Italy - Rome and Tuscany - where to stay

Hi there,

My wife and I are planning to go Italy during the last week of October for the first time. We want to explore and live in the countryside with the authentic Italian hospitality and would prefer not to stay in a touristy place. We would also like to take some cooking classes. Here's our rough itinerary. It will be great to get some recommendation for both places to stay, eat (lunch and dinner) and the route to take (we are planning to rent a car).

Oct 26th - Fly into Rome
Oct 26, 27 - Spend in Rome
Oct 28 - Drive to Tuscany
Oct 28, 29, 30, 31, Nov 1 - Spend in Tuscany
Nov 2nd - Fly out of Florence

I had few questions:
Rome:
1) During Rome should we rent a car? How easy it is to rent a car from a place other than the airport (if we decide not to rent one during our stay in Rome?)
2) We would really like to do the Vatican tour, see Colosseum, Pantheon, St Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel. Is this too much to fit over 2 days? We are okay cutting down on few sites.
3) Any recommendations for accommodations? We don't want anything fancy but something that is safe and historic.

Tuscany:
1) Is the drive from Rome to Tuscany recommended? What are the good scenic routes to take? Good places to eat during the drive?
2) We would like to stay in one place (as our base) in Tuscany and make day trips during our stay. What day trips are recommended?
3) We definitely want to go to Florence. We have heard it is not recommended to drive there so we are open to taking the train or bus to Florence and doing a day trip.
4) What are the must sees when in Tuscany? Both my wife and I are foodies so would love to try out different places and pick up on some authentic italian cooking. If there are any bed and breakfasts that are very local and offer cooking classes, we'd be up for that.
5) It is our first time in Italy and we want to make it as relaxing as possible. Anything else you would recommend we should do or not do?

Sorry for posting so many questions. I have been reading these forums and i'm sort of confused due to information overload. It will be great to get some clarity!

Thanks a lot!!!!
 

Melany

Well-known member
We just did 3 days in Rome. Your wish list is possible.
We booked 2 tours with Through Eternity. They specialize in SMALL groups.
We took the 5-hour Ancient Rome and the 5-hour Vatican tour.

I highly recommend the Ancient Rome tour. Be sure and request Luca. Imagine touring the Forum & Colleseum with an archeologist who worked theses sites during grad school!
I can't recommend the Vatican tour - not the guide Guido's fault. The huge crowds made us miserable. It might be different in Oct though.
You'll still have time in the afternoon/evening to see the Pantheon on your own.

Traffic is crazy there; no way in hell would I attempt to drive. We used the busses (sort of confusing) and metros (easy once you figure it out) To get around.

I loved Florence! We stayed in Hotel Casci - a few blocks from the train station and very near the Duomo.
"must see" IMO is Piazza Della Signoria/pilazo Vecchio and the Loggia. All together in the square. Get some gelato, spend the evening there enjoying the art, music and people watching. Be sure and climb the tower tool!

My daily blogs and photos from my trip are here. Maybe they'll help you.

I hope this post and links make sense. I did it all on my iPhone. :)
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao whiteblackfeather,

Visiting at the end of October should be a perfect time - definitely less crowds for everything, but do expect to be around other tourists - both Italian and foreign alike - as the sights are those, and everyone goes to see them.

Let's start with my limited knowledge of Rome from the times I've visited - so I'm no expert!!

- no car is needed in Rome, you can easily get around by foot and if you get tired, by bus. There is a lot of traffic in the main city, and not enough parking, so that is where headaches come up.... too chaotic, no need to do it anyways!

- car rental from other locations - I don't know but I've heard from others that they recommend skipping driving out of Rome altogether - a tip given by many is to take the train out of Rome to Orvieto and rent the car there... then continue drive into Tuscany.

- Vatican includes St. Peter's and Sistine, those are in one area... the Pantheon in the middle near Piazza Navona, the forum and Colosseum at another end. If you organize the Vatican on one day, you can do the rest on the other. If you stay central, you can walk to most places!

- as for accommodation, I suggest you start with searching with dates here then narrow down by type/cost. If you stay in the neighborhood called Trastevere, that's pretty central... and anywhere else between the Vatican and Colosseum would definitely work out great. Look at the map so you see where everything is concentrated.
I've stayed near the Termini station - it is too far from the main sights and definitely more seedy looking part in the evenings. It is still safe but I wouldn't stay there again since it is too far from the main sights.

Tuscany:
- one base for the 5 days would work out great in the countryside, with day trip into Florence working out well. Take a look at these two itineraries - these are places of "must-sees" - pick and choose upon your tastes: Tuscany in 7 Days and 5 days in Tuscany

- for places to stay, I'd recommend Casolare di Libbiano first because they offer the cooking lessons on site but also Villa il Poggiale and Palazzo Malaspina

- you can drive to Florence as a day trip - it is just recommended that you park away from the city center to avoid in any way getting too close to the ZTL and driving into the historical center. It IS really easy to know you're driving into the wrong part - you have to turn into the heart of the city AND the streets get narrower AND there are posts with signs and a traffic light indicating the ZTL and whether anyone without a permit can go in or not (generally the light will be red (meaning you cannot enter). If you park at Piazzale Michelangelo - check out the info here - and then walk down the hill to the center, there is no way to risk going anywhere near the ZTL and you will be fine ;-)

Ok there were a lot of questions, I hope I got most of them one way or another. Do let me know what I missed or if you have additional questions!
 
Thank you sooooo much!!!!! This is great info!!! I'm going to look into the places recommended and report back to this thread with the final plan.
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Glad to help! Do let us know what you end up deciding - and we'd love to hear how everything turns out as well (great, of course ;) )
 

BRubio813

New member
going to Italy on 9/29 flying into Rome staying ther for 1 day then to Tuscany 10/2

This is our first time going, and I am so lost to where to start, we will be in Rome 9/30 at 9:00am and staying there until 10/2 leaving there and heading to Tuscany, just not sure where to stay we want to do wine tasting and food tasting and some sight seeing. We will leave on 10/7 from where we stay at in Tuscany and stay in Rome again just to pack and leave in Morning, anyways any suggestions we will not be renting a car so we will need to take a train or bus or taxi (assuming) to get to places. I see that Florence is a place to base ourselves since we will not be renting a car but yet then I see Chianti is anther place that was mentioned as a base place to stay also
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Brubio813,

Florence is a great base if you won't be renting a car - you can visit San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo easily by bus or train in this case.
Chianti is a great central area to stay in IF you have a car... it is the area between Florence and Siena so it is very central for visiting the area, but public transportation in Chianti is very spotty, to put it mildly... so that would work if you had a car.

For places to stay in Florence, take a look here to get an idea of what is available - you can stay centrally to be close to the station (for both buses and trains) or even in the outskirts if you want more tranquility.

If you give me an idea of what you're looking for, I can recommend more specific B&Bs or hotels.... or even an apartment, if you think you'd like to have your own space for cooking and more space than a room.
 

BRubio813

New member
Hi Lourdes,

I would love for you to help me with a recommendation of a hotel or B&B in Florence, if we stay in the outskirts, will thatstill work for transporation? I just read so much reviews of Hotels and it has its good and bad reviews and it is so confusing, I saw a Hotel names of Villa Olmi Resort? and also SAn Gallo Palace Hotel what do you think of those 2 Hotels? Do you think we should also buy a train pass or something like that?
 
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Melany

Well-known member
I'm not Lourdes, but I stayed in Hotel Casci in Florence. Just a few blocks from the train station, easily walkable.
Very nice breakfast, wonderful staff and hosts, reasonable prices and very clean.
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
I've heard of those two hotels, the Villa Olmi resort isn't that far outside of Florence at all and close to an ATAF bus stop that would bring you relatively close to the center of Florence so it would be a good choice even if you don't have a car.
The San Gallo is in Florence so you'd have no problem in moving around.

If you're looking for elegant places in Florence, I'd also suggest:
Hotel Principe
Villa Antea
Residenza Casanuova
Casa del Garbo
Casa del Mercato
Casa Tornabuoni

If you stay just outside of Florence in the outskirts, as long as you're near bus stops, you can easily get back into town.... the really nice places generally are further into the countryside and a car would then be recommended.
For example, these are in the outskirts but still have bus stops relatively close to make it easy to get into Florence:
La Paggeria
Poderino
Poggio al Sole
Agriturismo Villani

While I think a car would be necessary for this very nice villa which is further away: Villa Torre a Cona
 

adger321

New member
Go for a Car

I would suggest rent a car, else you might miss on beautiful sculptures and natural beauty of Rome. Rome is a beautiful place but you need time to visit all the places.
 
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