Please help me decide where to spend 4 nights in Tuscany.
August 3, 2010 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Please help me decide where to spend 4 nights in Tuscany.

My wife and I are going to Italy for 11 nights in September. We are starting off with 5 nights in Rome, then 4 nights in Tuscany, then 2 nights in Milan (since we are flying home from Milan).

My question is where to stay in Tuscany? I am currently considering Lucca and Greve in Chianti. They both seem like towns large enough to have a bunch of restaurants to choose from, but small enough to feel like a small town. Lucca will allow a day trip to Cinque Terre, and Greve will allow day trips to some of the other famous Tuscan hill towns.

Which would you pick, and why?

A few notes:

- We will have a car for this part of the trip.
- We are not into wine, although we might visit one winery just for fun.
- I was in Orvieto, another hill town, and found it to be very touristy. All the restaurants and shops were filled only with tourists. I would like to avoid this - would like to be with some locals.
- I have spent some time in Florence and probably will not go back on this trip.

posted by kdern to Travel & Transportation around Italy (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lucca is nice but tiny. I was bored there after an afternoon. Also Lucca is pretty well established as a daytrip from Florence so there will be plenty of tourists.

If you do end up in Lucca, rent a bike and ride around the path on top of the old city walls.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:32 AM on August 3, 2010

The countryside surrounding Greve is very nice and cycling there is fun. But I wasn't all that impressed with Greve itself.
posted by The World Famous at 12:26 PM on August 3, 2010

Have you considered Siena? Siena is gorgeous, large enough to have lots of things to see/do but all eminently walkable inside the walls. Fascinating history too.
posted by ambrosia at 12:35 PM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

We stayed in Villa Marta in Lucca and it was spectacular.
posted by randomination at 12:39 PM on August 3, 2010

It is Tuscany. There will be way too many tourists any place nice.
posted by JPD at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2010

I don't think you can avoid tourists in Tuscany. If its tourists you want to avoid there are other parts of Italy with beautiful unspoiled towns and with much better food than Tuscany.

That said, the further East the better. I was in that region in April and Umbria felt a bit more serene and beautiful than Tuscany. Arezzo, Gubbio, Cortona, Assisi were all dramatic towns. Touristy, yes, but it felt like the tourists went home in the evening. The drive from Perugia to Gubbio was gorgeous.

Greve is a bit too over-developed to be cute, I think. The best restaurant in that area is probably Taverna del Guerrino - which serves wonderful grilled cuts of meat from the famous Panzano butchers - in nearby Montefioralle. Montefioralle is cute but impossibly tiny.

The best meal in that area was actually in Montefalco at L'Alchimista. I know you said you don't like wine but a Sagrantino is a beautiful thing.

Anyways, I don't know if this is useful to you or others, but I made a restaurant map of Tuscany.
posted by vacapinta at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

Arezzo is one of my favourite places. Enough culture and antiquities to be worth seeing, ignored enough not to be full of tourists. Benigni's Life is Beautiful was filmed there, and there are explanatory signs at each of the locations. The monthly antiques fair brings people from all over Europe, and is awesome. There is a recently-restored crucifixion by a contemporary of Cimabue in the San Francesco church, as well as a cycle of afrescos by Pier della Francesca, and in nearby San Domenico a crucifix by Cimabue. The food is robust Tuscan, straightforward, in your face and decently priced. In nearby Monterchi is the Madonna del Parto, and Cortona is only 30 km further south (very much worth seeing, but with far more tourists). It's a town I'd consider going to live in: enough to see and experience to fill out a retirement, small enough to be walkable and livable.
posted by aqsakal at 12:56 PM on August 3, 2010

It is Tuscany. There will be way too many tourists any place nice.

Not so, thank god. Which is way I will email you my recommendation.
posted by L'OM at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

seconding Siena for one night - so that logistically you can look around and still have time for leasurely dinner.

For the "small village with extra charm" experience one night in Bagno Vignoni (simple hotel on the square much better than pretentious faux-swanky on the edge of town with swimming pool) would be nice. From there day trips to Montalcino (for the winery tour and the walls- check the wine shop in the basement even if on the expensive side) and here for sheer OMGness.
posted by MessageInABottle at 7:05 AM on August 4, 2010

I loved San Gimignnano. Best hole in the wall pizza and saffron gelato ever.
posted by R.Stornoway at 12:47 PM on August 4, 2010

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