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Suddenly have 7-10 days up for grabs in Italy or somewhere close by. Need guidance!

Suddenly have 7-10 days up for grabs in Italy or somewhere close by. Need guidance!

Old Sep 20th, 2019, 02:55 PM
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Suddenly have 7-10 days up for grabs in Italy or somewhere close by. Need guidance!

Fodorites,

It's been awhile since I've posted here, but in the past couple of days I've learned I'll be attending a week-long conference in Certaldo Alto, Tuscany. The conference will end on Sunday, October 20th, and my husband will fly to Florence to meet me. Then we'll spend probably another 10 days or so before flying home together.

We're a retired couple, active and frequent travelers. In Italy, we've visited Venice/Florence/Siena/Lucca/Cinque Terre with side stops in Cortona, Castellina in Chianti, and Deruta--all 15 years ago. On another trip we visited Rome, then stayed in Sorrento and visited Amalfi and Positano.

We're pretty up in the air about what to do with this "found" time. Rent an AirBnB somewhere central (maybe Siena?), rent a car, and take day trips? Fly somewhere completely different, like Sicily? Maybe a flight to Croatia and spend some time there? (That one just came to me as I was writing. I think we'd both be excited to spend some time there if it doesn't add a huge amount to the air travel). We'd love some opinions. What would you do?

Time is of the essence as I've committed to the conference and need to secure our plane tickets.

Thanks so much!
Casey
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 03:12 PM
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What would I do? Assuming I'd be flying home from Florence, I'd split the time between the Val d'Orcia area (Tuscany) and Umbria. I'd make a point of visiting Assisi and Orvieto and spend a day exploring the area around Lake Trasimeno. The rest depends on your interests.
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 03:32 PM
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Yes, just since I posted I've rethought the Croatia idea. This is a spur of the moment trip and it seems like Croatia is best done on its own due to challenges with getting back and forth from Italy. Spending time in Tuscany/Umbria sounds perfect. I'm leaning toward Siena and Orvieto as home bases, but others have mentioned Montepulciano and Assisi. Your response gives us more food for thought. Thanks!
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 03:44 PM
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Do you have a recommendation for which town to choose on Lake Trasimeno?
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by caseyhen View Post
Yes, just since I posted I've rethought the Croatia idea. This is a spur of the moment trip and it seems like Croatia is best done on its own due to challenges with getting back and forth from Italy. Spending time in Tuscany/Umbria sounds perfect. I'm leaning toward Siena and Orvieto as home bases, but others have mentioned Montepulciano and Assisi. Your response gives us more food for thought. Thanks!
Theoretically, you could possibly include Northern Istra of Croatia - which is only about 1.5 hours or so from Venice, specifically cities like Pula and Rovinj. The drawback is that you'd be looking at their off season but some areas could be still "open." You wouldn't necessarily need to fly there from Florence, but if you're preferring to stick in/around Tuscany, obviously this suggestion is moot!
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 05:18 PM
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Off the beaten path at the lake.
We stayed at an Air BnB outside of Cortona. It was called Postcards from Italy and we loved it. We did a day trip to Lake Trasemino one day and went to Cortona and some other towns. Lovely area. We had the best meal of our trip at a place right down the street from our place @ Locanda del Molino.
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 05:41 PM
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I think the decisions to defer Croatia and Sicily, focusing instead on an area more convenient to your conference, make a LOT of sense.
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 06:58 PM
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I LOVED staying here. Very reasonable. Absolutely wonderful. Read about it on slowtravel years ago and couldn't imagine it would be as wonderful as the reviews. It was. Is. I think they only allow Saturday to Saturday rentals and have a huge welcome feast for all staying there that week. I can't wait to return.
Vacation Rentals in Tuscany Villa Le Torri,Holiday Apartments in Chianti,Tuscany
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Old Sep 20th, 2019, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by caseyhen View Post
I'm leaning toward Siena and Orvieto as home bases, but others have mentioned Montepulciano and Assisi.
I wouldn't stay IN Siena. It's become a fairly good-sized city in recent years, and I didn't enjoy dealing with the morning and afternoon traffic when making excursions to other towns. And you've already been to Siena. You've also spent some time (unclear how much) in Chianti, Cortona and Deruta. I would choose new places.

My personal favorite in southern Tuscany is Montepulciano. We've stayed a couple of times at La Locanda di San Francesco, but it only has 4 rooms so you may be too late to get reservations there. Pienza, San Quirico and Montalcino are all nearby. Becoming popular is Buonconvento which isn't far from Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore which I highly recommend.

I've visited the Lake Trasimeno area on several excursions but haven't stayed there. I particularly like Panicale south of the lake.

Umbria is a bit more compact. Orvieto is a great little town and worth a visit, but it might not be the best base for day trips to, say, Assisi and Gubbio (more than 90 minutes one way) depending on how much time you want to spend driving around. A more convenient base might be Spoleto, Todi, Spello, or Bevagna... again, it depends on what you want to see/do.

I would do some searches on Booking.com to see what accommodations are available for your dates and budget. October is a very popular time to visit these areas.

If you haven't driven in Italy in 10-15 years, you probably need to learn about ZTLs (zona traffico limitato) which have been established in nearly every Italian town, large and small.

https://www.italybeyondtheobvious.co...with-ztl-zones
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Old Sep 21st, 2019, 01:46 AM
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October, you could do Tuscany again and good advice above. You could instead look at the cities in the Po valley. So Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Padova, Ravenna. Ok the roads are flat and off the main roads are all about getting around the drainage canals but really very nice, the food is very good and the ancient bits fascinating.
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Old Sep 21st, 2019, 04:16 AM
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I love Lake Trasimeno. Probably the most sensible place to stay would be in Castiglione del Lago, as it's a good-size town with a number of good restaurants and shops and a decent market. Passignano is equally rich in offerings. From either you can easily get all around the lake. Take a ferry out to the island of Maggiore and see the lace makers. Magione is a pretty town that often has spectacular concerts in its castle (of the Knights of Malta) at the top of the hills. Trasimeno is where the bloody battle that defeated Hannibal occurred.

I'm also fond of Panicale.
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Old Sep 21st, 2019, 06:02 AM
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We have enjoyed staying in Chianti villages several times- Radda, Castellina and Panzano.
We were very happy with our time in Umbria too where we stayed in pretty Spello and used it as a base.
The Piemonte region is beautiful and less touristed. We found Alba to be the perfect location for touring the wine villages.
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Old Sep 21st, 2019, 06:17 AM
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DH and I loved Perugia as a base for travel. We fell in love with Spoleto because of the hotel but took some good side trips.

Perugia and Rome by train and bus (Side trips to Arezzo, Gubbio, Montepulciano, Montelcino)

Turin, Spoleto, Bologna and Bellagio TR (Sides to Assisi, Orvieto, Spello)

Have a wonderful time and please report back!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 08:52 PM
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Wow, thanks everyone! This has all happened so quickly. I finally nailed down our flights tonight and would like to reserve through VRBO or AirBnB in the next couple of days. Im leaning toward splitting time between Montepulciano and Spello as our home bases. We enjoy being where we can walk to some things so Ill keep looking around but have found a couple of places that look promising. I realize parking will be another factor to consider.

My conference in Certaldo Alto ends on 10/20. Were thinking my husband could pick up a rental at the Florence Airport, drive down and a couple of nights with me there. Then wed have 6 nights in Montepulciano, 3 nights in Spello, and the last day/night in Florence (weve been there in the past and would enjoy spending a day, but want to spend most of our time exploring Tuscany/Umbria this time around). So many wonderful recommendations about towns to see from each of those spots. Since weve already stayed in Cinqie Terra, Lucca, and Siena, this time well spend time at Lake Trasemino and in places like Orvieto, Assisi, Perugia, etc.

Any thoughts on other towns you think would make better home bases than these two?

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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by caseyhen View Post
My conference in Certaldo Alto ends on 10/20. Were thinking my husband could pick up a rental at the Florence Airport, drive down
Will he be crossing any time zones? If so, please consider having him join you by taking public transportation and waiting at least a day before renting a car! Although many people are not aware of it, there is mounting evidence that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to yourself and others -- as driving drunk, and nothing you can do will prevent the microsleeps (which you might not even notice) that are the apparent culprit. Seriously -- NOT a good idea, no matter your prior experience no matter whether you sleep on the plane no matter how much coffee you drink.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 09:30 PM
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No Emilia-Romagna? No inland Veneto e.g. Verona, Vicenza, Padova?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 11:07 PM
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I'm not the biggest fan of Spello. It's just a bit too quiet for me, but others love it and its location is great for exploring Umbria. I like Bevagna if you were to find lodging there that suits you.

I might do 5 nights Montepulciano and 4 nights Spello, just because I really like Umbria.

Although driving after a long flight isn't usually a good idea, Certaldo is only 30 miles from the Florence Airport and AFAIK there are no car rental offices in Certaldo.
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Old Sep 24th, 2019, 10:19 AM
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Thanks for your advice. Thinking possibly Assisi and allocating another night there. We were limiting our time in Spello simply because the lodging we'd found only had those three nights available.

Options for DH arriving on an overnight flight to Florence:
* take the train from Florence to Certaldo where I'll already be (only an hour or so), stay a couple of nights there, then train back to Florence to pick up the rental car.
* rent a car at the airport right off the flight and drive the 30 miles to Certaldo
* anywhere else reachable from Certaldo where we could travel to by train and rent a car?
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Old Sep 24th, 2019, 12:49 PM
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Unless I was landing after sunset, I would rent the car on arrival at the Florence airport. The issue with the train is that you have to travel by taxi or bus between the airport and the main station in the city center. There is no train service to/from the airport.

If you are concerned about his driving after landing, he could train down to Certaldo (30 mins. bus or taxi + 60 mins. train + connection time). Then you could later train to Siena (35-40 mins.) and pick up a car near the station.

You can make some dummy car rental reservations to check rates, but one advantage to picking up and returning the car at the Florence airport could be the avoidance of a drop fee for a "one-way" rental. Also, the selection of cars in different categories will be greater at the airport. If you need/want an automatic transmission, you're more likely to get one at the airport.
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Old Sep 24th, 2019, 05:34 PM
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I have great respect for Jean, but honestly, no amount of driving is safe after crossing multiple time zones -- not 30 miles (nearly an hour trip, if googlemaps is on target), not 5 miles, not even a mile. One needs at least a day to adjust before one can drive with even a semblance of safety. Please be patient with me if you think Im being overly adamant, but I know too many people who have died or been seriously injured in accidents to which jet lag was a contributing factor, and I know too many people who will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the knowledge that they were responsible for accidents that resulted in multiple deaths, including those of children, all because they were too confident in their ability to drive safely with jet lag. The issue has become a bit of cause clbre for me.

If the OP drives, perhaps she can return to Florence's airport, rent the car, pick up her husband, and drive until her husband can do so safely?

Last edited by kja; Sep 24th, 2019 at 05:36 PM.
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