Tuscany Itinerary

Sep 16th, 2006, 09:21 PM
  #1  
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Tuscany Itinerary

Hi. I need help with the Tuscany portion of our trip next year. I'm having a difficult time planning because we only have a few days and there seem to be so many places worth seeing.

I highly respect the opinions given in this forum. We had a great 3 week trip to Thailand last May and all I did was read the various posts in this forum. This time, I've read on all or most of the posts on Tuscany and I'm getting more and more confused with only 3 nights to spare and so many beautiful places to see.

We like to see quaint small towns and beautiful scenery (since we will be coming from the big cities of Madrid and Rome).
We are travelling with our 3 children ages 14, 12 and 10. They are good travellers but I usually schedule several days in 1 place to allow for a more leisurely time. Tuscany just seems overwhelming to me right now.

Our itinerary is as follows:
April 20-25 Madrid 5 nights (had to squeeze this in for my 12 year old son who is a Real Madrid fan. Actually, if it were all up to him, we would be going ONLY to countries/cities of his favorite football teams: AC Milan, England -Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, etc.) So we cannot take this portion out to give us more time in Italy as I had originally intended (was planning to save Spain for next trip)

April 25-30 Rome 5 nights

**April 30 - May 3 Tuscany. This is where I need some help. I want to see everything but i know I can't so I want to plan a trip where we won't be too tired and still get to see the highlights.

Option 1:
April 30- DRIVE FROM ROME TO SAN GIMIGNANO. (where is a good place to pick up car rental from Rome, outside of the city traffic?)
On the way, pass through Pienza, Montepulciano(or skip this for next trip?), Montalcino (possibly lunch here), Sant Antimo Abbey, Sienna (I'm also willing to skip this unless you think we have time and I shouldn't miss it?) Monterrigioni?, ending in San Gimignano as our base for the next 3 nights.

May 1, explore area around San G: Volterra, any suggestions?

May 2. drive to Pisa, and Lucca, back to San G for the night.

May 3: drop the car somewhere (where?) and take the train to Venice.

Option 2:
April 30 - drive from Rome, via Pienza, Montepulciano, overnight in Montalcino or nearby (any suggestions?)

May 1 - visit Sienna, Monterrigione, etc on the way to San G., overnight in San G.

May 2. Volterra, etc.overnight in San G.

May 3 - drive to Pisa in the morning, then drop the car and take the train from Pisa to Venice.

OR train from San G. to Florence, leave baggage in train station and take a sidetrip to Pisa, then on to Venice. (If too tiring, we will skip Pisa)

**Option 1 allows us to stay in 1 base for 3 nights, minimizing the hassle of packing and unpacking. This would be good but we may rush through the towns south of Sienna which based on what I read are beautiful and worth visiting. If its possible to sort of "drive through" these quaint towns in one day and end in San G., then we'll do that.

But if its worth staying 1 night in Montalcino to better experience these places and just proceed for the next 2 nights to San G, then we'll take option 2 and miss Pisa and Luca this trip.

OR maybe you have a better suggestion for a good base to explore Tuscany for 3 nights?

AFTER TUSCANY:
May 3-5 Venice 2 nights
May 5 flight to Athens 2nights
May 7-19 cruise from Athens to Istanbul
May 19-26 Paris

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
ryokousha is offline  
Sep 16th, 2006, 10:41 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
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Monteriggioni is quaint. We've somehow always hit it as they were preparing for a big concert. I just want to recommend Pondere Montese, a agriturismo farmhouse just outside San Gimiagno. We had the best time there, an evening of wine and music with other guests (the group finished off a whole case of the wine produced on the farm). Spectacular view, delicious and substantial breakfast. Very clean room with lovely bathroom. (I'm not related to the owner--just hope he makes a profit so he'll still be in business the next time we are in San Gimiagno. If you want a sense of what San Gimiagno is like, rent the movie Tea with Mussolini.

If you make it to Florence, definitely climb to the top of the Duomo...another great view and an amazing experience to see the dome of a huge cathedral up close and personal. I'm not sure there's any experience like that anywhere else in Europe. My tips on Italy are at www.eurfirst.com/europe/italy.htm
eurfirst is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 04:52 AM
  #3  
ira
 
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Hi R,

Why not get Pisa out of the way by driving from Rome to Pisa to San G - about 5 hr - your first day?

>drop the car somewhere (where?) and take the train to Venice.<

Why not drive to Venice and drop the car there?

ira is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 07:33 AM
  #4  
 
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Hi R,

Now that I see the rest of your itinerary, I say add 1 or 2 nights to Venice. 1 1/2 days in Venice will not be enough and it seems most people's kids really love Venice.

There is no way you will have time to drive up from Rome, stopping at all the hilltowns on the way to San Gimignano.

If you want to stick with seeing a small bit of Tuscany (and you must face the fact that is all you have time for - you'll be back), I would train to Orvieto or Chiusi and pick up your car. See Pienza, drive to Montalcino. Visit Sant Antimo (be sure to go for the Gregorian chants)stay overnight in Montalcino or nearby.

Drive to San Gimignano, possibly seeing Volterra on the way. Stay overnight in SG or nearby.

If Pisa is really a high priority see it the next morning and train on to Venice from there.

This will give you 1 more night in Venice. Also, even though you will have 2 one night stays, you will make the most of very limited time by not backtracking!

My general rule of thumb is 2 hilltowns per day. Hard to enjoy more than that.

Just some things to think about! Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 07:49 AM
  #5  
 
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i agree and think you are too rushed....my problem is also with the kids and spending all day in a car from one place to another....

trains do not always run direct so i would check this angle out carefully...

pisa offers really only one thing: the church and the tower....not sure it is worth it...especially when time is limited...

i think i would take the train to florence from rome and spend 2 nites there and then take the train directly to venice and extend my time there....

we found lucca not all that interesting really....i would not return there...

tuscany is a trip in itself and best spent leisurely with one place as a base or two or three places....we have been twice, to two different areas in the countryside and found them totally different....we also have visited florence, sienna and venice seperately on dedicated trips...
rhkkmk is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 09:07 AM
  #6  
 
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Must agree that you are being a bit ambitious with your itinerary, though it is difficult to plan when there is so much you want to see and do.

Don't worry about Pisa and Lucca, but make time for Siena. It is wonderful and I think your children would love it too.

We stayed 30 miles north of Siena near San G. and found we could access everything we wanted from there with only a few days. The Chianti area is well worth visiting too.

Day 1 -Take the train/bus to Chiusi or Orvieto as mentioned....pick up the car and visit Montalcino and Pienza etc. on your way to your accomodations.

Or with luggage and 3 kids, perhaps picking up the car at the airport in Rome might work too. Depends on the driver. We liked autoeurope.com

Day 2 -Visit Siena, San G. and Volterra (doesn't need more than an hour or so) *if time allows, depending on your children

Day 3 - <<We like to see quaint small towns and beautiful scenery (since we will be coming from the big cities of Madrid and Rome).>>>

I would consider doing the drive through Chianti stopping at the many hillside towns like Greve and Panzano. It is simply gorgeous.

You need to be careful to plan driving *time* rather than just distances on maps....... the towns at high elevations will take much longer to access than you might think. Siena to Volterra is only 30 miles but it takes an hour. Use mapquest for approx. times.

Staying at one property for your time in Tuscany would offer a nice break for everyone, so I hope you are able to do that.



TobieT is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 09:19 AM
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You have many delightful decisions to make, though I know how it feels to have to decide!

I haven't taken kids to Italy (yet), but my feeling is that Tuscany would be, in general, less interesting to kids than to adults. The enjoying the scenary, drinking wine thing is an adult taste.

I too would suggest less time there to be able to have more time in Venice. I agree that Venice is a place many kids would love. Pisa just for the leaning tower is a long day trip, though I really like Lucca. Drop Pisa/Lucca for more time in Venice. On your next trip, you can visit Florence and Lucca, with a side trip to Pisa.

What kind of travelers are your kids? Would they rather make one long drive, with stops, to get to San Gimignano, or make a one-night stay? We have one kid who hates long car trips, if she was with us, we'd probably do a one-night stay; though if it was us and our older kid, we'd do it in one shot.

Either way, you can't hit all those towns on the trip up from Rome. Two hilltowns a day is a good rule of thumb. Or you can just see which you get to (or don't).

Either way, try to spend time in Siena; easy trip from San G., and easily combined with Monteriggioni. The Campo is great fun, and would be a great place for even older kids to let off some steam, and be able to wander around the Campo while parents watch from a wine bar on the Campo. San G. also has a great piazza where the kids can wander around without worries about cars, etc. and parents can sit with a drink. That's my idea of a good small town with kids (my older son, whom we've taken to France, agrees).

On getting to Venice, I would think it could be a needless hassle taking a train to Venice, from anywhere, with 5 in your party. I'd vote for driving straight from San G. to Venice and dropping your car there. More direct and less hassle. (Our last time to Italy, we did a similar journey in the opposite direction. Picked up the rental car in Venice, drove to Ravenna for a couple of hours of looking at mosaics and lunch, then on to our lodging 1 1/2 hour south of Siena by early evening.)
Lexma90 is online now  
Sep 18th, 2006, 10:45 AM
  #8  
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Thank you so much for all the replies.

After sorting through all the tips, this is what I came up with:

1. I will watch "Tea with Mussolini" and look into agriturismos in Tuscany (Thanks Eurfirst)

2. We'll have to skip some places like Pisa and Lucca this trip. Save some for next trip. Tuscany has to be done leisurely. Rule of thumb: 2 hilltowns a day. (Thanks Dayle, Lexma 90, rhkkmk).

3. We will add 1 night to Venice. (Thanks again Dayle, Lexma 90)

4. We will train to Chiusi or Orvieto from Rome and pick up the car there. (Thanks Dayle, Tobie)

5. And yes, we will drive to Venice instead of taking the train. Why didn't I think of that? (Thanks Ira, Lexma 90)

So now, we have 2 nights in Tuscany. Tentative itinerary as per all your advise is as follows: For your further comments/advise please.

April 30: Take the train to Chiusi or Orvieto, pick up the car and visit Pienza, Montalcino (lunch), Sant Antimo Abbey (Gregorian chants-got the schedule already from their website), overnight in or north of Sienna. (base for 2 nights - any recommendations?)

May 1: Sienna, San G and Volterra(optional).

May 2: Drive to Venice. (stay 3 nights in Venice)

Tobie, thanks for your advise on mapquest. I will figure out how to use the website. Is it possible to drive through Chianti region on the way to Venice? Like a scenic route?

Again, many many thanks to all of you for the valuable tips!


ryokousha is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 12:28 PM
  #9  
jgg
 
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I can highly recommend Fattoria Tregole (www.fattoria-tregole.com/tregole_eng.htm) just outside of Castellina in Chianti. It is just north of Siena as you are requesting, so I think well situated for your trip. We stayed 5 nights there this past June with our kids ages 10 and 14. We stayed in the Aia apt. which was very nice, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, and a large kitchen (which we didn't use to much, but it is there). I believe the apt. next door to us slept 5 people. I really felt it was well priced and incl. a very nice breakfast every morning.

There is a pool, however, might not be quite warm enough at that time of year as most Italians do not heat their pools due to the cost.

Edith, the owner, was very helpful with directions and things to see. If you are lucky you will be there one of the nights she cooks dinner. We ate there for dinner twice, it was wonderful and we really enjoyed meeting the other people staying there.
jgg is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 02:16 PM
  #10  
 
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Hi R,

Ooh, can I come too? This is sounding better! I like the idea of driving to Venice with 5. Chianti is roughly between Siena and Florence, so if you stay around Siena you could drive through Chianti to Venice - HOWEVER, it's slow going on the Chianti roads and if you aren't going to stop for wine tasting.........

Be sure to check driving times, it will be a long day even without Chianti.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 02:59 PM
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I will start by saying I haven't stayed at this property but saw a fabulous cooking show from there on the Food channel with David Rocco, a Canadian (Italian heritage) who is living in Florence now.The property looked wonderful and is in the area near San Gimignano that you have mentioned before.

It also seems particularly suited to families since they actually have programs for kids through the year, which might be a real bonus for your three.

Have a look anyway and see what you think.

http://www.grandeprato.it

http://www.highonadventure.com/Hoa00...ny/tuscany.htm

http://www.davidrocco.com/ (just for recipes!)
TobieT is offline  
Sep 20th, 2006, 09:00 AM
  #12  
 
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jgg~
Just had a look at the website for Fattoria Tregole and it looks wonderful! We loved that area too so will bookmark it for our next trip. Thanks.
TobieT is offline  
Sep 24th, 2006, 06:36 AM
  #13  
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Had a quick look at the websites and they all look great! Choices, choices..

Thank you again to all!
ryokousha is offline  

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