Your first view of one of the hilltop towns of Tuscany will take your breath away. You may have seen pictures of these stunning locations in movies and books. But nothing can possibly prepare you for the reality.
Once you have experienced this otherworldly landscape of abundance, you will understand why history has fought over the smallest of these cities over and over again. Who does not want to own the top of one of these hills overlooking a magnificent landscape covered with vineyards that produce abundant crops for the best wines? Who would not be inspired to paint, sculpt, or roam the hills looking for gems to make fine jewelry?
If you have chosen to travel to Tuscany, you have made an excellent choice. There are, however, three key points that you need to understand before embarking on the journey.
Point 1: Give each target at least a full day, or three or five
Plan for a wonderful trip to Tuscany five goals, one big, one medium and three small. Florence, Of course this is the absolute must as your big goal. Your trip to Tuscany would not be complete without a visit to Florence. Few cities are comparable to Florence in terms of breathtaking beauty and countless impressive experiences. With its art and sculpture, gardens and architecture, history and culture, craftsmanship, wine and food, Florence will captivate you. Your time is racing by. And you will probably decide that you simply have to return for another year.
As Florence is the largest destination on your itinerary, you should spend 5 days here. But then, from Florence, make day trips by train to two of your other destinations – the small but fascinating cities of Florence Cortona and San Gimignano, Add five more days to your trip and divide them into two remaining destinations. Montepulciano and Siena, So your ideal trip takes a total of 10 days.
And what a journey it will be. You will have the time and the scope to truly enjoy this wonderful region. Sights to see. Art to read. Food and wine, enjoyed at tables in the open, overlooking the busy and spacious squares. Craft stores. Local exuberance. Landscapes that inspire you. And the considerable fun of moving around in these cities, where the journey is as much a pleasure as the arrival.
Speaking of time and scope … That brings us right away …
Point 2: Avoid group travel and have a better experience on your own
This trip to Tuscany will be rich in experiences. And it seems like it's a complex journey that you have to arrange and do yourself. So you might be tempted to sign up for a bus tour. Yes, the descriptions for these tours always sound appealing. And it seems so much easier to just turn over the controls for your trip and let someone else take the responsibility.
If your thinking tends in that direction, think again. Your trip to Tuscany is full of opportunities, too much to waste on a bus with 30 other people. You will have time to enjoy the experiences of each of these remarkable cities.
A group trip will be too fast and try to pack too much. It gets too tight, even if you're sitting tight on the bus seats designed for a smaller group of people than your towering American husband. It is choreographed at will by someone else, with a lot of precious time waiting for your chattering fellow travelers to return to the bus. And as you race through a city that the tour guide has seen hundreds of times, you'll be traveling around in a noisy place, passing by all these interesting shops and attractive bistros.
This is not what you want for your own, long-awaited trip to Tuscany. Instead, you want to move freely, walk around, and pause while spending more time here and less time there while things trap or not. Some of your most memorable moments are your bistro breaks, your visits to the shops that grab your attention, your break while gazing at peaceful hills and valleys, and your walk to a piazza restaurant with a fabulous pianist.
You can take the time to explore the leather market in Florence and study the original oils and watercolors of the artists exhibiting their own works in Piazza Michelangelo.
If you sit at an outdoor table in a restaurant behind the Duomo in Florence or on the wall opposite the Duomo in Siena, you may be involved in a photographic orgy in which you take one picture at a time, starting with the full structure then Focusing on a series of photos capturing the inlays of green, pink and white marble, or the gilded image above the door or the statues rising from the eaves protrude above you.
Of course, a group trip will take care of your needs to get from place to place. But you will do it just as well, if not better, on your own. If you need an elevator, take one with a Uber or Taxi in town (keep your contact information ready!), Combined with trains that will take you between towns and communities, and shuttle buses that will take you up the hills to the summit. Getting around on the trains is part of the fun and contributes to both your experience and your sense of achievement.
Since we occasionally talk about needing a lift, we continue with …
Point 3: Everywhere there are many hills
As you know from the term "hilltop towns", there are very few flat places in Tuscany. They walk and ride up and down and up and down, anywhere, both within the cities and on their journey from one city to another.
For each Hill Town you visit, you need to take a train to get to the base of the hill and then a shuttle bus to get to the top. This means that when leaving the train station in Cortona, San Gimignano or Montepulciano, you will need to concentrate on buying a shuttle bus ticket and taking a ride up to where the city is waiting for you.
As a rule of thumb, if you're traveling anywhere in a city, plan the following ride up, then Go backEvery chance you get. In Florence take a taxi to the Piazza Michelangelo, Ask the driver to drop you off in front of the charming hotel Miniato Abbeydirectly over the piazza. From here, every direction you go in takes you down!
After visiting the abbey, meander down to Piazza Michelangelo. While you're there, sample the phenomenal lasagna in the restaurant just above the piazza and have lunch at an outdoor table overlooking Florence.
Then take a few steps down to explore the artworks and handicrafts sold in the piazza. Take a break often to look over the wall to the rooftops of Florence, over whose dome dominates the dome and the Ponte Vecchio, which extends over the glittering thread of the Arno River. From here, you continue to wind your way down until you reach the level of the river.
So, are you ready for that? Obtain a guide, make arrangements, and embark on an adventure that will be part of your life story.