September 14, 2008, 12:01 AM
Stay in one place for one month or tour around?
Hi: My wife and I are retired Canadians and annual visitors to Europe. This winter we would like to visit Tuscany. I'm into rural charm - the missus is into food and wine. We don't know if we should stay at one place for a month - or tour around.
September 14, 2008, 12:22 AM
break up vacation by week...
Tuscany has both lots of rural charm and great food and wine. You can see so much in one month, so I would suggest to tour around. I think the most practical setup would be to consider the areas you'd like to see in Tuscany and stay in one spot for a week that you consider your "base" to see that area of Tuscany, then move on to another accommodation and area from where you can then explore that area.
Even if Tuscany isn't large, you wouldn't want to be in one place the whole time and do lots of moving around (either by car or by train or bus), because you'd waste lots of time that way.
If you've never been to Tuscany before, I would certainly recommend a few days in Florence to start off. Then I'd stay in the Chianti area between Florence and Siena for a week and give yourself time to see the villages found there, such as Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti... maybe even San Gimignano. You should also see the area south of Siena, called the Valdorcia. Here you'll find Montalcino, Montepulciano and Pienza just to start off.
Another week can be spent in the area between Pisa and Lucca, that way you can explore both cities and the Versilia, the seaside area near Lucca. If you would really like to step back in time and are driving yourself around, exploring the Apuan Alps north of Lucca takes to you really small villages and castles set upon hills in the valleys as you move into the mountains. Depending on when you come, though, you might encounter snow at the higher elevations but certainly not on the roads.
Another area with lots of castles and charm is the Casentino, less known by tourists (although known by Germans who I've seen a lot of there and in Elba). There are practically castles or remaining towers of castles on each hill in the valley. Casentino is to the east of Florence, and north of Arezzo. A real charming village is called Poppi, its castle is well conserved and can be visited daily. The castle can be seen from far away, an icon for the area.
Tuscany is rich with history. So many of the villages have been well conserved while remaining inhabited by people, so one doesn't feel like you're visiting ruins of a long past era. Somehow you feel the continuity of time, and of how ancient the land is. Each of these areas will offer local dishes and wines, so it would be a great opportunity to taste more than just Chianti wines and the dishes that people have been making for ages. Tuscan food is pretty simple and not at all presumptuous, made with fresh ingredients and very good. Watch your weight while you're here! :-)
I hope this can help you get started on your planning. We are working on improving and adding much more content to our website in the near future, so if you need any more help or information please write back and we'll try to help as much as we can.