July 1, 2013, 08:35 PM
Spring Tuscany Trip
My husband and I are so excited to be traveling in Tuscany for two weeks next Spring! I have been reading the forums and gathering info but would love some itinerary advice. We are really looking forward to having a luxurious and leisurely trip without having to rush around or move between locations too frequently. I am thinking that we would like to base ourselves in one or two different areas to explore the Tuscan countryside. We love the idea of an Agriturismo stay and are big foodies. We definitely want to explore the Chianti Region, Sienna, and then possibly the Montepulciano/Val D'Orcia area. I love the idea of staying in a villa/agriturismo in Chianti and then staying in Sienna, (I've been told that it is incredible to stay right on the main square) but wonder if the areas are too close together for that to make sense. After that, we are interested in touring the Parma/Bologna/Modena area and also possibly heading to Alba to eat at the famous 3 star restaurant, Piazza Duomo.
Here is our time-line:
4/16 - traveling to Rome
4/17 - arrive in Rome - take the fast train to Florence
4/18, 4/19 - Florence (possibly 4/20 as well which is Easter).
4-20/21 to May 8th...open to possibilities!
July 3, 2013, 01:24 PM
Re: Spring Tuscany Trip
hello from sunny Tuscany! Planning your next big trip mus be exciting! You are planning a long and intense holiday, I am sure there must be lots of details to put together.
As far as accommodations choosing only a few spots not to move every day with luggage is surely the best choise. As far as accommodations you could have a look at the following site and maybe find the best suitable solutions according to style and price range: http://www.TuscanyAccommodation.com
As far as locations and some activities :
I would suggest you 3 nights in Florence (or Florence outskirts if you enjoy the silent countryside better) + 3 nights in Siena (or Siena outskirts) to explore Chianti, Montalcino, Pienza & Val D'Orcia, San Gimignano & Montepulciano.
Florence and Siena are the best departure points to enjoy both the town or the quaint little villages in the sorroundings.
As far as Emilia Romagna you may inquire to ParmaIncoming or ModenaTur for any precious suggestion about that region. Alba is in Piedmont, much farther North. Step by step you can decide if Alba fits into your itinerary or if you want to concentrate on the richness of Tuscan food & art (museums, villages, gelato, Florentine paper labs, great red wines and meat) + the wonders of Modena (culatello ham, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar)
I am sending you some first ideas of locations + activities
4/16 - traveling to Rome
4/17 - arrive in Rome - take the fast train to Florence - overnight
April 18th: Florence intro, orientation tour/walk
(if you are food lovers I would suggest a private tour that includes the less touristy market of S. Ambrogio and lots of tasty surprises along the way. If you wish I can provide the direct contact with specialized guides)
April 19th: Florence museums & artcraft shops
April 20th: Florence festival: Easter Cart & Easter celebrations with parade in costumes (!a must!)
April 21st: Pisa - Lucca - overnight in Florence (or outskirts)
April 22nd: Full day Chianti, castles visits & wine tasting - overnight in Siena (or Siena outskirts)
April 23: Siena & San Gimignano (& Monteriggioni maybe)
April 24: Pienza & Montalcino (not to miss the abbey of S. Antimo)
April 25: Parco sculture del Chianti www.chiantisculpturepark.it/
April 26: Cooking experience in Castellina in Chianti outskirts in a farmhouse/wine making estate
April 27: Montepulciano & cheese tastings + wine tastings
April 28: Arezzo & Cortona
April 29: Departure to Modena
Week of travel in Emilia Romagna + Alba (Piedmont)
According to your first impressions about the list of accommodations you may then choose the logistic for the towns to tour. I remain at your disposal for any further suggestion you may need,
All the best
July 3, 2013, 06:07 PM
Elena has already offered a great proposal of how to organize your days, it has awesome suggestions!
As far as what she suggested, I agree that you should plan to be in Florence for Easter - the Explosion of the Cart is a great spectacle to witness. You can learn more about it here.
Learn more about Pienza and Montalcino and the S. Antimo Abbey Elena mentioned here.
Also make a note that April 25 is a national holiday in Italy - Liberation Day - so the idea of spending it in the countryside at the Sculpture park is great but the site doesn't confirm whether it will be open - maybe you can send an email to double check?
As far as the organization of accommodations, I agree with the time you have you should stay in Florence for a few days to really experience it - 3 days minimum. Then you can leave Florence (rent a car only once you leave Florence, you don't want or need it here) and then move off to the countryside.... the area between Florence and Siena is great for exploring Chianti, Siena, San Gimignano, even Pisa and Lucca... and then you can move on for a few more days to the area south of Siena. You can definitely fit in at least a night in Siena, the experience of seeing Siena in the evening is completely different, it gets really quiet and is very enjoyable.
The remaining days you can stay south of Siena, which will make it easier to visit Pienza, Montalcino, Montepulciano since they are all close together, as well as Arezzo and Cortona. The Valdichiana shopping outlet center is not far away either ;-) For accommodations in Florence, also check http://www.florenceaccommodation.com.
If you'd love the idea of a cooking class, you can fit it in wherever you are - just had the chance to meet the two ladies that run Kitchen Chez Nous here in Florence and they are specialized in doing cooking classes at your apartment, they'll take everything that is needed. So rather than go somewhere, they go to you! I think it sounds like a great idea, especially is you're moving around on day trips every day and can get you a day at "home" but with the cooking class experience. Check out their site here.
Hope these suggestions get you started in your planning - let us know how else we can help, what other suggestions you could use
July 7, 2013, 03:32 AM
Re: Spring Tuscany Trip
Thank you both so much for your recommendations! We are very excited and a little overwhelmed with the planning!
I think I will start with Florence and work my way down the list. I have been reading about the Easter celebration and am very excited to spend the Holiday there. Do you have any recommendations as far as viewing the Explosion of the Cart? We would be arriving to Rome in the morning on 4/17 and so I imagine will be in Florence by lunch time. If we stay overnight in Florence on 4/17, 4/18, 4/19 & 4/20, that will be 4 nights. I was thinking that maybe we could leave Florence after the Easter celebration and head to the country but I am not sure if it would be wise to travel on Easter? Maybe the rental car companies would be closed? Or maybe there is a traditional Easter meal we could take part in? (As a side note, I am vegetarian - no meat or fish but dairy & eggs are ok - while my husband eats anything delicious! We are also worried that the major sights & museums might be closed for the time that we are visiting Florence? I know there is Good Friday, and other Holidays leading up to the big day. This is my first time to the city (my husband's second time) so we do want to see the "major" sights.
We have also made one major change to our 3 week trip itinerary - we have decided to spend 2 weeks in Florence/Tuscany/Val D'Orcia/Emilia Romagna (or some rendition of these areas) - and then 1 week in Sardenia! With this new plan, I'm thinking that Alba will be too off course now and I realize that we will not be able to do "everything" in two weeks. As a side note, my husband has been to Pisa before so we were not including this on our original itinerary "wish list." This all being said, I would like to tailor my 2 week "Northern" itinerary to include the "must visit" places (Florence, Chianti, San Gimignano, Sienna) as well as the worthwhile off the beaten path places (???), the best meals, and the most authentic experiences - all with a leisurely agenda/not changing hotels every night. I am imagining that we will end off the two weeks in the Emilia Romagna areas and then head back to Florence for transportation to Sardenia...correct me if I am wrong about this plan!
After Florence, it sounds like you are suggesting we stay in Sienna and take trips from there rather than split up time and stay in Chianti & Sienna. If we were to tour Sienna, Chianti, & San Gimignano while basing ourselves in Sienna, how many days would you set aside for this? Also, my one worry with this plan is that we will fatigue of the driving everyday out and back home everyday. My husband will be doing the driving and has issues driving at night, so I fear this might get in the way of our enjoyment. What are your experiences with this? I was also thinking that if we did this plan, we could stop at San Gimignano on our drive from Florence to Sienna. Do you think we would miss out on anything by not staying in Chianti?
I will stop here for the night and await your kind responses! Grazie Mille!
July 8, 2013, 06:57 PM
Re: Spring Tuscany Trip
I can understand feeling overwhelmed, because there is so much you can do and never enough time - no matter how much you might have, you will always feel like you could have included something else in. Italy is very rich in treasures everywhere you look, not just in museums! you actually don't even have to go into any, to enjoy the richness of the landscape and monuments Italy offers.
So let me say at this stage of the planning it is perfectly normal to search and make a list of all the places you'd like to see, and little by little figure out how to go about and seeing them all :-)
First, since you say you want a leisurely time and don't want to change hotels too often, I recommend 1 place for the entire week you are in Tuscany: farmhouse and villa apartments in the countryside are generally rented by the week from Saturday to Saturday so you could od that from April 19-26.
I'd suggest anywhere in the general area of Chianti - which is that entire area between Florence and Siena - as being a good place to base yourselves in for the week.
Are you planning to rent a car for the entire 3 weeks as soon as you leave Rome? Are you planning any days in Rome at all? Do you fly back out of Rome?
I'm asking because you could theoretically do 2 days in Rome at the start (the 17th and 18th), then from Rome at that point pick up your car rental and drive directly there for the week in Tuscany (rather than rent in Florence, since I do think you'd find problems in finding them open right at Easter). Easter Sunday is a day trip into Florence for the Explosion of the Cart - be here early since there are lots of people, don't expect to see too much in the Piazza itself until the fireworks go off.
Easter Sunday and Monday are holidays, so do expect many shops and museums to be closed - but restaurants won't close and some museums in Florence generally remain open. We generally post info about this on our blog as we get close to the date (make sure you stay in touch one way or another - through Facebook or Twitter so that you can get updates right before you come to Italy).
During your week you can do day trips to Florence, San Gimignano, Siena, the Val d'Orcia, a whole day to driving around Chianti and any other place you feel like exploring - if you stay centrally, all of the drives are about from about half an hour to an hour and a half at most (the Val d'Orcia would be the furthest). If you're tired one day, you can stay local (there are charming small towns all over the place!) or even just hang out at your rental, you're in the beautiful Tuscan countryside with great views and there is often a pool to lounge out by ;-). April should already be nice weather, not too hot nor cold.
So right now I am thinking:
2 days in Rome
1 week in Tuscany
1 week in the Padova, Modena, Bologna area - I'm no expert in that area so will not go about proposing how to organize that week ;-)
May 3-8th in Sardinia ---- if you still have the car, then you will need a ferry to make the trip over. You DON'T have to head to Florence to get one - since you're further up north, you could use the port in Genova (Genoa in english) as a departure port. Otherwise, from Tuscany, the ports in Livorno and Piombino offer routes to Sardinia. Check out this one, it is one of the major lines offering ferry service in Italy: http://www.mobylines.com/routes/ferry-sardinia.html
If the ferry seems too long (it does to me!) or you don't want to keep the car rental, maybe you could consider an internal flight from Bologna to Sardinia.. and then rent a car in Sardinia? All ideas to consider!
OK hope these further suggestions and ideas help you out in sorting how the time can be divided up.... and even if your husband has been to Pisa, you haven't so I'd definitely add at least half a day there.... we all hear about the Leaning Tower of Pisa growing up, so I think you have to see it in person! And if your husband didn't do it because the tower was closed, I highly recommend a climb up to the top - the climb up is an experience itself, at least a once in a lifetime type of experience I recommend to everyone.