Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Tuscany itinerary - advice for first timer (

myicitygirl6500 Feb 21st, 2011 01:25 PM

Tuscany itinerary - advice for first timer
My partner are planning our first trip to Italy - 14 nights in late April-early May. We plan to spend the first 3 nights in Rome, the last 4 nights in Venice and explore Tuscany (5 nights) and Cinque Terre (2 nights) in between.

We have 5 nights allotted for Tuscany, including 2 nights in Florence (we would rent a car outside Rome, maybe Orvieto, and then return it to the Florence airport, and take a train to Cinque Terre with a half day stop in Pisa). If it helps, we are checking out of Rome on a Tuesday morning, and checking out of Florence on Sunday, so have Tuesday afternoon-Friday to spend in Tuscany (and Friday night and all of Saturday in Florence).

What is a good base (or multiple bases) for exploring Tuscany? We want to see Assisi and San Gimignano, but Cortona and Siena also look interesting. Is it possible to visit more than one town in one day and still have time to really walk around and explore side streets and alleys? or should we plan to stay in different towns each night? We also want to take the scenic route as much as possible.

Any advice is much appreciated!!

bobthenavigator Feb 21st, 2011 03:32 PM

First, get a good map and decide where you want to be. Tuscany is quite large and San Gim. and Assisi are too far apart for one location[ Assisi is in Umbria].

Here are some ideas. Choose your location first:

A. RURAL LOCATIONS: All have parking and good food options nearby

1. Relais La Saracina 230 to 300E
Fabulous country home near Montepulciano—helpful owners

2. Cretaiole Agriturismo Good value for families
Isabella also has 2 apartments in Castelmuzio for rent—a good option.

3. Terre di Nano 100 to 155
Both rooms and apartments at rural Agriturismo near Monticchiello

4. Casanova di Pescille 100E
Rural B&B 3 KM from famed San Gimignano—we loved the views of San Gim.

5. Fattoria Tregole 110E to 180E
Has both B&B and apartment accommodations. Near Castellina in Chianti

6. Agriturismo apts. near San Quirico— About 110E

7. New historic B&B north of Pienza.
Site of filming for THE ENGLISH PATIENT About 90E for double

8. A special rural B&B in Chianti.
The lovely owner, Elena, will make you feel like family. 170E for double

B. IN-TOWN LOCATIONS: For walking convenience to shops & ristorantes.

1. Palazzo del Capitano 170 to 210E
Very nice small hotel in center of San Quirico—perfect location to explore.

2. Vecchia Oliviera 150 to 200E
Nice 4 star hotel at the gate into lovely Montalcino---has pool.

3. Palazzina Cesari 80 to 110E
Lovely small B&B in heart of Montalcino—great value—2 night stay minimum.

4. Locanda di San Francesco 180 to 200E
New boutique B&B in a lovely location in Montepulciano—great reviews !

5. Politian apartments Good value apts. with
minimum stay of 3 nights in Montepulciano---helpful host---85E

6. Palazzo Ravizza 170 to 250E
Very nice & popular hotel in Siena with parking.

7. Fattoria Vignale Four star hotel in Radda in the heart of Chianti. About 230E for double

zeppole Feb 21st, 2011 03:51 PM

Where is your departure airport? Rome or Florence?

You need to be aware when Easter is, and know that the week following Easter is a very heavy-duty travel time in Italy. Car rentals and train tickets should be set up in advance. April 25 is also a national holiday that closes some museums and monuments.

Assisi is a real outlier in the trip you are mulling. You might consider picking up a car in Orvieto and heading right to Assisi, and spending the night there. Assisi gets mobs of day-trip tourists. Spending the night there wiil give you the best chance of a different experience, including a chance to enter the most touristed churches very early in the morning.

From there, drive to Cortona, take a scenic route to Siena, then on to San Gimignano, and le Cinque Terre. I don't have any problem at all with rolling road trips, but some people do. Speaking personally, I don't think it is any fun to visit more than one of these towns in a day because they contain tremendous artworks. Others like nothing better than "hitting" a town for some wandering, window-shopping, photo-snapping and a local sweet, and "hitting" another town, as many as the can as long as the light holds out.

I live on the Italian Riviera and I think for your time frame, it might be better to keep your car and drive it to the Italian Riviera instead of taking the train, stopping en route with the car to see Pisa. Instead of staying in one of the le Cinque Terre towns, where parking is so much a problem, consider pretty Levanto or another pretty town quite near le Cinque Terre but on the train line, where you will find easier parking and still have only a short train ride to visiting le Cinque Terre. Personally, I wouldn't book the Italian Riviera until you are in Italy. In May, the coast can get days and days of rain. Last May, the trails of le Cinque Terre were closed for much of May. If you are in Tuscany and the weather forecast is for 4 days of rain, consider lingering in Tuscany, or heading early to Florence.

I will point out to you that you and your partner have targeted destinations that, even in Sprng, get mostly tourist traffic (the exception being Rome) and while they certainly don't lack in "wow!" picture postcard sights. they have lost much of their everyday Italian living. Amazingly, less touristed towns have just as much "wow" and photo opportunities, and often better food and a chance to glimpse a culture that operates on a different set of premises, every day, than other first world cultures.

If you would like to see that Italy, it is good to think about leaving plenty of space in your loop-de-loop from one famous guidebook sight to the next to simply drive off on your own, walk off on your own -- those side streets and alleys you talked about. You don't need to be in a town that's famous and in a guidebook to be having an amazing time in Italy.

zeppole Feb 21st, 2011 03:54 PM

Oh, and PS: You should use current user reviews for picking accommodations from people who've actually stayed there very recently. Things change, construction happens, and there are no "objectively" perfect lodgings for everybody. One person's great Tuscan stay is another's hokey tourist mistake.

PatD Feb 21st, 2011 04:26 PM

ok keep going! My husband and I are also planning our first trip to Italy during the same time period with an additional week in May. We like to drive ourselves so have similar needs and destinations at Mycitygirl.

So if some of the destinations are too "touristy"- what else do you recommend?

mamcalice Feb 21st, 2011 04:35 PM

Turn in your car before you get to Florence. You won't need a car there or in Venice and driving in Florence can be a nightmare.

myicitygirl6500 Feb 21st, 2011 06:30 PM

We are flying into Rome and out of Venice. Unfortunately our trip was dictated by work and on-call schedules, so while I knew that the Rome portion coincided with Easter weekend, I did not check to see when the Vatican would be open. After checking the Vatican schedule and trying (and failing) to book a ticket for the afternoon of our Saturday arrival, it turns out the only way to see the Vatican is to add a day to Rome (we originally planned to leave Rome Tuesday morning after Easter). An extra day means exploring more pockets of Rome, but that means deducting a day from Tuscany or Venice.

Thanks for the tips about Cinque Terre weather - will look into that more before deciding. If we put Cinque Terre off for another visit, then our trip will be Rome - Tuscany-Venice, with more time to explore Tuscany by car.

I had initially thought of driving straight to Assisi, spending a night there, then driving to Tuscany. If we have a central base for exploring Tuscany, then we could spend each day exploring different hill towns, rather than checking into a different hotel each night.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:11 PM.