Florence and Tuscany Must-Do Activities

Old Apr 13th, 2018, 05:33 PM
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Florence and Tuscany Must-Do Activities

Husband and I are planning a trip to Florence and Tuscany in either September or early October (nailing down the dates this week). We have someone helping us book lodging, so we're set there. I'm looking for some feedback on must-dos and must-packs from experienced Italy travelers.

Interests: museums, outdoor (hiking, wandering), eating and drinking, cooking, relaxing and soaking it all in
Rough schedule: 3 nights in Florence, 4 nights in Tuscany

What are your recommendations?
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Old Apr 13th, 2018, 07:13 PM
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It would help to know the location of your lodging for the "4 nights in Tuscany." Recommendations could easily be too far from where you're staying. Tuscany is 9000 square miles.

As for the must-do/see in Florence, you only have 2 full days, so you'll have to be fairly selective with your sightseeing. (I hope your days there do not include a Sunday or Monday when many sights are closed.) I assume you want to visit the Uffizi, Accademia, Duomo (maybe climb to the Lantern), the main piazzi (including Michelangelo), perhaps one or more of: the Bargello, museum of the Duomo, Santa Croce, Medici Chapel, Brancacci, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio, San Lorenzo and/or Centrale Mercato... There are dozens of other sights that one could say are "musts." It's really up to you, how quickly you travel, what interests you most. You should make entry reservations for any sight that offers or requires them. You don't have time for lines.
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Old Apr 14th, 2018, 02:11 AM
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That's a very short trip for a very large area, and there are never any must-dos anywhere in the world. You should start by poring over guidebooks and maps and narrowing this down according to what appeals to you. Then people can more usefully make suggestions.
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Old Apr 14th, 2018, 07:40 AM
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>> Tuscany is 9000 square miles.

And Florence is the capital of Tuscany, so you really have seven nights in Tuscany.

We're planning a car trip to Tuscany with some friends next month, and we will have four different bases to make it easier to see a variety of places. We'll spend two nights in Florence, where we've all been numerous times, and the rest of our time in rural Tuscany.

How interested are you in art museums? If the answer is, "Just a little", and your main interests are eating, drinking, and hiking, I would suggest cutting one night from Florence and add it to rural Tuscany. In any case, I don't feel I can make recommendations for Florence without knowing a bit more about your interests in art and Renaissance culture.

Also, are you going to rent a car for the time in rural Tuscany?

If you want to relax, I would suggest spending the whole time after Florence in one place. Montalcino is a good base if you're interested in wine. Volterra is another good base, in a different part of Tuscany. Both of these bases would make a car rental almost essential. Without a car, you'd be very limited in what you can see.

If you won't have a car, Buonconvento is a good base, but you'd still be rather limited. In fact, if you won't have a car, you might want to spend the whole time in Florence and make day trips. These could include day trips to Siena, Lucca, Pisa, by train or bus, and an organized wine tour.

September and October are very busy months for tourism in Tuscany. Florence is crowded, as are the more popular rural areas.
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Old Apr 14th, 2018, 09:03 AM
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Make sure to buy tickets ahead for Florence’s L’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s “David” and for the Uffizi
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Old Apr 15th, 2018, 04:17 AM
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I wouldn't recommend the Uffizi unless you're serious art lovers. It's huge and crowded, and very specialized in Italian Renaissance paintings, especially of religious subjects. There are plenty of other places in Florence, museums and churches, where you can see outstanding examples of Renaissance art. You could plan a museum crawl, much healthier than a pub crawl, visiting museums and churches. You'd have a lovely walk as well as seeing great art.
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Old Apr 15th, 2018, 04:53 AM
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My favorite museum in Florence is the Bargello, a manageable size, and full of splendid sculpture. Also, the Medici Chapel if you love Michelangelo, as I do.

As mentioned, it's a very short trip, so take the time to review a guidebook, or the internet, to narrow down what you and your husband REALLY want to do/see in the time allowed, and go from there. I have been using this for an upcoming trip to Europe. https://www.visitacity.com/en/tuscany
You can narrow down their suggestions by number of days, sights, etc.


My favorite memory is of buying a painting, in Italian, from a wonderful man in a shop on Via Pandolfini. My Italian was pretty rudimentary then and I was very proud.
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Old Apr 15th, 2018, 07:19 AM
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I also like the Bargello Museum. I'm an admirer of Michelangelo as an architect, but not so much as a sculptor. The Bargello has some Michelangelo sculptures, but also some works by one of my favorite Renaissance sculptors, Donatello.

San Marco is one of my favorite museums, in a former convent, with the monks' cells decorated by frescoes by the Beato Angelico (Fra Angelico). Churches with fabulous art inside include Santa Maria del Carmine and Santa Maria Novella. There are many other museums and churches. Just have a look at a good guidebook.
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Old Apr 15th, 2018, 10:08 AM
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Try lunch at the Banfi winery. Good food and great wines.
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Old Apr 15th, 2018, 10:20 AM
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To start, you could simply stay in Florence and take day trips by bus, train or tour if you wanted to save some extra moving around. Florence a nice place to come "home" to after a day of travel. Check with your hotel about what they recommend.

Agree about getting advance reservations for David. Our hotel clerk made us same day reservations for the Uffizi--it was March so you might not be so lucky. Line was huge even then.

We also loved the Bargello (more intimate than Uffizi) and the Boboli Gardens on the grounds of the Pitti Palace.

Touristy but I loved Pisa and even with asthma I was able to hike up the Tower. Reservations for that as well. The Duomo has major art and is significant if this is an interest.

Enjoy!
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Old Apr 22nd, 2018, 02:43 PM
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Thanks!
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Old Apr 22nd, 2018, 03:09 PM
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My notifications weren't set properly (I guess?) so I didn't know all of these replies were here. Sorry about my slow response!

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I always like to hear from people - real people, not just guidebooks - about experiences they loved. We'll plan our own adventure in the end, but it's fun to hear what others recommend. I greatly appreciate the feedback on the different museums - that's helpful as we decide where we'll focus our time for this trip.

I do know now that we'll be in Montepulciano for our time in rural Tuscany. We will have a car for that leg of the trip, but not for the few days we're in Florence. We're hoping to balance our exploration of rural Tuscany with a healthy dose of enjoying the view while drinking wine, so we don't plan to kill ourselves trying to get all over the region.

Would love to know if you had a meal you can't stop thinking about in either Florence or in/around Montepulciano? Or an experience - cooking class or tour - that was worth every penny and then some?

(And a side note - we know we can't see everything in 8 days. Seeing and doing it all is not the goal. We do, of course, have guidebooks, and we're doing lots of research on our own. That's half the fun. Oh, and we are indeed aware that Florence is IN Tuscany - that comment gave us a giggle, so thanks!)
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Old Apr 22nd, 2018, 05:39 PM
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Do you have plans for your drive from Florence to Montepulciano and (presumably) back to Florence? You could drive the Chiantigiana Strada (SR222) and/or stop at towns that are too far from Montepulciano for day trips, like San Gimignano or Volterra. Otherwise, I'd stick to the Val d'Orcia area (Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino) with a possible excursion to something a bit farther away, like Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore (plan around the mid-day closing) or a drive around Lake Trasimeno with stops in a couple of towns. Most of your options depend on your interests.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2018, 01:35 AM
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I second Jean's suggested itinerary. I would also suggest a visit to the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, in a very beautiful spot south of Montalcino. I don't know if it's still worth the trouble, but when we were there ten years ago, we went to a mass that was chanted beautifully, with Gregorian chant. (Monks are more elderly every year, and also fewer, so one doesn't know if they're still up to it.) Anyway, the order of monks that are there now is not the same as when we were there. It's worth the trip just to see the abbey. We were there in late April, and it was surrounded by a field of poppies. It would be beautiful, though, at any time of the year, They have guided visits of the abbey, some parts of which date to the time of Charlemagne, in the late 8th or early 9th century. Legend says the abbey itself was founded by Charlemagne.

You could take a circle route from Montepulciano, passing through San Quirico and Montalcino, en route to Sant'Antimo, and on the return you could take a different route, passing through Castiglione d'Orcia, a pretty little town not on the main tourist trail. The total driving time would be about two hours. Montalcino merits at least several hours, and the other two towns can be seen on a quick visit. The time at Sant'Antimo would depend on whether you hear a mass, or take a guided tour, or just admire the beauty of the spot. Montalcino has lots of wine-tasting opportunities, being the home of the famous Brunello. The enoteche are thick on the ground! Remember that the alcohol limits in Italy are lower than in most of Europe, so the driver has to be very abstemious.

It's hard to go wrong with restaurants in this part of Italy, even though the cuisine isn't my favorite. You can expect good hearty country cooking in rural Tuscany. I would be wary of restaurants offering bistecca alla Fiorentina. The real thing is expensive, and you risk ending up with a huge portion of tough beef. I've never wanted to try that specialty, because it's entirely too much meat for me, but if I did, I'd do some careful research first.

We're planning an eight-day road trip in rural Tuscany with some friends in a few weeks. I'll try to do a trip report when we return. We're not wine drinkers, so I'm no help with that. One of the friends who's coming with us will sample the wine, but his wife is a teetotaler like us.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2018, 01:51 AM
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I just saw this topic, which has many interesting ideas, including a long post by Stu Dudley. I'm going to see if I can integrate some of his ideas into our trip.

One week in Tuscany suggestions for day visits
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Old Apr 23rd, 2018, 05:56 AM
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Thank you, Jean and bvlenci! Those are great ideas. I appreciate the feedback, and look forward to your trip report, bvlenci!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2018, 12:52 PM
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We go almost yearly to an agriturismo outside of Montepulciano.

We eat at these places every time we are in the area (listed in order of how much I like, them 1-3):
https://www.osterialaporta.it/en/
http://www.lagrottamontepulciano.it/intro.php
https://www.dopolavorolafoce.it/en/

I am pretty sure there isn't chanting at Sant'Antimo. A year ago when we visited we were told the monks had moved to France. We missed the chanting, but they now have an audioguide tour that I think allows you to go into areas you couldn't when the monks were there.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2018, 01:02 PM
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Fantastic - thanks, eastave!
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Old Apr 24th, 2018, 03:05 PM
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One of my favourite days on my last trip to Tuscany was a tour of Castello di Ama, a winery in the village of Ama near Gaiole in Chianti. This is about 75km from Montepulciano, about one hour& ten minutes driving time according to Google.This might be possible to do on your way back to Florence.

This is a family owned winery, in a sweet hamlet, very nice wines and the food in their restaurant was some of the best I had on my trip. This family loves modern art, so every year they invite a modern artist from another country to come and do an art installation. So as well as touring the winery itself you have a tour of the interesting art, then on to the tasting and I booked lunch in advance, to have at the end. castellodiama.com

The sommelier at my hotel in Florence recommended this place as one of his favourites and he didn't steer me wrong.
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Old May 27th, 2018, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by eastave View Post
We go almost yearly to an agriturismo outside of Montepulciano.

We eat at these places every time we are in the area (listed in order of how much I like, them 1-3):
https://www.osterialaporta.it/en/
La Grotta
https://www.dopolavorolafoce.it/en/ .
Eastave, DD and SIL are looking for an agriturismo for October and one outside of Montepulciano would be of interest to them if you are willing to share the name, Thanks in advance.
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