Italy - Car vs Train in Tuscany

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Feb 20th, 2012, 07:57 AM
  #1
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Italy - Car vs Train in Tuscany

I am traveling to Italy this year for a little over two week adventure in five cities. Our plan currently is:

Venice - 3 nights
to Milan - 2 nights
to Florence (hotel in Florence, but want to take day trip to Pisa) - 4 nights
to Siena (region) - 2 nights
to Rome - 4 nights

We are trying to figure out if it would be best to get a rail pass for traveling between Venice, Milan, and Florence, and then renting a car for the duration of our time in Florence and Siena and dropping the car off once in Rome. We just are not sure about renting a car and driving (we are okay driving in NYC, but not sure how well that correlates in terms of to driving in Italy) or if we should strictly travel via trains. Any advice would help!

And of course, we want all the recommendations we can get on places to eat.

Thank you!
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:07 AM
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I would rent the car upon leaving Florence, maybe making your day trip to Pisa the last one by car, and from Pisa going to Siena. You'll have no problems driving, parking might be another matter, and be aware of the ZTL areas in towns and cities where you are not allowed to enter. You might want to drop the car off in Orvieto or Viterbo to avoid driving in Rome proper.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:26 AM
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Thank you for your help! That is a really good idea. We were both a little hesitant about driving into Rome.

Have you visited Siena? Would you recommend staying in the city or just taking a day trip in and staying outside Siena? We don't mind driving for a little bit to get into the city. We just really want to enjoy Tuscany and relax those couple of days.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:32 AM
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You'll have to park outside the city, but I would recommend staying in the city. I prefer cities, although staying in a agriturismo in Sicily turned out to be a good solution for me the driver.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...14855341/show/
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:35 AM
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I wouldn't rent a car at all -- depending on what you mean by Siena region. Trains will take you city-center to city-center -- including Pisa -- most conveniently. Florence is not a good place from which to make day trips by car. Parking in the historic center is very hard to find and expensive, and there are many ZTLs (locals-only driving areas). If you stay outside the historic center, you'll miss that experience and have to take a bus or a taxi into the center.

One exception: take the bus from Florence to Siena. It drops you in the center of the old town whereas the train stops outside the walls and once again you have to take a bus or a taxi to get in. You might also want to take the bus from Siena to Rome.

Consider dropping one destination. Maybe Milan? 2-night stays translate into one full day. Every time you change cities, it takes time to check out, get to the train station, travel to the new location, get yourselves to a new hotel and check in. And get acquainted with your new neighborhood. You could add another day to Venice, especially if you're arriving after a long, overnight flight. Allow for jetlag/sleepiness. And/or add time to Siena especially if you're going to rent a car and tour around southern Tuscany.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:39 AM
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts and pictures! The pictures have made me even more excited than I already am! They are wonderful. I really appreciate your help. Both my husband and I have been to Europe before but on more guided trips. This one we are doing ourselves for the adventure of it. We just have been stumped by a few decisions.

Again - thanks so much for your help!
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:43 AM
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There are some nice places to stay on the edge of the historic center of Siena that allow you to park a car. The Palazzo Ravizza is well-recommended. However, I really enjoyed staying inside the medieval center. At night it was dark with looming buildings; we felt like we were transported back 500 years.

By the way, you can pick up a rental car in Siena. Or pick it up at Florence's airport as you leave. And you could drive all the way to Rome. Maybe, to avoid driving in central Rome, drop the car at the airport. (Fiumicino has the best transportation into the city.)
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:47 AM
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I'm not sure why Michael is recommending you drive to Pisa. there are plenty of trains from Florence to Pisa and no-one in their right mind would want to drive in Florence. Definitely use the trains for inter-city travel.

and i agree with mimar - you are trying to visit too many places, thus limiting your time to see any of them. unless you have an overwhelming desire to see Milan, i would agree that you should drop it.

this could give you this:

Venice - 3 nights
train to to Florence (hotel in Florence, but want to take day trip to Pisa) - 4 nights
bus to to Siena (region) - 4 nights. hire car.
drive to Orvieto, train to Rome - 4 nights

i have moved the extra nights to Siena - making hiring a car worthwhile for touring southern tuscany. you should return the car before you get to Rome, as no-one sane wants to drive there either - Orvieto is a popular place for doing so, and a half-day there seeing the cathedral and the rest of the town is very enjoyable.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:49 AM
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If you haven't booked flights yet, I would fly into Milan and out of Rome as flights will probably be cheaper with better connections (or non-stop). Train to Venice after visiting Milan, then train to Florence.

You can do day trips by train (Pisa) or bus (Siena) from Florence. If you do want to stay in Siena and do a few day trips (Montalcino?), I would take a night from Florence and add to Siena. From Siena, the Sena bus to Rome has multiple departures and doesn't require a change like the train does.
http://www.sena.it/Home/78-1-en.html

Is Milan on your must visit list? If not, I would drop it and add the time to the other areas.
kybourbon is online now  
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Feb 20th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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I recommended driving to Pisa because if Pisa is only a half day stop, there are things to see on the way to Siena. I am well aware that Pisa can be reached by train (and bus), but why spend the time going back to Florence if from Pisa one can do some touring on the way to the next stop?
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Feb 20th, 2012, 09:57 AM
  #11
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I have been back and forth with going to Milan - I am an art history fan and would like to see the Last Supper, but know that the amount we would like to accomplish is a little daunting.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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Drop Milan and add those days to Tuscany.
Given only 2 nites in Tuscany, forget the car and hire a driver one day. Given 4 nites in Tuscany, you will need a car and I would stay in a small village or rural.
You cannot see Tuscany by train.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 04:11 PM
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If you want to see the Last Supper, then go to Milan but don't stay overnight. Take the earliest train from Venice (probably 7:50 am, arrives about 10:30 am), store your luggage at the train station and explore the town. The last train to Florence will probably depart at 8:20 pm (arrives about 10:00 pm). That's enough time in Milan to see the Last Supper (you need a timed reservation), most of the other top sights and still have time for a nice lunch. I would add the saved nights to your Tuscany base.

If you decide to rent a car and stay in Siena, I can recommend the Palazzo Ravizza mentioned upthread by Mimar. It's inside the city walls and a short walk to the Campo and Duomo. The hotel has its own parking lot.

But you haven't said what part/s of Tuscany you want to see. If Chianti, San Gimignano, Volterra and Siena are your priorities, then Siena (or nearby) would be a good base. If the area of Montepulciano, Pienza, San Quirico and Montalcino is your priority, then I would stay in one of those towns rather than Siena (and see Siena as a day trip from Florence). To reach these southern towns, you could train to Chiusi and rent the car there.
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Feb 20th, 2012, 04:36 PM
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I would do as Jean suggests and if you don't get a reservation for the Last Supper, skip Milan and train to Florence from Venice.

You need to study a few Italian road signs (especially ZTL signs) if you plan to rent a car. If you need an automatic, that will make the price a lot higher. You also need an IDP to drive in Italy.
http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpapplc...fined&secure=N
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Feb 27th, 2012, 10:15 AM
  #15
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Thank you everyone for your responses! We have decided to make Milan a day trip between Venice and Florence. We are going to add the two days to the Tuscany region and relax those couple extra days! Thanks again!
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Feb 27th, 2012, 12:38 PM
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I was recently in Italy for the first time so I thought I'd throw in some advice on what I learned -

I saw some comments recommending you stay in Siena, but I also saw you're interested in taking that time in Tuscany to relax. I would definitely recommend staying outside of the city at a bed & breakfast or villa-type hotel in the country. I stayed at a small hotel in Castellina in Chianti and it was beautiful and relaxing. Castellina is only about a 25 min. drive from Sienna, so you're close enough to enjoy the sights in the city but can enjoy the calm and relaxing countryside as well.

I'd also just like to throw in that having a car in Tuscany is a definitely must. We didn't have a car our first 2 days in Tuscany and getting around is very difficult in the countryside, which can not only get expensive, but you're also put on more of a schedule (buses only run until a certain time).

Good luck in your planning and I'm happy to offer any other advice since I was just there and we traveled all over as well (Rome, Tuscany, Florence & Venice).
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