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Florence and Siena, Will We Need a Rental Car?

During our November trip to Italy, we'll start with some time in Venice. On our way to Rome, we're thinking about several days in Florence and/or Siena. I'm thinking Siena with a day trip to Florence.
One thought was to take the train. But if we decide to stay in an agritourismo, then I'm assuming a car is the way to go. If we stay in town (either/or), then we'd probably be fine using the train.
What are the options along with the pros/cons of each? We would like to explore some of the wine country during this time too.

Posted by
1766 posts

If you stay in Siena, it will be better to consider the bus rather than the train to Florence. the train station is outside the old city in Siena, but you can catch the bus just outside the piazza.

On the other hand, if you stay in Florence, the bus station is directly behind the train station, so you have the choice of either way to travel.

personally, we have never rented a car in Italy, we travel like the locals, via bus, or train. it's inexpensive, easy, no parking hassles, no insurance nightmares to share when we get home!

If you want an upclose experience, consider traveling by bike with a day trip through the Chianti region.

Siena is much more quiet than Florence, less people, but Florence is also wonderful with much to see. You cannot go wrong with either city as a base.

If you do choose to stay in the country, you will have to rent a car.

Posted by
6898 posts

A bus to Siena from Florence is much better than the train. Or, the reverse if you need to. Note, however, that the bus terminal to Siena is not the one next to the train station (track #16 side). Those are city buses. There's a second bus station one block away from the Track #1 side of the train station. It's not visible from the train station so you have to walk the block to bump into it. If you have a map, it's between via degli Orti Oricellari and Via dell Albero. It's about 40+ Euro for two for the hourly express to Siena. An alternative is the Grayline tour that's 102 Euro for two but includes a one hour stop at San Gimignano and 3 hours at Siena. The stop at Siena includes a tour (and admission to some sights). We would have like to spend more time in San Gimignano and Siena but all included, we broke even on costs if we had done it ourselves. Big recommendation: don't try to park a car in Florence. You won't be happy.

Posted by
6898 posts

A second note on the Tuscan wine country. The most current issue of Wine Spectator has the most wonderful spread on the Tuscan wine region. Maps, winery locations, places to stay, places to eat. It's a major spread. You would need a car to get around these places.

Posted by
22 posts

I did the same route with my daughter several years ago. We made a day trip to Siena by bus and a day trip to Pisa by train.

Posted by
58 posts

Larry- was that the June issue of Wine Spectator or the May?

Posted by
6898 posts

It's the most current issue dated June 30, 2007.

Posted by
357 posts

Bea,

So I'm assuming that you stayed in Florence during your trip. Is there one reason or another to stay in Siena and base from there as opposed to Florence?

Since it will be November, I don't assume that lodging and heavy tourist traffic will be an issue for us.

Posted by
842 posts

Steve, when we went to the area we followed our friends advice and based ouselves in Siena. They got this from Rick Steves, and have done it twice. The 1st time they had a car, the 2nd time Harve was our guide, and we used the trains and busses. We did not have the time to drive around the area, but just spent our time in Siena and Flo. If you read Rick's 1st page on his chapter about Siena, you will see him go on-and-on about Siena......and everything he says is true! Siena has a wonderful historic center, that allows no cars. It is a walking town that is magical at twilight.

From everything that I have read, you DO NOT want to drive in Florence. (when Harve had his car, he parked it at the hotel and took the bus into Florence.!)I think that the bus runs around 30 times a day, and only costs $6 or 7 E. If you are going to rent a car, rent your car here from Auto Europe. We just did that on our last trip a few weeks ago. They have the best rates. They also list two sites in Siena.

Posted by
357 posts

Thanks to everyone who has advised. I don't have Rick's book yet as I'm waiting for the 2008 version to be released soon. I want the most current version at my disposal. From the sounds of things, I'm thinking that Siena may be the place to stay.
We are considering the 13mi bike tour through Chianti, which leaves Florence at 10:00AM and returns at 5:00PM. But it says March to November, so I'm not sure if that means that they ride into November or it ends November 1st. I'll have to contact them.
If we do this ride, we may come into town and stay a night so that we can have a full day of Florence on top of the ride.

Posted by
72 posts

I had a car this May in Tuscany. While it made touring the hill towns more efficient, it was a pain in the butt when we arrived in Siena. Hard to find the hotel and hard to park it. In short, having the car became a nuisance.

If I get the chance to do it again, I would skip the car. Trains and buses may be less efficient but much cheaper and less of a hassle in the larger cities.

Posted by
45 posts

I have a question to ask about this too. I am planning to visit Siena for the day, with a car, coming from Chianti region, not Florence. Is the hassle of a car in Siena more of a problem if you are staying in a hotel there? Is it any easier if you are just coming for the day? I understand there is some parking near or beneath the train station. How difficult is that to navigate to, or find a parking spot. Does anyone know? Thank you