January 9, 2014, 04:46 PM
Tuscany in 6 days
We will be staying in Montecatini Terme for 5 days in May, then one day driving to Milan and staying there for one night before leaving for home. We will have a car during our stay, and we'd like to make the most of our trip. Cities/towns suggested are: Siena/San Gimignano, Vinci, Bologna, Parma, Cinque Terre, Lucca. It's so confusing trying to get all the information together to make a trip that will enable us to see all the beautiful places in Tuscany. We were in Florence and Pisa last year, but I understand that Florence is having a Gelato Festival late in May, so we may want to see that. Is it possible to see a couple of towns in one day from where we are based? I know that Cinque Terre will be a whole-day visit because of its distance.
Also, is there a better parking area for San Gimignano for someone who doesn't want to walk too much? My husband had knee replacement surgery two years ago so he isn't a champion walker, and I think I read that some of the car parks there are closer to the 'main attractions' than others.
Any suggestions you may have are definitely appreciated in advance. Naturally, we want to see EVERYTHING, but we realize that our time is limited, so we don't want to be going off in all directions without a real plan.
January 20, 2014, 06:59 PM
If your base will be Montecatini Terme, it makes sense to do day trips in one direction every day so that you don't have to do too much backtracking. So this is what I'd recommend:
day 1 - Florence
day 2 - Siena and San Gimignano
day 3 - Pisa and Lucca
day 4 - San Gimignano, Certaldo, Vinci
day 5 - CT - how about not backtracking back to Montecatini and sleeping here the last night, so that you're already on the way to Milan?? You can do a short detour to Parma but Bologna at that point would be further down. But it makes sense to not backtrack to Montecatini just for the night, if then you're leaving the next day back north. If you can't change the last night there, then you can definitely pass by Bologna on the way to Milan, but I still don't think you can fit both Bologna and Parma in one day. There's the drive and both have lots to see in each center.
So in Tuscany, you can do a couple of towns each day, spending morning in one, afternoon in the other.
The Gelato Festival is growing so has changed every year - while it was in May this past year, it isn't for certain whether it will once again be in May this year.... so once we know dates for sure, you can change the day in Florence if it is in late May.
For San Gimignano, any of the parking lots would work. Take a look here for more details. From the lots, you can catch one of the 2 bus lines that take you into the center of town! Walking would be minimal. Only in July and August do the buses stop running into the center, because of the number of visitors but in May you'll find the buses going to Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Cisterna, right in the center of town. If you want to skip the bus, the P3 and P4 are close to the wall and there's an elevator that takes you up into the town... but this is at the northeastern end of the town, so then there would be more walking to get to Piazza del Duomo.
What do you think about the arrangement of the days in this order??
January 20, 2014, 11:18 PM
Updated schedule for Tuscany
Thank you for responding.
We will be in Montecatini Terme as part of a 'tour' so to speak. We are traveling with Gate 1, so our hotels are arranged for us - 5 nights in Montecatini and one in Milan. We are not used to having such a short vacation, so we want to make sure to make the most of our time. We are arriving on Tuesday, May 20th, in Milan around noon, so we will be driving down to Montecatini from there. We were thinking that maybe we could stop at Parma on the way down.
We wouldn't go to Florence except for the gelato festival, so that eliminates that visit if the festival isn't taking place while we are visiting (we were there last June, as well as in Pisa). I am assuming from your reply that we should plan on a full day in Siena/San Gimignano, so we will plan for that.
We have also made some plans since I posted last, We are visiting the daVinci winery for a tour which will last about 2 hours on Thursday, May 22nd. This tour was arranged by a friend I made on their website and they are giving us a tour of the winery, wine tasting, and also a tour of their hunting lodge and chapel at the winery. That will be starting about 3:30 in the afternoon, so we need to plan the before and after time for that day.
On Saturday, May 24th, we have arranged for an all-day tour to Cinque Terre which will leave our evening open.
On Sunday, May 25th, we have arranged for a visit to see the Last Supper in Milan at 18:30, so we will have time on our way back to Milan to possibly see something else, but our friends have never been there and we really want them to see the cathedral and other sites (fortunately, our hotel is right across the street from the Sforzesco Castle). Our time in Milan is limited, too, because our flight leaves at 4PM on May 26th.
This year our travel time is limited by other commitments, so we are happy to spend whatever time we can visiting Italy, but, as you can see, we don't have much time to do it, unfortunately.
I think maybe Wednesday we will do Siena and possibly Bologna on Friday. We would definitely like to do Lucca, but I don't know when we could fit that in (our Cinque Terre trip is from 8 AM to 6 PM).
day 1 - Parma (maybe Modena?) - arrive Montecatini
day 2 - Siena and San Gimignano
day 3 - ?? - Vinci - ??
day 4 - ??
day 5 - Cinque Terre
day 6 - Drive to Milan - Cathedral, ?? - Last Supper
day 7 - ?? leave
With this updated schedule, any suggestions you can make would be appreciated. Thank you so much, Lourdes!
January 21, 2014, 12:24 PM
OK, it all makes sense and your time is definitely limited but don't worry, you will still be able to see a lot in those days.
The most important thing is to remember is to take your time at places and not rush in and out to get them off the checklist. So don't try to add too many things overall to each day - because between getting there, parking and walking around, eating and seeing, time does pass and it is better to slow down and enjoy the present moment! That is definitely the "Italian dolce vita" way of doing things ;-)
so here's my additions:
day 1 - noon in Milan, so afternoon in Parma - arrive Montecatini
day 2 - Siena and San Gimignano - more time in Siena over San Gimignano
day 3 - Lucca in the morning - Vinci in afternoon, San Miniato for evening/dinner
day 4 - head down to Volterra, afternoon as you head up you could stop in San Gimignano if you need more time there, if not, continue on to Certaldo for evening/dinner
day 5 - Cinque Terre - all day - if you need to stop along the way back for dinner, I'd recommend stopping in Lucca again.
day 6 - Drive to Milan - stop in Bologna for lunch and a quick visit - continue on to Milan for your visit at Last Supper at 6.30. After, you can definitely roam around.
day 7 - In Milan, see cathedral, castello sforzesco, have lunch and then departure for airport.
Your days will be very full - so do take advantage of any breaks you have when you're out and about to stop and breathe in the atmosphere ;-)
January 21, 2014, 02:04 PM
Our Visit in May
Just one thing, do you think that we will have enough time to visit Bologna on the day we are driving to Milan? From the looks of it, there are a lot of things to see in Bologna, and I think the drive to Milan is pretty long...thanks!
January 21, 2014, 03:43 PM
If you leave Montecatini early enough, I'd definitely plan a stop in Bologna in the morning with lunch. You can continue after lunch. You definitely won't be able to see everything but a walk around the center and a visit to the cathedral I think are doable!
January 22, 2014, 12:24 AM
Thanks again for all your help, Lourdes. And special thanks for the parking info in San Gemignano. As we plan our trips we're deciding when it might be better to look at alternate travel arrangements. We definitely will do the train if we go into Florence.
One more question, can you tell me if there are any toll roads we may encounter and the process to pay for those roads??
January 23, 2014, 10:25 AM
Yes, toll roads do cross through Tuscany - they have an A before the number.
You can see a map here: http://www.discovertuscany.com/movin...ny/by-car.html
Essentially, there are 3 toll roads - the A1 from Bologna to Rome crosses Tuscany passing through Florence and then heads toward Arezzo.
There is the A11 from Florence to Lucca and Pisa and the A12 that runs along the coast, from La Spezia down to Livorno. All other roads do not ask for tolls.
When you get on, you take a ticket. So avoid getting into the lanes that say TELEPASS. Those are fast lanes for commuters that have a special box onboard their car and so need no ticket to get on or off.... if you were to get on the toll road through one of those, when you get off you won't be able to prove where you got on and will either be made to pay for the entire road or a large fine.
When you get off, make sure to go into the lanes with a green light AND a ticket sign, again avoiding the TELEPASS lanes. You'll always find someone who will take your ticket and the display will show how much you owe. You can pay with cash or credit card, but obviously cash is faster!
Montecatini is along the A11 so you will use toll roads to get to Lucca, to Cinque Terre (A11 and A12) and to get to Florence and then on north to Bologna. You don't need to use it all of the time, as from Montecatini you can cut south to San Gimignano without the need to reach Florence first. The Florence-Siena road is not a toll road.
January 23, 2014, 03:08 PM
January 23, 2014, 04:10 PM
You're welcome! and re-reading what I had posted earlier, I wanted to add that all of the small, regional roads from Montecatini that cross the countryside will obviously not be toll roads, so you should definitely look at the GPS/maps before heading out and seeing what you need to take. From Montecatini, taking the A11 to Florence and then the Firenze-Siena might be a "faster" way to reach San Gimignano (exiting at Poggibonsi), but if you look at the alternate routes online now, you might see that taking the regional roads through the countryside might just take a little bit longer... but are much more scenic!!