Tuscany - is a car essential?

Sep 19th, 2005, 07:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 11
Tuscany - is a car essential?

Hi everyone,

We have a 10 night/9 day trip booked in late October (too short, I know!!)We fly into Rome and out of Venice.
We're planning to spend 3 days Rome at the beginning, 2 or 3 days Venice at the end, so we have some time left over in between.

We're a couple in early thirties, active and prefer to walk and take public transport where possible, and would like to see some country side as well as the cities.

I'm torn whether to put a Tuscany trip into those middle days or is it better to see Rome and Venice more thoroughly? Its our first trip to Italy and of course, we want to do it all, but there's nothing worse than having to leave a city you've fallen in love with and haven't had time to fully explore.

Secondly, if we do Tuscany do you need a car in order to see the hidden gems and really experience the countryside or will the trains take you through it? I've been searching the forums but can't find advice on this. I'm sure it's in here but I'm struggling to navigate. Husband is thinking vespers in Tuscany but I think they'd be too slow to cover enough ground!

Siena is the only must-see town/city currently on our Tuscan list. Have heard Florence and Pisa are just ok so maybe we'd skip those and spend our time enjoying smaller towns and exploring villages more. This makes me think the car will be essential.

Finally, Italian accommodation appears to be much more than we are used to paying so we're thinking of compromising and staying at convents in most places so that we can afford a really magical Pension experience in another. (Based on advice found here I've taken "Bed and Blessings" out of the library.) If you were saving up your pennies for that one lovely pension would you choose to stay in one in Venice or Rome? And does anyone have an extra special favourite? I'm not at all keen on the ones that have modern furnishings. We're thinking $400 US a night (which I know doesn't buy much in Venice.) It doesn't have to be luxurious, small and shabby-chic is fine with me but I'd like something charming and traditionally furnished. Am I dreaming?

I would appreciate your thoughts or pointing me in the right direction for old forums on this topic.

Thanks in advance,

BostonPippa is offline  
Sep 19th, 2005, 08:55 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,126
First,I assume you mean 10days/9 nights.
If you "must" stop in Siena, I'd plan 4 nights Rome, 2 Siena and 3 Venice.
I'd do it all by car.
Personally, I like Florence more than Siena, but I'm responding to your "must-see".
If you want a taste of the smaller hill towns between Rome and Venice, consider Orvieto. Again, train only.
You could shorten your stays at both larger cities, but I wouldn't recommend it.
If you want to get the most from a Tuscany visit to the smaller towns, a car is best. But, why bother with your short timeframe?
Not recommended, but doable:
If you REALLY want a whirlwind trip through as much as possible ,here's a possible schedule:
3 nights Rome
2 nights southern Tuscany (drive from Rome)
2 nights northern Tuscany (leave car at Florence)
2 nights Venice.
jabez is offline  
Sep 19th, 2005, 09:11 AM
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Posts: 11
Thanks Jabez - but I wasn't sure what "again, train only" meant. You hadn't mentioned trains earlier in your message so what was this in reference to?
If you did the whole trip by car would you keep the car while staying in the cities, or only pick up and drop off for the travel in between?

To clarify for others - my trip is definitely 10 nights / 9 days. I fly in during evening and fly home early one morning so there are only 9 useable days, but 10 nights.
BostonPippa is offline  
Sep 19th, 2005, 09:14 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 329
Last October we did this trip beginning in Rome and flying out of Venice so maybe I can offer a few comments.

First, 4 nights in Rome would probably be advisable given there is all to see and do, particularly as your first day you will no doubt be slightly jetlagged.

I would opt for 3 nights in Venice before you fly home, to allow for at least 3 nights in Tuscany. It will still give you time to explore the beauty of Venice but it would be a shame to miss visiting the countryside.

Rent a car in Siena (take the bus to Siena from Rome since the train is not direct) and stay near one of the towns nearby to give yourself a Tuscan experience. A good place to start for accomodations might be ~tuscany.net~ or ~venere.com~
We liked ~autoeurope.com for the car rental.

Vespas would not be advisable to travel the roads, particularly when you are looking for directions. The trains do not run to many of the smaller hilltop towns that you want to visit and endless buses and taxis wouldn't give you the same experience as driving.

Plan to spend part of a day seeing Siena, another day driving the SS222 Chianti wine route, and if you decide you want to see Florence, you can still drive in, park on the outskirts at a car park, and explore. But you will need only one accomodation in Tuscany that way.

In Venice I can recommend a charming "shabby-chic" hotel near the train and bus station (handy for the airport shuttle for your flight out). The Hotel Gardena was within your price range and very comfortable. You can even ask for a canal view room, which is quite lovely as it opens onto a smaller canal across from a monastery.
See ~veniceby.com and ~gardenahotels.it~
Venice is much quieter at night than Rome so I would opt for a nicer hotel in Venice.

Hope this helps you make some decisions!

TobieT is offline  
Sep 19th, 2005, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,124
I think Jabez was a bit confusing in his/her reply. It makes no sense to have a car in Rome. If you want a car for exploring and want to see a village or two on the way from Rome, take a train at the end of your Rome visit, and go to Orvieto for a night or two, then rent a car and explore Tuscany for a couple of days, then on to Venice where you will turn in the car before going into the city proper.

I'm sure Jabez intended this kind of thing, but if you do what I recommended you will need a car for much less than a week, meaning you won't have to worry about the daily rate. By following my plan, you will need a car for perhaps 3 to 4 nights at most. That isn't a bad penalty to pay, and since you said you are a "we" you might actually be better off with a car than going by train. Good luck.
Wayne is offline  
Sep 19th, 2005, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,126
I think "confusion" is my middle name today.
Let me clarify.
"Again,train only"-refers to going to Orvieto as an alternative option to Rome-Venice or Rome-Siena-Venice.
Renting a car FROM Rome is very doable, if going to Tuscany. All of these routes should be train only.
I would not keep the car in any cities.
Lots of good ideas here, but I'd still make no more than one stop (Orvieto?) and do all by train. And I love to drive in Italy!
Renting one in Orvieto is also a good option.
jabez is offline  
Sep 19th, 2005, 04:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 11
Thank you all... great advice.
I think I will structure the Tuscany part of the trip around a Siena base, as advized.

Thanks for the pension tip.
The Hotel Gardena in Venice looked fabulous, but is booked for our dates. What a shame!
BostonPippa is offline  

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