Tuscany gave birth to the Renaissance and it is the revolutionary impact of this great cultural movement that has given the province its importance. Works by Tuscan masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo influenced the path of art to the present day and Tuscan architects, most notably Brunelleschi who designed the dome of Florence’sDuomo, had a lasting influence on architecture. Even the Italian language has its roots in the dialect written by Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch who were all born in the region. Quite apart from the dazzling cultural relics of its past, amply provided by the cities ofFlorence, Siena and Pisa, it’s the Tuscan countryside that draws people to the province. For many people it’s typically Italian with its hilltop towns, rows of cypress trees and vineyard-covered hills and it’s this very charm that has led to Tuscany’s unfortunate overcrowding. No visit to Tuscany is complete without a visit to its major attractions like Florence but to get away from the tourist hordes head to the Etruscan sites in the south and some of Italy’s best beaches on Monte Argentario and the island of Elba.
Getting Around Tuscany
Probably the easiest way of navigating round Tuscany is with your own set of wheels; as long as you feel comfortable coming up against the infamous Italian driving. The main highways are good but busy while the back roads offer scenic drives but slower progress. All the major car rental companies have outlets in the major cities and airports. The costs are around €46 per day although if you hire a car for a week prices can drop as low as €30 per day.
The car driven in the Globe Trekker: Tuscany TV programme was a Maserati, for further information contact them at the following address:
Viale Ciro Menotti, 32
And if you are unlucky enough to break down….
Tel: 00 39 02 696 82445
International Toll free number: 00 39 02 694 30006
Our crew got excellent service from them when their van broke down in the middle of the motorway.
For those more accustomed to the feeling of wind blowing through their hair, you can hire a scooter or motorbike. In Florence, traffic is restricted around the city centre so it’s best to walk, hire a scooter or hire a bicycle and beat the traffic. To hire a scooter approach Alinari.
Alinari (cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles)
Via Guelfa 85R
Tel: 0039 055 28 05 00
Scooters cost up to €41 per day and bicycles cost €6 for five hours.
If a car or bike isn’t an option, bus is your next best option for getting around. The main operators are SITA and LAZZI. There are some train connections but for the most part (except between Florence and Siena) bus is a faster mode of transport. Services are frequent on weekdays but be prepared for a distinct lack of connections smaller towns on Sundays and public holidays. An average three-hour journey is around €7.
Bus travel in Italy is potentially reliable and inexpensive but is considered second best to train travel by the natives. Granted, the train is often faster and more comfortable but can be slightly more expensive; always compare the cost with a railway ticket and check for connecting services at the local tourist information centre.
Local buses can be your only mode of public transport in a lot of the smaller towns but service is often limited to one or two daily. Along the Amalfi coast, through Tuscany, the Dolomites, Liguria, and the interior of Sardegnia and Sicily there are no or few trains, so buses are the only alternative. SITA Autostradale and Lazzi buses are the main operators through Italy however there are many private companies and therefore no central system. It pays to check for connections with the local tourist information office well ahead of time. Most private bus lines have a ticket office or allow you to pay when you board.
When taking a city bus buy your ticket from a machine, newsstand or tobacconist and stamp it on board in the validating machine. Buses going to the airport can differ from this system.
The crossing from Piombino to Elba is an hour and costs €6.20 per person or €26.75 for a small car plus driver (and other passengers cost extra).
Agenzia Marittima Sacomar
Via Guerrazzi, 11
57037 Portoferraio – Li
Tel/fax: 0565 914 797
email: info *at* sacomar.it
On Elba get away from fellow tourists on a boat hired from this agency and discover the island’s hidden coves.
Tuscany’s popularity makes it an expensive place to visit. Florence, Rome and Venice are Italy’s triumvirate of pricey cities due to hefty accommodation costs and high entrance charges to attractions.
You can feasibly get by on €90 per day if you stay in cheap pensioni or small hotels and if you keep the sit down meals and the museum visits to once a day. To keep your expenditure down in Florence, take advantage of the ‘self service’ restaurants which are scattered all over the city centre; food is mostly good and you’ll save quite a bit of money. At coffee bars prices can double if you sit down, so stand at the bar to have your coffee.
If money is no object, you’ll find lots of ways to spend it; Tuscany has plenty of luxury hotels, expensive restaurants and shops to wave your wads at.
By Silvia Santamaria