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Florence or Siena as a base? I just can decide....

Florence or Siena as a base? I just can decide....

Nov 8th, 2007, 08:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 169
Florence or Siena as a base? I just can decide....


Our itineray has us staying in Siena for 7 nights - arriving from Paris day one and doing the following day trips: Voltara, San Gimignano, Montepulciano and Florence.

Now I am thinking that Florence may be a better base. I am worried that a) Siena might be too small to amuse for so many days. b) that the day trips we have chosen will be too similar in architecture/size and things to do.

We aren't particularly interested in seeing a ton of museums - some, but not a ton. Still, I am wondering if Florence is the better choice. From Florence we would still want to visit Siena, San Gimignano and Montepulciano (I think), but then maybe Perugia as well....

Any advice? We are travelling strictly by public transportation.


MollyBrown is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 08:52 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Siena is more centrally located and if you plan to use a car for your day trips, it's easier to get in/out of than Florence. All your destinations are south of Florence, so you would have less drivinng to do from Siena.

For 7 days, that's not a very ambitious schedule - and I think that's the first time I have ever make that comment about someones itinerary. I would add Pienza, Montalcino, Sant Antimo Abbey, and a drive through the lovely Val d'Orcia to your Montepulciano excursion - but I think I would do it in 2 days (Val d'Orcia is only 45 mins from the Port Romana in Siena). A trip to Perugia & Assisi would also be nice.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 09:28 AM
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Hi Stu,

Thank you for the feedback. We aren't sure how long it takes to see each place...perhaps we are overestimating - lol!

Still....we are only traveling by public bus/train and therefore will have less flexibility.

How big is Siena? Do you think it can amuse for 7 days? Nice architecture and lots of opportunity for afternoon/evening walks? Public gardens?



MollyBrown is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 137
Florence would have more to offer for 7 days, but since you have several day trips planned, Siena might be more convenient (less time spent trying to get to your destinations). You could see the highlights of Siena in one day, but if you like the idea of slow travel, a week could suit your purpose.

If you have been staying in Paris, it will be a nice break to not stay in another big city (Florence) right away.

Any chance you can stay in Siena (or another part of Tuscany) for 4 days and Florence for 3? In my opinion, that would be ideal.

Rick Steves has a guide book on Florence and Tuscany that you might find helpful. On this board, some posters criticize Rick Steves for his limited recommendations, but if you want to hit the high points at the major museums, his books are perfect for that. He also gives pointers on getting tickets in advance, public transportation, and planning your days.
meo is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 10:11 AM
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I agree with meo about not enough to do in Siena in 7 nights, and also about Florence having the big city feel - especially if you plan to take this trip from mid April through October. Florence will be quite crowded then - perhaps more so than Paris.

Too bad you won't have a car. The countryside in Tuscany is stunning.

Here are my estimates for time to spend in each city you plan to visit

San G - 1/2 day
Volterra 1/2 day
You can do both in 1 excursion

Florence 2-3 days if you don't plan to visit museums (you must see David, however)
Siena 1 - 1 1/2 days
Montepulciano 1/2 - 3/4 day
Perugia 1/2 - 3/4 day

Visit Pienza with Montepulciano 1/2 day

Fast paced travelers would do all the above in 3/4 of my estimates.

If you won't have a car, I would stay in Florence and enjoy the city in the early morning and late afternoon when the crowds thin a bit.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 10:46 AM
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Posts: 169
Thank you both! I hadn't even considered breaking up the stay - that is a possibility.

Stu that breakdown really helps thank you. It is hard to choose where to go - neither of us has been to Italy before and there seems like SO many possibilities. Its hard to know what to choose over what!

We are excited to see lots, but also we definately don't want to feel rushed. We both want lots of time for walking around, exploring and dabbling in a mutual hobby -photography.

I'll have to look up Pienza, I haven't come across it before.

Thanks again,

MollyBrown is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 31
I must also agree with meo-- Siena is beautiful but you can really cover it in a day! I just moved to Florence a couple of months ago, but I try to consistently make my way to all the major sites here and after 2 months (of picking away at it of course!) I still have plenty left to see. Take it from that....you will not run out of things to do in Florence!!

Pisa is another cute little city that no one mentioned, and you can get there from Florence (train) in an hour. Though the Leaning Tower is the only major attractions its an adorable little place to kill a day in

Hope this helps!
2mths_to_travel is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 12:15 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,742
You might consider 4 nights in Florence and 3 in a small Italian village. My choice would be San Quirico d'Orcia. It's not nearly as touristy as Pienza and not as hilly as Montepulciano. Lots of people really live there, so you can observe village life up close. There is almost no sprawl east - where you can take off on some lovely walks in the picturesque Val d'Orcia countryside. There are about 5-6 restaurants in town, so you don't have to go out of town for dinner. I would stay here:
Which gets a lot of praise from people on Fodors. The hotel owns one of the restaurants in town.

San Quirico is #2 in a string of very charming small villages to visit. West to east, it's Montalcino, San Quirico, Pienza, and Montepulciano. It's roughly 15 mins by car/bus between each village, and I'm sure there are frequent bus runs between them.

There is a train from Florence to Buonoconvento, which is 15 mins from San Quirico by car. If you decide to do this, ask the hotel how to get from the small train station to the hotel - they can probably arrange for a taxi.

Siena is 45 mins away from San Q and there is probably a bus there & back. The train from Florence to Buonoconvento stops in Siena.

I would welcome a break from big cities - and San Qiorico would be perfect.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Depending on how quickly you rush through it, you can do Siena in a day.

I think if you are able, then you should seriously think about splitting between Florence (with possible side trips to Lucca, Fiesole and Pisa - the latter has more than just the tower - In my opinion the Duomo is one of the best in Italy).

Siena is a particular favourite of mine - and makes a good base for Southern Tuscany (Montepulciano, Montalcino, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni etc).
willit is offline  

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