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How to get off the beaten path to the "real" Tuscany

How to get off the beaten path to the "real" Tuscany

May 12th, 2010, 04:30 AM
  #1  
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How to get off the beaten path to the "real" Tuscany

This summer my wife and I plus two young children are returning to Tuscany. We've visited the larger cities (they're beautiful) and would really like to get off the beaten path and stay in a small but user-friendly village this time. Looking for a self-catering apt/house - not too expensive! The accommodation needn't have a pool, but should offer fairly easy access to one! Any suggestions?

Thank you.
jimal is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 05:52 AM
  #2  
 
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Yes, spend an hour at slowtrav.com to see reviews of hundreds of places in Tuscany--even by regions of Tuscany.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 05:56 AM
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There isn't really any place in Tuscany that doesn't have tourists, but there are places where they have the decency to stay off the streets after 5 PM.

I am not going to suggest a house or even a town, but the Val d'Orcia is sufficiently agricultural that the towns have a life even without the tourists.
Ackislander is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 06:13 AM
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You might check out www.invitationtotuscany.com for lots of rental properties in small Tuscan towns. We've rented from them several times and have been quite pleased. I'd agree with ackislander that you'll find tourists everywhere, but there is certainly local like, particularly in the evenings when the passeggiata begins. We love Casole d'Elsa (rented there several times), but given its proximity to Siena, it may be a bit more touristy than the Val d'Orcia.
Midnightsun is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 09:51 AM
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I'm going to try not to blow up your thread, but this is actually quite a controversial subject on Fodor's and has ruined many a thread, but here goes anyway:

What do you mean by "off the beaten path"? Do you mean something other than Venice, Florence and Rome? Or do you mean you would actually like to be in a beautiful area with an emphasis on relaxation and scenery -- and you don't really care if the area is primarily dominated by tourist culture?

Most of the answers you will get here and slow travel (which I consider a really silly place to look for a non-conformist itinerary in Italy) can help you have a very pleasant experience of the areas of rural and small town Tuscany most developed for foreign tourism. The recommendations to base yourself in the val d'Orcia and Chianti are based on years of repeat trips from many tourists who find those areas a completely satisfying experience.

It is simply not true that Tuscany is full of tourists everywhere. Much of scenic, beautiful, authentic Tuscany -- the "real" Tuscany -- goes completely unvisited and unexplored by the tens of thousands of tourists who make the val d'Orcia and Chianti and small areas around San Gimingnano the focus of their "Italian" countryside experience. hese are beautiful places to see, but their local culture has been displaced in favor of attracting sightseers.

It is harder to plan an off-the-beaten track experience of Tuscany relying on help from other tourists because most people have no experience of rural Tuscany other than staying in the val d'Orcia or Chianti. You will therefore not find as many user reviews, and you will be staying near to towns tourists don't visit, so no one will be able to tell you ahead of time if they are "worth it" to see.

If you're still game to live among the Italians, eat their food, listen to them talk and sample their lifestyle, look to base yourself outside the val d'Orcia and Chianti, and away from San Gimignano and Volterra. (You can always drive to these places and enjoy their well-marked scenic roads.

Here is a website with many pictures and even reviews that you can use to find an agriturismo with a pool. It has a good search filter. I like to stay in agriturismi that cook meals and serve wine using the products of the owner's farm, so I also search for a restaurant as well as a pool. The scenic hills and towns surrounding Arezzo and the scenic hills and towns around Grosseto are rich with areas that are essentially ignored by tourists but are no less beautiful and in many ways more beautiful than the val d'Orcia or Chianti.

http://en.agriturismo.it/tuscany/index.jsp

If people keep insisting to you there is no place you can go in Tuscany without having a tourist experience of Tuscany, just know that even if that's true, Tuscany is not the only beautiful rural area of Italy filled with charming small hill towns -- not by a long shot. It's just the only one most tourists who know very little about Italy have heard of or are willing to risk their travel dollars on visiting.

Good luck!
zeppole is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:17 AM
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Well, there you have it!
It is all so confusing, maybe you should just skip it.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:22 AM
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Get a good detailed map, find a back road that goes to towns you have never heard of and follow it.
SeaUrchin is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:29 AM
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We have just come back from a week in Tuscany, staying near Rosia south of Siena. It is a hilly, wooded area, with no towns or villages of exceptional interest. However, it is an area that is popular with tourists, who stay in hotels and self-catering places dotted through the countryside, and there are the occasional tourist sites which attract both Italian and foreign tourists.

Despite this not being a recognised tourist destination, the small local co-op supermarket has the aisles signed in English as well as Italian, and some of the local restaurants have menus in both English and Italian.

We had a good meal in a local restaurant where the menu was only in Italian, but the young waitress, as well as the owner, were happy to tanslate and explain things to us, and all the other diners on that occasion were English. They could just as easily have been German or Dutch, and I was surprised at the number of cars and motorhomes with Slovenian licence plates. The Americans were more commonly found in places like Montalcino and Montepulciano.

There are plenty of places in Tuscany where the crowds are smaller, but you are unlikely to avoid non-Italians altogether.
chartley is online now  
May 12th, 2010, 10:36 AM
  #9  
 
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Of course--Seaurchin is right on. Let me suggest some to find on your TCI map at 200K to 1 scale.

Montisi
Radicofani
Massa Marittima
San Angelo in Colle

That is a good start--have fun !
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:59 AM
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What's the definition of "tourist"?

Aren't agriturismi by definition places for tourists to stay? If they're listed/advertised on websites, isn't that so tourists can find them?

If you find a town with no tourists, where will you stay?

I'm just wondering. No need to respond.
Jean is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:59 AM
  #11  
 
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Click on the link below (my travel website). Go to "Day Eight - The Five Best Hill Towns You Might Never Of Heard Of Before" It could give you some ideas.

http://web.me.com/tomfielding1/Tom_%...cany_2005.html

maitaitom is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 11:23 AM
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Tom, Thanks again for your wonderful style and documentation.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 11:29 AM
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bm for maitaitom's link
dtph is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 11:37 AM
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We've rented a little apartment outside of Bucine and spent a
few weeks just slowly wandering around little villages we had
never heard of - before or since. We seemed to be the only
non-locals in most of the places and we were there in July.

We've also stayed in an apt. well outside of Barga - now
that area is really Tuscany lite! Lots to see and do and
aside from a few Scotsmen, not many tourists - certainly
not a popular area for North Americans.

IMHO, if you place yourself in an area approx. 20 miles
from the 'big' draws you can find the Tuscany you weren't
expecting but learned to love.
immimi is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 12:56 PM
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I just love the val d'Orcia area with its rolling hills and wonderful small villages. Here's a link to a place we have stayed at a couple of times near Radicofani. Rates are very reasonable.
www.cozytuscanyapartment.com
DonnaD44 is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 01:49 PM
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Maitai Tom, I really enjoyed reading your trip report. We went to southern Tuscany last September and never saw another US tourist. We stayed in a great agriturismo near Pitigliano along with an Australian couple and a couple from Scotland. The other guests, a young Italian couple, were fascinated with out different ways of speaking English.

We also went to Mont Amiata and stayed at the monastery. The restaurant there is very good.

Southern Tuscany was so much less crowded than around the Sienna/ Florence/ San Gimignano area. We really enjoyed spending whole days in little towns, never seeing other tourists. We would even be the only diners at a restaurant.
Saraho is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 03:24 PM
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another plug for arezzo and the surrounding hill towns. you will need a car but its a quieter and very loverly area
petertherabbitt is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 09:12 PM
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Tom,
As always, love re-reading any of your trip reports, as I did for this one too. Agree wholeheartedly with Bob about your writing style, etc. Pleasure to enjoy.

Oh and by the way, "Tom's Tuscan Tours" may have just a teeny bit of competition with "Flame's Famous Forays" into the same region!!! I too am obsessed with reading anything and everything and researching our trips religiously!!!
Flame123 is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:28 PM
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Hello, Jimal, a very lovely small town about 25-35km southeast of Florence is Reggello. You take A-l from Florence and than turn east, you can find it on a map. A very beautiful location and it is certainly not an area loaded with tourist. You could visit the Abbey of Vallombrosa which is located in the Vollombrosa Forest. The Abbey is a short drive from Reggello. You would need a car of course.

Jimal, if at all interested you can Google for the various lodgings in that area. Some have pools which would be nice for your children. I have a dear friend that has a second house in Reggello which is in the middle of a vineyard so I have not stayed at any of the lodgings. The food is so good of course and the area is very beautiful and serene. The olive oil from there is fantastic. I finished a bottle of olive oil that my friend's aunt produces and I so wish I had another bottle of it. Btw, the Abbey has a store where you can buy some wonderful products. So just one thought to offer you since you want to get off the beaten path.
LoveItaly is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:45 PM
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"The accommodation needn't have a pool, but should offer fairly easy access to one! "

I've never really found public swimming pools in Tuscany - or anywhere else in rural Italy.

Sometimes, a house without a pool itself might be rented out with access to the owners' pool more or less on the same estate. Otherwise, though, my experience has been that no pool means you either don't get to swim or you've got to trek to the beach if you want to - which will usually be an hour or two away. Though there's a handful of hotels in rural Tuscany with pools, I've never encountered any that are available to non-residents.

May be exceptions. But I wouldn't bank on it.
flanneruk is offline  

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