January 8, 2011, 05:22 AM
Tips for two-family travel in Tuscany
Our family is planning a trip to Italy for 10 nights in October 2011, along with another family. There will be ten of us in total (incl. 6 children). Our current plan is to arrive in Rome, spend 2 nights (seeing Pompeii on one of those days), then spend the next 7 nights in Tuscany, with day trips to Pisa and Florence. Finally, back to Rome for one night before departure.
We know this is an ambitious itinerary, esp. with children in tow. We'd love some suggestions for refining it. We're trying to incorporate the sights/experiences that those in the group want to have: fishing on the coast, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, some relaxing in a villa, just cooking, drinking good wine, and enjoying each other's company.
Also, our biggest concern is with car rental. Because we are a large group, we would prefer to travel by train and skip car rental altogether. Is this really possible if we want to see the Tuscany region? We would likely have to rent two cars because of the group size: that's double car rental fees, double gas costs, double parking costs, etc.
Thank you for your input!
The O'Reilly Family
January 9, 2011, 11:56 AM
I have just returned from a trip to Tuscany, Siena (southern Tuscany), where we stayed with friends in a villa: Fontevetriana, beautiful, with living room with fireplace and big kitchen where we cooked and drank good Brunello di Montalcino. We visited Florence reached in about an hour of time, visited the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio ... Siena and its beautiful square (about 40 minutes by car), Montalcino, Montepulciano and visit the cellars and wine tasting, and Pienza cheese .. all very relaxing and delicious (we had with us two children of 2 and 5 years). We have organized this way: once we have chosen the villa, we contacted the owner who was very kind to us and helped us organize activities ... I suggest to see a bit Tuscany, to rent a car and also seek recommendations from the owner (there are cars that can accommodate up to 10 people)!
I hope to be helpful if you have any more questions!
January 18, 2011, 11:14 PM
Looking for more input on two-family travel
Ciao again, Discover Tuscany Forum! I am still in need of input for our October 2011 journey with children to Italy. We are planning to spend 3 days in Rome (with a side trip to Pompeii), then 7 nights in Tuscany, with day trips to Florence, Pisa, and the coast (with a fishing trip in there somewhere).
Does anyone have recommendations for where/how to find a fishing excursion on the coast? We are still deciding on the best area of Tuscany to rent a villa. Right now, we are planning to arrive and depart from Rome, so we were thinking of staying in the Siena area. We've also looked at Anghiari and Arezzo as possible locations. Are they too far east, though? We want to enjoy the Tuscan countryside, but be within easy reach of Florence and Pisa and of course, a coastal fishing excursion!
In my original post, I was looking for input about car rental. I think we have decided to rent a car just for a day trip or two to the Tuscan hill towns; otherwise we plan to travel by train. So, we need a villa that is close enough to a train station that we can either arrange for transportation with the owner, or take a cab/car service to the train station when we take our day trips.
Would really love some input into this 10-day itinerary!
The O'Reilly Family
January 19, 2011, 03:12 PM
in pratice, two options...
Ciao O'Reilley Family,
I've been really struggling with my suggestions to your questions - because of the number in the group, transportation is going to be key in where and what you end up doing.
Given that you really only need a car/van for those 7 days in Tuscany, let's consider that you're also on vacation and want to make things as simple as possible. While it is easy to reach most major towns by train, smaller towns and the countryside in Tuscany require a car, or as you've considered, at least a taxi or two to get to town to the train station and then use trains.
Let's look at car/van rental: the largest vans available on car rental sites are for 9 people and space for luggage is limited. Some examples of the models marked as for 9 people:
Fiat Scudo, Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit minibus, Mercedes Vito, Citroen Jumpy and the VW Caravelle.
For example, on Rentalcars.com, I found the MERCEDES VITO 2.2 MINIBUS 115DCI (for 9) with automatic transmission for around 520 euro for 7 days in October picking up from the Rome Fiumicino office (7 random days as you didn't give your dates -- otherwise, you could take the train to Florence and pick up here). Similar searches from same departure/return point also showed vans on Alamo and on Budget but rates seemed higher. Since the majority of your group are children (but not sure of their ages and therefore size), you might be able to all fit in the 9 person van? So would a large van and travel expenses (tolls and gas) be more than if you had two cars? I am not sure, since cars also get more mileage. Consider both options and see which one might be better. You can get an idea of toll costs on Autostrade - gas currently is around 1.50 euro per liter, a record at the moment. Hopefully it will come down soon, the average is generally between 1.20-1.30 euro per liter.
On the other hand, combining car rental with train travel is a good alternative. Children under 4 travel free with accompanying adult but don't have a right to their own seat. Children from 4 to 12 travel at 50% off and get their own seat (need to show ID to show their age). There is also a "family" ticket for families of up to 5 people - the children still get the 50% off but the accompanying adults also get 20% off their tickets. Minimum ticket cost is 10 euro so this fare is only convenient when tickets would cost more - when buying your tickets, make sure to ask the vendor first if the family fare is better for your trip. Make sure to buy tickets from your starting location to the final location regardless of the need for transfers in between, that way you the appropriate fares and discounts where applicable. I wouldn't depend completely on train travel, though.
So taking into consideration these points, these are my suggestions to make your vacation simpler (even if not the cheapest):
1. STAY AT A VILLA, WITH CAR/VAN RENTAL: stay at a villa in the countryside and rent a large van for 9 people or two cars and use that to get around during your week in Tuscany - you wouldn't have to worry about getting into the nearest town with taxis and then taking trains. Although you can definitely plan some day trips with use of car + train. For example, to visit Florence and not deal with driving/parking in the city so you drive to a local train station close to where you are staying and take the train in... or you can drive in and park in Piazzale Michelangelo for free and then walk down into the city - great views from the piazza overlooking the city. It is just 15 minutes walk down to the center.
This in any case will make your choices of villa and location more open - I wouldn't say you should confine your search to below Siena and Arezzo/Anghiari. A more central location for all day trips would be the Chianti area, anywhere between Siena and Florence and even further west near San Gimignano. This would place you closer to Pisa and the coast.
Here you can find lots of choices: Villas in Tuscany...
On this list, in particular I'll point out as good matches:
the Cabbiavoli villa
the entire Villa Vivai at Fattoria il Lago
either Casa in Pietra or the Casa il Pozzo at Residence le Coloniche
the Villa Vianci
2. STAY WITHIN A CITY AND USE TRAINS: staying within the city/village would make train travel much easier to use for all of your trips. Of course, the difficult part is to find the right villa for your group. There are many right on the outskirts of Florence - many are set up as B&Bs nowadays but many are also divided into apartments which can be joined to give you the whole villa for a group. Many villas and homes in the countryside (often called farm houses because they are more rustic but essentially the same as a villa) are now divided into apartments -- if you were to rent 2 apartments for 5 people each, even if there are more apartments in the same property, you almost always have your own garden area, separate entrance to the apartment, parking space and just the use of the pool is common (usually covered by October though).
For example, this villa can be rented as a whole. Located on the outskirts of Florence, a few minutes walk from the villa you can catch the Florence ATAF city bus #14 into downtown and from here visit Florence as well as catch trains to Pisa, Siena, Arezzo, Lucca, etc.
This B&B near Pratolino is 5 minutes from the ATAF #25 bus stop that brings you into Florence in about half an hour. You could see if the whole B&B is available and get it for your families.
You really have a lot of options with this second possibility, being in the countryside but using the city's public transportation that reaches into the outskirts. You'd just have to definitely make sure you are close enough into Florence (or another town) to ride in and then use the train system for day trips. I'd avoid being out in the middle of nowhere in this case where you'd need taxis to get into the closest town - those can be hard to obtain, particularly for larger groups. Many don't know that Florence is so small, that as soon as you go over the hills that look into Florence you are in the countryside - you don't need to go much south beyond Piazzale Michelangelo and you're already surrounded by olive groves and countryside. Or north, just behind Fiesole and all is countryside. (Another example: this winery offers accommodation in apartments, you could get two, and is so close to Galluzzo and Florence that calling a taxi from here should not be a problem).
Start looking at the places I've mentioned, getting a better idea of what you'd like to do and go from there.... maybe search for your accommodation first, what you'd best like and making it fit with either option #1 or #2 above.
January 21, 2011, 04:00 PM
about fishing on the Tuscan coast
Hi to all the O'Reilly Family!
As Lourdes replied with some tips about accommodation and transportation, I would like to give my two cents about the experiences you're interesting in while in Tuscany.
You mentioned "fishing on the coast" and I can give you some basic information about fishing in Tuscany.
I use to go fishing in different lakes around Florence, or well, my husband does, while I prefer to enjoy the natural setting and the sun while he fishes . Anyway I've never been fishing on the coast, even though I've found out that there are no licenses required for fishing in the sea or in private lakes.
My question is what do you mean exactly by "fishing on the coast"? Would you like to fish from the shore from a pier/wharf or from a boat? I've found information on some fishermen that take tourists on board but I'm not sure this is the kind of experience you're looking for.
Let me know more details and I will be glad to try to help you with more information!
January 27, 2011, 10:47 PM
Fishing trip details
Hi Cristina and Lourdes,
Thanks to you both for your good suggestions. In talking with the other family that will be traveling with us, we are all in agreement that we will try to find a villa near to a train station and inquire with the owner before renting as to whether we can get a cab (or cabs) to/from the train station for the days that we choose to travel to Florence, Pisa, and the coast. We hope to find a villa that is within walking distance of a village or town so that we can go for dinner, espresso, etc., without needing a car. We are content to spend our "off" days at the villa enjoying each other's company (we also hope to arrange a wine tasting or cooking class at the villa). If we decide to venture out to see more of Tuscany (or for our trip to the coast for fishing), we hope to be able to arrange a one day car rental at whatever train station we are close to.
So, I must ask: Does that sound like a reasonable plan?
More about our fishing idea: the husbands and teenager in our group would like to go out on a fishing boat to do some fishing in the sea. So, yes, a boat that takes on tourists is exactly what we are looking for. I have done some online research but have had a hard time because I'm not familiar with the area. If the others in our group wanted to spend a day onshore shopping or relaxing, can we do that in whatever town/village the fishing excursion leaves from/returns to?
A million thank yous for all the help. We are so excited for this trip, but obviously we want to make good choices in setting up our time there.
February 2, 2011, 05:09 PM
tourists on fishing boats
Ciao O'Reilley Family,
I've made a research about fishing boats for tourists and I agree with you that is not easy to find information on the Internet. I've found three address you can contact, their websites are very poor information-wise:
pescaturismosantalucia.it/ and evolution-viareggio.it/ - These two are in Viareggio, a coastal town near Lucca in north Tuscany. It is Versilia which receives a lot of visitors during the summer.
paoloilpescatore.it/ - This one instead sails from the port of Talamone, a little village in the Maremma region, in southern Tuscany.
Fishing in the sea should be a really fun experience, I hope you manage to organize it during your trip! As regards shopping while some are sailing, many coastal villages are highly busy and organized with shops during the summer period, but definitely quite quiet during low season. In October you might likely find some shops closed in Viareggio, but it will definitely offer more opportunities overall compared to Talamone, a small fishing village - maybe not as perfect for shopping, but definitely perfect for relaxing and sun-bathing!
Let us know how your final plans turn out!
February 4, 2011, 04:02 PM
You've asked if the plan you've outlined is reasonable and I think it is, since you seem to be planning to stay most of the time at the villa and relaxing. You don't really need a van or cars parked outside most the time if that isn't what you're planning to do.
As for villas, I'd recommend you take a look specifically at Fattoria il Lago and Fattoria Viticcio. Both are just a few kilometers from the closest towns (from 2-3 km) so both are in the countryside - but the closest town for the first is on the train line from which you can then move around Tuscany to Florence and to the major towns of interest while the second is just 1km from Greve from which you can catch buses to Florence. Both are wine estates so they can cover wine tastings as well as a tour of the wineries, I believe Lago also organizes cooking classes there if you request them.
Another idea which you might consider: hiring a van with driver for those specific days you want to do trips, either to the coast or around the region, such as a day to San Gimignano or Chianti, places that are hard to reach without a car. I can't recommend anyone in particular but if you do a few searches on the web, you'll see there are many that move you around and some are even guides for your day trip. That way when you want to, you get picked up and dropped off at the villa without worrying about any other detail.
Hope these are useful suggestions to help you on your search!
April 9, 2013, 06:48 PM
Re: tourists on fishing boats
I'm going to be going to stay in Tuscany (about a 30 minute drive east of Florence) with a large family group and a handful of us are interested in going fishing, the closer to the area we're staying the better. You had mentioned fishing in the lakes around tuscany, and I think that would be ideal for us, but I've had a little trouble finding information on anything but fly fishing around tuscany. Could you offer me some insight?