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Tuscan Base Villa Farmhouse Apartment Inn?

Tuscan Base Villa Farmhouse Apartment Inn?

Mar 31st, 2007, 07:42 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2007
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Tuscan Base Villa Farmhouse Apartment Inn?

Three couples are headed to Tuscany for a week in early June. Have divergent interests but will sightsee as a group at times and break into 2 or 3 groups other days. Looking to stay together but does not NEED to be the 'villa experience' especially since we are trying to avoid a car if possible. Have considered the merits of staying in Florence suburbs to use as a transporation hub but also interested in the villas in the Chianti region, if we could easily take a bus to Florence for train access across a wider geography.

First, does anyone have any suggestions for lodging? We are in our late 40's so we are not looking for completely spartan accomodations, but we would rather spend our budget on meals, gelato, espresso, and experiences rather than lavish amenities. Value is our goal. Has anyone heard of La Piazzetta or Aquarello in the Florence area, or Casa Sisti and Casa Sola between Siena and Florence?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated. The other two wives are anxious to nail down the booking -- I am not as concerned since I imagine the real gems are booked and a little more research can't hurt... but they want to decide and commit in the next week.

Also, would love to hear any ideas about side trips, restaurants, winery tours, etc.

Thanks in advance.
stlcathy is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 09:42 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Dear S,

Most important advice is if you are going to see Tuscany, NOT staying in Florence, you WILL need cars. If you absolutely refuse to get cars, stay in Florence, use trains and buses, take a tour or hire a private driver for the countryside.

Buona fortuna!
Dayle is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 11:21 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 538
And I concur with Dayle - you somewhat have to decide to do one or the other. A country villa/apartment/agriturismo without a car would be near impossible, I think. The problem isn't the public transportation from small town to small town; it's getting to that small town from your accommodations. Believe me when I say that part of the Tuscan experience is the car! It's that vista around a bend, or the lines of vineyards, or "discovering" a walled village. Of course with 6 adults and luggage you'll probably need 2 cars but it does give you the latitude to go in directions of different interest. And any horror stories you may have heard about Italian drivers are greatly exaggerated. In our nearly 4 weeks of Italian road trips we have yet to see an accident. On GA400 in Atlanta that's almost a daily occurence!
toni_g_b is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 12:50 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
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I stayed at Casa Sola last May, and I'll be happy to provide further info on it, but first I have to know if you will have cars or not. You'll need them there; you'll want them there.

If you won't be driving, you won't want my input.
phyllis_stein is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 01:23 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I agree with Dayle---you need a car to see Tuscany--or a private driver.
Spend time at www.slowtrav.com for tons of good info and referrals for accommodations.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:08 AM
  #6  
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thank you, thank you, thank you! One can read a stack of books and hours of blogs and still not be certain. I think car(s) would be wonderful because I devour scenery and all my favorite vacations involve driving (ex. Calif Hwy 1).

Given that a car is required, any suggestions on rental company, insurance waivers, etc. Also, how long will it take to drive to Firenze from Poggibonsi (since we seem to be honing into that area)?

I would love to hear more about Casa Sola, they have the 'white room' available for PART of our stay, but the other two wives are leery of my research as I found it through a chianti growers association rather than through standard villa rental sites.

Run on post... I just keep thinking of questions: if a villa is represented by more than one booking service, what are the relative merits of one over the other? did anyone have a good/bad experience with any in particular you would like to share?

OK, DONE (for now)
you have been a great help already and looking to learn more
Cathy in St. Louis
stlcathy is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:13 AM
  #7  
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oops, almost forgot: anyone know anything about S. Barberino or San Bartolo in Barberino Val d'Elsa? It is not a private villa but apartments in a converted tuscan farmhouse, I gather -- comments on rentvillas.com are quite good.
stlcathy is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:22 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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About rental cars, in Italy CDW is required no matter whether your credit card covers you or not. And an International Driver's Permit is also required. Easy and quick to get at AAA.

When looking for self-catering rentals, do you plan to cook some meals? If so, make sure you have a table that seats 6.

We used Cuendet (www.cuendet.com)and found them very helpful. However, 2 months is very short notice for a self-catering rental. So go to www.slowtrav.com and go to work at once!
Mimar is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:27 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hope this may help>


DRIVING IN ITALY & SOUTHERN EUROPE

Q. SHOULD WE DRIVE IN ITALY?
A. Of course you should if your driving skill & confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:
* Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
* Have good maps—study them in advance—and have a GOOD NAVIGATOR.
* Stay in the right lane except when passing and use your rear view mirrors

Q. WHAT CAR SHOULD I GET AND WHERE DO I GET IT?
A. It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is AUTOEUROPE [800-223-5555] who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, full mandatory insurance coverage, and VAT taxes. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

Q. ARE ITALIAN DRIVERS AS CRAZY AS I HAVE HEARD?
A. Yes & no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers—both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics
* They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them past.
* On the AUTOSTRADE they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing—YOU SHOULD TOO !
* They will often pass on 2-lane roads with traffic coming. Frankly, they expect you, and the oncoming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make 3 lanes of traffic.

OTHER ROAD TIPS FOR YOUR DRIVING SANITY:
1. Learn the meaning of the sign “ SENSO UNICO” and take heed [ONE WAY ].
2. Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the AUTOSTADA system & be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it [ rule of thumb—300 km=15 Euro]. You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance.
3. Do NOT attempt to follow road numbers—that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination [ TO MONTALCINO]. And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city [ ROMA—SIENA ETC.]
4. Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

NOTE: As of 2005, an International Drivers Permit[IDP] is required in Italy.
You can obtain them from your local AAA office. You will need a valid US driver’s license, two passport photos, and $10. The photos can be taken at the AAA office.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 03:23 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 197
Good for you on considering a car, stlcathy! It will open up so many possibilities for you. We have always rented through AutoEurope and have never had any problems. One tip: you may want to phone them rather than go through the website. Over the phone I was offered an extra discount because of AAA membership; as far as I know, there isn't a way to get that online.

Now for Casa Sola: It was one of the happiest renting experiences I have ever had. I loved the attention the owners have given to the gardens and private spaces at each house. (For a couple of days during our stay, we were the only guests there, and I snooped around the other villas.)

We were in one of the smaller properties (for just 2 people) and the website photos were completely accurate. Comfortable bed and other furniture, nice little decorative touches, good towels, and best of all, a stovetop that was completely easy to use. I'm not the cook of the family, but this I could do.

The property is well-sited for daytrips into Florence and San Gimignano, and I would have loved the opportunity to see something of barberino Val d'Elsa as well. Florence was less than an hour away, and a very easy run on the FI_SI divided highway.

I would LOVE to stay at Casa Sola again, which is pretty much the best thing you could say, right?

I'll be happy to answer any specific questions, too.

Good luck with your plans, wherever they take you.
phyllis_stein is offline  
Apr 5th, 2007, 06:55 AM
  #11  
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thanks again to all. Closing in on a villa (actually probably will be an apartment near Poggibonsi) and 1 or 2 cars. I just got my Thomas Cook Rail Timetable today which would have been helpful sooner, but it may help with the number of cars decision. While there are better ways to see Tuscany, I am sure there is no bad way based on all the wonderful things I have read and seen on the web and in tourbooks.

Grazie!
stlcathy is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 03:47 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1
We have always had good luck finding accommodations in Tuscany using the website www.tuscany-villas.it especially for last-minute travel. If you haven't already booked your trip I'd give them a look.
johnmorgan is offline  
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