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Florence/Tuscany -- stay only in florence or also in tuscany?

Florence/Tuscany -- stay only in florence or also in tuscany?

Oct 20th, 2009, 11:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2009
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Florence/Tuscany -- stay only in florence or also in tuscany?

My husband and I (both in our early 30s) are traveling to Italy. We are spending 2-3 nights in Venice at the start of our trip and then heading to Florence and Tuscany region for 5-6 nights. Then we are making our way up to Milan for our final night as we are leaving from Milan airport.

Regarding our stay in Florence/Tuscany region, I am wondering if I should book a hotel in Florence for the 5-6 nights and rent a car on the days we will go to some of the Tuscan towns and then drive back to our Florence hotel OR should we do 4 nights in florence and then rent a car and stay somewhere in one of the towns in Tuscany (Sienna, etc.) and then eventually return the car, hop on the train up to Milan.

We will be there in early December. Curious on experienced traveler's feedback. And if you do suggest to stay in Tuscany, any reasonable priced suggestions?! Appreciate your help!

Thank you!
karencalifornia is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 11:39 AM
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Too many horror stories about driving in Florence. Split your time between Florence and a location in the countryside as you suggest.
ellenem is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 11:40 AM
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I was all for splitting your hotel nights between two hotels, one in Florence and one in a smaller town... until you said early December. What if the weather on those days you've set for exploring Tuscany are very cold and wet? At least if you were staying in Florence you could play each day by ear. If you stay in Florence and rent a car, you'll pay a daily rate and daily parking whether you use the car or not. The sun will be setting at about 4:30, so your days will be short.

I'd spend all the nights in Florence and use public trans to see Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa and any number of other places that are easily reached by train.

As to hotels, you'll have to tell us what "reasonably priced" means to you. In Florence, if you don't need the usual amenities of a hotel (room service, laundry, restaurant), I can recommend Tourist House Ghiberti.

Jean is online now  
Oct 20th, 2009, 12:53 PM
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I agree with Jean - at that time of year, driving around Tuscany may not be enjoyable. I'm not sure how enjoyable the smaller towns (i.e., San Gimignano) will be at that time of year, and how much will be open. Maybe daytrip to Lucca and Siena, cities that are very easy to get to by train (though check on travel times); also Bologna (about 1 hour from Florence by train).

Also consider spending more time in Venice.
Lexma90 is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 01:02 PM
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I agree--more time in Venice and stay in Florence and train to Lucca, Siena etc.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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Thank you for the suggestions.

I will definitely do at least 3 nights in Venice, then the following 5 nights in florence and the final night in Milan.

We can do day trips (via train or car, depending on what we decide) to Lucca, Siena, etc.

In terms of train tickets- for example from Milan to venice, venice to florence, florence to Milan- is it a wise idea to purchase these before we leave on our trip? Or should we do it while we are already there?

I was worried that we wouldn't have enough to do in Venice for 3-4 days. What are some of your favorite highlights in Venice?

Thank you for all your input!
karencalifornia is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 04:18 PM
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No need to buy your train tickets before leaving home. These major train routes are well served throughout the day, sometimes hourly or twice hourly.

Dec. 8 (Tues.) is a national holiday (Immaculate Conception), so keep that in mind as you plan that day. There may be some museum and other closures (a few shops, restaurants), but I don't think it will have a huge impact. There may also be an observance of this holiday that you'd like to catch. Perhaps someone else can comment on this holiday....

You can look at Fodor's destination guide for Venice for lots of helpful info to get you started. (See the left-to-right menu at the top of this page.) Come back and post any questions that develop.
Jean is online now  
Oct 20th, 2009, 05:47 PM
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Here's another thought, since you are going in winter -
Venice 3
Florence 2
Rome 4

Florence and the countryside are completely different. I wouldn't want to stay in Florence and try to get a real feel for the hilltowns. Maybe a day trip to one via public trans as suggested. Or, stop at Orvieto for a full day on the way to Rome!

Cities are great options for winter travel. Lots to do if the weather doesn't cooperate. Or, you could do like I did and spend your first week ever in Italy skiing in the Dolomiti!
Dayle is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 05:56 PM
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My first visit to Venice was only 1 1/2 days and we just mainly wandered and visited San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, and the Campanille.

Second trip - 4 1/2 days and I sought out more typical and atypical sights:

San Marco
Santa Maria della Salute
Il Frari
Giovani e Paolo
La Grande Scuola di San Rocco
Murano & Burano
Ca d'Oro
2 complete rides down the Grand Canal - daytime & night time

Yes, you can see and do a lot in 3-4 days in Venice!
Dayle is offline  
Oct 21st, 2009, 02:16 AM
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I would choose more time in Florence as well due to the season. And for me, two nights in Venice is enough. You might read some trip reports and also guidebooks and see if Venice appeals enough to spend more than two days.

I know that Venice has many fans but it is not nirvana for everyone.

Agree that the countryside in Tuscany is iffy in December but Florence is great for day trips and also has plenty of indoor pursuits for rainy days.
kfusto is offline  
Oct 21st, 2009, 08:31 AM
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For those routes, and for the time of year, you don't need to book train tickets in advance. What I did, prior to leaving for our recent trip to Italy (which included time in Venice and Florence), was to print out the train schedules. That way, a day or two before, we could decide which train we wanted to take.

Whether you spend 3 nights in Venice is up to you and your interests - take the advice given here, and read up on both destinations. Over the years, we've visited Venice more often than Florence, because we like it more. While Florence is the epicenter of Renaissance art, I find the city itself less captivating than Venice. Yes, Venice has many tourists. But it's very easy to get away from the main tourists destinations in Venice and into the parts of the city where you will see where people really live, and not so many tourists. On our last trip, I felt like there were MORE tourists in Florence, simply because there were many more large group tours that we kept running into; we didn't see any tour groups of that size in Venice.

In addition to the list of Venice sights given above, which are a combination of museums (Guggenheim), churches (Santa Maria della Salute, Giovani e Paolo), scuole (like unions, or guilds, these were their meeting places and often contain very fine art, San Rocco) and islands (Murano & Burano), I'd add:

Santa Maria dei Miracoli (beautiful small church)
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni (paintings by Carpaccio)
The museum in San Marco (inside the basilica, entrance is near the front)
San Zaccharia (church with some good art and a really cool crypt)
San Georgio (church, across the Grand Canal, with beautiful view of rest of Venice, some good art, designed by Palladio)

But the best and first thing to do in Venice is just to wander the streets. Don't forget to look up to see balconies, terraces, and various medallions on the walls and corners of buildings.
Lexma90 is offline  
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