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Best way to get to Montepulciano from Monterosso and renting a car once we get there.

Hello -

What is the best and fastest way to travel from Monterosso to Montepulciano? We will need to pick up a car when you get to Montepulciano. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Also - are there restricted areas in the Tuscany region?

Also - we are traveling to many cities in Italy, is the best way to travel by train? Do you buy the tickets in advance?

Thank you all in advance for your help! Can't wait to get there!

Posted by
2484 posts

I think most probably take a train to La Spezia and pick up a car there.
Yes, please read about ZTLs and driving in general, to avoid costly tickets!

Posted by
2186 posts

I agree that your best bet is to make your way to La Spezia, pick up a car, and drive down to Montepulciano - much faster and more convenient than trying to do it by train and renting once you arrive.
Yes, many of the Tuscan hill towns have ZTL's. Plan to park outside the walls and you'll be OK.
You'll save money by booking any long distance trains (the ones with "Frecce" in the name) in advance. For the regional trains there's no advantage to booking early so you'll have more flexibility if you want to wait until the last minute ... the price doesn't change for those.

Posted by
31435 posts

"Also - we are traveling to many cities in Italy, is the best way to travel by train? Do you buy the tickets in advance?"

If you're travelling to cities, then train is absolutely the best solution. You DO NOT want a car in cities, as most of them have ZTL (limited traffic) zones, which will result in hefty fines each time you drive through one of them. Cars are useful for situations where public transit isn't frequent, such as small towns in Tuscany. Parking in cities is often expensive and hard-to-find as well.

Buying tickets in advance can save money but only for the express trains (Freccia, Intercity). Regionale trains are always the same price and there are no discounts. It doesn't matter whether you buy those in advance or online. However, one important point to mention..... if you buy Regionale tickets locally, you MUST validate them prior to boarding the train on the day of travel or risk hefty fines which will be collected on the spot! Also, tickets for express trains are specific to train, date and departure time and include compulsory seat reservations, and can ONLY be used on the one train listed on the ticket. If you board the wrong express train by mistake, again hefty fines.

You can buy advance rail tickets for Italy either on the rail company websites (Trenitalia, Italo) or from resellers such as, Loco2 or others.

One other point to mention (that you already may be aware of)..... Note that each driver listed on the rental form must have the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. You can obtain an IDP at any AAA / CAA office for a small fee. These are valid for one year.

Posted by
13325 posts

we are traveling to many cities in Italy, is the best way to travel by
train? Do you buy the tickets in advance?

It would help to know which ones those are? You mention Rome, Florence and Venice in previous posts (yes, you'll want to use trains for those) but which others? As already cautioned, do the reading about driving in Italy before the trip so you can avoid some costly pitfalls we've seen tourists stumble into often enough on these forums. For instance:

Speeding and driving in bus lanes are also common ticketed offenses, and practically all traffic violations are registered on camera versus stops. Also, be cautious not to leave anything that you don't want to risk losing in an unattended car.

A good place to start reading about train travel in Italy:

Posted by
3112 posts

To rent a car near Montepulciano, you would need to take a 4.5-5.5 hour train ride to Chiusi, pick up a rental car there and then drive another half hour to Montepulciano. Picking up the rental car in La Spezia and driving to Montepulciano would be much faster.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you all for your responses. I am now feeling completely overwhelmed! :) I had no idea I needed to purchase a special license to drive in Italy. And now that I am looking at train schedules - Geez - it is so confusing. :) So many railroads and hard to determine exact times we will be traveling. We are flying into Milan, staying one night (just wanted to view the Last Supper), we are then traveling to Venice, from Venice we are moving on to Florence. After that we are traveling to Cinque Terre and from there to Tuscany and then are finishing up in Rome....Sooooo a lot of traveling, never been to Europe at all before and now sufficiently worried that I will never get to where I want to go. :) Lots of research to do for this girl!

Posted by
2186 posts

It's not a special license. It's an International Driving Permit (IDP) which is simply a translation of your already existing license for driving in countries where English isn't the official language... including Italy where I think it's now a legal requirement in order to rent a vehicle. You can purchase one at any AAA office. Costs about $25, takes all of 10 minutes, and is good for a year.

Posted by
2484 posts

1) Just go to AAA for the IDP (international drivers permit)--20 bucks, not a big deal.

2) Your itinerary is not complicated: Milan-Venice-Florence-CT village-pick up car for rural Tuscany/drop car- train to Rome.
Trenitalia or Italotreno for all, just buy the tickets when you are ready to go. I do hope you have about two weeks for this plan though!

Posted by
31435 posts


Actually, you have a fairly straight forward Itinerary. If you could provide a few more details, I'm sure the group here will be able to help you sort through all the details.

As you've never been to Europe before, I would highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. It has a lot of good information on how to travel well in Europe. You may also find it helpful to pack along a copy of the RS Italy guidebook as there's a lot of detail there on how to avoid queues, how to get reservations for sites like The Last Supper, etc.

A few questions.....

  • I may have missed it, but when is this trip taking place?
  • Which of the five Cinque Terre towns are you planning on staying in? Have you got a hotel room booked?
  • Are you set on going to Montepulciano or would another town in Tuscany suffice? Perhaps somewhere like Siena would be as good as transportation is easier. From there you could take day trips to other towns.
  • Where are you flying from? Don't underestimate the effects of jet lag. Staying only one night in Milan means you'll have to find someplace to store your luggage when you see The Last Supper.
  • Have you booked your first night in Milan? If so, what area is your hotel in?

The rail system is actually very simple as there are basically only two main rail networks in the areas you'll be travelling - Trenitalia and Italo.

Your first challenge will be getting from MXP to your hotel in Milan. The easiest mode of transport is the Malpensa Express (train), which makes the trip to Milano Centrale in about 52 minutes. There are a few potentially expensive caveats to be aware of (which I mentioned above) as that's a Regionale train. If you need more detailed information on that trip, post another note. You don't need to buy an advance ticket for that.

You may find it helpful to pack along €50-100 to cover expenses until you get settled and can access an ATM (Bancomat).

Have you researched travelling with electronics or appliances (Plug Adapters), using ATM's in foreign countries (you may have to notify your financial institutions that you'll be travelling) and the aspect of pickpockets and scammers (Money Belts would be a good idea)?

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you so much! All of this information is incredible.

We are going from Oct 3 - Oct 19, 2019 - so only 2 more months!
We have already have all our rooms booked for each town.

We are flying from the US overnight and arriving at 10am in Milan. Our hotel is near the Porta Garibaldi stop?? So I started reviewing that last night to determine how to get there and gave up! :) It sounds like I will have to take the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale and then hop on that and take it to Porta Garibaldi?

I'm sure there will be jet lag, but we booked the Last Supper already for 5:00pm that day - thinking we would take a short nap and force ourselves to get up and go to it so no need for luggage storage. Then have dinner and head back for a good night's sleep. Although I am sure Milan is beautiful, we were only planning on seeing the last supper and the Duomo there.
Our plan was to head to Venice the next day after breakfast.

Yes - got my plug adapters, contacted my Bank and cell phone company, and bought Rick Steve's money belt! Thanks. I think just traveling once we get there is freaking me out. Whether or not to buy tickets ahead of time. Oh - and what about museum passes?? We will be in Rome for 4 whole days - is it better to purchase individual passes or not?

Any other, thoughts, ideas, or suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thank you so much everyone!

Posted by
31435 posts


You mentioned that your hotel is close to the Porta Garibaldi station. That appears to be quite some distance from the centre of Milan, so it's going to take awhile to get to your hotel and then back in to see The Last Supper. It will also be an extra step to get from your hotel to Milano Centrale to connect with your train to Venice.

In the same situation, I would have chosen one of the hotels close to Milano Centrale ( such as Hotels Berna or Garda).

I only looked at this briefly as it's late and I'm running out of steam. Perhaps I missed something?

Posted by
13325 posts

Oh - and what about museum passes?? We will be in Rome for 4 whole
days - is it better to purchase individual passes or not?

This subject has seen a lot of discussion lately as there have been some wrenches thrown into tourist passes recently. The tall and short of it is that yes, you definitely are going to want advance, timed-entry tickets for the most visited attractions to avoid long ticket queues or, in some cases, to gain admittance at all. Some of those attractions require advance reservations even if using tourist passes so those do not provide the convenience they once did. So, just off the top of my head:

Colosseum, Rome: advance timed-entry tickets or mandatory reservations (if using the Roma Pass). Tours are also available.

Vatican Museums, Rome: advance, timed-entry tickets or tour HIGHLY recommended.

Galleria Borghese, Rome: advance reservations are mandatory. Not covered by passes.

Uffizi, Florence: advance timed-entry tickets or mandatory reservations if using the Firenzecard.

Accademia, Florence: I'd suggest timed-entry tickets. Reservations are mandatory if using the Firenzecard.

Duomo dome climb, Florence: advance reservations are mandatory even with Firenzecard. If using the card, you cannot make those reservations until you get to Florence and by that time all available slots may be booked.

As you are only going to be in Florence for 1 full day, you are going to have limited sightseeing time so a pass would not be economical, and with now needing to book advance reservation times at the Colosseum, I don't personally recommend the Roma Pass. That one does cover public transit within the historic center (not to/from the airports) but for as little as we used transit, it wouldn't have been all that useful.

Editing to add: should your one full day in Florence be a Monday, be aware of museum closures (Uffizi, Accademia, Palazzo Pitti).