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Help with Tuscany and/or Umbria 10 day trip!

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Feb 10th, 2012, 11:24 PM
  #1
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Help with Tuscany and/or Umbria 10 day trip!

Please help!
I have been reading trip reports on Fodors and I am just beginning plans to Italy in mid-May for 10 nights with my husband and daughter, 24. It is a college graduation trip for her, in part. I know it is getting late!!
It has been 26 years since husband and I went to Italy. We are interested in focusing on food, wine, art, scenery, history, architecture, experiencing the culture. There is so much that we would like to see, but of course don't want to move too much.
We plan to fly in to Venice. My husband and I have been there, but our daughter really wants to see it. We will maybe spend 3 nights to recover from the trip from LA. My husband has a very bad back right now, but is determined to go. I am looking for ways to keep everyone happy. My daughter and I will want to walk much more than my husband. Town/cities that are not too small, not too big. Good restaurants, cafes, a wine tasting, maybe a cooking class., not museums so much as living art ......Driving some is fine....

Please tell me how this sounds --just forming ideas--
Venice -- 3 nights
Florence--2 or 3 nights or stay in Lucca or Sienna?? Then get a car.
Montepulciano--3 -4 nights with day trips to Ferrara (husband's wish), Chiati, maybe Raveena

I wanted to see Orvieto. Assissi, Gubbio. Not sure yet where we will fly out of.
Any advice is appreciated!! Thank you. I am working on this trip this weekend!!
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Feb 10th, 2012, 11:55 PM
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Does your husband's bad back affect his wish or ability to walk uphill and downhill? Montepulciano is very steep; Gubbio is steep; Siena, Orvieto and Assisi are also hill towns but with more bits that are flatter.

Do you mean Chieti or the Chianti area? Chieti is too far for a day trip from any of the other places you name; the Chianti area is close to Florence or Siena. Ravenna is an easy trip by train from Ferrara, which might be a good fit: the historic center is small and flat.

Orvieto, Gubbio and Assisi are pretty far from each other. It would be difficult even with a car to visit them from one base.

Lucca might be a better fit than Florence: it's smaller and less museum-oriented.

Consider Venice-Ferrara-Lucca as bases. You wouldn't need a car and could fly out of Pisa.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 01:56 AM
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Did something like this last May. We go a lot will be there in April. finding cheapest flights into Rome or Milan RT on aa.com this year.We save hundreds no flying into Venice trains are easy. seat61.com/italy Florence Venice lucca.info
Siena orvieto.info Rome totally doable in the time you have.
Have done tigercarrentals.com also for rural areas expensive
big fines in cities also parking charges train way cheaper better for us these days. eurocheapo.com good tips trip insurance wise Greece is rioting they just downgraded 32 of 34 Italian banks yesterday unress this summer quite possible so might stay flexible and get trip cover.

Have fun!
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Feb 11th, 2012, 02:29 AM
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For crying out loud! Greece is on the verge of default, and people are rioting against proposed austerity measures. Italy is not on the verge of default and has already passed austerity measures. No one rioted in Italy. There may be strikes in Italy, but they are limited by law to a duration of 24 hours.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 06:22 AM
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Stay in Tuscany but I suggest Pienza or San Quirico for your husband---much easier walking. First, decide where you plan to depart Italy---Rome, Florence, or Pisa. That will set your overall plan.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 07:47 AM
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Hi Lynnczimm,

Would it be possible to just stay 5 days each in Venice and Florence? Less packing and your hub would be on fairly level ground in 2 very interesting places should he opt to stay put.

You could make Ferrara and Ravenna day trips from Venice.

Yes, from where are you departing? If Pisa or Florence, either could be a base for visiting Lucca and Siena. We always took trains or busses. I've read of possible problems driving in Florence with its zones. So do find a hotel with garage and get clarification about them.

We visited Orvieto and Assisi from Spoleto by train, and Gubbio from Perugia by bus. Orvieto, although on a hill is fairly flat once you get to the top by funicular or taxi from the train station.

Much luck with this.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 08:34 AM
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"Driving some is fine." What is your idea of a day trip? Can your husband's back tolerate many hours sitting in a car? Ferrara, Ravenna, Gubbio, Assisi, Orvieto are all well over an hour (or two or three) from southern Tuscany, Lucca or Siena.

"... not museums so much as living art." I'm not sure what you mean by that. Gardens? Charming streets? If you really have little interest in artistic works (which are mostly in museums), then I would skip Florence.

Can you depart from wherever you like? If not, you need to figure that out before you can develop an itinerary. It would help if the three of you decide on a much shorter wish list of towns that are located in a smaller geographic area.

If you don't think your husband's back will improve before the trip, I would consider postponing it to later in the year. He may be "determined to go," but this is not the sort of trip for someone who can't/won't do much walking or can't sit long in a car. It would be different if you were going to plop yourselves down in some charming, flattish town for a week and explore only the immediate area, but you're contemplating a fairly active/aggressive plan.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 10:40 AM
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I understand your desire to stay in Montepulciano - it is a fantastic town but calling it "steep" is very much an understatement. I think it would be very difficult for someone with any kind of back pain to spend 3-4 days there.

Pienza, and Montalcino have much more uniform grades - Pienza is essentially flat - but they are quite small, too.

Ferrara and Ravenna are each about 3 hours from Montepulciano - that would make for one very poor day trip. If you are going to see them, it should probably be done on your way to Florence from Venice. Ferrara is about 1.5 hours from Venice, Ravenna would take quite a bit longer to get too.

Assisi and Gubbio are a stretch to be reached from Florence (over 2 hours driving) or Montepulciano (1.5 - 2 hours).

It may make sense to decide whether you want to spend those 3-4 nights in either Tuscany, or Umbria, and then choose a town so that you can reach a few other spots of interest efficiently on day trips.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 11:09 AM
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HI Lynn,

about this time last year i was contemplating a trip to Italy in May with a bad back - and I was dreading the flight - even though as I live in the UK it would be much shorter than the one your DH is facing. In desperation i turned to a chiropractor, and by the time of my trip, i was virtually pain-free.

A chiropractor may not be for your DH, but it must be worth a try!

at the same time, I agree on cutting back on your itinerary and I think that Tdudette has the right idea. honestly, you will not run out of things to do in 5 days in both Venice and florence, and if your DH is still suffering, he'll be a lot more comfortable there, than he would be somewhere hilly. at the same time, you have a number of day-trips you can do by train from both [and bus from Florence] should you feel the need. DH could also stay put whilst you went off and you would still have loads to do.

you could fly into Venice, out of Pisa or Florence.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 08:05 PM
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Thank you so much for your responses. I have been reading more and thinking about your ideas and recommendations. My husband, daughter and I are set on doing this trip in mid-May since we have so much difficulty coordinating our schedules to take the time off at the same time.
We are now thinking : fly to Venice from LA for 3 nights. We do want to stay in Florence for maybe 3 nights. We would like to stay in a smaller town, but not too small also for a slower pace and smaller size experience. Would you suggest Ferrara?? We would like to go to Siena and Lucca. I would love to go to Chianti and Montepulciano. My husband does fine sitting in a car but no walking uphills or distances right now. We are all fine with my daughter and I going off at times, occasionally, as long as my husband has a nice place to hang out, he is happy.
Is Cortona possible?
OK, now the latest thought, from my husband and daughter is to fly from Pisa to Barcelona for the last 3 nights and fly home from there. We have 13 days, I think.
I really do need to make flight arrangements soon! Thank you so much for any suggestions and thoughts!!
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Feb 11th, 2012, 08:16 PM
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Sorry if I did this wrong, I am just learning how to post and it seems that I did this follow up 2x.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 10:54 PM
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No problem: your post only appeared once.

I haven't been to Barcelona, but it's a large and bustling city. Are you sure that's what you want?

I suggest you stay in Italy. Book your flights into Venice and out of Pisa. Give Venice four nights; you'll be taking it slow after the long flight. Book the last two nights in Lucca, the four before that in Florence. Florence gives your husband somewhere to hang out while you do day trips by bus to the Chianti, Siena or Cortona (Cortona is steep and not suitable as a base); Lucca gives you all the smaller town you're looking for. Once that is in place, you can decide where to spend three nights after Venice and before Florence. I personally think Ferrara would give you a pleasant small-town experience as well as the possibility of a day trip your husband might also enjoy to Ravenna.
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Feb 11th, 2012, 11:04 PM
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Sorry: the Chianti and Siena by bus but Cortona by train.
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Feb 12th, 2012, 07:35 AM
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Cortona challenges Montepulciano for the steepest hill town. It is a beast. The situation with your husbands back is really going to make deciding where to go and where to base yourself a challenge.

Venice and Florence are both about as flat as a pancake, however they do require walking a fair bit to see the sights. You can use vaporettos or water taxis in Venice but I don't think that the public transportation in Florence is quite as efficient at getting you between sights.

Ferrara does not top many people's lists as a multi-day stopover and it isn't really near anywhere else you want to visit. Siena could serve as a multi-day stopover - it is moderately hilly. Lucca is another town that is essentially flat and would make a good choice.

The problem I see is that your husband would enjoy Tuscany from a car but 85% of the smaller towns that you might want to visit would be too hilly for him to enjoy. I suppose you could take a taxi from the parking areas to the centre of most towns and let your husband relax while you walked, but your desired destinations are still widely scattered. Ferrara to Lucca to Montepulciano cuts a wide swath.

Sienna might actually make the most sense, with you taxiing back and forth to the train station for possible day-trips.

Will you be driving any of this or taking day trips by train, or perhaps bus?
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Feb 12th, 2012, 08:47 AM
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OK. How about this...3 nights Venice, 3 nights florence, 3 nights Lucca. Fly fm Pisa to Barcelona for final 3 nights.. If you stay in Fiosole (is this outside the no car zone? It's been a while since we've been to Flornce) you might get a car and use your last full day there to daytrip the Chianti area, then drive to Lucca. Lucca is a lovely town I think you would enjoy. You can easily daytrip to see the leaning tower of Pisa, or even to the Ligurian coast. I would drive it simply because we like to keep our own time schedules, but you actually could do it all using trains and booking an excursion from your Florence hotel to visit chianti country.
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Feb 12th, 2012, 11:05 AM
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I definitely agree about staying in Italy, and cutting down on the travelling.

I'd be saying this even if your DH didn't have back problems, but to be doing so much travelling with a bad back [where moving around to relax and exercise the back will be so difficult] looks like madness.

it'll be no fun for him - or you - if he's in agony all the time. will you be able to manage the luggage every time you move? do you want to have to do all the driving if he can't?

Venice, Florence and Lucca might work well as a combination, if you can't give up the idea of 3 places to stay.
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Feb 12th, 2012, 11:02 PM
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You all are so helpful! I appreciate your thoughts and recommendations.
I will think about this and talk with my husband more. It does seem crazy to be so determined to go now, with his back but each of us wants so much to go!!
I will get back after more consideration and let you know where end up. Thank you so much!!!
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Feb 13th, 2012, 03:06 PM
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A couple of more random thoughts:
(1) Though Barcelona is essentially flat because it is at sea level, most of the major attractions (Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, etc.) involve a lot of walking up and down stairs.

(2) San Gimignano isn't all too hilly because it's relatively flat right at the top. You could park in the parking lot directly outside and walk into the city or stay at an agritourismo outside. It's mostly very gentle slopes (as long as you don't go into Parking Lot 3). I like Lucca, too, but San Gim is one of our favorites in Tuscany --- simply stunning with wonderful restaurants, the best gelato, and great wines all around. San Gim is also a very convenient driving distance to Volterra, which isn't too hilly, either. Pienza, too, is a fantastic choice but all of the other towns in the Val d'Orcia are super hilly.

Good luck in picking options!
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Feb 25th, 2012, 11:40 PM
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Thank you all for your thoughts and recommendations!! I value your ideas and input.
I am still working on this..... Reading a lot and enjoying the process but also I'm afraid maybe getting more overwhelmed. It is hard not to want to cover too much territory.
We now have air reservations arriving to Venice and leaving from Rome. It is what worked out for our miles.

We have12 nights. This is what I am thinking at this point: Keep in mind please that we have my daughter, 23, with us, as this is a college graduation celebration, in part. She is a good traveler and we all love good food, wine, walking around charming streets, architecture, outdoor markets, and not a hectic pace but enough to do. We would like some combination of small town with good good and history and larger city-like Florence experience. My husband will need a good base wherever we are, if he needs to take care of his back. We also love to cook and taking a cooking class would be wonderful and maybe a wine tour. After Venice and Florence we can rent a car.

So I am thinking at this point:
3 nights in Venice-- Maybe a day trip to Ferrara and Raveena by train.
Then train to Florence--3 to 4 nights--maybe day trip to Lucca.
We definitely would like a smaller city and also small town experience to relax a bit but still see and experience the country.
What about Siena for 3 nights? I think as a family we would like to be in a town to walk in the evening and have a nice dinner and good wine. Would staying somewhere like Montalcino or San Quirco or Pienza be better????
What about Volterra? It sounds wonderful!

Since we will fly out of Rome at 10 AM on a Sat. (day 13) what do you suggest? Orvieto and Spello sound wonderful too. How close are either to the Rome airport. We are not inclined to spend time in Rome this trip.
I am learning so much about Italy, in trying to plan this trip. In some ways it reminds me of California in it's diversity of experience, beauty, and countryside but of course, without the history!!! So it's not really comparable!

Thank you all so much for your help! I hope my confusion about how to go about this does not discourage a response!!
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Feb 26th, 2012, 06:51 AM
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Hi again, Lynn - nice to see that the trip is beginning to come together.

I think that you are right to jettison Rome this time, and concentrate on 3 other places to fill your 12 nights.

given that you will be arriving after a long flight, AND want to do at least one day trip from Venice, i strongly suggest staying there for 4 nights - gives you a day to recover, a day to explore, and [if you still want to do this] a day for a trip to Ferrara and/or Ravenna.

After that, the train to Florence should have you there by lunchtime, so you might think of staying there for only 3 nights, giving you 2 1/2 days. then you have a choice - spend the final 5 nights all in one place, or split them, with the last 1-2 within spitting distance of Rome. remember you will need to be a Fiumicino by 7am, so it's going to need to be somewhere pretty close.
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