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Taking the Scenic Route from Florence to Montepulciano

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Jul 8th, 2014, 01:46 PM
  #1
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Taking the Scenic Route from Florence to Montepulciano

Hi there!
I searched but could not seem to find any current advice: we are picking up a rental car on a Sunday morning in September, departing downtown Florence and heading for four nights in Montepulciano. I have noticed on Google maps there are choices ranging from highway (1 hour plus) to country road (up to 3 hours travel time). Although we will have our (carryon) luggage in our tiny rented Fiat Pinto or Panda or whatever the heck we end up with, we would like to make this our first day of exploring, since we plan to spend the whole next day out of the car, exploring Montepulciano. We have the whole day, as we check in late afternoon at our rental apartment.

Any suggestions for great routes/ places to stop? We are interested in touring an agriturismo, or lunch and walking one of the towns, or both. A Fodorite described a visit to a cheese making farm, and at the time I emailed them with no response, but now I can't find which one. Keeping in mind that this is a Sunday, how would you structure the day? What are your favorite stops? At some point, we'd like to visit one of the thermal baths also - would one of these be on the way? We could have our swimsuits on under our clothes...

Also, it looks like the best map to get for the area would be the Tuscany Regional Map by Touring Club Italiano. Agree?

Thanks Fodorites!
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Jul 8th, 2014, 02:11 PM
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I think you need to keep your first day fairly loose -- although I do think it is smart to plan on having a very nice Sunday lunch on your way to Montepulciano.

Even in September, there can sometimes be delays and lines picking up a rental car in Florence, so you really don't know what time you will be leaving the city. Also, if this is your first time in the area, you might get lost -- plus it might be raining! -- so you really don't want to be tied to some inflexible plan.

One of the most scenic routes heading out of the city takes you in the direction of the Chianti towns (look on a map). Lunch times in Italy are pretty strict: On Sunday you should plan to be seated at a restaurant around 1pm.

If you get an early start from Florence and the weather is nice, you can toodle around the Chianti hill towns until it is time for you to head to lunch. You can either select a famous place in advance or leave it up to chance.

If you get a late start, you will need to drive directly to your pre-selected place or make sure you don't miss the lunch hour by stopping somewhere by 1pm.

Somewhere around 2.30 or 3pm you can continue on your way to Montepuliciano. You don't need to make a special project of visiting a farm (agriturismo) or a hot spring along the way. These types of places will be easy to reach from Montepulciano (and likewise cheese producers in Pienza, a stone's throw from Montepulciano).

The point of renting a car and driving the scenic roads from Florence to Chianti to Montepulicano is to be spontaneous. Maps are useful, but they are less important than keeping your eyes open and following your own curiosity.

It is always good to know what kind of indoor activities are possible along your route in case it is raining. A good guidebook will tell you where you can visit a winery or cheese farm without a reservation, or enjoy a thermal path, or visit a very interesting local museum.

The Touring Club Italiano books are EXCELLENT for their detail, their maps, their suggested driving itineraries and often have very good restaurant recommendations too. They are an EXCELLENT investment for a trip to Tuscany.
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Jul 8th, 2014, 03:16 PM
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Thanks Sandralist, for the great thoughts. Yes we do love serendipity, and I hadn't even considered rain. It's not allowed to rain! But if it does, we'll still enjoy ourselves.

I will get the book.

Hoping someone can point out their favorite restaurants/towns that will fit into our plan...
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Jul 8th, 2014, 04:50 PM
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Hmmm ! I did not know you could pick up a car in downtown on a Sunday--please tell us the location.

And, from Montepulciano it may be too far to see San Gimignno later in the week. I would see it on Sunday on your way south. Exit atthe Poggibondsi Nord exit and follow the signs.
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Jul 8th, 2014, 05:02 PM
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Can I get the Touring Club maps in Italy or better to order in advance? Thanks
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Jul 8th, 2014, 05:21 PM
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If you are taking the Autostrada Firenze-Siena instead of the A-1, Monteriggioni is a beautiful stop along the way and not as off your path as San Gimignano. Don't get me wrong, San Gimignano is totally worth the drive. Monteriggioni is just a more convenient stop and on a jet-lagged day may be the easier alternative.
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Jul 8th, 2014, 05:25 PM
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Hi bob, here's the info:
Rental Company:
HERTZ
FLORENCE DOWNTOWN OFFICE
VIA BORGO OGNISSANTI 137/R
500 METERS FROM RAIL STATION
RETURN DIFF THAN PICK UP
Tel: 39 055 239 8205
Fax: 39 055 230 2011
OPEN Mondays-Fridays 08:00 AM-07:00 PM
OPEN Saturdays 08:00 AM-07:00 PM
OPEN Sundays 08:00 AM-01:00 PM

We knew there were only a few car rentals open on Sunday, and so arranged our pickup for 10 AM, figure we'll go a bit earlier.

I wondered about the distance to San Gimigniano, I sure would love to see it but figured too far to do a day trip once in Montepulciano. Would detouring to San G mean using the autostrada before and after, or would we still be able to do reasonable scenic roadways?

Thanks again!

yestravel, I just ordered mine from Amazon, nice to have before you go, only $14 plus shipping...
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Jul 8th, 2014, 05:28 PM
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wikoffclan, missed your response.
We will not be jetlagged luckily, as we will be in France for 8 days, then Florence for 3 nights before departing via rental car...but still trying to exchange scenic roadways for autostrada if reasonable.
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Jul 8th, 2014, 06:16 PM
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A Sunday pick-up IN Florence is a nice change! I wonder if this will be seasonal...?

Anyway, if this were my trip, I'd get as early a start as possible and move up the pick-up time. I'd take SR222 (Via Chiantigiana) and drive the length of Chianti. I'd stop for lunch in Castellina (or Radda if you prefer). I'm not a big fan of San Gimignano and its crowds, so I'd skip the detour. But Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore (between Asciano and Buonconvento) is a detour I would make for the wonderful grounds and the "Life of St. Benedict" fresco cycle in the cloister. It's open on Sundays from 3:15 to 5:00p.

http://www.monteolivetomaggiore.it/lang1/index.html

http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/monte_oliveto.htm
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Jul 9th, 2014, 04:41 AM
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Take your choice here!

We had a wonderful Sunday lunch at Il Pozzo in Monteriggioni. Vast Italian families, grandmothers to babies, enjoying themselves. You will need a reservation, and sandralist is correct about the fairly rigid meal hours in at least this part of Italy.

After twoa or three hours at the table, go on to San Gimignano, where you will arrive after the buses have left.

You certainly won't starve in Radda, if you choose that route, and we enjoyed a long lunch sitting on the balcony overlooking the square at Giovanni di Verrazano in Greve.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 07:19 AM
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Good news---I am aware of that location, but the Sunday gig must be new.

San Gim. is an easy stop down the Siena Superstrada---you can be there in an hour. I agree that Monteriggioni is also a good stop after San Gim.---you can get there on the local roads south to Colle.

Jean's route via Chianti is also a good option, but if San Gim. is on your must see list then now is the time to do it.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 07:27 AM
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Hope you get the Panda, love that car. Cortona is a nice day trip during your four days in Montepulciano. I am a huge Under the Tuscan Sun fan though.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 09:15 AM
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Ahhhh...so many delicious ideas! Thanks one and all. San Gim sounds so fascinating, with the remaining towers it must be a sight to behold. I assume it would be highway to San G, then country roads after that. That may work...

I am getting nervous about this pickup on Sunday at Hertz. Maybe I'll call Hertz corporate to confirm the September hours. We are avoiding an airport fee plus taxi fee to pick up locally, so it's better for us (assuming we don't go accidentally into the ZTL zone upon pickup).

I love the idea of dining among the vast Italian families, this will be fun!

flpab, my husband is disappointed as he saw himself in a Fiat 500 racing down the autostrada (pipe dream as he's a pretty cautious driver anyway). This res is for Panda, but we shall see (of course I see myself in a Mercedes luxury vehicle squeezing through the Montepulciano town gates lol).
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Jul 9th, 2014, 09:17 AM
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checking the map:
autostrada to Monteriggioni, then 25 minute backtrack to San G, then autostrada most of the way on to Montepulciano. Will these roads still be scenic, or crazy racy roads where we have white knuckles just keeping up with Sunday traffic?
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Jul 9th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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From Florence, you want San Gim. first.
Then, go south on local roads to Monteriggioni.
Then, further south on the Siena superstrada to connect with E-78 going east---exit at Sinalunga and approach Montepulcinao via Torrita di Siena. I hope you. have a good map.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 11:58 AM
  #16
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Bob, thanks so much. I was using google maps for the above, and have ordered the Touring Club map.

That does make sense geographically, but Ackislander's suggestion of lunch first in Monteriggioni then visiting San Gim after the hordes have departed was compelling. So should I reverse, or do you think San Gim will be packed on a Sunday late September and we'd be better off arriving 2-3 PM versus 10:30-11 AM?
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Jul 9th, 2014, 12:16 PM
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I rented a Mercedes C class....is that too large for Val D'orcia? (I needed a car that could "hide" 2 mid sized pieces of luggage. We are staying in Montalcino and plan on seeing the area (including Montepulciano and it's gates)
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Jul 9th, 2014, 12:44 PM
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There are no hair raising roads in this area. Maybe the one over the top of Monte Amato qualifies, but I have only traced it on maps.

What you find are narrow roads, some of them with a white surface hat is vaguely like gravel but much less loose, but plenty of dust. The only dangers are from other drivers, who will happily pass you on a blind curve, and maybe the odd wild boar.

The towns are different, with lots of narrow one way streets and ZTL's in the larger ones.

I probably wouldn't take an autostrada thereabouts. The pleasure in this area is in driving slowly through, looking at the scenery.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 01:25 PM
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San Gim. has places to eat as well, and Sunday will have fewer tour busses---I would go earlier.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 01:41 PM
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Thanks!
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