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OlsonsPDX Jan 16th, 2012 12:07 PM

Help with Tuscany base for 5 nights
My husband, 8 year-old son and I will be traveling in Italy for 11 nights in July 2012. Our plan so far is to arrive Rome from US and stay 4 nights, 5 nights in Tuscany region and 2 nights in Venice before departing. Having trouble deciding on a base in the Tuscany area and we could use your help.

Although Florence would be the easiest, would prefer something a little less busy. The family musts are a day in Florence, trip to Pisa, trip to Siena and a winery tour. Would prefer to not rent a car and travel by train and/or bus. We could split the nights with 2 in Florence and 3 elsewhere or accept we need to rent a car for part of our trip :)

Thanks for your help!!

qwovadis Jan 16th, 2012 12:10 PM my fav hike bike city walls
where the best vineyards are great places to stay.

Michael Jan 16th, 2012 12:38 PM

Assuming that you would rent a car, consider an agriturismo that would allow day trips to the various locations that interest you.

macanimals Jan 16th, 2012 02:31 PM

My first thought is your destinations line up perfectly for a stay in Florence. You can train from Rome to Florence and then on to Venice. You can daytrip by train to Pisa or Lucca and bus to Siena. You can also get a guided tour to a winery out of Florence or rent a car for the day.

The suggestion of Lucca will work as well as it is an easy bus or train ride to Pisa and a bit longer to Florence. Siena would be a challenge as would the winery tour from Lucca.

bobthenavigator Jan 16th, 2012 03:29 PM

Your requirements suggest Florence as the only viable option unless you stay in both Siena and Lucca--not a bad idea.

Mimar Jan 16th, 2012 04:08 PM

We usually suggest people fly into Venice and out of Rome. Because flights connecting to the US leave Venice very early, cutting short your time there and making it more difficult to get to the airport.

And Venice is more relaxing than Rome, a better place to get over jet lag. I'd add another day to your time in Venice, to allow for jet-lag recovery and because it's a place kids like, more so then Florence.

OlsonsPDX Jan 17th, 2012 07:28 PM

Thanks everyone, we really appreciate the input! I think we will stay in Florence, since it does make the most sense, and rent a car for a day. With that decision made, now the fun begins with the details.

bobthenavigator Jan 18th, 2012 05:31 AM

Rent a driver and car for a day---the cost may be comparable since the car rental will be for 3 days.

franco Jan 18th, 2012 06:28 AM

I don't agree, sorry. You said you'd prefer to stay in a less hectic place than Florence, so stick to it, particularly if you wish to rent a car - Florence traffic is dreadful, and you'll lose hours going out and back into town mornings and evenings. So it's certainly better to have to do that but once, i.e. for your daytrip to Florence.
Also geographically, it's not true that Florence makes most sense. Florence to Pisa is 120 kilometers, Florence to Siena 75. The place I'm going to suggest as your base is Certaldo, an extraordinarily pretty medieval town, one of Tuscany's best (thinking of Certaldo Alto, the historic center - the lower modern part is not overly beautiful), but with almost no tourists. Certaldo to Pisa is 73 kilometers, Certaldo to Lucca 70, Certaldo to Siena 44, Certaldo to Florence 47. That's what really makes sense IMO, and will provide you with an excellent non-touristy experience that you wouldn't probably expect in Tuscany.

Mimar Jan 18th, 2012 07:45 AM

Wow, really interesting suggestion from Franco. I'm making a note of that town. Maybe check it out on Google Images. I see it's on the train line. So you could take a train into Florence and Pisa, cities where you don't want to drive.

If you do decide to stay in Florence, don't pick up the rental car in city. Take a bus out to the airport (leaves from across from the main train station) and rent your car there. Likewise drop it off at the airport.

Not only are the airport rental offices open all hours, they also allow you to avoid driving in Florence and maybe getting one of those all-too-common tickets for driving in a locals-only zone, a ZTL. (A camera photographs your license plate, your car rental company outs you and charges your credit card for doing it, and you get a ticket in the mail months later.)

franco Jan 18th, 2012 08:01 AM

In my experience, driving in Pisa is no problem at all, so no reason to avoid that (on the contrary, far preferable to the train station, which is not very conveniently located to the historic center). Just driving into and out of Florence is so extremely time-consuming. Not that it's difficult (I'll never understand how people manage to violate those - very clearly marked! - ZTLs), just as annoying and time-consuming as huge traffic jams are anywhere in the world.

bobthenavigator Jan 18th, 2012 08:22 AM

Given a car, Certaldo makes great sense. Having to use trains from there may get limiting based on schedules.

franco Jan 18th, 2012 11:17 AM

Not quite, Bob. I'm counting 16 direct trains a day to Florence (running one hour), no less than 27 direct trains a day to Siena (running 45 minutes), and 29 to Pisa (change in Empoli, one hour total travel time). Only Lucca is somewhat inconvenient to reach: there are trains twice an hour, but you always have to change (sometimes twice), and travel time is always around 2 hours, which is a terrible waste of time for 70 kilometers. So that's where I'd rent that car. (Yes, there are car rental agencies in Certaldo. Pagine Gialle counts three of them.)

OlsonsPDX Jan 19th, 2012 07:50 PM

Thanks for the additional input! If we do stay in Florence, I like the idea of getting a driver for the day since I'm nervous about the rental car. Having said that, Certaldo sounds very interesting and may make renting a car worth it. I will definitely do some research on the town, including train schedules.

franco Jan 20th, 2012 03:17 AM

You seem to think that for getting a driver, you'd have to stay in Florence. But it's obvious from the website of Poggi (one of the car rental companies of Certaldo) that they also provide drivers on request. (The two others will perhaps do, as well, but they have no websites, so I cannot know.) This service is aimed at weddings, but heck, if you pay them they will also drive you to Lucca for sightseeing. (Though they will perhaps be as surprised as I am, frankly. Remember that this is not about driving in Cambodia, where you had every reason to be nervous. It's about driving in Italy, which is one of the most highly civilized countries in the world, with excellent roads and excellent drivers.)

bilboburgler Jan 20th, 2012 04:40 AM

"station not placed conveniently in historic centre"
LOL :-)

lorisloris Jan 26th, 2012 12:34 AM

Of all the beautiful towns...why on earth Certaldo? It's down at the bottom of a valley in an industrial area...definetely not worth staying

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