Florence and area


Jun 15th, 2014, 06:58 AM
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Florence and area

We have 4 or 5 days to play with, around Florence before taking train to Naples.
Not sure ,if we should spend one night in Florence and then move to a country home for the rest of the time. I would like to see a bit of Tuscany...should we rent a car for the area or just bus around. This would be around Sept. 23rd. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
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Jun 15th, 2014, 07:37 AM
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A car is best for rural Tuscany. The bus times are not convenient for tourists, more oriented to locals.

You could stay your whole 4 or 5 days in the countryside and do a day trip into Florence by train or bus. It depends on how much you want to see of Florence. Some people adore it, others are less interested in Renaissance art and architecture.

What part of rural Tuscany are you interested in seeing? Southern Tuscany, around the Val d'Orcia, is a favorite here and it is what you see in the iconic photos of Tuscany. You could base in Siena and take the bus into Florence. There are rental cars available in Siena, also Chiusi.

However, if you require a rental car with automatic transmission, you'd have a better chance of getting that at Florence's airport. There are rentals cars available inside Florence but, when driving out of central Florence, it's difficult to avoid the ZTLs, local-only driving zones, encroachment upon which brings a big fine.

Where will you be before Florence? It might be better to pick up a rental car there, drive to your stop in rural Tuscany, then return the car and spend a day (and maybe a night) in Florence before taking the train south. (You can store your luggage at Florence's train station while you tour the city.)
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Jun 15th, 2014, 07:44 AM
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Forgot to add that, depending on where you're from, to drive in Italy, you will need an International Driver's Permit along with your regular driver's license. If you're from North America, the IDP is easily obtainable at your local AAA/CAA office -- for about $25 including photo.
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Jun 16th, 2014, 06:14 AM
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Thanks so much for your info. We are coming by train from Venice...
Can we take that train direct to Val d'Orcia or Siena?
No problem with driving standard and thanks for the info of international licence...
We'll get that for sure.
I would prefer to stay in the outskirts of Florence and bus in to visit.
What village or town would have easy access to buses to Florence and yet beautiful views of Tuscany?
I appreciate your time, thank you.
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Jun 16th, 2014, 06:56 PM
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It depends on your interests. As a lover of art and architecture, I thought 5 full days insufficient for Florence itself.
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Jun 16th, 2014, 08:24 PM
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There is no direct train service from Venice to Siena. It would take about the same amount of time if you rented the car as you're leaving Venice and then drove to Siena.

"What village or town would have easy access to buses to Florence and yet beautiful views of Tuscany?"

Consider Fiesole in the hills above Florence. I wouldn't stay any farther out of town.

Florence is my favorite Italian city, so a first-time visit of 5 days wouldn't be enough for me.
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Jun 16th, 2014, 11:51 PM
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If you are planning a one-day visit to Florence and traveling in September (when daylight hours are long), one option is to take a somewhat early morning train from Venice to Florence, put your luggage in the train station, and visit Florence before picking up a rental car at the end of the day and driving to a truly scenic area. If you think a one-day visit is not going to be enough, then you can plan to return the car to Florence early in the day and repeat the luggage storage process before taking a train to Rome.

Many people dislike Florence, perhaps especially if they have just come from Venice, and other people (I am in this group) find Florence one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe and are incredibly happy to be there, and think Venice and the Tuscan countryside can take a back seat. You probably need to do a lot more research and thinking, but if you end up deciding you really do want a mix of seeing something of Florence + seeing something the countryside, there are many, many ways to arrange it once you decide what the proportions should be. Once you decide that, it will be easier for other people to suggest ways to combine the two areas. Until then, you are just going to get people twisting your arm to do what they like to do (more Florence for some, more countryside for others, more train for some, more driving for others, etc).
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Jun 17th, 2014, 05:23 AM
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I'm thinking 3 nights in Florence and 2 nights in the country. I'm still not sure if we need to rent a car to get to the country destination . What if we don't book a hotel till we get there so we can decide how long we want to stay in Florence itself? Is that not wise? Maybe just rent a car one day and see the country and spend all our days staying in Florence? I have a list of at least 7 things that I want to see in Florence. Ideas please? Thanks.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 05:13 PM
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I think you're down to the point where you need to make your own decisions.

You say you have at least 7 things you want to see in Florence. How long will it take to see them? Coming from Venice and spending 3 nights would give you 2 full days plus perhaps a few hours on your arrival day. Is that enough time? Only you can say whether you want to devote half a day to the Uffizi (which would be a minimum for me and assuming it's on your list) or just make a cursory tour through the galleries. Ditto the Bargello (if it's even on your list). Do check the open/closed hours and days for all of your sightseeing list (many things are closed Sundays or Mondays) and try to see things in a geographically logical order. Keep in mind that even though Florence is fairly compact, it takes time to walk from place to place, and there are always interesting distractions along the way. Also consider how much time you want to spend having lunch.

You need to pick your smaller town location before you can know whether you need to rent a car. You could move to Siena for two days after Florence and have a nice day and a half exploring just Siena and not need a car at all. But if you want to drive through Chianti or stay in a much smaller town than Siena, you need a car.

For me, the logistics and costs involved in renting a car for just one day out of Florence wouldn't be worth it, but you may decide otherwise.

It's also possible to spend the entire time in Florence and make day trips using public transportation. Lucca, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Certaldo, Arezzo, Bologna are all close. Or you could stay in Florence and hire a driver/guide to take you on a tour of either your choosing or the guide's suggestions.

The decision of whether to book lodging in advance (and how far in advance) is also yours to make. Personally, I don't like to spend any time whatsoever looking for lodging while I'm sightseeing. I want to know where I need to end up at the end of the day and what it's going to cost me. I will say that September is still very much high season.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 07:04 PM
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I'd spend 3 nights in Florence, then take bus to Siena (easy- bus station next to train station). 2 nights Sienna. Then train from Sienna to Orvieto or wherever to connect to train to Rome
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Jun 17th, 2014, 08:01 PM
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Like the idea of base in Seina - research civiti Bagnoreggio amazing old walled city - great pictures online and You tube has a Rick Steve's report on it. Also Verona would be a nice visit - enjoy.
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Jun 18th, 2014, 04:39 AM
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Thanks to all, for all your advice and has helped me decide.
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Jun 18th, 2014, 06:13 AM
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Of course it's all a matter of opinion, but I'll put in my two cents worth having just returned from Italy in late May. Having come from stays in Bellagio and Venice, our first impression of Florence was that we might not like it, but after getting into the historic area, we fell in love. So many beautiful things to be seen! What helped in part was that we had a wonderful retreat at the end of the day to an apartment in a 16th century palazzo in the Oltarno, away from the busyness of the central area but close enough to walk everywhere. We stayed in the Domus apartment at Residenza Il Carmine, which was spacious (3 sitting areas, a large bedroom, 2 bathrooms, and a kitchen) and had French doors out onto a lovely garden with a table and chairs where we ate breakfast and some of our dinners. The cost was less than that for a hotel room. There are also smaller apartments for even less.

We were there for 6 days and bought the Firenze Card for the convenience. We also took a full day side trip by bus to Siena and another by train to Pisa and Lucca. Though many Fodorites love Siena, we wish we had spent a whole day in Lucca, which was charming, and less time in Siena or skipped it altogether (though the Duomo was beautiful and we did enjoy that).

Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure you will be happy justbbeing in Italy! We enjoyed it even more than we anticipated.
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Jun 18th, 2014, 06:18 AM
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