Quaint town near Florence

Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 12:03 PM
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MJT
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Quaint town near Florence

We are arriving in Florence a few days before joining up with friends for a cooking school in Tuscany. We would like to explore some small towns west of Tuscany. Any suggestions or leads on where I should look? Thanks.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 12:23 PM
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Will you have a car?
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 12:31 PM
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Yes, we will have a car. Thanks. I'm overwhelmed!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 12:45 PM
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SAN GIMIGIANO (SPELLING ??) IS FIRST CHOICE FOR ME.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:19 PM
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I can understand you are overwhelmed because there are literally hundreds of "small quaint towns" west of Florence.

You will get plenty of responses and shoutouts from people yelling about a small town they personally loved -- and for every one of those, there will ba a poster who will tell you not to go if it is market day, not to go if it is raining, not to go if it is hot, not to go if you can't stand a touristy town, not to go if you have mobility problems.

What would help YOU get useful advice about precisely which small quaint towns west of Florence you would enjoy is if you talked about WHAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE YOU HOPE TO HAVE:

Do you want pretty views?

Do you want truffles? Do you have any particular food passion like olive oil, saffron or cheese or chocolate?

Do you want to focus on wine tasting?

Do you want important ancient history or would you rather just "wander"?

Do you want see great art or would you rather just "soak up the atmosphere"?

Do you want to skip seeing postcard shops and aprons that say "Mamma Mia!" -- ?

Would you rather not be surrounded by tour bus groups?

Would you rather not walk up steep hills?

Would you like to buy ceramics or jewelry?

Do you want a great lunch as part of the day? Michelin-starred or farmhouse cooking?

If you really want to simplify your life, the Italian Touring Club publishes several books in English called things like "Authentic Tuscany" or "Great Drives in Tuscany". You can order these books on Amazon.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:21 PM
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nygvic,

Your first choice is spelled "San Gimignano"
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:39 PM
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Well, officially it's in Umbria, but it's only about 1 1/2 hours by train south of Florence. You can also drive down the autostrada, of course. The view of the town as you approach is stunning. You arrive by train or park your car at the foot of the hill near the train station, take the funicular up to the old town and walk in mostly pedestrian-only streets. The cathedral (duomo) is lovely, with a golden mosaic facade, and inside is a chapel with frescoes by Signorelli illustrating the Last Judgement that is not to be missed! Across from the Duomo is a fine Etruscan museum.

Near the funicular station up top is a pretty park where there used to be a fort, with stunning views from the walls. There's also a very deep well, dug in the middle ages, that goes down about 200 or so steps in a double-helix staircase. And the whole hill is full of caves, which you can tour starting from the Info office in the Plaza del Duomo. good restaurants to be had, too.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:40 PM
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OOPS!!!! The name of the town is Orvieto!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 02:00 PM
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What do you mean " west of Tuscany". That would be in the sea.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 02:39 PM
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Lucca is a lovely small town west of Florence. And, I also like San Gimignano very much.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 04:12 PM
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Volterra, Lucca if yo want to go west. You should see San Gimignano, it'sinteresting but be aware that it will most likely be packed with bus tours.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 04:17 PM
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I have some good friends who get to travel to Italy much more often than I. They pick areas of interest, such as Lago Garda, then stay in a tiny town that no one has recommended, and probably few American have heard of.

They always seem to end up LOVING their destinations.

I think I may use their method on my next trip!

Just a suggestion. You might like to research some little towns near some of the better known towns you want to visit. Car will be needed.

Buon viaggio!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 04:29 PM
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Does the town have to be "west of Tuscany"( as Bob said that will put in the ocean) or west of Florence? There are so many quaint Tuscan towns in other directions; Tuscany is a large area. ALso take a look at Umbria. Guide books will help you sort this out.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 04:40 PM
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I second Volterra. And a vote for Vinci.

A town that I wouldn't call 'quaint' but one we nevertheless enjoyed was Montecatini Terme.
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Old Oct 24th, 2010, 02:17 AM
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Montecatini actually has two parts, and the upper hilltown of Montecatini Alto is what many people would describe as "quaint", and it is accessed by a quaint funicular ride.

Here are some pictures of the upper town.

http://www.italianvisits.com/tuscany...catini-pix.htm

I heartily endorse Dayle's suggestion of going to a town you've never heard of, unless you know you'd really love to see a town that makes terracotta ceramics, or handpicks saffron, or has a truffle festival, underground steam spas or Etruscan alabaster goods and history. Those places you can find in guidebook (or here) and should find if that is your interest.

But if your interest is finding fascinating Italy and historic small town life in Italy for exploration -- well, it exists in abundance in Western Tuscany, and only a tiny fraction of such towns have gotten a lot of "word of mouth" from guidebooks and tourists -- and those towns are touristy and have lost the flavor of Italian life as lived by Italian families for centuries in one town.
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Old Oct 24th, 2010, 09:47 AM
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zeppole asks very good questions and you should consider these when making your decision.

I found San Gimignano completely touristy and would not return.

Orvieto is quite charming but also not off the tourist track, though not nearly as bad as SG.

I cannot help with any small towns that would make a nice base for a few days as we like a bit more to do and so prefer small to mid size cities over small towns. We also do not choose to drive in Italy and some of the smaller, off the tourist track locations really require a car.

Since you are apparently foodies, perhaps consider a few days in Emilia-Romagna, namely Bologna. The fast train to Florence is only 37 minutes so it is convenient and Bologna is a lovely small city. Base there and visit Parma or Ferrara for a day trip.

Bologna has wonderful markets and a very nice vibe and would be my choice.
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Old Oct 24th, 2010, 09:53 AM
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I do have to agree that a little unknown town is the best, although the one we stayed in this September would not be appealing to young people, as there's NOTHING happening there! If you are no longer looking for excitement, then little towns are wonderful.

P.S. I'm not going to tell you where we stayed. it was so wonderful I don't want to encourage a whole horde of tourists to go there! I loved Forence and Venice and le Cinque Terre back in the 1980s and 1990s but now they are so overrun. As the old saying goes, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
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Old Oct 24th, 2010, 11:14 AM
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I'll tell you where charnees stayed. It's Torre Alfina -- but it isn't in western Tuscany, so charnees can relax.

http://www.borghitalia.it/html/borgo...dice_borgo=739

If you want to be nice to charnees and not "overrun" Torre Alfina, then just go 5 miles from there to Castel Viscardo, which is also a ceramics town.

http://www.umbriacitta.it/comuni/fot...elviscardo.jpg

or go 15 miles the other way to Castel'Ottieri

http://www.parcodeglietruschi.it/cda...70&Lang=LANGIT

Hope you get the point. Italy is overflowing with marvelously preserved castle town to explore NOBODY goes to.

(charnees, believe me, you could beg tourists to go to Torre Alfina and they won't listen. Don't worry. Italy is really hiding in plain sight.)
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Old Oct 24th, 2010, 11:36 AM
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charnees - your suggestions for the town of Orvieto made me look to see what it offers. I watched a few youtube videos. It looks super. We will be travelling from Florence to Rome on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 by private coach. We are a group of 41 students and 7 chaperones. Does the funiculaire run in March? Do you know the cost of the funiculaire? Do you know if the market is open on a Wednesday? Will "tourist season" have started in mid-March? Thanks for your interesting information.

tC
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Old Oct 24th, 2010, 11:39 AM
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Zeppole, LOL
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