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Tuscany with Grandma - final planning phase

Tuscany with Grandma - final planning phase

Dec 22nd, 2012, 09:58 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 169
Tuscany with Grandma - final planning phase

I need my fodors friends to help fill in some details, please. My DG has decided to join me in Italy for about 10 days at the end of February. I know I was thinking Naples/Rome thanks to all your helpful tips, but I don’t think that’s a good fit for her, so we’re doing Tuscany.

The plan is 4 nights in Cortona with day trip to Arezzo, 2 nights in Assisi (with visits to Corciano, Ermeo delle Carceri and Monte Subasio on our way in and Deruta, Todi, Orvieto on our way out), 4 nights at an agroturismo near Montalcino/Pienza (trips to lots of tiny villages and some monasteries in the area)

Where would you suggest going to mass in Cortona?
What are some of the most interesting vineyards/wineries to visit?
Any guided wine tours you’d suggest?
What agroturismos have you loved?
Any other helpful tips you guys have?
bubblywine is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 10:21 AM
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Is Deruta, Todi & Orvieto all in one day?
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 10:22 AM
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Why is Rome/Naples not a good fit?
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 10:33 AM
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Sorry, I keep thinking of new things, but I am a "Grandma" and treking around Tuscany in Feb would not be as enjoyable for me as a city environment where there are cafes, museums, etc. to be inside in the cold weather. Unless the agriturismo had a great big fireplace, I also wouldn't want to be stuck there at night with nothing to do.

In the city or town, you can go to a restaurant late or take a short walk and window shop, even take in a concert, but stop for something hot if it is cold. I stayed in a hotel outside of Milan one night in winter. One night was OK, I was catching a flight, but would never do it again. Also stayed one night in Bergamo in winter. That was better - at least a few restaurants, but probably would not do that again either.
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 11:00 AM
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I agree with Sassafrass. I wouldn't want to tour Tuscany in the winter. Think about perhaps Rome and Florence with a few days between the two in Tuscany. There isn't a whole lot to do in Tuscany in the winter and the countryside isn't beautiful. The cities or large towns would probably suit better for this time of year.
mamcalice is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 11:28 AM
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Agree with the others. Just because Grandma is coming, why change plans? It'll likely be bleak and cold in the countryside, and things will be closed. Vineyards are dead in February, too, though I suppose you might find somewhere where there'd be some kind of visit and tasting.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 01:13 PM
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Cortona is very steep. Is your grandmother up to walking that much?

Hill towns close early in the summer and I would think winter hours are even shorter. I would stay in towns as I wouldn't want to be stuck at an agriturismo for dinner every night (driving those narrow, curvy roads in the dark would not be fun). I think I would stay in Montepuliciano (even though it's very hilly too)instead of an agriturismo as there are restaurant choices.

What does she want to do?
kybourbon is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 01:20 PM
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Not to nit-pick, but the majority of your trip is actually in
Umbria not Tuscany!

Both areas are much larger than they look on a map - there's
a lot of driving between, say, Orvieto and Deruta so take
DG's level of long-drive tolerance into consideration. And
her fitness level - those villages are definitely slanted!

I'm speaking as a grandma too!
immimi is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 02:16 PM
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The term "grandma" fits quite a range of ages, and health and fitness often has nothing to do with age. Many of the older women I know would really much prefer the slower pace of Italian villages than the confusions of Rome and Naples, that is for sure.

However, in February, although Tuscany and Umbria are hardly "bleak" (the people telling you that have NEVER been to these places in February) you will need to be very flexible with driving plans. If the grandma we are talking about has any concerns about slippery surfaces when walking, I would definitely pick an agriturismo over a hilltown as a place to stay. (Pienza is flat, so base near there. So is Bevagna in Umbria).

In addition, you will find that an agriturismo where you can book an apartment with a kitchen but which also has restaurant will be much more flexible about the evening meal. If your grandmother is of an age where she prefers to eat lightly or even a bit early for dinner, the agriturismo is going to be much more flexible about that then a restaurant in Rome, plus you will have a kitchen.

To tell you the truth, I think you'll find most people on Fodor's are against your trip. Although they've never been to these places in winter, they are mentally committed to the idea that staying in cities in winter in Italy is the only choice. If you think you need tranquil places and a relaxed pace, then you are right to visit the countryside in February. Thousands of people who don't post on Fodor's do it every year and enjoy their trips. There is just a kind of group-think here, mostly based on extremely limited travel inside Italy, none of it in February.
goldenautumn is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 02:29 PM
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well, I do have experience of travelling with my mum [who qualifies as a grandma] and I can categorically say that she [and therefore the people she is with] far prefers staying in towns/cities than out in the countryside. She likes being able to walk to shops, restaurants, cafes, preferably somewhere reasonably flat.

I also have experience of being in Italy in February, and were i taking my mother there, I would choose a smallish level town with easy car access to a nice hotel with a lift. i would not want to be in an agriturismo with nothing to do or see after dark, and where i might get stuck for several days by snow of mist.

if this means that i agree with most fodorites, then there may be a reason for this.
annhig is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 02:37 PM
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Well, annhig, we are all quite used to goldenautumn/Zeppole's blanket and unfounded statements about Fodorites in general. I've been in Italy several times in winter, including February. How Ms. Know-It-All knows where and when we've traveled is quite the mystery.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 02:52 PM
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I'm not a grandmother, but I'm old enough to qualify. I have been to Tuscany and Umbria but not in February. Historical weather records tell me I probably wouldn't enjoy wandering that part of Italy at that time. Daily high temps in the low- to mid-40s and overnight temps at or near freezing; sunset will be at about 6:00 p.m. If the weather gets especially nasty, I wouldn't want to be stuck at an agriturismo, but your grandmother may feel differently.

Rather than putting all the 'eggs' in one basket, I'd split the days between a city with indoor options and some days exploring a small rural area.

Unless you are very familiar with driving mountain roads in winter, I would skip the drive into Parco del Subasio. Investigate the chance you would need chains at that time.
Jean is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 04:43 PM
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You're wonderful to be so considerate about what would work for DG - this really is such a wonderful community. Grandma is very active at 84, requested this part of Italy, and was specific about wanting to visit Cortona and Assisi (I'm not so interested in Cortona, but loved Assisi when I was there in Feb a few years ago).

We're doing B&Bs right in the center of both Cortona and Assisi, so I thought changing it up by doing an agroturismo the last few nights would be fun. We both love to eat and drink, but I do love the idea of one with a kitchen that also has a restaurant on site. @goldenautumn do you have a specific one in mind you'd suggest?

As for dealing with weather during the last few days when we’re staying in an agroturismo, I’m not too worried. The plan will be to head out in the AM, visit a town or two to check out churches and drink wine, then go back to have dinner and drink more wine.

This will be all about the slow pace with reading and relaxing and sipping, you guessed it, WINE!
bubblywine is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 04:43 PM
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Well, I don't know how one poster knows when everybody else traveled. Living in Europe for three years, I traveled in all seasons. In the last four years, I've been to Italy (Naples, Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Milan and several smaller towns) in Sept, Nov, Jan, Mar, and April - not every place on the same trip, but some overlapping.

Guess I have no credibility since, yep, I missed Feb when all the winter wheats were green, the winter winds were over and the Spring rains had not started.

My old brain must be getting simple too because it doesn't mind the confusion of Rome and it absolutely thrives on the confusion of Naples.

People are not saying don't go in Feb. We go when we can. I love Italy anytime I can get there, but it makes sense to take into consideration weather and hours of day light, as well as what is open or closed at the time of year you will be there, and plan your trip accordingly. I think that is what most people are saying.
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 04:54 PM
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@Sass: My plan was to hit those three places on the drive from Assisi to the Pienza area, but is that too much? Todi is a “must do” for me because I have visions of truffles dancing in my mind, but which of the other two should I cut if needed?

Is four nights too many in an agroturismo? We want a slow pace, so I’d add a night onto Assisi if it is, but there are so many places to see in that part of Tuscany: Montepulciano, San Quirico d'Orcia, Montalcino and all the tiny hill villages in between.

Has anyone been to mass in Cortona - I'm not finding any schedules and wondering where we should go.

Has anyone been on a winery tour they loved (obviously more of production/storage areas than the actual vineyard due to time of year)? When researching a different Umbrian trip I found some that were a winery tour followed by lunch on-site with wine pairing, but those were nowhere close to where we'll be this time. Know of anything similar in the Montalcino area (ahem, Brunello)?
bubblywine is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 04:58 PM
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Hi, I have a funny and useful anecdote regarding going to mass in Cortona, it was Sunday and I asked the hotel St Michele where to go, obviously they had no clue, and the clerk mentioned the Duomo, we were on our way and got kind of lost, only people we saw that Sunday morning were two short local women, in black , in my bad but good enough Italian I asked them the way to the Duomo , they looked at me as I were a total ignorant persona, and told me
Signora people from all over the world come to attend mass at the Basilica of Santa Margherita you are here, and you are not going there!!!!.... in their eyes I could read Your are a fool, or what?
So there we go up the hill, and it is the right place to go.
Have a good stay. btw I suppose I could be your Grandmother too.
Graziella5b is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 05:01 PM
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@Sass - I LOVE Rome, as does DG. Unfortunately she was just there in October and wants to explore somewhere new.

I've definitely run into some places being closed for the season and have noted the variable hours. Of the places I've listed, are there some that you'd suggest absolutely not doing in the winter?
bubblywine is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 06:01 PM
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@Graziella5b that is a great story! Santa Margherita it is!
bubblywine is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 06:07 PM
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In Umbria, go to Montefalco and drink the Sagrantino (it's a DOCG wine). I think in winter, your best bet for sampling wine will be in the enotecas. Stop at L'Alchimista and have a bite to eat with some Sagrantino.


In Montalcino, if you want to do Brunello flights with views of the countryside, try enoteca Osticcio. They also have good food.

You can sample Brunellos a lot of places in Montalcino, but most places don't have views. A lot of people like the Fortezza.

You will find some businesses closed in the winter for a month or two. Even in high season, many of the small hill towns can be quite dead, especially in the afternoons.
kybourbon is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2012, 07:44 PM
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We stayed at an agroturisimo near Montelcino. The owners were fabulous hosts and we've recommended it to others who have also had a wonderful stay.
Snowflake25 is offline  

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