First time to Tuscany

Feb 17th, 2008, 02:25 PM
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First time to Tuscany

Will be spending 5 days in Tuscany and plan to rent a car. Any thoughts on where to base myself? Lucca, Florence, Siena, Montepulicano all interest me.

I will be coming by train from the Cinque Terra Villages (Monterosso al Mare).

I am most interested in seeing the "country"....packing up a picnic basket and driving to whatever tree beckons be for some cheese, bread, & wine!
megan13 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Lucca would be a good spot because it is at the base of the mountains and there are beautiful drives up through the forests there. It's not hard to get to by train from Cinque Terre.

And you can still go to popular towns in N. tuscany if you want.
charnees is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 02:54 PM
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We rented an apartment for a week in Montepulciano and found it very convenient for visitng many of the hill towns. Montepulciano is a great town and we enjoyed it very much - the many wineries, cafes, and the opera singing owner of the Sax restaurant.
Lily is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 02:56 PM
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I would pick Montepulciano because of the magnificent countryside and easy access to other charming small towns, e.g., Pienza, Monteciello, Montalcino, San Quirico, etc. You could do a day trip to Siena, no problem.

I would not mind staying in Lucca for a few days since it is such an interesting town, but the area around Lucca is a little too commercial for me and so I would not pick it for my base.

Anna Roz
anna_roz is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 03:28 PM
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Thanks to all - this is helpful!

Any good hotel reccomendations in either Montepulciano or San Gimiagno?
megan13 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 03:33 PM
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Not in either Montepulciano or SG but highly recommended-

Located just outside of Pienza in the beautiful Val d'Orcia.
zoecat is online now  
Feb 17th, 2008, 03:43 PM
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We stayed in the Politan apartments in 2005 for a week for 400 Euros for the week. Wonderful apartment which I would go back to in a heart beat.
Lily is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 03:50 PM
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Back in June 2006 I stayed at Il Giglio in Montalcino. very close to Monetpulciano. Montalcino is a quaint little town. I had a car and the hotel provided parking in a small private lot nearby. It was very easy to drive around to all the surrounding towns. I would stay there again in a heartbeat! I loved Montepulciano as well and would love to stay there as well. I visited Siena, San Gimignano, Pienza, Volterra and the Chianti region. I think Monetepulciano or Montalcino would be the ideal location for you based on what you've described. I drove from Siena to Cinque Terre and it was a fine drive, took a little longer than I expected because there was a bit of traffic I hadn't expected. But while driving around Tuscany things were very easy just follow signs to the furthest destination. Major scenic route was the S146. you mus got to Pienza for some amazing pecorino cheese. we bought small wheels with goodies in them, such as olives or peppers, etc. Here is a link to my trip review:
LizaMarie is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 04:17 PM
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This is all very helpful and provokes more one mentioned Florence, which beggs the following questions. Is Florence not feasible given the description I provided? Would it be wise to stay in Montepulciano area (or close there) for a few nights and then go up to Florence for a night or two? Or could I base myself in Florence, rent a car and take day trips south?
megan13 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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That's what we did - after spending a week in Montepulciano, we then spent two days in Florence.
Lily is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 04:28 PM
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Day trips from Florence would be trying for a few reasons. First, traffic is kind of a mess, it is not easy to maneuver in and out of town, and distance to/from other destinations may be too much to repreat day after day. Second, you may have even a bigger problem finding a place to stay with a car park for your rental.

Actually, I like the idea of spending some time in the country and then two nights in Florence (one night is just not good for nothing, IMO).

There is this cute hotel right outside of Pienza, Piccolo Hotel La Valle, which you may want to google and check out. Or, and I have no clue how much money you want to spend on your lodging, there is this Locanda San Francesco (something like that) on top of Montepulciano and it looks like a gorgeous place.

Anna Roz
anna_roz is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 04:53 PM
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You guys are AWESOME! Thanks for all the fantastic advise. The country first and then Florence!! Here I come! Ciao Bellas!
megan13 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 09:04 PM
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I vote for Montepulciano....stay at the Il Marzocco...the room I stayed in was huge had a terrace outside of double french doors with table and chairs ..grape vine trellis overhang and a sweeping view of the valley below!..and a huge bath as well.
Charming town with great local wineries to explore as well as local restaurants that even now make my mouth water!
russwuf is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 09:07 PM
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My wife and I had a few days in Tuscany last year. Here is my trip report with pictures and links . Maybe you can find some useful info there

Gard - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 10:33 PM
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We stayed at the VILLA DI PIAZZANO outside of cortona.....and loved it. They have cooking classes and the grounds are amazing. It is quiet, peaceful, serene.
marilee12 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 12:33 AM
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Personally I love Lucca and Siena, but in my opinion all have advantages and disadvantages.

Lucca is largely pedestrianised, has great walks around the walls, good restaurants (But where in Tuscany doesn't?). It is within easy distance by public transport of Pisa (20 minutes) and Florence (75 minutes).
By car you can explore the Garfagnana , Montecatini Termi, Bagna di Lucca, Barga etc.

Florence can be hectic, but possibly has more artistic treasures per square mile than any other city on earth. Florence was my first introduction to Italy and the start of a love affair with the country.

Siena was a medieval power, and much of the city dates from that time of greatness. To me it is somehere between Lucca and Florence, having better sights and art than Lucca, but without the throngs of tourists in Florence (Although it can still be pretty busy). It is a good base for southern Tuscany being within easy reach of Montalcino , San Gimignano, Volterra, Montepulciano etc.

Much as I liked San Gimignano, I fi it to be wall to wall tourists, and much of the character of the town reflects this - enter through the main gate and it appears to be "Tourist shops" for the vast majority of the main street. I believe it is a totally different place after 5pm or so.
willit is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 07:38 AM
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"Lucca, Florence, Siena, Montepulicano all interest me."

I feel that Montepulciano is nice but too far south and Lucca too far north. (it's over 2 hours from one to another) I would try to find something more central. Outside the walls of Siena, San G or Monteriggioni. You can then day trip to those areas. Try this for hotel listings:

Monteriggioni is beautiful, easy to get to and has a least one hotel.

San G must have a bunch of hotels... along with all the tour buses.

If you are keeping you car I would not stay in Florence. Driving from Siena to Florence is not difficult until you get "into" town. Get a good map and park up by Monte Alle Croci and you shouldn't have a problem. OR follow the signs to the train station... there is a large parking garage under the station.

jnjfraz is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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With the description of what you want I would not stay in Lucca, Siena or San G. We stayed two days in San G (touristy and walled, a beautiful place for a stop, not as a base) and three in Montalcino then three in Florence on our last trip. We wished that we had stayed longer in the Montalcino and Montepulciano area. Great base for Tuscany, especially wine country! LOVED Montalcino wine country and town! Make Florence a separate stop for a few days. Stayed at Palazzina Cesira in Montalcino and would stay there again in the large mini-suite we had. Very nice owners.
jbm is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 07:39 PM
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<<We wished that we had stayed longer in the Montalcino and Montepulciano area. Great base for Tuscany>>

anna_roz is offline  
Feb 25th, 2008, 08:14 AM
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My husband and I took the train from Cinque Terre to Pisa airport, picked up a rental car and drove to our "base" a lovely farmhouse just outside Montepulciano all in one day. We made day trips from there and explored lots of the hilltowns in the area. We then turned in our car at the Florence airport...took taxi to the center of town where our apartment was and spent 4 days in Florence. This worked beautifully for us.
I could not recommend basing in Florence and making day trips from there...too stressful and confusing if you are taking these day trips with a rental car. I always recommend at least 2 full days to explore Florence.
caroltis is offline  

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