I’m going to spend at least 10 days in Tuscany but want to have one base from which to make day trips. What is the best town for that? Also, is it better to go in April or May?
Will you have a car or will you rely on public transportation?
Will have a car.
To decide on one place for your base, can you map out the towns that are important for you to visit? Basically I think just about any town in Tuscany would be lovely, but you'll want to avoid excessive backtracking in driving to destinations X, Y, and Z during your 10 days. Also, look at which towns have convenient parking versus ZTL.
I take it you don't want to be based in Florence? I would only consider Florence if I were going to rely on public transportation.
Weather tends to be cool in April, but pleasant. It can turn hot in the last weeks of May, but you're unlikely to get full summer-like heat. You can see past weather patterns for a specific place (e.g., Florence) on the Weather Underground website. Hotel rates might possibly be a little lower in April than May for places that vary by "shoulder season" versus high tourist season.
I think making a list of places you want to visit will really help you sort these kinds of things out. More than 10 years ago we stayed for a week outside Castellina in Chianti which was trying very hard to get on the tourist map at the time. This a good area and is close to many of the smaller towns people want to visit in northern Chianti.
Google maps driving times: Greve in Chianti 25min, Siena 30min, San Gimignano 40min, Volterra 55min
(These times are optimistic but they are a starting point for comparison.)
But what you'll find is that many other towns like Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Cortona in the south are more than an hour away even by Google maps standards so driving round trip is easily 3-4 hours on the road. It might make sense to have one northern base and one southern base if you really want to explore all of the famous Tuscan country towns this trip. Or decide on your top 5 or 6 places that are closest together and choose a central base near there.
This really comes down to the places you want to see and the experiences you want to have. Remember to schedule down time to enjoy the slower pace of rural Tuscan life and don't plan to make a long drive everyday.
Park in the lot at the edge of town, watch out for ZTLs and have a wonderful trip!
1) Florence, wonderful city, but more expensive for entire 10 days. Also, parking can be an issue.
2) Siena, great place and easy to find affordable lodging with parking.
3) Lucca, another great place, near Pisa with more affordable lodging.
We did this twice, both times we stayed in beautiful apartments in Montepulciano. Not for 10 days, but 5 once and 7 once. We loved that M was large enough to come home in late afternoon from our wanderings, and still fun to explore the many spots to dine and shop. Parking can be tricky but we were able to find small parking areas tucked away at the "top" where our apts were. Your host can help with this. Google took us right up the middle thru the ZTL. So embarassing amd yes the ticket came months later in the mail. But this is not necessary if you do your research. :)
Thank you for these suggestions. Choosing one or two central bases makes a lot of sense.
As I have been discussing this with my wife our plans are expanding. We not think that I will work remotely for the entire month of October 2024, the month our 30th anniversary. We have been to Rome and Florence several times. My wife wants to spent at least two weeks in Sorrento, which we fell in love with last summer.
I want to see some of northern Italy, and we will likely start or trip with a few days in Venice, then make our way south. Perhaps a base in northern Tuscany for a week and a base in southern Tuscany for a week, then on to Sorrento.
We would like to stay in agriturismos where possible. I only want to rent a car on the days we want to get away from our base. Is there a travel agency that helps arrange lodging, transportation and periodic car (or motorcycle) rentals?