We leave in a few days for our trip to Italy. We will be spending some time in Florence and wondered if anyone knows of a tour or how to best experience Tuscany. We don't want to rent a car, so a tour, train or bus would be best. We will have one day to do this. Any ideas would be appreciated.
Mark, a couple of thoughts. It is very easy to take a local train to Siena. It's a 1-hr ride. Local buses will take you to the town wall (about 2km). Then, you can take a local bus to San Gimignano. San Gimignano bus lines can take you there with a bus change in Poggibonsi. Then, after S.G. you can local bus back to the Poggibonsi train station for the 1hr ride back to Florence. Trains and buses run frequently so it's a nice adventureous day trip.
Or, Grayline has a bus trip from Florence to both San G. and Siena. In Siena, it includes a 1hr guided tour. We've taken this run and it was very nice. If you want more info on the Grayline tour, message me and I'll give you much more info.
Go to Siena...it is beautiful!
If you want to go to Siena the bus is a better option. It takes you to town rather than the train station that is about 2km outside of town. In Florence the bus and train stations are a few hundred meters apart. See http://www.sitabus.it/sita-toscana/Firenze-Siena07.pdf for schedules.
My favorite Tuscan town is Lucca. It's much smaller than Siena and not as crowded. If you're looking a relaxed town go here. Make it an overnight stay if at all possible.
We booked Siena and San Gimignano through Expedia.com and it was great. Both towns were beautiful and the tour guide was great.
Bus to Siena, definitely.
Having been to all three, I would cast my vote for Siena. Two large and historical churches...the Municipal tower, the Piazza del Campo...lots to see in a confined space. While I really loved the time we spent in Lucca (2 nights this last September) and San Gimi (2 nights back in 2002)...I can't think of a single thing that stands out as a must see...great ambience...lovely hilltown experience...but not grab you by the shirt collar interesting...Siena is that.
Another vote for taking the bus to Siena. It's beautiful. (There's a local bus that leaves from the station in Florence with, if I recall correctly, a transfer at Poggibonsi.)
Ditto to Lois and Janet on Siena. Take the bus Grayline tour to San Gimignano and Siena, but eat at a restaurant on the piazza instead of the basement dump they book for the tour. You will have plenty of time, the food is good and watching the people is worth every minute. You have to pay for lunch anyway, so it was better for us to have an hour one of the most famous piazzas in Italy.
My daughter (age 14) says her favorite day in our whole trip was the day we spent wandering around Siena. Very relaxing.
Just another option to consider would be a day trip with Accidental Tourists. They pick you up in a van in Florence and take a scenic drive out to a villa where wine and olive oil is made. You get a tour of the villa and then they take you to another villa where you have a wine tasting and also taste the olive oil. We just did a half day so went back to Florence from there, but they have longer day tours that then split to do different things, such as go hiking or take a cooking class. We weren't able to spend more time in Tuscany so this was our little taste and it was one of our best days in Italy.
Grayline to San Gimignano and Siena. Cost 65 euros and there are two private guides, one in each city. Eat on the Piazza in Siena and not the basement restaurant the tour books. More fun watching the people in the square and food is better as well. Be sure to see the INSIDE of the city hall tower.
Train in inconvenient and cars a hassle with the roads and drivers. Let the bus driver take care of driving and enjoy the countryside. It's beautiful!!