How should I spend my time in Florence/Tuscany, for about 4-5 days?

rosespot

Member
Hi,
I am new here! first of all, I want to say THANK YOU to all the hosts here! you guys are amazing! I have been reading your forum the last 2 days in order to get some ideas on how to plan my trip.

My husband and I are planning a (sort-of) last minute trip to Italy (from California) in late August/early September. We haven't booked anything yet. Too bad we only have about 7 full days (wish we could spend 3 weeks in Italy!). We are thinking about visiting both Venice and Florence/Tuscany during this trip. Tentatively, I am thinking about spending 2.5 days in Venice, and save 4.5 days for Florence/Tuscany. Is that a good idea?? some people said there are more to see in Venice, but some said there are way more to see in Tuscany. I am torn....

So, with only 4.5 days, how should we spend them in Florence/Tuscany? I want to see Florence for sure, but would also like to experience the beautiful countryside a bit. Honestly, both of us are not very artistic, but are more into food and wine.:p So, we will spend some time in the museums, but not a WHOLE LOT of time. Would like to check out beautiful architectures/buildings etc. and eat good food.:D

Should we stay in a hotel for all 5 nights in Florence? or would it be too hectic to spend, say 2-3 nights in Florence, and spend a night or two in the countryside?
Should we rent a car to get to the countryside? or with such a short time, just stick with bus/train?

We plan to take the train from Venice to Florence. And we need to go back to Florence for the airport at the end of the trip.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!! Thanks a ton in advance!

rosespot
 

Elena

Well-known member
Visiting Florence and Tuscany in 5 days

Ciao rosespot!
You are very welcome ;)

Florence and Tuscany are incredibly full of beautiful things to see! Although 5 days are not so many, they are quite enough to get the most out this beautiful and extraordinary region of Italy :)
Venice as well is really an amazing and unique city :) not to be missed from any Italian itinerary!

I suggest you spend 5 full days visiting Florence and Tuscany and the remaining 2 days in Venice, that is smaller and can be conveniently visited in a shorter time.

In case you wish to explore also the beautiful Tuscan countryside, that we personally recommend, the best thing is to hire a car, that will give you the possibility to move freely around the main sights of the region. So you might stay 2-3 nights in Florence, and spend a night or two in the countryside. Driving along the winding and scenic roads of Tuscany, especially in the Chianti region near Florence, is a very pleasant experience!

The wonderful Renaissance city of Florence has really a lot to offer, here you can find a useful guide to the city and its attractions, while here you can find some useful tips to visit the city in 2 days:
http://www.visitflorence.com/itineraries-in-florence/two-days-in-florence.html

For your stay in Florence I highly recommend B&B Il Palagetto, a charming and elegant Bed and Breakfast, located in the quiet Oltrarno quarter, that is very convenient if you have a car as they have a private parking. You can reach the historical center with a pleasant walk along the Arno River.
While, for a nice accommodation right in the very heart of Florence’s city center, I recommend the lovely and welcoming B&B Casa dei Tintori, located near the famous Uffizi gallery and the wonderful Ponte Vecchio.

While, for your stay in the countryside I suggest B&B Palazzo Malaspina; a very elegant bed and breakfast overlooking Chianti hills, halfway between Florence and Siena. The setting is fantastic, right in the heart of the famous Chianti region, all surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and scenic landscapes. From here you can visit the beautiful hilltop towns of Chianti, such as Greve, Radda and Castellina in Chianti. All the area is renowned worldwide for its superb wine production so I suggest you make some wine tours. Here you can find a useful guide about the Chianti.

While at B&B Palazzo Malaspina, you can make a lot of day trips, such as to the wonderful medieval city of Siena, so different from Florence, yet absolutely amazing and not to be missed! Other Tuscan villages that you should include in your itinerary are Volterra, San Gimignano, Pisa and Lucca. You may find this post about a 5 day itinerary in Tuscany very useful.

And here some practical info on moving around Tuscany by car.

Of course, if you prefer to not rent a car and stick with train and bus, I suggest you base yourself in Florence, from where you can conveniently make day trips to all the art towns I mentioned above. If you are not having a car, though, and wish to visit the Chianti region, I suggest you make some guided tour as this good one on Chianti Countryside & San Gimignano. Actually, it can be quite difficult to reach Chianti's main attractions using public transport.

You can check train timetables as well as tickets fares at this link.

Feel free to contact us again for any further suggestion or request you may need.

Enjoy planning your trip and have a great Italian holiday :)

Ciao from Tuscany!
 
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rosespot

Member
Dear Elena,

Thank you very much for the helpful information! I will digest it first and share with my husband. And may bother you again later with more questions. :p
Thanks a millions again!!

rosespot
 

Elena

Well-known member
Dear rosespot,
You are very welcome!

We'll be here to answer your questions :)

Have a nice day!
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Elena,

Wow, B&B Palazzo Malaspina looks amazing! Would love to spend some time in the countryside! I assume we need a car to get there, right?

I have a few more questions:

1) Is it rather safe to take the night train from Venice to Florence? I am thinking that if we cut down the stay in Venice to 2 days, then perhaps we can catch the train at the end of the day and get into Florence at night. Just want to confirm it is a safe thing for tourists to do...

2) Since we may be getting in late, is there any boutique hotels in Florence you could recommend? I am thinking that if we stay in Florence for 2 days without a car (may hire a car for the other 3 days when we go to the countryside), perhaps it is easier to stay in a hotel. Any hotels that are clean and near public transportation would be great. We don't need to stay in the city center or the extremely touristy areas......

3) If our flight leaves Florence super early on a Monday morning, is it better to spend our last night in Florence instead of the countryside?

Again, thank you so much for your advices!

rosespot
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Elena,

Sorry, one more question:

Is it true that most Italians will be on vacation for the whole August? is it a bad time to visit Venice and Florence/Tuscany during this month?
We are exploring the possibility of visiting in early August, but is it better to stick with the end of August/early September (tentatively Aug 28 to Sept 5)??

Thanks a lot,
rosespot
 

Elena

Well-known member
5 days in Florence and Tuscany

Ciao rosespot!

Thanks for coming back :)

I’m very happy you like Palazzo Malaspina :)
It’s actually a fantastic property of great charme for a great stay!

If you are going to stay in the countryside, having a car is actually a necessity, and of course you’ll not need it while in Florence.
You’ll find it very pleasing driving along the winding country roads amidst beautiful landscapes!

No problem for taking the night train from Venice to Florence, don’t worry. I only recommend you inform the hotel you are staying in Florence that you are arriving late, so you can go directly at your accommodation at your arrival! Here train schedules and tickets fares.

As to accommodation in Florence I agree with you that choosing a hotel is the better option!
I recommend Albergotto Hotel, a 4 star hotel of great charme located in a beautiful area in Florence’s historical center. All the rooms are spacious and carefully furnished, providing all necessary facilities. Albergotto Hotel is also a perfect base to explore Florence’s sights and attractions.

In addition, I also suggest you have a look at the following list of boutique hotels in Florence:
http://www.florenceaccommodation.com/florence-hotels-de-charme/

As your flight is leaving very early in the morning, the best thing is actually to spend your last night in Florence and not in the countryside, so you will reach the airport more quickly.

Actually, most Italians tend to take their vacations in August, but they usually escape the heat of the city center to go to the seaside, especially the Florentines ;)

Of course Venice and Florence are very touristic destinations and tend to be quite crowded almost all year; maybe you could stick with the end of August/early September, that can be just a little bit more quiet.

Enjoy planning your Tuscan trip!
Post again for any question or suggestions needed :)
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Rosespot,

Yes, many Italians do take their vacations in August and while you might find some shops closed during the central week of August (around the 15th since it is a national holiday), most shops and businesses that work with travelers (including bars and restaurants) will be open. Many in the downtown area don't close at all (they take their holidays in the off-season) so you shouldn't be greatly impacted by this... do consider that August tends to be hot in Florence since it is in a valley but other towns in Tuscany are sitting on hills so the weather even if warm should be okay in general ;-)
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Lourdes and Elena,
Thank you again for the great information!! We have booked our tickets and hotels, so here we come (last week of August)!
We still have a few things to work out, such as hiring a car. We did a quick search, and ouch, taxes and fees for hiring a car is quite expensive in Italy. Will try to find a bargain, if at all possible. :)

Another question, is there any website that has reviews for restaurants by the locals? We have "yelp.com" in the US, so I was hoping to find something like that.

Thank you very much for your help!!

Rosespot
 

Elena

Well-known member
Tuscany Restaurants' Reviews

Dear Rosespot,
You are welcome!

We are happy you’ve booked your tickets and hotels :)
Your Tuscan trip is approaching!

You are right, hiring a car in Italy is quite expensive! You might also try at this link.

As for websites with restaurants’ reviews by the locals, there are quite many but they are in Italian, such as 2 spaghi.
You might use Tripadvisor.com or the forum on chowhound.com.

Post again for any other question :)

Again have a great stay in Tuscany!
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Elena,
Thank you so much again for the useful information! Hope I can do more planning for our trip soon, when work is not as crazily busy.
Thanks again!!
Rosespot
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Lourdes and Elena,
It's me again, with more questions. :p

So our plan is to leave Florence on a Thursday. We will be staying at Malazzo Malaspina for 3 nights. Then head back to Florence on Sunday morning.

The question is, we also want to visit Pisa and/or Lucca. Current plan is to get there after we leave Florence on Thursday morning, but we need to arrive in San Donato by that evening. Is that doable (time on the road/traffic/amount of driving, etc.)??
The other option is to drive down from Florence to San donato directly on Thursday first and spend the rest of the day in that area. Then either on Friday or Saturday, we drive up from San Donato to Pisa/Lucca. However, from the map, it seems more out of the way than our first option (Florence to lucca to Pisa to San Donato).

What would you recommend?? I hope I made sense with my descriptions...

Thanks a lot!!

Rosespot
 

Elena

Well-known member
Welcome back Rosespot :)

I highly recommend visiting Pisa and Lucca while you are staying in Florence, before leaving for San Donato in Poggio.

You can conveniently reach both art cities by train from Florence SMN’s train station.
There are many fast trains reaching Pisa in less than one hour.
In this way you will spare a lot of time!

I would not recommend driving up from San Donato to Pisa and Lucca, the journey is quite long!

Feel free to post again :)

Have a great day!
 

rosespot

Member
Thanks Elena!

But oh, tough schedules for us. We will arrive in Florence on a Tuesday late afternoon. Plan to spend full day Wednesday visiting Florence. Need to be in San Donato in Poggio on Thursday night. Then will be back to Florence on Sunday before noon. Flight back to the US at 6 am Monday morning.
I guess we can either:
1) go to Pisa and Lucca by train on Thursday (from florence). Take train back to Florence and pick up our car in late afternoon and drive down to San Donato;
2) pick up our car on Thursday morning in Florence, then drive to Pisa and Lucca, and then San Donato at night; or
3) On Sunday, after we drop off our car in Florence, take the train to Pisa and Lucca, and return to Florence by the end of the day.

Are things open on Sunday? both in Florence, and in Pisa/Lucca?
Not sure which of the above options is the best.... please advise.

Thanks a lot,
Rosespot
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Rosespot,

I think Sunday makes the most sense, when you are not in a hurry to be elsewhere by the evening and can take your time getting to Pisa and Lucca. You'll find all of the main monuments open in Pisa (see hours here), just keep in mind that on Sunday there are several masses throughout the day and the cathedral can't be visited during services. The same for any churches you want to visit on a Sunday. Definitely visit the cathedral in Lucca as well (open 7am-7pm) and see the Volto Santo (Sacred Cross) and the monument to Ilaria del Carretto in the sacristy (beautiful marble funereal monument). Also recommend the nearby Church of San Giovanni where you can visit the floor underneath with archeological remains of the old church and see Roman floor mosaics.
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Lourdes,
Thank you so much for the information and recommendation! I am glad to know that most monuments in Pisa and Lucca will be open on Sunday. I was a bit worried.
Salute to all of you again!!

Rosespot
 

JMFell

Well-known member
I agree about seeing Pisa, we stayed in the Chianti region of Tuscany for 8 days and burned one day going to Pisa and had no regrets. It is truly amazing to see everything inside the walls.
 

rosespot

Member
Hi Lourdes and Elena,
I am back again! With only one week left before we leave for Italy, I am doing some final planning now.

So we will start heading to San Donato in Poggio (from Florence) on Thursday (staying at palazzo malaspina for 3 nights), probably late morning or so. Should be in the area at noon.
I plan to spend the rest of Thursday in Chianti (Greve, Radda, Castellina, Gaiole, etc.). Trying to make a reservation at Solo Cicca for that evening!

For Friday, I am thinking about visiting Monteriggioni and Siena. Would that be too much time? should i cover another town or not?

For Saturday, I am not quite sure where to go... Should we visit San Gimignano and Volterra, OR Montalcino and Montepulciano?? would it be too crazy to go to both regions in one day?? How is traffic like on Saturdays?

Would appreciate some advices.

Thanks a lot!!
Rosespot
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Rosespot!

You've got a full Thursday planned! Since your time is limited, I'd highly recommend you head to Greve, head to Radda (really charming). Gaiole is the furthest and has the less to offer (not on a hilltop and thus less "charming" - most of the attractions are wine related and outside of the town) so if you don't make it that far don't worry about it! From Radda head back to Panzano to enjoy your dinner there at Solo Ciccia and then enjoy a stroll through town to work down some of that dinner! ;)

Monteriggioni and Siena on the same day are fine, as they are really close. Siena will take most of your day, Monteriggioni is a small castle where you can walk around the walls and have a pleasant visit "back in time", it really is a neat small town within the walls. I don't think you can really include other towns into the same day aside from other options along the way heading back to San Donato - some options would be Colle Val d'Elsa (dinner there) or Staggia (a really small town along the Via Cassia but we had a wonderful meal at the "Pozzo dei Desideri" restaurant right in town) or Castellina in Chianti (since you'll likely not see it on Thursday).

For Saturday, San Gimignano and Volterra are definitely more doable, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. It should take about 35-40 min to get from one to the other. Being closer to your accommodation, I'd plan on Volterra in the morning so that you can spend the rest of the day in San Gimignano and enjoy dinner there, having a shorter drive to get back to Malaspina afterward.

Montalcino and Montepulciano are definitely another option, but it is further away and longer drive there and back. You really can't do all four in the same day, though. You would end up not seeing any aside from just passing through and feeling as if you were in a rush throughout the whole day. You could do Montalcino in the morning (get an early start as it is 1.5 hour drive), stop in San Quirico in Orcia and Pienza for a short visit to each (really small towns) on your way to Montepulciano, spend the rest of the day there and enjoy dinner there. From Montepulciano the drive back will be another 1.5 hours.

Traffic on Saturday truly depends on the day but is generally quite manageable. You should not have problems moving about Tuscany from that point of view - just remember many roads are 2 lane roads from the very start! The Florence-Siena road on the other hand is 2 lanes on each side, so traffic is generally fine on that road if you manage to not find work in progress ;) (when that happens, sections become one lane and that is where you might find a bit of traffic but oftentimes it clears quickly). The most important thing to remember is this: You're coming at the end of August, when lots of Italians and other Europeans have been on vacation - and many of them will be on the road and going back home on the last weekend of August (this coming up weekend). Most of the flow is from South to North. Not knowing your exact days in Italy, I can only say watch out for traffic due to that - if you have access to internet, use the Autostrade website as a resource to check traffic conditions on the highways (toll roads manages by Autostrade).
 

rosespot

Member
Dear Lourdes,

Thank you so much for your detailed and quick response!! It's very very helpful.

For Thursday, we will focus on Greve and Radda then. And of course, dinner in Panzano (confirmed!). :)

I will discuss with my husband what to do on Saturday. He said he read that San Gimignano is notoriously famous for being packed in the summer. We actually will be there on Sept 1, 2 and 3, so hopefully, most other European tourists will be home already then.

You are absolutely right, we do not want to rush and just to be at places. We would rather enjoy each town in a more leisure way. It will be a struggle between seeing Volterra/San Gimignano OR Montalcino/Montepulciano. Which region has so-called "more to offer" in your opinion??

And if we want to visit one winery, which town would you recommend?

Thanks a ton!!
Rosespot
 
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