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Is it worth driving around Southern Tuscany if we don't drink wine?

Is it worth driving around Southern Tuscany if we don't drink wine?

Old Sep 20th, 2014, 02:45 AM
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Is it worth driving around Southern Tuscany if we don't drink wine?

Hi all, I hope some experienced travellers will be able to help us out. My family and I are visiting Florence in late November, and my mother's wish has always been to see Tuscany, so we considered hiring a private driver to take us around. Most of the enquiries I made have the drivers offering to bring us to Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano, and along the drive we are told we can see Val D'Orcia (which is what my mother really wants to see).

However, I informed the drivers that my family doesn't drink wine, and many of them replied that it's fine and we can do other things, like go for tastings of pecorino cheese and olive oil, as well as sightsee (as the medieval towns are very pretty) and go shopping, and see the beautiful countryside. Interestingly, one of the drivers (who is very highly rated) bluntly told me that I would be wasting my time and money going to Southern Tuscany since we don't drink wine. I mentioned that I wanted to see the countryside, but he said the weather would be terrible in late November and the scenery wouldn't be pretty. Also, we'd be spending the majority of our time on the highway so we'd barely get to see any of the countryside in the first place.

My question is, is this driver right? Would we really be wasting our time? I notice that he told us it would take 1.5 hours to drive from Florence to Southern Tuscany. However, some of the other drivers told me it's 2.5 hours so I'm wondering if they're bypassing the highway and going by scenic roads instead. Does anyone have any advice? I would dearly love to make the Tuscan daytrip happen for my mum, but not if it means we'd barely get to see anything.

Thank you in advance!
darkonfire is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 02:58 AM
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The driver's mad. Or you've managed to select the wrong driver

I've been driving round Tuscany for a huge proportion of the past 35 summers. Self-evidently, I therefore can't drink much wine - and I've never once set foot in anywhere doing wine tastings.

There's a useful debate about whether it makes any sense to say "we don't drink wine" (for most people as absurd a dogma as saying "we don't drink water"). But the only kind of person who could say, sanely, that a tour of Tuscany makes no sense without drinking wine is someone offering a tour of vineyards.

All vineyards look the same - so there's no point going round them unless you've got a real, live, interest in what they produce.

But they have to be just about the dullest things in Tuscany to look at.

Just get yourselves a driver who shows people round Tuscany.
flanneruk is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 03:44 AM
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It is a long drive from Florence to the val d'Orcia so some of the journey will need to be on highways unless you arrange for a pick up at the train station in Chiusi or Siena (which I would recommend if at all possible). But I would hire a driver who specializes in scenic tours of the val d'Orcia. They should be able to give you a preview of the itinerary -- what towns you will be visiting and what roads generally you will be on -- and you can run it by here and see what people say.

I would also find out what flexibility they have about weather. November is actually a busy season for drivers in Tuscany because a lot of people come to taste new wine and olive oil. But I would only make an arrangement with somebody who was willing to reschedule if it was pouring rain outside.

What mainly makes the scenery of the val d'Orcia so beautiful is that the long cultivation of the hillsides has taken away the trees and exposes the bare beauty of the undulating hills. You can see the rolling and curving shape of the ground against the sky and the long shadows of the cypress trees and the castles everywhere and it is very dramatic. So while it is true that it is nice to see Tuscany when the ground has flowers like poppies or sunflowers it is also extremely beautiful when there is cropped gold hay or the rich dark soil or new winter greens sprouting or wisps of fog moving through the low lying ravines and with the clouds moving over the landscape
sandralist is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 03:48 AM
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I'm a little puzzled. You could stay on the highway and get to Southern Tuscany more quickly, or you could take the back roads and actually get to see the sights that make Tuscany worth seeing.

There is absolutely no need to go anywhere near a vineyard if you don't wish to.
willit is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 05:30 AM
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There is plenty to see and do without drinking wine. But November is not really the best time to see the countryside - and you would really be limited to seeing the various times - which can be fascinating. But you need to be sure you hire a driver (or drive yourselves) who will show you what will best fit YOUR interests.

But before going I would check out a bunch of photos of the area at the time you will be there - November is not great in the countryside anywhere (gray days, possible rain and short daylight hours).
nytraveler is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 06:24 AM
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Shorter days...you might have to get up early.
Dukey1 is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 06:31 AM
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Wine is not an issue---late November is the problem.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 07:19 AM
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I drink wine but certainly don't do so while driving and totally enjoyed southern Tuscany during day excursions with no wine. Wine drinking was after we returned in the evening.

I have no desire to visit vineyards and thoroughly enjoyed southern Tuscany.

The weather in late November can be quite dreary but do it.
adrienne is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 07:21 AM
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Bob summed it up perfectly.

There are plenty of towns to see, regardless of your interest in wine or lack thereof.

Montepulciano alone could take a few hours. Pienza, San Quirico, Montefollonico, Montichiello, Montalcino, the monastery at Sant' Antimo --- are all worth seeing.

I've stayed a week at Montepulciano in the last week of October. We had decent weather but I'd say we were at the tail end of the season.

In November, some key sights might be closed or not worth seeing -- I'm thinking of the gardens at La Foce, which to me was a high point in visiting the Val d'Orcia.
tedgale is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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I've been in southern Tuscany in late November and it is beautiful. It can be balmy and sunny. Gorgeous angles of light. I am curious to know when nytraveler or bobthenavigator were ever in Tuscany in November and experienced "a problem." I have asked several times for both them to say whether or not they have been in Tuscany in November and I am now pretty sure neither of them have. They really do NOT know what they are talking about when they talk about Tuscany in November and it isn't fair to people who are planning trips and ask for advice to act as if they had any experience of this

Bobthenavigator can surely produce pictures of his November trip to southern Tuscany if I am wrong. Nytraveler just won't answer becasue she has never been and never will admit she has never seen the Tuscan countryside at that time of year.

Personally I wouldn't spend a huge amount of money on a driver to take me around southern Tuscan towns on a rainy day. The towns are really not that interesting and there are similar towns much closer to Florence that you can reach by public transportation.

The only reason I can think of to spend a lot of money on a driver to drive around the val d'Orcia is the scenery. If your mother wants to see the scenery in November go on a sunny day and it will be worth every penny. If it is raining don't spend the money to go to the towns. Or the wineries.
sandralist is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 10:18 AM
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Oh - and before people start verbally beating me up for saying the towns aren't that interesting I just want to point out that the title of this thread was about asking if would be "worth it" to pay the expense of a driver to tour the wine country without going to wineries. If it is raining then somebody in Florence would be much better off taking the train to Lucca if they want to walk around an interesting town. Or Arezzo. Or take a bus San Gimignano or Fiesole.

Of course Montepuliciano and Pienza and Montalcino are beautiful examples of Tuscan towns and enjoyble to stroll through as part of seeing the val d'Orcia. But to spend a big chunk of money to get driven there on a rainy day when you are based in Florence would not make sense to most people.
sandralist is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 10:36 AM
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Let's see your personal pictures from late November sandralist.
kybourbon is online now  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 10:58 AM
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I think it's all about expectations.

If your mother wants to see the iconic green and gold, sunny blue skies, Tuscany that she's viewed in postcards, photo books and travel videos, I think she'd be disappointed in late November. It's the same countryside, but it won't look like the postcards. I find most any town interesting on some level, but the lovely flower boxes that add color and charm will very likely be empty and I doubt you'd be able to eat lunch outside on a nice piazza. If the day is wet at all (even a heavy mist), walking some streets in exceptionally hilly towns can be a bit treacherous.

The driving times to Southern Tuscany were basically correct. Florence-Montepulciano by the autostrada is 90-100 minutes. But heading to the Val d'Orcia through the heart of Chianti on secondary roads would take at least 2.5 hours one way.

I would probably take the Chiantigiana (SR222) through Chianti (one of the classic drives in Italy) and take a different route back to Florence, perhaps through San Gimignano and Certaldo. There are several little detours that could be made to smaller towns. A good driver/guide could give you appropriate options as the day goes along.


Will you be seeing Siena on another day?
Jean is online now  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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The title of this thread is about drinking wine. There is no mention of wineries in the title. They are two completely different topics.
adrienne is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 12:45 PM
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The weather in November is unpredictable. If it's not raining, or even if it's just drizzling or misty, Tuscany can be very beautiful at that time. The days are short, for sure, and you should have a plan that will take you to a city or a town rich in museums and art if the weather turns rainy. I would ask the drivers you're considering hiring to propose alternative plans if the weather doesn't cooperate.

I know a lot of people, including a lot of Italians, who literally don't drink wine. Some of them drink beer, but many of them don't drink any alcoholic beverages of any sort, ever. My husband is one of them, although his family had a vineyard and his father produced his own wine. My husband never even tasted the product. His adult sons also consume no alcohol at all.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 01:22 PM
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We spent an entire week just outside Pienza and never once stepped foot in a winery! There is plenty to do in the area. We were there mid October and I was slightly disappointed at first that it did not look like the postcards. But after the first couple days I really began to see the beauty of the area: rolling hills that looked like they were draped in a quilt made up of varying shades of brown and gold material, dotted with green cypress and beige and orange Tuscan buildings. It is stunning. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to visit again that time of year.
michele_d is online now  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 01:36 PM
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IMO, whether something is "worth it" is almost impossible to answer for strangers about whom we know nothing. The OP mentions only "countryside" and "scenery," and it's only the drivers who have mentioned specific towns, so it's difficult to know the goals and priorities here. It's also not clear whether the OP's wondering if it's "worth it" refers to time or money or both, but that would also be hard to answer for a stranger. If mom is likely to never-ever return to Italy and seeing the Tuscan countryside is a life-long dream, well then, "worth it" it is. All we can do is describe and opine (and disagree as usual), then let the OP make the decisions.

darkonfire, have a great trip!
Jean is online now  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 01:52 PM
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kybourbon: >>Let's see your personal pictures from late November sandralist.do trip reports - she just tells everyone else that they are wrong.

darkonfire: November won't be the 'pretty' Tuscany you may have seen photos of. But the towns will be picturesque and the scenery will certainly be OK. Whether that is 'worth it' to you and your family - only you can decide.
janisj is online now  
Old Sep 20th, 2014, 02:18 PM
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By late November, the winter wheat has usually sprouted, so wheat fields will be a bright emerald green. (I don't know if much wheat is cultivated in Tuscany any more, though; it looks to me as though traditional farming is on the decline there.)

Also, there is still some autumn color in late November.

Believe me, if the weather's nice, it's a lovely time of the year. The smell of woodsmoke, restaurants with big open fireplaces, medieval buildings shrouded in mist...

Before moving to Italy, I made a point of visiting here in late November so that I could see my possible home at a less pretty time of the year. I didn't see anything that would have induced me to rethink the marriage!
bvlenci is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2014, 12:45 AM
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The landscape around Pienza is breathtaking, but I do not know how it will be in November; you may have clear days but most time it will likely be grey and damp.

If you are a wine collector visiting wineries make sense as some bottles may be difficult to find outside their home vineries. But there are a lot of places where you can drink wine without even driving - for example, Verrazzano castle has a joint selling snacks and wine glasses in the very centre of Florence, without the need to drive to the castle in Greve. It looks to me that most people do the wineries tour just as a form of entertainment.

Wine drinking in Tuscany has a root to the time when rural Tuscany was a very poor region. Wine was an essential component of the local diet as some vitamines were available most of the year only in wine. So wine was given to drink to everybody including children - but, as my late grandmother once pointed, honest people and children drunk at home watered wine, pure wine was served only in country pubs. - But wine drinking has remained in the culture and maybe your driver consider it as an essential feature. - Still, there are a lot of thing in Tuscany for the non drinker.
asps is offline  

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