July 12, 2013, 05:01 PM
Driving from Florence to Siena, SG & Montepulciano
My friends & I (5 total) will be visiting Florence & its surrounding area in the fall. We only have one day set aside for a trip to Siena, SG & Montepulciano. We plan to rent a car the night before so we can have an early start on our driving "tour" of Tuscany. We are also considering keeping the car another night so we can use it to transport us & our bags to the train station the next day. That being said, we have at least 12 hours (maybe as much as 14 as our designated driver says he is not opposed to very long days/drives) to visit those 3 towns. Is our plan to drive feasible or even recommended? What would be the best order to visit these towns? Maybe a picnic lunch along the way (we could pack something from our "home" in Florence) if it means saving time waiting for service at a restaurant so we can have time to visit all 3. We can limit ourselves to Siena & San Gimignano if it will mean that visiting all 3 will be too hectic. I was also thinking that we could have dinner in Siena because I think it looks pretty at night.
July 15, 2013, 04:17 PM
Ok, let's see if I understand right - right now, the whole day trip will be based out of Florence so at the end of the day you're returning to Florence, correct?
If that's the case, then I'd suggest getting out pretty early in the morning, as you're already planning and heading directly to Montepulciano on the A1. That's the fastes way to get there. You can spend a few hours there, then move on to Pienza and San Quirico - both are really small towns so can be visited pretty quickly. Plan to have lunch in Montalcino, another small town. Visit the abbey of Sant'Attimo right after lunch and then head back north to Siena. Spend the rest of the afternoon here.... I love Siena, I think it needs more than half a day, it really is a pity to just see these places from the outside and say you've "been" there and not get to see the history and "experience" the feel and history of the location. Depending on what you decide to spend time on - in Siena, if you only do one thing "indoors", it should be that you absolutely visit the inside of the cathedral! after that, visit the Piazza del Campo - if you have energy, clumb to the top of the Torre del Mangia....
at this point, you've already seen lots for the day so you can decide whether you stay in Siena for dinner or if you head to San Gimignano. Both are medieval in character, both are quieter and very pretty at night. Either choice is fine - dinner in Italy is around 8-9pm so you can definitely head there to S.G. by that time which also brings you closer to Florence.
Another option: take your suitcases with you and spend the night out. Not knowing where you are headed the following day on train, I can only make some suggestions.... if you're headed south, you can head out of Florence and go to S.G. first, then work your way to Siena and then on the Val d'Orcia area and spend the night there. The next day drive to a train station close by where you can drop off the car and continue on by train... or keep the car for your next destination.
If you tell me more about what comes before and after the day in Tuscany, maybe I can add some more ideas! For example.... what about seeing Chianti instead of Montepulciano area? it is closer and in between Siena and Florence ;-)
July 18, 2013, 08:11 AM
Re: Driving from Florence to Siena, SG & Montepulciano
Ciao Lourdes! We have a rental in Florence (very close to the Oltrarno end of the Ponte Vecchio) and will be spending a total of 3 nights there. We arrive on a train from Venice just after noon and the plan is to leave our bags at the SMN station and proceed to Pisa for a few hours, since we won't be able to access the apartment until 4 pm. From Pisa we take the train back to SMN, retrieve our bags then walk to the rental then spend the late afternoon/evening seeing a bit of Florence. The next day is our full day in Florence where we intend to hit all the must-sees, pick-up our rental car in the late afternoon and maybe drive to Piazzale Michelangelo for the view at about sunset. The following day (which is a Sunday) is the day we have set aside for our driving trip. The original plan was to join a bus tour that goes to Siena and SG but my friends wanted to drive. Since we're driving, we will end up with more time to spend going around vs joining the bus tour and that's how Montepulciano got thrown into the plans. I like the idea of going through those other small towns you mentioned. If you think its doable I will definitely look at the map to figure out the route to take. I would love to see SG also so maybe we can plan on staying in Siena until the late afternoon/early evening then proceed to SG for dinner.
I wish we can follow your suggestion about staying at Val d'Orcia for a night but our rental has been paid for and we also have booked our train tickets to Rome for Monday am. Our plans are flexible only as far as the itineraries for the day but otherwise all our rentals and train tickets for the whole trip (our itinerary is London-Paris-Venice-Florence-Rome) are set.
If we start off from Florence about 8 am Sunday, drive straight down to Montepulciano I think we could get to see a lot of Tuscany. We don't have to go to Montepulciano though if you think there is a better plan for the day. I would just want to keep Siena & SG in the list and would love to hear your suggestion. If you even want to throw in some suggestions on where to eat, that would be wonderful! It'll be great to eat some regional cuisine at places where they might not have a menu but have daily specials based on what was available at the market that day.
Thank you so much for all your input! My only regret is that I did not find this forum earlier.
July 19, 2013, 10:38 AM
drive through beautiful Chianti
Ok then - with this added info about your plans, I'll say this: trying to fit in Pisa in about 4-5 hours is a little crazy since it takes an hour to get there and another to get back so that's two hours.... You'll just likely get back to Florence a little later than you plan. It is doable, just expect for you to have little time in Pisa. Also, make sure you communicate with whoever is supposed to meet you at the apartment, there likely is a person who has to hand over keys at a particular time so make sure to set a time later than you think, rather than have them wait there, thinking you're a "no-show" if you're late.
Car rental pick up on Saturday sounds find, just think about parking for those two overnights.
Here's a map (download) with the parking areas around Florence - you can of course park it at piazzale Michelangelo for the night as it is free if it isn't too far from your rental, otherwise find something closer - the fluorescent GREEN lines are the best areas.
Since you have to return to Florence, I actually suggest you skip Montepulciano and the Val d'Orcia region - it is too beautiful to be rushed.
Instead, I suggest you consider driving through CHIANTI instead, as it is the area between Florence and Siena and is along your route. You can head down into Chianti through the Via Chiantigiana (SS222) to Greve, stop there, head on and make stops in Panzano and Castellina.
End up in Siena after lunch, spend the afternoon there and by 7pm make your way to San Gimignano (maybe a quick stop in Monteriggioni, a beautiful walled castle along the road from Siena to Poggibonsi). You will still see beautiful countryside, charming hilltop villages and get to see Siena and San Gimignano. Take the roads I'm indicating, not the "fast" Firenze-Siena road way so that you can stop at the small towns if you feel like it. Colle Val d'Elsa and Staggia are also charming, but depending on time, which I don't think you'll have much of, you can see where to stop or not.
As for lunch - all towns have small shops where you can just order sandwiches, called panini, with cold cuts and cheese. So you don't necessarily have to pack anything ahead of time, just make sure to buy between 12-2pm as some places close after... Castellina would be a good place to stop for lunch.
July 24, 2013, 01:01 AM
Re: Driving from Florence to Siena, SG & Montepulciano
Ciao Lourdes! Sorry for the late response but I had some difficulty with my internet here at home. Anyway, I really like the itinerary you suggested and have revised the itinerary I have prepared for our group. My companions really have no opinion as to where we go for that day but I am sure that the ride through the "slower" country roads will be more interesting for all of us.
I will hold on to your suggestion about Montepulciano and the Val d'Orcia area because I know I will be back some day and spend more time in Tuscany. In fact, I am just waiting for another friend to be able to travel to Europe with me. I have already contracted her to accompany me on a 1-2 week culinary tour of Tuscany.
Molte grazie for all the time and suggestions! I really appreciate it!
July 24, 2013, 11:39 AM
A culinary trip sounds great! Wonderful idea to get friends on board and get to come back again
You're very welcome - if you need any other help before your trip, let us know! In the meantime, have fun doing all the planning
February 25, 2014, 06:19 PM
First time visitor
Lourdes, you are an incredible wealth of information. This will be our first trip to Italy. We are arriving in Venice, staying there a few days. Our Italian friend thinks we should come to Tuscany for a few days before joining them in Friuli.
1. Train or car from Venice to Tuscany?
2. She has recommended Fattoria Castelvecchi, Radda as a base point for our time in Tuscany. Does that seem reasonable? We would hope to visit Florence, Siena, and other sites, but we also are most interested in food and wine and enjoying Italy and its people more than museums (and we will be traveling with a 5 year-old, who is a good traveler, but does have her limits!)
Any advice would be greatly welcomed.
February 26, 2014, 10:14 PM
Thank you, hope you're finding the forum and site useful!
If you're thinking of staying in Radda or anywhere else in Chianti, you're going to rent a car, right? So the question is just whether you should drive from Venice or not.... with a toddler, maybe renting the car and avoiding train stations and carrying luggage through them with toddler in hand might be a better idea but you decide based on your own child and her tolerance. My girl is 18 months so don't know yet how she'll turn out as a traveler, but I'd likely go with the car from the start to give her a chance to nap or play without too much excitement.
Radda is pretty central in Chianti so you can't really go wrong, either in terms of central location or food and wine. It is a little bit further in away from the Siena-Florence road way so you'll do a bit more driving on the two lane roads to move around, but you can also stay on those roads for scenic drives - both to Siena and to Florence. Otherwise, you could also go towards Castellina in Chianti to be a bit closer to the main Siena-Florence road but still with great views and surroundings.