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Help with Tuscany part of trip next spring

Help with Tuscany part of trip next spring

Old May 6th, 2022, 01:18 PM
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Help with Tuscany part of trip next spring

Hello,

I truly apologize in advance for the length of this!

After a long wait our family is formally planning for a trip next May 2023 to Italy. This has been a dream for a couple of years now, but life situations (Covid, aging parents, children moving and changing jobs, etc.) have kept it from coming to fruition. Weíre finally at a place where hopefully our family trip is going to occur. Fingers crossed!

Weíve changed the area we want to visit for this trip. We decided Tuscany (rather than Umbria) will be where we venture, before going to Rome. Iíve been doing a lot of reading of advice and thoughts on the fodorís forum and am trying to incorporate what we would find pleasurable and will tweak it (again and again Iím sure!) because of the amazing advice. For a newbie traveler like me I canít thank you all enough for all of your posts! Weíve penciled in Friday, May 19 flying out from WAS, arrival at FCO early on Saturday May 20th and then weíd return from FCO home on May 29, so basically 8 full days to explore.

Iím trying to decide on where to base in Tuscany if we decided not to rent a car. (Iíll get to that part later). My first thought is basing ourselves in Siena and then use the public transportation to see some of the beautiful areas. From my initial research it seems bus lines 112 and 114 go to many of the small Southern Tuscany towns weíd like to see: Buonconvento, montepulciano, San Quirico, and Pienza, BUT it seems most donít leave Siena till almost lunchtime and I donít know if you could see more than one town in a day with the schedules being what they are. Iím still trying to figure out how to read the schedules, but I worry about heading out by bus to see these places and being really pressured by the pick up times in order to see more than one, or get back to Siena. If anyone could share their experiences with this option, Iíd be very thankful. We could train to Arezzo and Florence for day trips easily from Siena - which is nice, plus itís Siena. My daughter loved That town when she was abroad and many on the forum have spoken of it as a good base for those who arenít driving.

Just the other day I read a thread about someone suggesting Buonconvento as a good location because of its train station and the capability of taking shorter trips to the above towns from there, as well as still being able to go to Siena or Florence or Arezzo for a longer trip. We want a mix of seeing the mid sized towns like Siena maybe Florence or Arezzo, but balancing it with small, quaint places, too.

Thereís so much beauty in that region. With our time Iím really conflicted with how much to give Rome at the end. My daughter has been to Rome, but neither my son nor I have. The area of Tuscany speaks more to my interests, but I feel we need to spend at least a couple days there.

About the car. Iím not totally against the prospect of driving once we got to Tuscany, but it does give me pause. I just do not know if Iíd be as relaxed and enjoy the scenery if I was trying to drive and locate places. I drove a manual 15-20 years ago, and think I could do it again with some practice. The cost of an automatic is about double for 5 days rental out of Siena, so thats a big obstacle. Neither of my kids drives a stick.

Anyway, Iíve babbled on too long already! If any of you could give me your thoughts on staying in Siena and using the buses and trains vs. staying in one of the outer towns (using public transportation or a car) and even about the car situation overall, Iíd really appreciate it!

Again, all of you that share your time and posts are a tremendous help! Iíve got a notebook that is divided with all the info from everyone- Umbria info from all who are veterans of there, and now Iíll add Tuscany. I canít wait to visit both!
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Old May 6th, 2022, 04:37 PM
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You've discovered the difficulties of exploring Tuscany without a car. Bus service is commuter/student friendly, and not particularly tourist friendly. Most of the towns that tourists want to visit don't have train service.

For me, driving is easy and much more enjoyable than riding buses and being constrained by timetables. Deputize your kids as co-pilots to manage the GPS and watch for each town's parking signs.

Double-check that Siena-Arezzo day trip by train. By my search, it's at least 2.5 hours each way, and the last return departs before 9:00p.

You need to decide how many days/nights you'll spend in Rome. You can't figure out anything else until you know that part of your itinerary. I will point out that you could spend the entire 8 days in Rome and not see everything. If you wanted to visit a small town from Rome, you could day trip to Orvieto, Tivoli and/or Frascati. BTW, the train ride Rome-Florence is about the same length as Siena-Florence... 90 minutes each way.
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Old May 6th, 2022, 05:46 PM
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Thanks for your reply Jean. Iím leaning toward spending more time in Tuscany than Rome right now, maybe split it 5 days in Tuscany and 3 in Rome. I am much more inclined and happy to spend time in a landscape environment than urban, small towns I favor. I think if we planned our Rome days well - but leave time for spontaneity of course! weíd be OK with three full days. I was wrong to put a trip to Arezzo by train from Siena as a doable day trip; it is about 1:15 to 1:30 by Bus #138 Autolinee Toscane from Via Tozzi. That could work I think. As you said, the train is much longer.

If we decided to hire the car, I think having one of my children be my co-pilot would take some of the pressure off. If we were to choose to stay in Siena over one of the Tuscan towns, Iíll need to research where to park outside of the city I assume. Is that a hassle? Looking forward to reading more replies with insight into this part of the trip planning.

Last edited by fernweh1; May 6th, 2022 at 05:50 PM.
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Old May 6th, 2022, 07:07 PM
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If you pick Siena, look at the Hotel Palazzo Ravizza. It has its own parking lot. The front door of the hotel is inside the ZTL, but the parking lot on the back side is outside. (You can drive to the front door to check in, and the hotel will report your license plate so no citation is issued.) From the parking lot, it's just a couple of turns to leave the city and return, and it's an easy walk (a few blocks) to the Campo. The only downside to the Ravizza is that it's on the opposite side of Siena from the train station and about a 15-20 minute walk to the bus station, so it would be more or less a commitment to do your exploring by car.

And if you pick Siena, consider doing some of your exploring north into Chianti (Castellina, Radda, etc.) and through the Val d'Elsa to San Gimignano and Volterra. One thing that may have less interest to your kids: Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore near Asciano. It's an active monastery with beautiful grounds and a couple of fresco cycles. Closed in the middle of the day, so plan accordingly.

I would explore the Val d'Orcia area over two days and go beyond the well-traveled road between Montepulciano and Montalcino.... to Montichiello, Bagno Vignoni, perhaps the garden at La Foce.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 12:38 AM
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Tuscany is pretty hilly and that makes access by trains a bit difficult and equally buses have to really twist and turn to get to the hill towns so I might modify my trip a bit to focus on trains. Dig out a Tuscan train map and a whole different bunch of towns appear. Buonconvento is the obvious one but also places like Colle di val d'Elsa which is fantastically beautiful and more or less the new town is in a valley bottom, while the old town (via lift) is on a ridge. It needs different sort of planning but worth it none the less.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 06:57 AM
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We always rent cars in Tuscany and Umbria. It will give you the freedom to explore the charming small towns. Honestly, I canít imagine trying to see Tuscany without a car.
Siena is a good base and you can easily explore the Chianti region along the historic Chiantigianna, SS222 from there- Castellina, , Radda, Panzano, Greve and many more.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; May 7th, 2022 at 07:00 AM.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 07:27 AM
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Must be an old "Tuscan train map." Colle Val d'Elsa doesn't have train service.

Buonconvento does have a train station, but there are only a couple of hotels within walking distance. Check their reviews carefully.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Must be an old "Tuscan train map." Colle Val d'Elsa doesn't have train service.

Buonconvento does have a train station, but there are only a couple of hotels within walking distance. Check their reviews carefully.
You are right Jean, but Poggibonsi does and then that is a short hop across by bus (15 minutes) or taxi (10 minutes)

I admit I prefer to cycle through Tuscany than take the car, but a lot of people would hire a car. Deciding to take public transport is an interesting idea and is worth investigating, but it does mean you need to be more flexible.

I'd probably start with rome2rio website to get a good idea of possibilities but click through to confirm certainties as the data can be corrupted.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 08:21 AM
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Ok, so Iím definitely warming to the idea of a car hire. (Cue the inner Little Blue Engine in me- ďI think I can, I think I canĒ. &#128522

If that happens Iím inclined to maybe use an outlying Tuscan town to use as a base. So many to choose from! Iíve been looking at those suggested In the Val díElsa, thank you! Since weíd be in this area for less than a full week, would we need to look solely at hotels? Wasnít sure if flats would consider shorter stays.

Also, With the original dates planned Iím running into some challenges for the car situation and Sundays in Siena. (Not boy is there no chance I hiring a car with the old dates, Iíve read Siena is not as great to visit on A Sunday)

SOÖ.Iím thinking, if I could get my two working young professionals to agree with having a vacation that started on a Wednesday of one work week and spanned across another to this plan 2 may solve the car hire office time opening constraints and let us visit Siena on a weekday:

Wednesday May 24 fly out of WAS to FCO
Thur May 25 arrive early - train to Siena stay night 1 there
Fri., May 26 Siena
Sat., May 27 pick up car by noon in Siena drive to óóóó- (Tuscan town)
Sun., May 28 explore Tuscany
Mon., May 29. Tuscany (maybe train to Florence)
Tue. May 30 explore Tuscany
Wed, May 31 return car to Siena catch train to Rome (1/2 day in the PM hopefully in Rome)
Thur., June 1 Rome
Fri. June 2 Rome
Sat., June 3 fly home

(this plan will also give one kid a chance to drive back to his home on Sunday and be able to go back to work Monday)

Still thinking on

*whether itíd be better to base in Siena or to stay in a beautiful town
*which town?

Thanks so much for any and all thoughts about what Iíve presented thus far!
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Old May 7th, 2022, 08:52 AM
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The other town? oh boy a big question, are you
religious?
interested in wine?
want a spa?
interested in Eutruscans?
have loads of money?
want to stay on a farm or in a town?

all changes the answer
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Old May 7th, 2022, 09:46 AM
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Before you settle on a second town to stay in, check the drive times to everywhere else on your wish list. If it was my trip, I'd stay another night in Siena and visit San Gimignano and Volterra in a day, then change hotels (on Sunday) to something closer to (or in) the Val d'Orcia. Pick up the car in Siena when the office opens Saturday morning and get an early start.

The car rental element of travel planning has certainly become more challenging (and expensive) in these post-Covid days. Rather than returning the car in Siena, see if dropping it at Chiusi would work with your sightseeing plans. It's closer to the Val d'Orcia towns you mention, but there could be a one-way surcharge and limits on which rental companies you could use. Worth a look. Some trains Chiusi-Rome are direct, no change, take 2 hours or less. All trains Siena-Rome involve a change and take 3.5 hours or more.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 09:55 AM
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Good advice from Jean
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Old May 7th, 2022, 10:20 AM
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Jean thatís solid information, thank you. Iím definitely going to add that piece of info about the car drop off. Just to clarify, I understand you to suggest picking up the car on Sat while they are open, see the towns of Volterra and SG, then stay in Siena Saturday before heading out to our next town for an early start Sunday? Iíve read Volterra is special, so I think that might be a plan piece we may do.

Bilboburgler to answer your questions and maybe give you some insight into us:
* yes
*as the kids say - ď midĒ
*nah
*yes- one of my two kids is a conservator/ historian
*a very B$G nah
*probably a town for possibility of restaurants, shoppes?

thanks to both of you!




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Old May 7th, 2022, 10:45 AM
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I think renting a car will be very helpful for your exploration of Tuscany. Your trip is a year away which is plenty of time for your kids to also learn to drive a manual car (and it's a good skill to have!)
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Old May 7th, 2022, 10:53 AM
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It truly is KTravel. One question about car hires and additional drivers, do they allow for another without an additional charge?
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Old May 7th, 2022, 11:14 AM
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"Or do you mean keep the same plan as above, pick up the car on Sat while they are open, stay in Siena another night then head out to our next town for an early start Sunday?"

Yes, but the early start would be Saturday if you wanted to spend that day visiting San Gimignano and another town, say Volterra or Castellina. Get to the car rental office when it opens Saturday morning. Return to Siena for a final night and head to the next hotel destination on Sunday. That would give you the most time to visit towns.

OR, get that early start on Saturday, check out of the Siena hotel, visit San Gimignano and another town and then drive to somewhere in the Val d'Orcia, say San Quirico. (Siena/SanG/Castellina/San Quirico would be about 3 hours of driving altogether. Substituting Volterra for Castellina would add 20-30 minutes.) You wouldn't have loads of time in either town, but the drives are beautiful and you do have the advantage of sunset not occurring until after 8:30p. You'd need to rent a car that holds the luggage out of sight.

But It's sorta throwing darts at a map until you get a handle on where, exactly, you want to go, your sightseeing priorities, how early you're willing to start, and how much driving you want to do in a day. As you've got a good 6-8 months until you need to book the land stuff, take the time to find info on the many lovely towns in Tuscany, drive times, etc. Find the towns that are most appealing to you and your collective interests. With luck, the car rental issues will settle down in your favor, and you can look at logistics a little differently.

The best thing to remember is that there are no wrong choices. You're not going to see everything. You just need to have a trip you all enjoy.

FWIW, there is a very good Etruscan museum in Volterra and an archeology museum in Chiusi that includes a significant Etruscan collection.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 11:28 AM
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I think most rental car companies do charge a bit extra for additional drivers.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 11:45 AM
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A brain wave:

Thurs., 5/25. Arrive FCO. Train to Chiusi (2:44 hrs.). Depending on the timing, buy some snacks to eat on the train or have lunch in Chiusi. Rent the car and drive to hotel in, say, Pienza or San Quirico (about an hour). Driving away from Chiusi is easy.
Fri., 5/26. Explore Tuscany.
Sat., 5/27. Explore Tuscany.
Sun., 5/28. Explore Tuscany.
Mon., 5/29. Drive back to Chiusi (about an hour), return the car and train to Siena (90 minutes).
Tues., 5/30. Explore Siena.
Wed., 5/31. Train to Rome. FYI, some trains Siena-Rome involve a change in Florence. You could store your luggage at the Florence station, have lunch, wander, then continue to Rome. It's about 90 minutes Siena-Florence and about 90 minutes Florence-Rome.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 02:02 PM
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thank youu
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Old May 7th, 2022, 02:35 PM
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Others can certainly add/subtract from this but DH and I were able to bus and train very easily from Florence and Pisa. Florence's driving zones rules always comes up. Siena is a must see but the stations are not convenient to the historic district.

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