Getting around in Tuscany

Old Oct 8th, 2013, 09:52 AM
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Getting around in Tuscany

My wife and I have always wanted to visit Tuscany and I am planning it for our 25th anniversary trip next September. I am researching places to stay but one aspect I am not clear on is just how easy it is to get around (or how necessary).

My goal is pretty simple for that part of our trip - I want to wallow in the beauty of Tuscany countryside and relax But I also can't imagine just sticking around at the hotel for the duration.

We are not really drinkers so wine tours are "OK" but not particularly interesting (maybe just one might be interesting). Would one generally need to hire a car to explore a little or are there other options? Given my goals, are there specific areas/regions I might want to consider?

I plan to have a hotel for three nights.

Thanks.

Mark
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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Yes, there are other options depending on exactly where you want to visit. You could rent a car; some places are accessible by bus and or rail. But hiring a car and driver might very well be more relaxing for you.

IMO you can wallow just about anywhere in Tuscany...how about being a bit more specific other than saying you aren't wine drinkers. For example, do you like churches, unusual architecture, countryside views and vistas, etc.?

Have you read about any place in Tuscany that interests you and for that matter why Tuscany as opposed to other regions?
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 09:58 AM
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I got my first Tuscan wallowing fix at Hotel Santa Caterina in Sienna. It's outside the Porto Romano, an easy walk to Sienna's famous campo and all the shops and restaurants in Sienna, but has a wonderful back garden that looks over the Tuscan countryside. I loved eating my breakfasts there and sitting in the afternoons reading, writing or dreaming. From there you could take the bus or train to visit other Tuscan towns. But three nights you could easily fill in Sienna alone.

The next time we did the Tuscan countryside thing is was a little apartment at a working winery near Montalcino. But for that you need a car and a week at least.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 09:58 AM
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Well, maybe start by reading Tuscany on the Destinations section of Fodors. Also look at some photos. I sometimes use Google Images or a google map with the photos option on to get a rough idea of what a few places look like.

Popular areas of Tuscany, especially on the forum, are the Val d'Orcia and Chianti.

I do think you need a car if you want to have a relaxing time in the countryside. I would not want to stay in a town and tour by bus for three days. However, lots of people hire drivers to tour during the day. Expensive but I guess somewhat carefree and relaxing.

Definitely read some Tuscany trip reports on this forum. You will probably get at least a few good responses to your post.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 10:12 AM
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I would rent a car. Driving is easy and you could get into some very interesting parts of Tuscany.
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Old Oct 9th, 2013, 01:48 AM
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To the OP:

It would be helpful if you responded, Mark...people REALLY want to help and it is hard to do if we don't get a little feedback even if it is a simple "thank you."
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Old Oct 9th, 2013, 02:52 AM
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We rented an apartment in Montefioralle [ an old village near Greve en Chianti ] for a week in 2010. It was a great base to explore the region, but, yes you do need a car. If wine is not a priority and you do not need to worry about being over the limit, then get a car. Stay out of Florence, but close enough to do a day trip [ or two ] and then explore the area. Now I have re-read your post and see you only have three nights [ two days ]. Where else are you planning to go ?? before and after. Three nights is not really long enough to do anything.
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Old Oct 9th, 2013, 05:53 AM
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Hire bicycles and get out on the road
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Old Oct 9th, 2013, 06:08 AM
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With only 3 nights, Grasshopper's suggestion sounds ideal. You won't need a car for that. I would consider borrowing one day from the 5 you have for Rome or Venice and adding a day to Tuscany. With 4 nights, I might consider an agritourismo and a car and spending a bit of time touring Tuscany to see its beauty and visit some of its villages and towns.

Read some trip reports for ideas and let us know what you decide. We can help with details.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 12:07 AM
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Thank you for the responses. As a reminder, Tuscany will be the middle part of our trip. Rome will be fascinating and busy and packing in a lot. At the other end, Lake Como will be beautiful and will probably include some driving around to explore the area. Tuscany - is about the pure wallow!

I am a sucker for peace and quite and tranquility and civility and history and - a time to reflect. After 25 years of glorious marriage, this part of the trip will be as much about the reflection as the celebration. And my initial research - and the comments I find here - suggest I couldn't find a better place to take a breath and think back on our 25 years together.

I am also a sucker for stunning countryside (I miss the English countryside a great deal). Again, I reckon this is as good as I could expect to find. I see three elements.

1. A beautiful, rustic place to stay with tremendous hospitality and where we are made to feel special.

2. A view - somewhere where we can just sit overlooking a spectacular and peaceful scene, with a glass of wine, a book and hopefully the sun.

3. Some minor side trips. I'm not talking big day trips (the other parts of the trip will keep us busy). I'm talking about a tour of a winery, maybe a short cooking class, perhaps see some art, etc. I also wouldn't mind being near the coast, although that is not essential.

The key point is that our activities won't be all-consuming. The Rome and Lake Como elements will have the sightseeing opportunities. This part is about just relaxing, albeit with just a couple of minor things to do. Another way to consider this is that I am more interested in the countryside than the cities (I understand Pisa is near Florence but that doesn't particularly draw me, for example).

I am almost certain that we will rent a car. We like the freedom to decide as we go, so the idea of renting a car with a driver isn't a good fit for us, plus I'd want the car for multiple days. I almost never drink, so the only time that would be a factor is when / if we go on a tour of a winery. That could either be the one where we stay or I will find some other transportation.

I plan to spend three nights in Tuscany, but may swing to four possibly based on some of your comments. I am also researching the idea of an agritourismo (new word for me .

Thanks again. I really appreciate the comments.

Mark
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 03:24 AM
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You don't need a car to explore Lake Como. Visiting numerous lakeside cities by boat is not only easy, it's far more convenient than doing so by car. I've been celebrating my birthday every year on Lake Como for many years now. Sometimes I rent a car (to explore higher up), often I don't. Not needing a car is one of the reasons I love to visit this special place.

I've also been to Tuscany many times. (Couldn't imagine a trip to Italy and not enjoying great wine.) It would never occur to me to visit Tuscany without a car. Driving around Tuscany, visiting the charming small towns and seeing the fabulous countryside, is half the fun. Being stuck on some hotel grounds for three days in Tuscany is NOT the way to enjoy this lush area.

Now, if your idea of a Tuscan visit is 3 nights in Florence, or 3 nights in Siena, then yes, you don't need a car to do that.

Your need for a car depends on what you actually want to see. If you've never been before, you won't really know what you want to see until you see it.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 03:28 AM
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I've never heard anyone say he/she regretted renting a car in Tuscany. But I have heard people say a car was a waste and a hassle on Lake Como.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 07:06 AM
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>>>I am also researching the idea of an agritourismo
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:32 AM
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My experience after several trips without a car was:

A train is fine for larger towns but you need to find out distance from the station to the city center;

A bus is inexpensive and fine for smaller towns but is more timed for commuters and students than tourists;

A hired driver is a luxury and the best way to do it so you can let someone else find the town and then a parking space;

A van tour can be super if you have a good guide and compatible travelers.

'Google' hill towns in Tuscany and Umbria and see what comes up. My late husband and I were more trip oriented and wanted towns with good train connections so my choices wouldn't be yours. We LOVED Spoleto, Orvieto and Perugia FWIW.

Fiesole near Florence might suit you and be just a bus ride from Florence.

Hope you do a trip report!
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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ps-Yes, check distance to Lake Como area--you'll lose at least 1/2 day to travel.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 05:15 PM
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So, I'm fine tuning this part of our trip. I always planned to have a car while in Tuscany so that part, at least, is an easy choice. I think I have found a great place too (although, as ever, eager to hear comments if anyone has any thoughts).

I am considering this place: http://www.lacortedeipapi.com/. It's in the Cortona. Based on my very early research this area looks like what I have in my minds eye of Tuscany. See the pictures under Territory here, for example: http://www.lacortedeipapi.com/photogallery.aspx.

Anyway, if a little more digging about the area and the hotel hold up I may well have closed on the middle part of our trip.

Oh by the way, I'm extending the Tuscany part to four nights - again, based on comments here.

Thanks everyone.

Mark
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 05:33 PM
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The Lake Como part of your trip will be the most relaxing, traveling around the lake by ferry, lunch in different villages around the lake. You need a car in Tuscany; after several trips there, I can't imagine not having one. It will still be relaxing and a car will make it more so as you won't have a schedule dictated to you by buses and trains.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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I love La Corte dei Papi. Cortona is an interesting base because it's very close to Umbria. You'll be able to visit Perugia, which I love. This is not a super busy area. With a car, you'll hate to stop exploring. There's so much to see and it's all LOVELY.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 10:02 PM
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Having been to Tuscany many times now, and stayed in various parts of the county, I must add my two cents and say that for first time visitors, my choice would be the Val d'Orcia area. This includes towns such as Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano. Cortona is beautiful but would not be my first choice to stay. A lovely agriturismo with several different types of accomodations that we have stayed and loved is Sant'Antonio :

http://www.santantonio.it/

Enjoy your celebration !!
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 10:24 PM
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>>>Based on my very early research this area looks like what I have in my minds eye of Tuscany.
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