Help With Hill Town Selection in Tuscany

Apr 22nd, 2009, 05:12 PM
  #1  
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Help With Hill Town Selection in Tuscany

Our trip to Italy and France is finally getting close (June 2009). Booking your flight a year in advance to get Business Class with air miles, it seemed so far away, but finally it is approaching. You have all been great helping with the itinerary and suggesting hotels. I am going over my notes and need a bit more help. You may have answered this question in one form or another for me, but I can’t retrieve the information, so bare with me.

The part of the trip I need help filling in is Tuscany. We will be in Florence 3 days and then pick up a car and go to Assisi for 3 nights, Orvieto 1 day/night and then staying at Palazzo Conti close to San Quirico d' Orcia village and Pienza, for 3 nights. We will drop our car off in Pisa and then go to the Cinque Terre. I am trying to decide the best hill towns to visit while staying at Palazzo Conti in Tuscany and in what order to make the most out of our 3 days. DH and have I been to Tuscany before and don’t mind repeating some of our favorite towns. We are traveling with friends and this is their 1st trip. I have arthritis so while I can take on some of the big hill towns, the flatter ones would make my life easier.

Here’s my list of what we would like to do:
Sant'Antimo Abbey, Pienza, San Quirico, Bagno Vignoni, Volterra, San Gimignano, Siena. DH and I have been to Pienza, Volterra, San G and Siena before, but would love to go back.

Go ahead and add, delete and put in order by days. Thanks so much ahead of time.
travel52 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 05:46 PM
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Volterra and San Gim are both about 2 hours away from where you're staying (at least that's how long it took me to drive it from Pienza). Loved them both though. I think it's easier to get to these towns from Florence. They are both on hills and you have to park at the bottom and walk in.

San Quirico (which I loved although there's nothing going on there in the afternoon) is on a hill as is Siena. If you go to Siena go early in the morning as it's has become very very crowded. It's changed a lot from the first time I went there in 1993. The lovely campo now has tacky souvenir shops and cafes with bad food so take a look but don't eat there. When I was there in 2005 there was a wait to get into the cathedral and they allowed 400 people in at a time. Quite different from the sleepy town it was in 1993.

Sant'Antimo was great also, easy access and easy parking.

You should also go to Monte Oliveto Maggiore, NW of Pienza. It's a monastery with wonderful frescoes by Signorelli and Sodoma. If you wander into the gift shop buy some lavender toilet water; it has a real scent of lavender.
adrienne is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 06:26 PM
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On our last trip, we visited Volterra and San Gimignano in the same day, but we were based in Siena. Since we are so close to San Quirco, perhaps that should just be a dinner and wine stop one evening.

Thanks for the tip on Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

Where is Bagno Vignoni in relationship to where we are staying?

I agree with you about Siena. Last time we were there, in 2006, it fit your description. That may be one we leave out if we don't have time.

Anyone with suggestions for other towns or how to plan our days with the ones I have listed?
travel52 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 06:36 PM
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I don't see Montepulciano on your list.
kybourbon is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 06:41 PM
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I thought I read that Montepulciano is a long, steep hike from where you park. Am I thinking of another town?
travel52 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 07:27 PM
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From that location, which I love, I see these 3 days:
1. Bagno Vignoni, St. Antimo, Montalcino
2. Montepulciano, Pienza, lunch at La Porta in Montichiello
3. Siena in the AM, return via Asciano, the Crete, and Monte Oliveto Maggiore[ after 1500]

Those are all compact days that will give you time to enjoy. Have fun !
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 07:38 PM
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Don't miss Montepulciano! Yes, it is on a hill but it is worth the hike. The view from the top is gorgeous. The wine bar at the Piazza San Francesco is wonderful. You can watch the sunset with your Prosecco and fabulous crostini on the deck.
rbnwdln is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 07:58 PM
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montepulciano is wonderful, as is siena and the square. there is a great sandwich shop off the back of the square in siena, next to a church. it has festive streamers in the windows and cloth drapes for a doorway. TINY. they have the best boar sausage and fresh bread sandwiches in the AM and little glasses of wine. (sorry, forgot name... i think its on via citta)

and dont forget montalcino!
wildwest is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 08:36 PM
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Is Montepulciano a tougher hike than going into Siena? Can we take a taxi in? I do okay with a bit of walking, but long, steep climbs can do me in. How are St. Antimo and Montalcino to get into?

Thanks Bob for your help.Do you see any way of working San Gim and Volterra in? Perhaps in place of Siena?

Thanks again !
travel52 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 09:35 PM
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I know it wasn't on your list, but you may want to check out shopping for Italian pottery in Deruda.
williamscb13 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 11:53 PM
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travel52,

If long steep hikes do you in, are you sure you want to go to le Cinque Terre? Where are you staying? You might do better to stay in Levanto, which is next door and flat, and see the towns by boat. Or you could do the same in Lerici or Portovenere, but you should keep your car in that case and drop it off in La Spezia.

In fact, I would recommend doing that no matter where you go on the Riviera.

St. Antimo is absolutely flat. Monte Oliveto Maggiore requires a long walk down a steep hill, although you could drive a car down there to drop people off and pick them up, but the car has to be parked at the hilltop parking lots.

Montepulciano has 8 parking lots. My impression of the one nearest the tourist office is that it is at the top of the hill, and while you need to walk at least a mile or so to get to the Piazza Grande, that walk is all at the top of the hill --- but someone else needs to comment because I didn't enter Montepulciano that way (and indeed, I climbed straight up the side of a mountain, and it was quite steep).

Also, the name of the town williamscb13 is referring to is "DeruTa."
zeppole is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 11:53 PM
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PS: If you have a handicapped sign for your car, you should bring it.
zeppole is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 07:45 AM
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Thanks for the help. I am just trying to come up with some kind of outline for our days. From past experience, we hear of a place from people while we are traveling and "off we go!"

I have researched The Cinque Terre and we are staying in Monterosso al Mare. It sounds managable for me. Our car is being dropped off on Sunday, so we need to drop it off in Pisa and take the train to CT.

Yes, I have brought my disabled parking sign on other trips and have found the wheelchair symbol sometimes painted on stone walls. Very funny....but helpful.
travel52 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Location is everything and it will be a 2 hour drive to Volterra--half that to Siena.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 03:07 PM
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By the way, if you get sick of hilltowns, check out charming -- and completely flat -- Buonconvento. Great parking, valley floor. Historic walls and castle. Architecture from all eras. Two small, interesting museums. Lots of authentic Tuscan restaurants. No tourists. They're all climbing hilltowns. Just Italians.
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Apr 23rd, 2009, 04:46 PM
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Great tip zeppole, thanks! Where is Buonconvento in relationship to the other towns we are planning to visit?

Bob, you said to return from Siena via Asciano, the Crete. What is this?
travel52 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 07:28 PM
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Look at your map--I hope you have a good one. There is a road from just SE of Siena that goes to Asciano and then thru the Crete Senese region of Tuscany--quite unique terrain that is worth your time. It also leads to the fabulous Abbey at Oliveto Maggiore---also woth an hour of your time--but closed from 1200 to 1500. Tuscany is much more than just hiil towns.
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Apr 23rd, 2009, 08:21 PM
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Thanks Bob, that answered my question. Yes, we have a good map (and a GPS).
travel52 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 08:57 PM
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Bare with me one more time. I said we had 3 days. We do, but the 1st day (Thursday), we will be driving from Orvieto and the last day, we will be driving to Pisa to take the train to the Cinque Terre. So with those kind of days (an afternoon, 2 full days and a morning), how would you rework this? I love your suggestions, Bob. I like the sounds of Buonconvento that zeppole suggested too. Perhaps Buonconvento instead of Montalcino. I wish we had another day or 2. Maybe some of this will have to wait for another trip?

Your help with what feels like a Rubik's cube is much appreciated.
travel52 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 09:46 PM
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It's hard for me to compare Montalcino to Buonconvento, since when I visited Montalcino, I only ate at a scenic restaurant just outside the walls, Boccon Di Vino, with an almost aerial view of the landscape. Sounds like Bob is only suggesting lunch there as well. But Buonconvento is really not one of the famed boutique hilltowns, and people will be outraged you didn't go to their favorite and went to this flat semi-village instead! Just so you know. It's really an outsider's (or insider's!) choice, with no views.

Buonconvento is between Montalcino and the abbey of Monteoliveto Maggiore, on the road that bob is talking about. It can be a good place to have lunch (Da Mario) before or after seeing the abbey.

Personally, I think the beauty of that part of Italy is the landscape, and it is very much worth your time to see the landscape around Monteoliveto Maggiore and Asciano.

If you still have Siena on your itinerary, you are going to have a very hard time squeezing in much else beyond Pienza, San Qurico and Sant'Antimo, plus the area around the abbey. Siena really takes at least a whole day,
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