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things to do with 2 weeks in Tuscany

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Feb 2nd, 2014, 04:37 PM
  #1
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things to do with 2 weeks in Tuscany

I will be renting a villa near Pienza for two weeks this July with some friends. Usually when we travel we spend 3 days in an area and move to another. Staying two weeks leaves a lot of time to explore. Any recommendations for things to do on day trips? Any specific vineyards you would recommend? Would it be worth it to go to Rome or Cinque Terre for a day? We have never been to Italy before. My husband is looking forward to some biking.

I have Stu's info on the area. Thanks Stu, we used your guide in Provence quite a bit last summer. Any other tips would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
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Feb 2nd, 2014, 05:00 PM
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You just need to decide how much time you want to spend getting somewhere and whether you're willing to return/drive to Pienza in the dark. Once you've figured that out, you can draw a circle around Pienza and see things within the circle. CT and Rome would be too far for me.

I highly recommend Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore which is an hour's drive (or less) from Pienza.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territo...iveto_Maggiore
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Feb 2nd, 2014, 05:58 PM
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Pienza is located in a rather sparsely populated area. You can make day trips to Siena and a few small hill towns, but it's not really the best place as a day trip hub.

Rome is too large for any one day trip, and Cinque Terre is much too far.

I suggest you get on Mapquest or Googlemaps.com and see what cities are within range for a day trip.

I prefer staying on an agriturismo in the area outside of Siena or San Gimignano because interesting hill towns are closer together. You're also an hour or so from Florence.
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Feb 2nd, 2014, 06:15 PM
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Thanks for your replies. The villa is booked. It says we are 12 minutes from Montepulciano and 15 from Pienza. I read you need to make reservations at the vineyards for tastings. Any recommendations or any experiences with that?
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Feb 2nd, 2014, 06:21 PM
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You are in a wonderful area with tons to see. Contact me off line for some of them. Just Google my name for my email.
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Feb 2nd, 2014, 08:50 PM
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Sberg,
This may help http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 01:42 AM
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You could certainly visit Siena from Pienza, and I would urge you to do so. Park the car in one of the lots below the walls, and take the elevator up.

Florence deserves more than a day trip, and it's not very close to where you're staying, but if you start early, you could see a good bit of the city and maybe visit one museum and a few churches. (I wouldn't recommend the Uffizi on such a short trip.) You certainly wouldn't want to drive there; considering driving time and time on the train, I think the most efficient way to get there would be to drive to Arezzo and take the train from there. It's about an hour's drive to Arezzo and another hour on the train. There are closer stations, but the trains from those stations make a lot more stops than the "regionali veloci" from Arezzo. Maybe someone else can suggest a better alternative. The drive would be an hour and a half, but you'd have to park somewhere pretty far from the center to avoid the risk of accidentally straying into a ZTL, so the total time would probably be the same.

By the way, be sure to read up on ZTLs (limited traffic zones). All drivers will need an IDP to drive in Italy, which must be carried along with your regular license.

Rome is even farther from Pienza than Florence is, and it's a much bigger city, but if you think you won't be back to Italy for a long time, you could at least get a glimpse of the city. Your most efficient way of getting there would probably be to drive to Orte and take the train from there. You might also be able to drive all the way, as it's fairly easy to avoid the ZTLs in Rome by driving to the Terminale Gianicolo, near the Vatican, where there is a large underground parking lot. If you decide to go, I could suggest a way to make the most of your brief visit.

I would consider anything under a 2-hour drive to be a suitable destination for a day trip. So here are a few possibilities:

Arezzo is less than an hour away, and is well worth a visit. The Bacci Chapel in the Basilica of San Francesco has one of the greatest of Renaissance fresco cycles, the Legend of the True Cross, by Piero della Francesca. The number of people who can view it at one time is limited, and at busy times of the year, you may have to wait several hours for your turn. There's a chance that you would find all the places for the whole day already reserved, so you might want to reserve in advance.

http://www.pierodellafrancesca-ticketoffice.it/

I don't see an English language option on this page, unfortunately.

Arezzo has a nice antiques fair on the weekend which includes the first Sunday of every month. There are other museums and churches in Arezzo, and the town has an attractive center.

San Sepolcro is a beautiful hill town, with some more masterpieces of Piero della Francesca.

Montalcino is a very nice hill town, and easily reached from Pienza. You might also visit Sant'Antimo, a beautiful monastery south of Montalcino. Try to time your visit for a chanted mass, or for the chanting of the vespers or one of the other daily prayers.

Cortona is not far from Pienza; I was a bit underwhelmed by the town, which I think was oversold by "Under the Tuscan Sun". However, the Church of Santa Margherita is worth a visit, and there is a wonderful Etruscan candelabra in the civic museum.

Sovana, in southern Tuscany, is a very pretty little town, with lots of craft shops. There is an Etruscan necropolis on the outskirts; we went there specifically for the necropolis, but a heavy rainstorm changed our minds, so we just had lunch and did a little shopping.

There are a number of Umbrian towns that are within a two-hour drive. I would suggest Assisi, Todi, and Orvieto. If you visit Assisi, you might want to also stop in nearby Spello, one of the prettiest towns in Italy. Gubbio is a little further than these, right on the border with Le Marche, where I live, and where I heartily suggest you visit one day! Oh, well, if you insist, you could visit the beautiful Gola di Furlo in Le Marche, which is a little more than a two-hour scenic drive from Pienza. You'd be following the route of the ancient Via Flaminia after Cagli, and in Furlo the road passes through a tunnel carved in the rock face over 2000 years ago. Furlo is in a spectacular river gorge. Let me know if you want to go there, and I can suggest other things to see and places to eat.
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 07:35 PM
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Thank you for all your great replies. Looks like I will have lots to do. Bvienci, we love to drive so we may just check out Le Marche. It sounds beautiful. We might try to go to Rome, as we might not get back to Italy for a long time. If you have tips for a whirlwind visit I would love to know what they are.
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 10:46 PM
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Pienza isn't far from Montalcino and the brunello wineries. We've spent years visiting the vineyards, wineries and farms. Use the official brunello organization website to research, locate and contact your favorites --
www.consorziobrunellodimontalcino.it

The same type of information is available for the vino nobile di Montepulciano winemakers -- www.consorziovinonobile.it

Have fun---Pienza has plenty to explore if you have that luxury.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 04:50 AM
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You will have plenty to do and see. Pienza, San Q, Bagno, Val D'Orcia, Mt Amiata, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, Cortona, Montisi, Assisi, Orvieto, La Foce gardens.
Just for starters.
Then there's Florence.

Vineyards. Usually best to call and make reservations. Tours are usually at fixed times and often just once a day. Some vineyards have very good restaurants like Barbi outside Montalcino and Avignosei outside Montepulciano. The Avignosei tour and meal was truly memorable.
S'Angelo in Colle just outside Montalcino is surrounded by great vineyards from tiny ones like Mate, giants like Banfi and classics like Argiano. Plus 2 great restaurants in this tiny village, Pozzo and Leccio.
Stu's info is great starting place for ideas.
Have fun.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 05:36 AM
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If you can, you should really visit Florence. Make reservations in advance to see Michelangelo's David at the Accademia. Visit the Duomo and, if you have time, choose another place. I wouldn't suggest the Uffizi on a day trip but there are so many treasusres in Florence that you will have a hard time choosing.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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I think you'll have enough to do from your base in Tuscany. However, for future reference, or for others who are considering it, here are some whirlwind trips based on having two full days (three nights) in Le Marche:

Northern Le Marche, staying near Urbino:

One day visiting Urbino, another day visiting the Gola di Furlo, and some of the lovely hill towns in the area to the south (Mondavio and Corinaldo are probably the most attractive, but also tiny castle towns such as Loretello or Piticchio.) An alternative day 2 would be a visit to the hermitage of Fonte Avellana and the upper town of Frontone, with its picturesque castle. Finally, a third alternative would be to visit Senigallia, with one of the nicest beaches in Le Marche, a lively center, and two of Italy's top ten restaurants.

Central Le Marche, staying near Camerino.

One day visiting Camerino and maybe the castle of Lanciano, and the village of Pioraco. One day to visit the Frasassi Caverns and the nearby village of San Vittore Terme, and, if time permits, the town of Fabriano, one of the earliest centers of paper making in Europe, with its excellent paper museum. An alternative would be a visit to San Severino Marche, and to the medieval Abbey of Chiaravalle di Fiastra. Or maybe an excursion into one of the mountains.

Southern Le Marche, staying near Ascoli Piceno:

One day visiting Ascoli Piceno, with a second day visiting other towns and villages in the area. Offida has a long lace-making tradition that still flourishes today; there are lots of little towns and villages in or near the Sibillini Mountains National Park. On the coast, the little town of Torre di Palme, on a cliff overlooking the sea, is especially charming. There are lots of walks and hikes in the the area, for example, in the Gola dell'Infernaccio, near Montefortino.

Of course, with two weeks, you could have a nice visit from north to south.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 02:00 PM
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Using the autostrada, you are 2 hours from Spoleto. Use that as the radius of your circle, and you could visit Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, Viterbo--not all on the same day, obviously. To the north, Siena, San Gimignano, and Volterra are similarly accessible.
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Feb 5th, 2014, 07:16 AM
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Thank you all for the great tips. I can't wait for this trip! As I am sitting in the middle of a snowstorm I am dreaming of Italy!
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Feb 7th, 2014, 04:20 AM
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We did a whirl wind trip of Rome in October. Its not necessarily ideal, but doable if your goal is to see the main attractions. We were at the Colosseum before it opened and were lucky not to have to wait in line. I think that could be different in July, however you can prebook tickets which will save you waiting in that line. From there we made our way through the Forum, then walked to the Trevi Fountain, strolling through the streets to the Spanish steps, then onto the Pantheon and back towards our hotel near the Train station. It was a lot of walking but we didn't feel rushed. Our goal for the day was to just see what we could. I was shocked at how quickly we accomplished it all. (We weren't interested in Museums which helped with a tight timeline)

The big decision would be if you want to go to the Vatican. (we did this on a separate day) This can eat up a good portion of your day, especially if you don't prebook. Lines are notoriously long. Pre-Booking the Vatican museum ticket is essential if you want to see the Sistine Chapel. If you park near the Vatican like suggested above, you could see it first. Then spend the rest of the day seeing whatever else you could. Finishing the day at the Colosseum.
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Feb 7th, 2014, 04:23 AM
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As a side note, if I were to choose either a day in Rome or a day in Florence, I would pick Florence without any questions.
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Feb 9th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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We are on the fence about visiting Rome. Not sure if we will be back in Italy in the near future so almost feel like we should go but...not sure we want to deal with the heat and the crowds. When we did France and Portugal we enjoyed the country more than the cities.
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Feb 9th, 2014, 04:58 PM
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If you preferred the countryside more than Paris I think that you can safely skip Rome. It has many appealing elements: ruins, museums, churches, piazzas; but I find it less appealing than Paris or Lisbon as a city.
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Feb 10th, 2014, 04:30 PM
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We liked Paris and Lisbon but we spent more than one day there. We would like to see Rome but we only have one day to do it. If you had to pick what would you do in a day?
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Feb 10th, 2014, 04:31 PM
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We are planning on spending at least a few days in Florence too.
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