June 3, 2009, 09:28 PM
Florence, Tuscany and Rome in 7 Days
Hello, I am going to be traveling to Italy at the end of September. My travel will have me arriving in Rome. Upon arrival in Rome, I intend to take a train to Florence.
I plan to spend 4 days between Florence and Tuscany before going back to Rome. I would like to visit Siena, Giminiano and Volterra. I would like to see Pisa and Cinque Terre, but don't think I will have enough time.
My questions are:
1. What is the best way to travel between Florence and Tuscany? Bus, car?
My initial thought is to rent a car for convenience, time and to get to stop and see/photograph different places along the way. But, if a car is too much trouble around Tuscany then I will reconsider.
2. Do I drive from Florence to Tuscany, to Rome and return the car in Rome? Or, should I return to Florence, return the car there and take the train to Rome?
3. I will be spending 3, maybe 4 nights between Florence and Tuscany. Are there recommendations on places to stay? I will be traveling alone so the accommodations can be very simple. I know there are recommendations posted. I will look at them. But, if anyone feels compelled to offer them in this message, I would very much appreciate it.
June 15, 2009, 12:38 AM
car is likely best, heading south as you go through Tuscany
4 days in Florence and Tuscany is not a lot of time and it will be difficult to fit all those cities in. Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra are all relatively close to each other so those are easier to fit in together. Cinque Terre is in another region altogether to the north of Tuscany along the coast and is the furthest away. Given the time you have, I'd recommend to save it for a future trip when you can dedicate 2 days to them (they are 5 towns along the sea connected by walking trails and train inside a national park). Pisa can be done in half a day, but then would be completely out of the general area you will be in. So for sure Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra are doable.
The best solution is to rent a car - driving isn't too difficult as long as you realize what the roads are like, mostly two lane roads going up and down hills. Not difficult and perfect for seeing the beauty of Tuscany's landscapes. You can stop often and photograph. The area between Florence and Siena is the wine region known worldwide for Chianti Classico wine and is full of vineyards. The area to the south of Siena is particular - a part known as the Crete Senesi are full of clay and have interesting formations, grey colored almost moon like. Right after that is the Valdorcia valley which is covered in grain fields and wineyards again, very beautiful... so the best solution might be to drive from Florence south as you go and then just continue on to Rome, so that you don't have to backtrack and lose time that way.
Probably plan to spend each night in a different location so that you can optimize your time and be able to see the most you can. You should map possible itineraries on Google Maps to see what times are like and decide then where you'd like to stay.
June 15, 2009, 05:56 AM
Thank you, Lourdes. It occurred to me that my trip is a little short to see all of those places in one day.
Since posting my initial message, I have decided to travel from Rome to Florence by train. I was thinking to spend 2 days in Florence and my final day seeing Siena and the other destinations. As it stands, I will probably stay in Florence for 3 nights.
During my final day I will rent a car and spend the entire day driving among the different locations, Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra. I know that one day is not enough. And, I won't have any time to lose on my final day there! I'm disappointed I don't have more time to spend. But, I think it's the most efficient way to use my time. Besides, from everything I've read, it seems faster to travel between Florence and Rome via train. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
I would very much like to know your thoughts on my proposed itinerary.
Thank you again.
June 18, 2009, 03:56 PM
There is a really good website I used when I traveled to Tuscany that has places to stay, places to eat and such. It's basically a one stop shop with travel information! haha. Check it out if you think it'll help you!
Good luck with your travels and your accommodations!
June 18, 2009, 09:53 PM
Thanks Julie. I will give it a look. I really appreciate it.
June 18, 2009, 10:40 PM
Given your change in plans, I'd agree that traveling by train from Rome to Florence would be best. The train takes you into the heart of each city and thus you save time related to traffic. If you had more time and were planning to travel around Tuscany for more days, I'd say to go for the car for convenience. Since you're planning at this point to spend most of your days in Florence and only getting a car for your day outside of the city, then I agree that train to Florence is better idea. You don't need a car while in Florence, actually it can be to be a headache worrying about parking and places where you can or cannot enter (the center has limited traffic areas).
You will certainly be trying to fit a lot into your last day - Siena requires time to be seen and I am not sure you will have time to visit Volterra AND San Gimignano on the same day, too. I'd suggest Siena for sure - spend at least until early afternoon there. This is only if you walk around the historical center. I recommend at least visiting the inside of the catedral. I am not sure you will have time for any museums but you should consider climbing the tower for a spectacular view of Siena and the Tuscan countryside. If you like being in Siena once you are there, don't hurry to leave it - remember this is your trip to enjoy and experience and you want to soak up the atmosphere, the good food, the spectacular architecture and art that you find here .
When you're ready to leave, go to San Gimignano. Volterra is large enough to warrant most of a day there but it is also a longer drive - you'd spend more time driving there and back than the time you'd have to see it.
San Gimignano on the other hand is quite close to the "freeway" that connects Florence and Siena (FI-SI) so you get there quicker. It is smaller so you'll have time to see all of it regardless of when you get there. San Gimignano's towers can be seen as you travel towards it and offer a great view. You can have dinner here and see the main square and towers by night all lit up. Then you can return to Florence for the night before heading back to Rome on train.
July 3, 2009, 03:58 AM
Lourdes, thank you very much. This is exactly the information I was looking for. I'm now debating whether to do Siena and San Gimignano on my first day for convenience sake. I'm concerned about returning the car at night during my last evening there. I need to be on the train to Rome early the next morning. I'll check with the car agencies to see how late they are open. I imagine that won't be a big problem. I just want to be sure that I'm using my time as efficiently as possble.
Again, thank you for your advice!
July 5, 2009, 03:44 PM
You're very welcome!
It sounds like it might be easier if you fit your car rental and trip to Siena and San Gimignano on one of the middle days so you don't have to worry about the time at night and early departure the next day.
If you don't feel like driving at all, consider that you can go to Siena from Florence either by train (you need to change trains in Empoli) or by SITA/Train bus (they have a direct bus that takes the main roadway and takes a little over an hour). The same thing for San Gimignano - you can get there by bus from Siena and then return to Florence. You can view some schedules here:
So this leaves you the option to see whether you want to drive or not while here - if the logistics of the car rental are too complicated (time of rental return), I definitely recommend the bus.
July 14, 2009, 03:03 PM
Lourdes, thanks again for your response. I'm starting to lean toward not getting a car. I think it may be too much time and trouble between renting and returning it, figuring out where I'm going, and trying to figure out where to park the car; especially with only one having one day dedicated to seeing Siena and San Gimignano. If I had more time definitely
Ideally, I would have liked the opportunity to drive the countryside and stop and take photos. But, I don't think the benefit justifies the inconvenience.
I will use your suggestions and plan accordingly.
July 17, 2009, 10:03 PM
I've decided to reserve day two to take buses to San Gimignano and Siena. It will be far more convenient than the car. I may rent a bike in Siena if I have enough time.
Thanks for all your help. The planning for my trip is nearly complete!