Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Help with 4 Nights in Tuscany (

ElMadre Nov 13th, 2014 06:43 PM

Help with 4 Nights in Tuscany
Hi all. Please pardon the long post---it reflects the struggles I'm having with my planning. Wife and I will have 4 nights in Tuscany sandwiched between Venice and Rome. It is our first trip to Italy. We plan to take a morning train to Florence on day 1, and spend at least that day and the next day in Florence. We are not huge Italian art lovers (other than architecture and some sculpture). We both love wine, and I'm not planning on renting a car (for related reasons). We're not interested in Pisa or Lucca on this trip; we are considering doing a day trip to Siena and/or SG, and would like to do at least one wine tasting. We are open to guided tours (prefer smaller ones), and I know we could hit Chianti, Siena and SG in one long day. That would allow us to stay in Florence the whole time, which many people seem to recommend. Here's the dilemma---I would also very much like to spend a day in the Val d'orcia, seeing some or all of Montepulciano, Montalcino and Pienza. Do you think it would be too much to do 2 day trips from Florence, with one all the way down to Val d'orcia? Would it be preferable to split the nights between Florence and Siena (keeping in mind that we need to get to Rome in the morning on the final day in Tuscany)? For instance, find a tour/driver to take us to Chianti/SG/Siena, and leave us in Siena; then, take a tour to Val d'orcia out of Siena?

I know that no matter what it's not enough time in any one place, but it's likely we won't get back anytime soon and I'd like to make the most of it. But I don't want to wear us out, either.

Any creative suggestions are welcome! Thank you in advance.

tuscanlifeedit Nov 13th, 2014 07:40 PM

Do you have three or four nights to spend in Tuscany?

IF 4:

I don't see why you couldn't spend two nights in Florence, and on day three hire a driver to take you to some town in Chianti, SG and then leave you in Siena.

On day four, you could hire a driver to take you to the Val d'Orcia and then back to Siena, where you can spend the night and then get to Rome in the morning. Train or bus.

Night one: Florence
Night two: Florence
Night three: Siena
Night four: Siena

IF three:
night one in Florence
night two in Siena
night three in Siena
Morning four head to Rome

So you get to Florence early on day one, spend the day and night and then get a driver on day two to take you to Siena, including a stop or two along the way.

On day three you get the driver or a tour to the Val d'Orcia wine towns.

On morning four you get a train or bus to Rome from Siena.

That's moving awfully fast but it would allow you a few quick visits to the places on your list.

But really, if I were you, and didn't love art, but did love wine, I might just skip the Florence part.

I've hired drivers and wine tour companies on these routes (for clients) so I know it's possible.

Good luck

kybourbon Nov 14th, 2014 02:57 AM

If you aren't that interested in Florence, just stay in Siena instead. You could stop in Florence for the day on your way to Siena (store your luggage in the train station) or do a day trip to Florence from Siena.

To get to Rome from Siena, you take the Sena bus which has about 10 departures daily. It's as fast as taking a train and doesn't involve changes like the train does.

bvlenci Nov 14th, 2014 03:32 AM

If you're not interested in art, there's no reason to visit Florence on two different days, nor to stay there. You can easily "see" the city in less than one full day. I like the idea of leaving your luggage at the left luggage facility in the Florence train station, and spending a few hours there before going on to Siena. I did this once with visitors from the US, en route from our home in le Marche to Rome. For someone without a car, Siena is the ideal base. Staying in small towns is very limiting if you're depending on public transportation.

From Siena, you could visit Pienza and Montepulciano by bus. You might be able to visit both the same day, because they're near each other and on the same bus line. Montalcino is also easily reached by bus, but you couldn't visit all three on the same day. You could visit Montalcino and Buonconvento on the same day, though. If you want a Chianti wine tour, I would do that with a driver so you don't have to worry about drinking and driving. Of Montepulciano, Pienza, and Montalcino, my favorite is Montalcino.

I would skip San Gimignano on this trip. It can be done, but it's really overrun by tourists most of the year. I've been there twice, both times out of high season. In April, it was already sinking under the weight of tourists. In November, it was actually enjoyable.

In April, Montalcino and Montepulciano also had numerous tourists, but they were nearly empty compared to San Gimignano.

tuscanlifeedit Nov 14th, 2014 07:36 AM

For me, the main reason I would return to SG would be to see the frescoes in the Duomo. If that doesn't interest you, I agree that you could skip it.

You have some good ideas here to work with.

annhig Nov 14th, 2014 10:56 AM

i like bvl's idea best. Siena is a lovely place to be based, with lots of nice bars and restaurants to wander round in the evenings and you can organise tours from there to wherever you like.

if you want a private tour, these people are well thought of here:

I've not used them but several fodorites have and they always get good reviews.

kybourbon Nov 14th, 2014 11:21 AM

>>>From Siena, you could visit Pienza and Montepulciano by bus.<<<

I don't find Montepulicano and Pienza very easy to visit by public bus (#112) from either Siena or Florence for a day trip as there aren't that many departures and timing is not good. There are more public bus option times (#114) for Montalcino although you have to time those also so you aren't stuck there in the afternoon if you don't want to be (there is a gap of service in early afternoon). Here's a bus map. There is no Sunday bus service most places although Florence/Siena and the Sena bus to Rome will be running.

Another option is to stay in Siena 3 nights and take the bus to Montepulciano for your last night before heading to Rome. For Montepulciano/Rome, you would take the bus from Montepulciano to Chiusi-Chianciano train station (about 30 minutes) and train to Rome (about 1/2 hours).

ElMadre Nov 14th, 2014 05:20 PM

Thank you all, lots to think about (great! :) ). I definitely don't want to skip Florence altogether, so I'm thinking the main decision is whether to stay in Florence 0, 1 or 2 nights. I'm not sure about the 0 option, as that's a lot of traveling in one day---pack up in Venice, train, rushed tour of Florence, bus, check in in Siena. And I've often heard the advice to not stay less than 2 nights in any one place, so I'm leaning towards tuscanlifeedit's 4 night suggestion. The biggest pro to staying in Florence all 4 nights would seem to be a painless high-speed train to Rome, versus a bus or train from Siena or elsewhere that will run closer to 3 or 4 hours. But if we do Val d'orcia from Florence, we will suffer that travel time elsewhere. If only my kids were grown and I could go for 3 times as long!

Dayle Nov 15th, 2014 07:14 AM


Since the rest of your trip consists of major cities, you might really enjoy a true countryside small town. How about this?

Arrive Florence, stay 1 nt.
Hire driver/tour to visit some of the Chianti area and wineries, taking your luggage with you. Have the tour end and drop you at the town of your choice whether it's Siena, Montalcino or other where you can continue with a day in the town, other tours.

Personally, I liked Siena, but it is much larger than you think. More a small city so it won't give you the hilltown, countryside feel.

One advantage of staying in Montalcino (I did for 3 nts) is that you can do a lot of tasting in this beautiful town. Several wineries have tasting rooms, but the Fortezza at the top of the town has a great enotecca that has most of the hundreds of local wines. Very expert staff. The Fortezza itself has awesome views and Montalcino has enough good restaurants to dine with traditional Tuscan food and wine, then walk home after dinner.

I have driven on my visits and much prefer the freedom of driving. It's very easy and the countryside is gorgeous. It's nice to be able to explore and stop when and where you want!

If it were me, I would rent a car at departure from Florence and stay the other 3 nts in a very small town. Then - enjoy! You can easily drop the car in Chuisi or Orvieto and train to Rome in a little over an hour. Just check your drop day/time because the smaller rental locations are usually closed Sat afternoon and Sundays. They also have the long lunch hour.

kybourbon Nov 15th, 2014 02:44 PM

>>>>so I'm leaning towards tuscanlifeedit's 4 night suggestion. <<<

I don't see where tuscan suggested that. In fact, everyone has suggested skipping Florence.

>>>The biggest pro to staying in Florence all 4 nights would seem to be a painless high-speed train to Rome, versus a bus or train from Siena or elsewhere that will run closer to 3 or 4 hours. But if we do Val d'orcia from Florence, we will suffer that travel time elsewhere.<<<<

I don't see that as a pro at all since you haven't listed one thing there that interests you in Florence. Everything you want to do is closer to Siena (either south or east). As for train/bus, the Florence/Rome train is 1 1/2 hours and the Siena/Rome bus is 3 hours. A difference of 90 minutes. You will travel longer than that trying to get from Florence to Montalcino and back on a day trip (Siena is halfway between them).

>>>>Have the tour end and drop you at the town of your choice whether it's Siena, Montalcino or other where you can continue with a day in the town, other tours. <<<

While I like Montalcino (and the Brunellos!), if the OP doesn't rent a car, they will have to either take a bus to Siena to head to Rome or hire someone to drive them to Rome (which would be in the $300 range at least) or to drive them to Chiusi to catch a train to Rome.

If you rent a car, most close in the afternoons, close at 12 or 1 on Saturday and aren't open at all on Sunday.

ElMadre Nov 15th, 2014 06:05 PM

To clarify, by "tuscanlifeedit's 4 night suggestion" I meant 2 nights in Florence and 2 in Siena, as opposed to the suggestion that only assumed 3 nights in-region.

I have mentioned liking architecture and sculpture, both of which are well-represented in Florence. I could see doing a one day "stopover", but I'd like to avoid completely exhausting days, if possible. So, I think at least a one night stay is the best idea. Maybe mid-day Monday to late Tuesday in Florence, bus to Siena Tuesday evening, take a half-day tour in Chianti and see Siena on Wednesday, and then do a full day Val d'orcia tour on Thursday. Jump on a bus for Rome Friday morning.

I could see immersing myself in a more rural area on another visit, where we can spend several days in one place...

Jean Nov 15th, 2014 06:17 PM

Make sure what you want to see in Florence is open the Monday you'd be there or that you'd have time on Tuesday to see everything on your list. Some things are closed every Monday, others are closed alternating Mondays, etc.

This link will help with most of the main sights; you'll have to check other sights individually.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:58 AM.