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Itinerary help in Tuscany

New York, NY
Level Contributor
52 posts
14 reviews
Itinerary help in Tuscany

My family of 5 (2 adults, and 3 school-kids/teens) will be travelling in Italy for two weeks starting mid August. We are arriving to Milan on Aug 12 and taking a train to Florence, where we are staying for 6 nights on the first leg of our trip.

I am having trouble deciding how to strategically organize some of the days because of possible bus/train schedule changes due to Ferragosto on Aug 15.

Aug 14, Tuesday: Florence walk and Accademia tour

Aug 16, Thursday: Uffizi Gallery tour

We want to visit Pisa and Lucca as a day trip; Siena on a different day. and possibly San Gimignano/Voltera by car.

Originally, I planned to go to Siena on Monday, Aug 13 and have a 2 hour tour at 10:30 am, but now I am worried that with the jet lag we won't be able to be at the bus/ train station by 8 am.

I know that there will be Palio horse race on Aug 16, so when is better to visit Siena? So when will it be best to visit each town? Aug 13 Monday , Aug 15, Wednesday or Aug 17, Friday if we go by bus/train?

As an option, I have been looking at some organized tours to take us to Siena and San Gimignano, but it looks like all tours pack 3-4 places with wineries and lunches we aren't particularly interested in. I am afraid we won't have enough time in each town to enjoy it.

Is Aug 15 a bad day to travel in terms of crowds and bus/train schedule changes?

Or would you advise us to stay in Florence and explore it on Aug 15, making it 3 full days there, and drop San Gimignano/Voltera (by car)?

So confused. Please help!

9 replies to this topic
Destination Expert
for Florence
Level Contributor
3,142 posts
6 reviews
1. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

NYbeachmama5

You ask about a zillion questions, and then you organize them in a way that makes it really hard to answer.

I will take a crack at answering some, but not all. Hopefully others will help out as well.

Ferragosto falls on a Wednesday. Plan on a lot of restaurants and many of the better small shops to be closed the entire week -- if not the fortnight, if not the whole month. A huge percentage of Italians will be headed for beaches or mountains or other vacation spots in the countryside. And, of course, there will be the usual hordes of Scandinavians, Dutch, Brits, Germans, Americans, etc., etc., Therefore, it's really a lousy week for travelling anywhere in Italy.

And it's going to be hot.

Your idea of taking three or more day trips to Pisa/Lucca, Siena, and San Gimignano strikes me as a truly unpleasant recipe.

You give the impression that you are contemplating renting a car for a day to drive to San Gimignano. That is really a bad idea on many different fronts. First, it will take you at least an hour to get your hands on the car at any car rental agency in town or at the airport -- and you will have to spend the same time returning it -- and few of the agencies stay open late. So you are talking about having the car for a very short time. Second, you have to deal with driving through the suburbs of Florence to get in and out, which will take a lot more time. Third, San Gimignano will be jammed to the gills with busloads of Danes and Germans and Japanese, and who knows what. Getting in and out of the parking lot in San Gimignano can take a ridiculously long time. The cost of renting a car for one day is insanely high. And have you ever driven in Tuscany? What do you know about ZTLs? Restricted bus lanes? The rules of the road which bare no resemblance to those in The City?

You don't want any part of Siena on the day of the Palio -- unless you are lucky enough to have access to one of the palazzi on the Campo -- which doesn't seem likely.

Why are you going to the Uffizi? Are you -- or anybody else in the family -- passionately interested in late Medieval or early Renaissance Florentine painting? What other museums are you visiting in Florence?

I would suggest that you think about spending most of the time in Florence and then renting a car for a few days to visit some other part of Tuscany -- but it's awfully late to start planning something like that, and I have no idea where you'd start booking hotels or agriturismi to stay in.

Bedfordshire...
Destination Expert
for Berlin
Level Contributor
12,447 posts
115 reviews
2. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

I would be delighted if everyone could take heed of Venerosi's comments about the Uffizi, so that those of us who do adore that period can have a bit of room.

Boston...
Level Contributor
41 posts
12 reviews
3. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

I am planning for next spring 2019 and found a car car service, tuscandrivers.com, for a day trip from Lucca to Volterra and San Gimignano. They are exclusive to your group and you can come and go when you want. Good luck.

Destination Expert
for Florence
Level Contributor
3,142 posts
6 reviews
4. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

Trying to see much of anything in those three towns in one day is a mistake.

Look at a map.

Lucca is west of Florence.

San Gimignano and Volterra are both south of Florence.

There is simply no good way to make a triangle.

You are going to spend way, way more time in the car or van or whatever than you are seeing anything.

It really makes sense to make choices. You should choose between heading west and heading south. You really can't do both if you want to see much of anything.

If it were me, I would go south. We love Volterra.

Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
33,924 posts
17 reviews
5. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

Using public transport, take the train in the morning to Pisa, continue later by train to Lucca returning by train from Lucca to Florence wwww.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

Travelling on regional trains, validate your train ticket before boarding in the validation box

Buses Firenze to Siena and San Gimignano www.busfox.com/timetable

www.discovertuscany.com www.aboutpisa.info

Montepulciano, Italy
Destination Expert
for Tuscany
Level Contributor
9,258 posts
7 reviews
6. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

"I would be delighted if everyone could take heed of Venerosi's comments about the Uffizi, so that those of us who do adore that period can have a bit of room."

Seconding that. Nowhere else on earth surely do you find quite so many people who so wish they were somewhere (make that anywhere) else than in the Uffizi. It's written right across their face. And there are far too many faces.

Eagle River, Alaska
Level Contributor
801 posts
25 reviews
7. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

Curious as to the second leg of your trip after you leave Florence. I do hope you have involved your kids in the itinerary planning and that they are aware that it will be hot, crowded and, on occasion, involve waiting in the heat for trains/buses/museum entrance/church entrance, etc. Also keep in mind that restaurants do not open until 7:30 for dinner so bedtime will be later making early morning departures a bit of an effort, particularly for some teens.

New York, NY
Level Contributor
52 posts
14 reviews
8. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

Thank you everyone for your insights.

To Venerosi: we are going to Pisa and Lucca on one day, and on the other we are going to San Gimignano and Volterra. So two different day trips, not the same day.

We are renting a car on our way out of Florence but I am debating if we should rent a car one day earlier and drive to Volterra and San Gimignano as a day trip.

Basically, I am asking what would be more appealing to older kids/teens: staying one extra day in Florence (which falls on Aug 15, the holiday), or visiting San Gimignano and Volterra?

To BonnieGM: on the second leg of our trip we are driving from Florence to Rimini for 4 days. Then continuing to Lake Garda for several days with a day trip to Verona. Then going to Milan (possible stop in Brescia) for one night stay before flying back to the US.

Montepulciano, Italy
Destination Expert
for Tuscany
Level Contributor
9,258 posts
7 reviews
9. Re: Itinerary help in Tuscany

We don't know your kids but in general I think at that age they'll find Volterra / San Gim more interesting than Florence. Volterra used to be very popular with American teens as a result of that vampire series of books and later films. The name escapes me now but it was set and one movie even shot there. There's a great deal more to the town than that tenuous connection and San Gim too is interesting for all ages. However, do please note that it will be absolutely packed that week as in addition to foreign tourists it's the peak period for Italian vacationers. In fact, everywhere is going to be absolutely heaving, my own little village included to the point that we always leave the country for the week of Ferragosto ...

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