June 9, 2009, 03:59 PM
Itinerary on Tuscany
First of all, I'd like to give you guys two thumbs up for the great site and the incredible amount of information that can be found only here. Your blog has some pretty unique stuff that is very useful.
Me and my girlfriend are planning a trip to Italy in September and we have rented an apartment for a week at Castello di querceto which is located in Grève in Chianti. We also have a car for the week.
We are planning our itinerary and we are having some problems cramming it all in one single week!
So watchout, because here come all of my questions!
1- Florence: We have a day planned here, is it enough? We don't really intend to go to any museums. Our big highlights are mostly seeing the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace & boboli garden. I would really like to spend 2 days in Florence, but there is just to much to see! I assume that to go to florence, the best way is to drop the car in Grève and take the train from there?
2- Is it possible to do all of this in a day or is it just crazy? Siena, Montepucliano, Montalcino, San Galgano Abbey. I intend to stop at a vinyard at Montepulciano and Montalcino.
3- Is it worth it to do a Day trip to the Cinque Terre? If so, what should we concentrate on seeing?
4- On our last day, we will be driving down to rome and leaving the car there. Is there any place you recommend stopping on our way there? I heard that Monte Argentario was very nice, however, it's a bit out of the way from the highway...
5- On saturday, I wanted to visit the market in Grève and the city itself, is it worth a visit or should I just skip it? We wanted to do some vinyards of the area on the same day, how early should we book the tours? Is now to early? Can I book as early as a couple of day in advance?
6- I read that Pisa and Lucca could easily be done in a day, is that correct?
7- And this one to anyone who might know about this... I want to bring back a case of wine to Canada. Is it risky to do so on a place? Is there a chance for the wine to turn? What about baggage handling, is it very risky they would break the bottles?
June 19, 2009, 03:39 PM
beware: LONG post!
Ciao Mathieu and welcome to our Forum!
I am glad you've found the site and blog useful and we really appreciate you letting us know!
I understand the difficulty in cramming everything you want to do into one week, especially when you are at the planning stages and everything is on paper. I'll try to help you out with your specific questions, and as you plan and make decisions feel free to come back and ask some more . Sometimes
1 - Florence - one day is not enough to see everything but if you do your day at the start of your week you can still come back for another half day if you want, Greve is not that far away.
You can see all of the places you mention in a day walking around and just enjoying the atmosphere, architecture and just plain beauty of outdoor Florence. The interior of the Pitti Palace is all museum (5 in fact) so just stick to admiring it from outside as you go into the Boboli gardens.
You can drive into Florence from Greve without major problems. First, there is no train from Greve to Florence - the alternative is the bus.
Most people recommend not to drive into Florence's HISTORICAL CENTER since traffic in that area is limited and you could run the risk of going in and paying heavy fines since you won't have the special permit that is needed to get in.
I've mapped the course you should take to arrive to one of Florence's paid parking areas (Piazza Beccaria) on the border of the historical center. If you leave your car there, you won't have problems. From Piazza Beccaria you walk along Borgo La Croce all the way to the main sights - it is about a 15-20 minute walk, longer if you start stopping to take pictures along the way . Here you can see where the major sightseeing monuments are in relation to the parking lot I am recommending you use: http://www.visitflorence.com/florence-maps/
and here the Google Map:
2 - Siena is a place you should visit in one whole day. It is Tuscany's second largest city and whereas Florence remains a mostly Renaissance city, Siena is a Medieval city. It is smaller so you'll get a chance to see most everything, but it is really different from Florence.
So in answer to the rest of your questions, I've drawn up a sample itinerary of what I recommend you can do, in no specific order:
1 day - Florence
1 day - Siena
1 day - Montepulciano, Montalcino and Pienza on another day with wine tasting somewhere in the area
1 day - Lucca and Pisa
1 day - Greve and Chianti and wine tours
1 day - Cinque Terre - maybe
1 day - last day - Colle Val'Elsa and San Galgano... then on to Monte Argentario and then to Rome
You know your schedule, when you arrive and when you need to head back to Rome, so this is just a general idea of what your days can look like since I don't know the details.
Some additional notes:
Greve - I am not sure you really do need to go to the Saturday market - it is a very simple market with food stuffs and clothes, household items - if you run into any other market while in Italy, it will be something similar. So you decide whether to go on Saturday or not. You should visit it at some point in any case, as well as tour around that entire area... visit wineries and drive to Panzano, Radda or Gaiole. All are in Chianti, the area in beautiful, just driving around will be nice.
Cinque Terre - the five towns are not in Tuscany, they are to the north along the seacoast. They are inside a national park and are well known because connected by a hiking trail that goes through all of them. They are beautiful, and if you do have a day to do the trip, you can consider it.... depends on your time. Consider that a train ride from Florence to Riomaggiore (the first town coming from the south) is about 2 hours and 40 minutes average. Google Maps calculates about 2 hours and 20 min. driving time from Greve in Chianti.
The five towns are all connected by a local train so once you arrive in Riomaggiore just hop onto the train to see the next one. You might not be able to see all of them, but you can say you've gone. Parking is very limited in each town, perched on mountains so don't drive between each town!
Last day / San Galgano - the abbey is really beautiful so I am not one to discourage anyone from going. But it is a bit out of the way of the rest of places you want to visit so I wouldn't put it in the same day as your visit to Siena or to Montepulciano or Montalcino. I recommend on your last day, if you have the time to take the drive south to Rome without being in a hurry, to consider stopping at Colle Val d'Elsa first (not too many people know of this gem of a town), continue on to the Abbey and then to Monte Argentario - from there take the Aurelia road down to Rome. Monte Argentario is basically the seaside - you may want to stop in Porto Ercole or Porto Stefano but I personally liked Orbetello better. You won't have time to ferry out to Giglio island, but a drive around Monte Argentario is still very nice.
I've mapped this out for you:
It takes about 5 hours to get to Rome this way without stops but that way you don't have to backtrack and lose time that way. It is basically a day long trip with your stops, this way you'll get to see the Maremma region (from San Galgano down to Monte Argentario) and the sea so you'll get to see another side to Tuscany, different from Chianti and the area south of Siena.
Ok now that I've written a book I hope you'll have time to read it . Feel free to post any additional questions about your proposed itinerary.
The best thing to keep in mind when you're planning ahead of time is that you should always remain flexible once you're here - if this very full-itinerary doesn't work out on any one day, you'll still have seen lots of Tuscany and Italy... and you'll have a good reason to come back another time .
June 19, 2009, 03:50 PM
taking wine back home...
Just realized you also asked about getting some wine back to Canada with you - the best thing would be to either contact your airline and ask them whether you can do it as part of your checked-in luggage and how they need to be packed/checked in to make sure they arrive safely....
OR use a local shipping agency to pack and send it to you. For example, I know that Mailboxes Etc. does it. FedEx and UPS likely do it, too. It is also very likely that if you buy a whole case at one winery that they themselves offer shipping service for you.
No danger of it turning, you just want to make sure the glass bottles don't get broken on the way. Before you could carry two bottles with you on the plane, but since the restrictions on liquids on board that is no longer possible.
Locally wineries have been hurt by this restriction, I think many have adapted to offer shipping worldwide of their products knowing that otherwise people can't buy their product to take back home.
June 19, 2009, 05:06 PM
That's great, thank you so much for all the info!
I will probably use your experience and rework the schedule then. The maps are very usefull!
From the online research I've made on Cinque Terre, I thought about driving to La Spezia, then take the train to Monterosso or Vernazza and come back down by boat, stopping to visit the Towns on the way. I also found a tour operator that books day trips from Florence for 200$ US so maybe I'd go with that, not sure.
As for the wine, I cannot ship it back to Canada because of customs here, I have to bring it back with me. And they still charge a fortune... I'll call the airline, I've seen that some people use foam crates to ship back wine. I'll check with the vinyard where we are staying to see if he has some for sell.
again, that you for your time and wonderfull info.
June 20, 2009, 03:42 PM
You're very welcome! The Cinque Terre are beautiful so if you can organize a day trip without it being too much of a hassle, then definitely do it!
For the wine, as long as you pack it right and the airline knows it is wine being transported, then it is likely to arrive back home with you alright.
Hope you have a wonderful time in Italy!