In June, we will be in Tuscany 4-5 nights with a car. We would like to take a few day trips in Tuscany and Umbria possibly to Assisi, Orvieto, Lucca, Pienza, Volterra. We really want to visit some vineyards, experience the countryside, and are interested in architecture. We would prefer to stay in an agriturismo. Would you recommend making our base near Cortona, Siena, Montalcino, or Montepulciano?
Based on the towns you mentioned you want to visit, near Siena is the best option because is more central to all and it has easy freeway access. In looking for an agriturismo, look for the exact location on Google Maps. You want to be in an agriturismo with reasonably close and easy freeway access. Some of them are in the boonies. From Siena area, you are within 1.5 - 2 hr drive from all the locations mentioned (Assisi and Lucca probably the farthest, on opposite directions). Plenty of vineyards everywhere. There are approximately 1,000,000 wineries in Italy (1000 times more than all of California): north of Siena (Chianti), south of Siena (Brunello di Montalcino), west of Siena (Vernaccia di San Gimignano) , East of Siena (Colli del Trasimeno or Orvieto).
Thanks, Roberto. We will start looking for an agriturismo near Siena. Looking forward to exploring!
This may give you some ideas http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm
FYI: When looking on Google Maps, you've got to hit the + to magnify it enough for the accommodations to pop up. I agree with Roberto that outside Siena is a great place, North of Siena (in Chianti) or around San Gimignano are central locations. Just about every farm in the area has rooms and apartments; there are hundreds and hundreds of places to stay. We stayed between Certraldo and San Gim.
Booking.com is another place you can find these agriturismos and great places to stay.
I sent you a Private Message.
Henry, David, and Andrea, Thank you so much for the help! These tips have made the planning much easier. Sharon
Last trip I was in the same boat, wondering where to stay. So using google maps (you can save a map if you set up an account) I plotted the places I was interest in seeing, then plotted potential places to stay in a different color. Then I google maps directions between the ions. If it was going to take more than 45 minutes to an hour to drive someplace, we'd be spending too much time in a car for our tastes. Also paid attention to how windy the roads were and how difficult it would be to drive to a nearby town for dinner. We didn't want to drive 20 minutes on an extremely windy road in the dark We chose Cortona as a home base for a week. Spent two days locally, train into Florence twice, once for a soccer match and another to sightsee for a full day. The other two days were spent in Montepulcino and Siena. The last day we drove up through Chianti, stopped at a winery for a wonderful lunch in the vineyards, then to Florence to catch our 6pm flight.
Karen, Thanks so much for the google maps tip - this is going to be very helpful - wouldn't have thought to take the windy roads into account.
Another tip I recently figured out that if you are in Google maps in Google Chrome (doesn't show in Explorer), after typing in directions from point A to point B, there's a little button under the "suggested" routes that says 3D. When you click on 3D, it gives you a 3d view of the "drive" along the route and can visualize how flat, hilly, windy the route is. Check out Sorrento to Solerno, and practically makes you car sick. Cortona to Montelpulciano is has gentle hills and curves.