Tuscany accommodation conundrum

Old Feb 12th, 2015, 06:11 AM
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Tuscany accommodation conundrum

File this under the most non-problem "problem" I've probably ever had.

I'm traveling to Italy with a friend in May and we plan to be in Tuscany for five nights (May 8-13). This is not our first trip to Italy, but is our first trip to Tuscany. Right now I've found the following options in our budget:

1) My first choice - an apartment just outside Montepulciano. The place looks fantastic, gets great reviews on VRBO, and the location seems great. I like that a town is so close but we're still in a farmhouse/agriturismo environment. The issue is that she does not have availability for May 8, so we would need to find somewhere else to stay. Normally I don't do many one-night stays, but I thought we might stay at a b&b near San Gim or somewhere else like that for one night and then come here. If that is a sensible plan, any recommendations on which town to pick would be great.

http://www.poderepoggioalsole.it/?p=849&lang=en

2) This agriturismo is near Montalcino. It also looks great, gets great reviews. We thought about taking a full-day cooking class in Cortona, so it would be further from that if we choose to do it, but otherwise I'm not sure whether it's more or less convenient to towns and attractions than #1.

http://www.agriturismocunina.com/

3) There's also this place near San Gimingnano. I had concentrated more in the Pienza/Montepulciano region, but this place looks beautiful too and has availability.

http://www.casanovadipescille.com/

I think there's probably no "wrong" choice, but any input on the best right choice would be much appreciated!
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 06:43 AM
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Some possibly relevant information - we'll fly in and out of Rome, then the plan is:

Days 1/2 - head straight to Florence (already booked b&b here)
Days 3-5 - Cinque Terre
Day 6 - take train back to Florence because it seems like we'll need to rent a car at the Florence airport (we need an automatic, and Autoeurope seems to require that - I checked Pisa airport as well with no luck)
Days 7-11 - Tuscany
Day 12 - head back to Rome (dropping off car at Orvieto?)
Day 13 - fly home
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 07:06 AM
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My ideal agriturismo in Tuscany would be right on the edge or just outside a town, a town with several restaurants. So you can walk into town, have dinner, have wine with dinner, and walk back. If you have to drive, the driver shouldn't drink. Italy has very strict drunk driving laws. And sometimes it's hard to find your way back to an agriturismo in the dark, through the twists and turns of unlit country roads.

Only the first of your choices might be walkable. I'd prefer something a little closer myself. At least you'd be walking downhill in Montepulciano on the way home.

If you're like us, you won't want to make dinner after you come home from a long day of sightseeing. Only the third of your choices has a restaurant on site where you can get dinner.

Your second choice has an apartment in San Gimignano itself. Might look at that.

I notice choices #2 and #3 both offer cooking classes.

Driving in Italy, you should get an International Driver's Permit, a translation of your license. Get the IDP quickly and cheaply at your local AAA office; they'll even take your photo. Bring both your license and the IDP.

Should be a wonderful stay. I love the scenery in southern Tuscany.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 07:34 AM
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We dropped a car last year at Rome's Ciampino Airport rather than Orvieto. It was an easy drive from Tuscany and an easy drop off at the airport. The taxi to our hotel was less than from Fuimicino and we didn't have to schlepp luggage on to a train(someone with us had a "wine" suitcase) Had we taken the train to Rome from Orvieto we'd have needed a taxi to get to our hotel anyway.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 08:49 AM
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Thanks for the tip, Judy! I hadn't thought to look at Ciampino. There are so many hotel options in Rome that it's pretty low on the planning priority list!

Mimar - that would be my ideal as well, and one reason #1 looks so attractive. #2 is 2km from Buonconvento, and the VRBO reviews do mention good options there, though I know it's a smaller town. Neither of us are big drinkers, so I don't anticipate that specifically being a major issue, but it's good to know! We probably won't be making gourmet meals at night, but having the option to have a simple dinner at "home" is really nice.

Thanks for the IDP reminder! It's on my to-do list, after I get these accommodations figured out.

Re the cooking class - I've been looking at the one below, which gets fantastic reviews and is reasonably priced compared to others I've looked at. The down sides are that it's in Cortona and is a full-day commitment - ten hours or so. So that's still up in the air. I'm waiting to hear back from my friend to see what she thinks about it. I noticed the ones at the agriturismos as well and am still considering those; it's actually a major draw of #2!

http://www.tuscanculinary.com/Progra...kingClass.html
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 09:06 AM
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#2 is near Buonconvento and not really that close to Montalcino. It also appears to be a good distance off a paved road. Quite a few roads in Tuscany are "white roads" which means they are not paved. It would be slow going in and out of there. I'm sure your #1 is on a white road too, but it's closer to Cortona.

I think #3 would be ok for a one night stop on the way to southern Tuscany. There's quite a bit of paid parking around the town of San G. so it won't be too difficult to find parking there if you want to visit. Will they let you book one night? Many have a 2-3 night minimum in off season and 7 nights in season.

I'm surprised Pisa doesn't have any automatics.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 09:07 AM
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There s also a Hotel Pescille, up the highway from Casanova de Pescille. We stayed there and enjoyed our stay immensely. Granted, it's a bit too far uphill to walk it from San Gimi. We booked the one room in the Tower with a 360-degree view of the "Manhattan"towers in San Gmi and the hotel's surrounding vineyards. Some good hiking trails through the vineyards. Don't know current rates..there is a pool, bkfsts and very accomodating mangement.

http://www.pescille.it/Photo-Gallery-eng/#.VNzbEStAKQc
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 09:21 AM
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FYI - Autoeurope results depend on the locations you select. I just selected Pisa airport with a return at Chiusi for an automatic and it was no go. When I change the return location to another choice in Chiusi, then it produced the automatic (with Europcar as the provider of it). It has to do with which car rental companies have offices at any given location (ex: if Avis has them, there must be an Avis at both pick-up/return selections and that isn't always the case). It also has to do with day and time of your return since many small towns are closed in the afternoons for a few hours. Try searching again selecting Pisa airport and the various choices for either Chiusi or Orvieto (Chiusi is closest train station to your agriturismo in Montepuliciano). If you select Orvieto downtown Ffss Railway station, you get Hertz as the provider for the automatic.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 09:44 AM
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kybourbon - that's good to know about the white roads, thanks! It's hard to know right now how much of my impression of Tuscany driving is actual truth. And that car rental info is super helpful. I was surprised that Pisa airport didn't have automatics as well, but didn't think about the added complexities of Autoeurope being a broker. I'll keep playing around and see what I can come up with!

Stu, thanks so much for that suggestion - that place looks great, seems to have availability and is in our budget! (By the way, I love the quote on your profile. My dad would much prefer I be spending my plane ticket money on a new front door for my house, but front doors will always be there.)

I'm leaning toward a night around San Gim for May 8, and then option #1 for the rest of the stay. The owner has been so responsive and welcoming via email, and the reviews make it sound so fantastic. Some mention that it's a 30-minute walk to Montepulciano, which I'd be fine with doing a night or two for dinner. We're pretty good at walking. And it is closer to Cortona in case we decide on that particular cooking class.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 10:21 AM
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You can call Autoeurope....they've always been very helpful with information re pick-up and drop-off, etc.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 03:14 PM
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Jent103, it looks like we'll be in Italy at the same time!

Thanks for asking this question, and thanks to everyone for the links. I'm trying to figure out where we'll stay in Tuscany, so the info is very helpful.

Lee Ann
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 03:18 PM
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Lee Ann! Hi! Maybe we'll run into each other! How fun would that be?

For what it's worth, Manola at option #1 has been incredibly responsive and welcoming via email. I kind of adore her already.

Judy, great idea about calling - sometimes I forget about the phone! Ha! It's a lot easier to book things while you're at work in a cubicle via email. But I may try to do that this weekend.
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 03:20 PM
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That would be pretty cool!

Lee Ann
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 04:14 PM
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Look at Kemwel too as sometimes the rates are better. You don't select automatic until after you've selected locations and the cars appear (unclick manual).
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 04:23 PM
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Thanks, kybourbon, I'll do that!
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Old Feb 13th, 2015, 11:45 AM
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kybourbon, thanks SO much for suggesting Kemwel - I looked last night, and not only were the rates a bit cheaper, but their web site was much better. I haven't booked yet, but I'm planning to pick up at the Pisa airport and drop off at Chiusi. Trying to figure out if I need to rent their GPS or try to figure out borrowing my parents'! Here I always just use my phone, but that's probably too much data to pay for.

Just as a general update: I have all our accommodations booked except for our last night in Rome; I thought the list might be helpful to future planners. Thanks so much to everyone for your input!

Nights 1 & 2: B&B Cimatori, Florence, booked via booking.com, 108E/night (we saved quite a chunk with a nonrefundable booking)

Nights 3-5: RooMartina, Vernazza, booked via email, 60E/night (bare bones room, obviously, but gets great reviews and we know what we're getting)

Night 6: Al Pozzo Dei Desideri, in Piazza Cisterna in San Gim - I thought it would be cool to have one night actually in a Tuscan town. Booked via hotels.com, refundable, 100.60E.

Nights 7-11: Podere Poggio al Sole (option #1 above), 100E/night for a one-bedroom apartment with large sofa bed. Found via VRBO, booked via email and wire transfer (I checked out all the reviews I could find and asked about Paypal before making that transfer).

Night 12: Somewhere in central Rome, TBD
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Old Feb 13th, 2015, 08:49 PM
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>>>I looked last night, and not only were the rates a bit cheaper,
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Old Feb 14th, 2015, 03:10 AM
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We are in the process of sorting out a similar trip next year and I love all of your accommodation choices, will be looking forward to your trip report (hint hint).
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Old Feb 14th, 2015, 08:33 AM
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Maudie - I'll do my best! I do have a trip report from an Italy trip a few years ago when we went to Rome, Venice, Bellagio and a quick night in Milan, if that would be helpful.

kybourbon - thanks, I'll check out the insurance situation, and Volterra too! I'm not sure about the b&b but I figure if we can handle the steps in the CT, we'll probably be fine.
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Old Feb 14th, 2015, 10:00 AM
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We had a conundrum when planning our 2009 trip to Tuscany: whether to stay in San Gimignano or not. Well, we decided to stay in town at a hotel on Piazza Cisterna and it was a wonderful experience! By day, San Gimignano was busy with day trippers but by night, the town was transformed into a quiet, magical place! I remember walking back to the hotel after dinner with DH. That night there was a solo violinist playing in the moonlit piazza. The scene took my breath away!

Al Pozzo Dei Desideri looks very nice. Hope you enjoy your visit there!
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