try and drive in/park.

I've used Montalcino, Orvieto, Chianti, and Spello (Umbria) as bases for day trips and all were just great. But it was over 2 different trips and for a total of 2 weeks in those towns. However, don't expect to visit more than 2 hilltowns per day, even those that are near each other. Just too much to see, enjoy, eat and drink. Plus, shops close for the long lunch. Plus, the Monte Olivetto, and Sant'Antimo, and, and, and....

You should probably try to choose between a northern and southern location. That's all you have time for this trip.

Buon viaggio
Dayle is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 05:27 PM
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You are right, Orvieto is on main rail line. We can get to it easily from Rome to overnight, and pick up a car next day to explore Assisi/Spello region. It we enjoy it, we can rent a car for more days. Otherwise we can get back on train to visit Arezzo/Perugia. How does that sound? Say we initially rent the car for 2 days. Will it be reltively easy to extend for a few more days?
foggy27 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 05:40 PM
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Yes--We visited Perugia and used it as a base to visit Assisi (by train) and Gubbio (by bus).
ellenem is online now  
Jan 13th, 2009, 06:55 PM
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Ditto all of Dayle's comments. He suggests you choose an itinerary that's either more north or more south. You could also divide your wish list into east/west (of Lake Trasimeno) terms.

I'd keep the car as long as your budget allows.

We're from L.A. and thought the driving was easy, especially on the secondary roads. You need good road maps and, if possible, maps of towns you'll visit. The Touring Club of Italy has an Umbria "Heritage" guide with town maps that include parking information. $17 on Amazon. (FYI, the TCI's guide to Tuscany doesn't have as much helpful driving info as the Umbria guide does.)
Jean is online now  
Jan 13th, 2009, 08:01 PM
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We were in Italy Sept. 2008 and stayed 2 nights in Orvieto at Locando Rosati~loved it. Be sure to eat dinner with the owners and guests. The meal was excellent, meeting other couples from other countries was interesting, and all the wine,limocello, and grappa you desire.

Another week our base was Val d'Orcia but wished we had chosen Pienza. The cheese is fabulous~could kick myself for not buying more. After a late dinner with wine, it was a bit uneasy driving on the curvy roads late at night. I think Pienza is between Montalcino and Montepulciano.

Have a wonderful time.
plufmud is online now  
Jan 14th, 2009, 12:13 AM
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I think when people think about a "base" they need to realize that the base is NOT the place you are going to be spending your days. It's the day you are going to be spending your nights AND where you will be when you finally throw in the towel about being a dash-about tourist and just want to chill in a place and explore.

I'm going to recommend you take a look at Cortona as a base.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 01:39 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. We have traveled in Europe many times, and never managed to do all the things we wanted to do. Nevertheless we prefer to have a long list, to be cut short "in the field", rather than the other way around.

For this trip, 2 must-sees are Assisi (Giotto) and Arezzo (Piero della Francesca). We simply enjoy big arts in intimate setting outside of major museum. Beyond that, we would like to have a taste of driving. If Perugia is difficult to drive and park, we will use it only for train/bus to Assisi/Arezzo/Gubbio, and pick another city/town as base for driving trips, probably somewhere near Pienza.
foggy27 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 01:55 PM
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If you're going to drive to Perugia to catch public trans to Gubbio and Assisi, you should just drive all the way.

If you're going to train to Perugia (from Montepulciano most likely) and bus to Gubbio, it might not be worth the small amount of time you'd have there. For Montepulciano to Assisi, the train takes 3-4 hours each way and involves 2 changes each direction.

If your two must-sees are in Arezzo and Assisi, I'm not sure Pienza is the best place to stay.
Jean is online now  
Jan 14th, 2009, 02:05 PM
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I agree. I still suggest Cortona.

Actually I'm wondering if it would make any sense to take a train from Rome to Assisi, spend 2 nights there, using one of them to visit Gubbio (it's an hour train trip).

Then take a train to Arezzo from Assisi (90 minutes), tour the town, including lunch, and pick up a rental and drive to Southern Tuscany for the last 3 nights. Leaving Arezzo at around 4pm.

You don't see Perugia, but you don't seem much interested anyway.

Another possibility would be to pick up your car in Orvieto, do southern Tuscany, and drop off the car in Arezzo, see the sights, head to Assisi, then day trip to Gubbio from there.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Driving between towns in Umbria and Tuscany is a breeze. The roads are excellent, and the signage is clear. Since you've been to Europe a number of times before you probably know this, but it is much easier to follow the signs that point the direction to the town you are traveling to, than to try and use route numbers.

I found the route numbers to be VERY confusing, but had no trouble finding towns all over Central Italy just by following the signs, such as "Gubbio >".

Once you actually get to the towns, however, it's a different story. My advice is to find find the first lot, park there, and walk or cab from there. Driving through the old hilltown streets gave me a migraine!

Larry
phillyboy is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 04:41 PM
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Based on the feedback, we will break it into two parts with two different base cities:

1) Car rental: the purpose is to have a taste. If it is still stressful by the end of day 2, we will settle back to rely on public transportation. Hopefully the experience is positive and it opens the door for future trips.

2) Public transportation: to Arezzo, Assisi, and Orvieto. Probably use Assisi as base.

We live in San Francisco and pretty much walk everywhere. These days, we only drive when in LA, to visit our daughter in college We love train travel in Europe, but it has its limitations.

Anagin, thanks for sharing your thought.
foggy27 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 05:01 PM
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Foggy27, the driving in Umbria actually reminded us of driving in parts of California. 101 north of Santa Rosa, not SF or LA.

For your must-sees, I like Assisi much more. Assisi to Arezzo by train is 1.5-2 hours, to Perugia is 20-30 minutes. The smaller towns of Umbria are easier to reach by car. There's no train service between Assisi and Gubbio.
Jean is online now  
Jan 14th, 2009, 06:09 PM
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foggy,

I really like zeppole's suggestions.

I enjoyed Assisi and spent 1 unplanned night there, but LOVED Spello, where I spent 2 planned nights. Spello is just about 15 minutes drive from Assisi, has gorgeous views, and almost NO tourists!

For me, my base towns were places I spent time exploring, dining, and relaxing. I wanted towns that were small enough to be easy to drive in/out of and where parking was not a problem, so my day trips out were easy.

In Assisi, I stayed just outside the wall and my hotel had free private parking. A breeze!

In Spello, the Palazzo Bocci had reserved parking across the street. The historical, upper part of Spello is so small and quiet, driving was easy.

Montalcino proved a bit more challenging to find the hotel, Il Giglio. I parked and went on foot to find it. Then, the owners will park and retrieve your car for you each day. Small enough that once you have driven in and out, you've got it!

Easiest was staying the the tiny village of San Sano in Chianti. Not a destination for you on this trip.

Driving in the countryside is very easy and FUN! Get a stick shift and enjoy. Drive like an Italian! My first trip I had a navigator who didn't contribute much. My second trip I did totally solo and drove around Tuscany and Umbria for 8 days. No problem and just pure joy.

PS - I loved the art in Assisi and spent a full day, but I was glad to stay in a smaller town in the evenings. Assisi is beautiful too, but Spello has wonderful views of Assisi at night with the Basillica lit up.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 01:39 PM
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It started just as a "possible" idea and I am now convinced, thanks to the board. Did some research and just booked a car for a week. I am excited. You guys are great!
foggy27 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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foggy,

Good for you! You will be so glad. And don't stress out if you make a wrong turn or miss one. You can always turn around and you never know what you will discover. Enjoy!

One big thing that helps - study your detailed map before the day's drive and know the towns along the route. Then, you can basically just follow the signs for the names of the towns. It's really very easy. Like a wonderful treasure hunt.
Dayle is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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Getting lost a little bit ain't so bad.
Jean is online now  
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