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Tuscany Spring 2014

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Tuscany Spring 2014

My husband and I are finally returning to Italy in mid April, for 3 weeks. Plane tickets are booked and now the real fun of planning begins. I would be so grateful for any advice, suggestions, or itinerary guidance.

Here is our time frame:

Mid April to Mid May (3 weeks) - Flying into and out of Rome

Here is what I know we want to do:

We'd like to visit Florence and stay for 3 nights. We'd like to stay in a vibrant area that is not too touristy but where we can walk home after dinner from great restaurants. What do you think is the best way to get from Rome to Florence? I was thinking we would fly but others have suggested taking the train which I am not opposed to.

Next, we'd like to tour Tuscany & the hill towns in a luxurious and relaxed fashion. We'd like to experience an agriturismo stay in a country villa that offers friendly & welcoming staff, a beautiful setting, and most importantly, delicious homemade food. Cooking classes, wine tasting/wine cellar, truffle hunting, spa, etc are all a bonus. We do not speak Italian other than some general phrases so English translation should be available. I am also vegetarian so we'd have to stay somewhere accommodating to my diet. I'm thinking 4 or 5 nights in a place such as this where we can relax, take in the scenery, eat well, and tour the local towns & vineyards with ease. Perhaps we'd have a car for this portion of the trip and/or arrange some private tours… we've heard it is fun to drive around. I'm not sure what area we would like to stay in, I figure it might be decided by the place that we choose to stay. Any recommendations would be wonderful.

From there, I have heard that Sienna is glorious and deserves some time to explore. A friend has suggested staying in a hotel right in the town square. Of course visiting Chianti & Montepulciano also sounds delicious. I realize that Tuscany can be pretty touristy and do wish to see the beautiful "don't miss" sights, but also have a "real" experience at the same time. That being said, if there are any areas you can suggest to visit I am all ears.

We also would like to visit Bologna, Parma (cheese caves!) Modena (the foodie area) so I'm not sure how to structure that into our trip - maybe after Florence, maybe after Tuscany? Also not sure how many days to set aside for this area. Also wondering if it be too chilly to tour the lakes region?

I think we'll be happy spending the 3 weeks time in this general vicinity of the country but a part of us was thinking that it could be fun to check out Corsica for a little something different or maybe just something along the coast. Open to suggestions.

Another consideration is that we will be traveling over Easter (4/20). I have heard that Florence can be beautiful at this time with ceremonies and festivals but I am worried that museums may close for Good Friday, Easter, and Easter Monday. If we start our trip there we would be in Florence 4/17 - 4/20. Would you suggest being in a specific area over another for Easter?

Thank you so much, I look forward to your replies!!

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1. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

Any guidance at all would be so much appreciated!

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2. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

This is a good time to travel in Italy. It's warming up and it's just prior to the busy tourist season. You should definitely take the train from Rome to Florence. It is quick and easy. Altra Arno in Florence is a vibrant and up and coming area. It's a short walk to the historic city center and a short walk to the best view of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo. This is a must! You should have no problems getting into the Academia or Uffizi. I am not real familiar with the hill towns surrounding Florence.

I would recommend including Venice in your trip. It's a fantastic city that you can see in two days. There are also a lot of great towns that I am familiar with in this area. The best are Padova, Vicenza, Verona, Marostica, and Bassano Del Grappa. These towns are off the beaten path and offer great food and fantastic views of the Alps. I think you will be fine with the weather. It may be a bit cool but it is a Mediterranean climate. Average temperature in Vicenza around this time of year is about 70 degrees.

Hope this helps.

Norwich, Norfolk, Uk
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3. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

I think so many questions are rather overwhelming which is why you haven't had any replies. I can offer some bits and pieces to perhaps get the ball rolling.

Florence is a good choice over Easter, there is lots going on an although there will be some closures, you will find some places still open. The weather is often wet and cool in April, so I'm not sure I would do the lakes at that time of year. It is a good idea to base in cities so that there are plenty of indoor things to do. Anywhere in the historic centre of Florence is a good base as the city is very walkable.

The fast train between Florence and Rome is faster and simpler than flying. You really need a car to explore the Tuscan countryside, but make sure you read up on driving regulations about drink driving levels if you plan to visit wineries and the limited traffic zones (ZTLs) operated in most Italian urban settlements.

Norwich, Norfolk, Uk
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4. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

Just to follow up on what Mike has posted, I agree that Oltrarno is a nice neighbourhood to stay in, generally not as crowded or touristy and certainly not as noisy as some areas. I would say that you definitely do need reservations for the Uffizi and Accademia even that early in the year.

Kansas
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5. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

lavendula,

This may help slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm

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6. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

Thanks so much for your responses! I know I threw a whole lot of info at the forum. I was trying to lay the ground work for the entire trip and just figured people would chime in about the areas they are familiar with.

We will take the train from Rome to Florence, I am assuming there is only one fast train, the Trenitalia 90 min? I'm also assuming we should buy our tickets in advance?

I will look into the Altra Arno & the historic area of Florence and if anyone has any specific hotel suggestions I am all ears.

Thank you for all of the suggestions for the other towns to visit. We did visit Venice on our last trip to Italy so we will not be returning there this time around. The slow travel website is very interesting but I have to admit that I am slightly overwhelmed at all the possibilities! If someone has a previous itinerary that sounds similar to what we are looking to do, I'd be so thrilled if you shared it.

Grazie

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7. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

I'm thinking 3 nights in Florence, 3 nights in Chianti, 3 nights in Sienna - but wondering if Chianti and Sienna are too close to each other to warrant 2 different stays?

Norwich, Norfolk, Uk
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8. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

Siena and Chianti are completely different experiences. Staying in Chianti you will be in the heart of the countryside. Siena is a beautiful small city. Yes fast train from Rome to Florence is 90 mins and booking in advance will usually save you some money. Pick up your hire car from Florence airport when you have finished there to avoid the ZTL. Look for a hotel on the edge of Siena which has parking and is outside the ZTL, but is within easy walking distance of the restaurants in the city centre.

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9. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

There are two different high speed trains that can bring you to Florence from Rome: the Freccia (www.trenitalia.com) from Roma Termini, and Italo (www.italotreno.it) from Roma Tiburtina and Roma Ostiense. You can get really good discounts buying your tickets online. Italo even offers good discounts on changeable tickets.

Oltrarno is indeed a nice neighborhood. I also like the hotels in Piazza Santa Maria, on "this" side of the river - especially JKPlace and L'Orologio.

Chianti is the region between Florence and Siena, two cities that though only about 45 miles apart, are complete and different worlds. I'm partial to Chianti, as this is where I live. It's beautiful, full of history, good food, wine and nice people. Not that those things don't exist elsewhere, but Chianti also makes a great base for exploring other places like Volterra, San Gimignano, Pienza, Montalcino.

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10. Re: Tuscany Spring 2014

Thanks so much for all the info. I've been debating spending 7 nights right outside of Siena in an agriturismo and then making day trips from there or splitting up into two stays in different locations. I'd love to hear what has worked best for others. I suppose we could stay in Chianti and make a few day trips and then stay inside Siena and have a remarkably different experience....maybe that's the best bet.

Then we are also considering touring the Val D'Orcia area and checking out Pienza, Montepulciano, and Bagno Vignoni....or maybe Orvieto & Cortona. I realize this might be too much for a leisurely trip as we also want to head to Parma, Modena, & Bologna for a few days. I'd love to know what you all think would be the best use of our two weeks time.

I'm also considering checking out Alba to eat at the 3 Michelin starred Piazza Duomo which is 2 hours from Parma. Thoughts?