Few parts of the world are more complete than Tuscany. A bastion of rich culture and history, the Italian region is equally well-known for its idyllic landscapes. With some of the most beautiful buildings, impressive museums and beautiful views in the world, there is an no shortage of amazing things to do in Tuscany, whatever one’s interests.
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.
Where To Stay
Orto de’ Medici Hotel
Charming centuries-old palazzo with the ambiance of an elegant private home, tastefully decorated with frescoes, portraits, chandeliers and oriental carpets. The hotel is in the heart of Florence’s historic centre and only a five minute walk from the Duomo. Orto de’Medici is family-run and all the staff are very friendly and extremely helpful.
Price: Lire 300,000 for double room and Bed and Breakfast.
Orto de’ Medici
Via San Gallo , 30
Tel: 055 483 427
Fax: 055 461 276
Comfortable, tastefully decorated and extremely clean hotel ideally situated in Montalcino near Siena. It has a lovely swimming pool and is the perfect base from which to explore Montalcino’s 200 wine estates and its medieval town
Via Osticcio, 19
Tel/Fax 0577 848 326
Montebelli is in the heart of Maremma in the wilds of southern Tuscany. Run by Lorenzo and his wife Carla, the farm produces it’s own olive oil and wine and offers extremely comfortable accommodation in a beautiful setting. It’s a perfect place to get away from it all and is less that an hour from the Tuscan coast.
Price: Lire 180,000 per person half-board
Caldana (near Grosseto)
58020 Caldana (GR)
Tel: 0566 887 100
Fax: 0566 814 39
Planet Food chef Tyler Florence cooks his final dish in the beautiful home of an Italian family. This luxurious private villa in the heart of Chianti, and can be hired privately from Mrs Yole Pozzi.
PIANO ROSSO, Marradi
Owned by lively husband and wife team Emilia and Vanni, this is a delightful agriturismo perched at the top of a dramatic hill with fabulous views over the Mugello countryside. The farmhouse is surrounded by forests of chestnuts and wild mushrooms and is a rambler’s paradise. The rooms are self-contained apartments with private bathrooms but Emilia is a great cook and also prepares hearty evening meals for her guests. Chestnut tagliatelle with pancetta, radicchio and ricotta is strongly recommended.
Where To Eat
Located amid the hustle and bustle of the Sant’Ambrogio market, Cibreo is an institution in Florence. Flamboyant owner/chef Fabio Picchi provides a three-in-one dining experience: an elegant restaurant on one side, a casual trattoria on the other and, across the road, Cibreo caffe offers great coffee, snacks and a few dishes. Fabio has a strict no-pasta policy but makes up for it with an amazing array of ingredients and sumptous dishes.
Via dei Macci, 118r
Tel: 055 234 1100
Fax: 055 244 966
Vivoli, Il Gelato
If ice cream is your weakness, then Vivoli is the place to go. Founded in 1930 , it is considered by many to be the best gelateria in Florence. It is still owned by the founder’s son, Mr Piero Vivoli and his passion for his ice cream is so strong that new flavours are constantly being conjured up. His silky, rich ‘chocolate-orange’ is a firm favourite.
VIVOLI, IL GELATO
Via Isola delle Stinche, 7
Tel: 055 292 334
Tamburini is placed in the heart of the historical centre of Bologna, a town famous for its cuisine and traditionally described as a gourmet’s paradise. This famous delicatessen and lunchtime bistrot has some of the best cheeses, hams and specialities to be found in Italy. Its also a great place for culinary gifts to bring back home and you can find everything from traditional Balsamic vinegar and truffle oil, to dried porcini mushrooms and pickled aubergines.
Via Caprarie, 1
Tel: 051 234 726
Fax: 051 232 226
This small shop has some of the best fresh pasta to be found in Italy. Renata Venturi and daughters, Daniela and Monica make a mouthwatering variety of Bolognese favourites such as tortellini, tortelloni, gnocchi, lasagne, passatelli and tagliatelle all handmade on a daily basis .
Via Belvedere 7B
051 220 558
Banfi is a giant 7,000 acre wine estate in the middle of Montalcino, one of Italy’s most famous wine growing areas. Worth visiting are the spectacular cellars, the shop in the twelfth-century borgo, the restaurant where you can sample a mind boggling array of delicious wines with your meal, and the Glass Museum – housing a fascinating collection from Roman times to the present.
Tel: 0577 840 111
Fax: 0577 840 205
The impressive Biondi Santi wine estate is a wonderful place to visit and is owned by Franco Biondi Santi, grandson of the man credited with the birth of Brunello wine, Ferruccio Biondi Santi. The estate is open to visitors by appointment and the stately vine-coloured villa is a house of distinguished style where Mr Santi happily gives informal guided tours of the wine cellars and his wines can be tasted and bought.
Tel: 0577 848 087
The Tuscany region has two main airports. The Amerigo Vespucci International Airport (sometimes known as Peretola) in Florence is located about 15-20 minutes from the city centre in a taxi or bus. The bus runs to the central train station every half an hour and is fairly inexpensive. Alternatively, many flights from Europe will fly to the Gelileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa. The two airports are connected by train and by bus.
Entry visas are not required for visits under 90 days for citizens of the EU and the USA.
Italian is spoken in Tuscany but it is spoken with the distinctive dialect. Basic English will be spoken, especially in tourist areas.
£1 approximately €1.40 / $1.12
Tuscany has hot summers and moderate to cold winters, which experience light rainfall. As Tuscany is mostly inland, it lacks coastal wind and therefore the Mediterranean summer temperatures are higher in the cities than along the coast. Winters are cool with rain and sometimes snow. With warm, balmy temperatures, late-spring and early-autumn are recommended as the best times to visit.
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