Roadtrip Through Tuscany

To speak of Tuscany is to speak of small charming villages, wine cellars and sausage. This is exactly what I’m going to talk to you about, no more, no less. But what is the best way to travel such an extension, you may be wondering? Well, obviously by car, despite the fact that the distances between the main cities can be covered with public transport, if you want to reach the small towns or stop at a vineyard to your liking, you will need your own vehicle.

The longest distance you are going to travel any day will probably be 2 hours, so don’t be afraid to bring your car. You are going to make the trip in stages and apart from the pull from where you come you will not have to drive for long. Another option is to rent a car in Pisa, the main airport in Tuscany.

In this case we left from Barcelona, which also allowed us to spend a few hours in Cannes and Monaco, a 3×1!

The definitive guide for your road trip through Tuscany:

  1. Best time of the year to travel to Tuscany
  2. Best tips for your Tuscany roadtrip
  3. 8-day itinerary in Tuscany
    1. Day 1: Cinque Terre
    2. Day 2: Pisa and Lucca
    3. Day 3: Volterra and San Gimignano
    4. Day 4: Siena
    5. Days 5 and 6: Montalcino to Montepulciano and Chianti
    6. Days 7 and 8: Florence
  4. Daily budget for your roadtrip through Tuscany
  5. Where to stay in Tuscany
  6. What else to see in Tuscany

Official exchange rate 1EUR = In Italy they use euros

Best time of the year to travel to Tuscany

Spring and autumn without a doubt. In winter it is very cold, even if you do not care about the temperature, the landscapes will not have the same colors and the days will be shorter. In summer, on the other hand, if the dry heat is not a problem, it will probably be the overcrowding of Florence or the buses queuing to enter San Gimignano. Since we must not forget that Italy is the country in the world that receives the most tourists.

Both in spring and autumn the days are long, the daylight hours last until 8 pm and you can be with a jacket on a terrace, having an aperitivi without getting cold.

Also choose the dates wisely, since Italy like Spain has religion deeply rooted in its history and customs. If you are going to visit it at Easter, do not forget to visit Florence, since the Scoppio del Carro takes place there. This Christian tradition, with a current meaning very different from the original, is celebrated on Easter Sunday to augur peace and forgiveness, although its original history is related to the crusades.

Best tips for your Tuscany roadtrip

Most of the tips that I am going to mention are closely related to a road trip, although I also include some that will be key to making the most of your trip.

  • Aperitivi: From the moment you taste the Italian aperitif, the rest will cease to exist. It would be like a “happy hour” in which you only pay for the drinks, they are usually a bit overpriced, but you can eat as much as you want from the buffet. Magnificent no? Siena’s Piazza del Campo is full of places.
  • Gasoline: Keep in mind in which countries you refuel the gasoline, if you are in Spain fill the tank before entering France, if you are going to enter Italy, rush the tank a bit when you are in France and vice versa. Gasoline in towns will be better priced than on highways and cities. Every time you stop to rest if you can, refuel, since you can have long runs of kilometers without gas stations and you do not want to be stranded in a foreign country.
  • Roadside Assistance: Based on my own experience, problems can arise during the trip and you should be able to call your insurance company to get a lead in a pinch. Although they are not always decisive … Make sure you can pass on the expenses you have to incur in the event of an incident.
  • Waze: Undoubtedly the best GPS when it comes to traveling, it uses Google maps and is located with the same ease, but it includes all kinds of information about fixed radars, section, police controls, closed roads and incidents on the road to be able to drive much safer.
  • Plan the route in advance: It is not the same to go from Montalcino to Montepulciano by highway than by the SP-55 where you can stop in countless places. Take a map and locate all the places of interest on it and design the route from there, from here stop whenever you feel like it.

8-day itinerary in Tuscany

Through this route you will discover how to prepare your road trip through Tuscany, which places you should not miss and what inconveniences can arise when traveling by car … some of them surreal, you can’t even imagine.

So with the intention of getting to the point, we are going to skip the first day of the trip, which consists only of leaving Barcelona at 3 pm and stopping about two hours from Cinque Terre in order to be able to stop for the night after 8 hours of driving.

As you can see, the route is practically circular entering and leaving through Pisa or Cinque Terre.

Day 1: Cinque Terre

After sunrise in Spotorno, in a couple of hours we reached La Spezia. La Spezia to give you an idea is the access by land to Cinque Terre. This region is named after the five towns that make it up. From south to north Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterrosso al mare, all of them with their steep streets and colorful houses overlooking the sea. To be able to access Cinque Terre you must buy the € 16 train ticket with which you will have unlimited journeys during that day between the five towns that make up the region. You can also walk between towns through the paths that connect them along the coast.

Parking Tip: In La Spezia you can park for free in the Parcheggio Piazza d’Armi

You don’t have to visit all the towns if you don’t have the time, in our case we visited all of them except Corniglia, since access by land was cut off due to a landslide and we decided to skip the latter to get to Monterrosso. In Monterrosso we ate the best Frutti di Mare of our life, for only € 15 including a drink at the Belvedere restaurant. In this case, as it was a bit windy and it was about to rain, we decided to eat indoors, but the terrace on the seafront offered spectacular views.

After our afternoon visit to Vernazza concluded, we headed towards La Spezia. In La Spezia, we stayed in a super cool AirBnB that I’ll leave you in the accommodation section. The city does not have much to see, it is simply the gateway to Cinque Terre and there are many very well priced places to stay.

Day 2: Pisa and Lucca

Come on, admit it. Even if you have laughed at people fooling around holding the tower of the tread with one hand, one finger, your back or even your ass, you too are going to be tempted to take the famous photo.

Holding an umbrella and the tower of Pisa

Pisa has little more tourist attraction than its famous tower, you can walk through the enclosure for free or if you wish to access the basilica and the museum. A curious fact about the Tower of Pisa is that it is only tilted 3.97 degrees, what does it look like much more? The second curious fact is that no, it will not fall. As much as you have read in blogs and magazines, the tower does not plan to fall and it has withstood earthquakes and wars and there it continues, this is due to a unique combination between its height, architectural structure and the geological formation of the ground. All this has made the famous tower stand for more than 800 years.

Parking Tip: You can park Parcheggio via Pietrasantina about 10 minutes from the tower, where most buses and tour operators park.

And Lucca, what to say about Lucca. Perhaps the most unexpected next to Siena of positive surprises. The city is simply charming, practically unknown because of the feeling it gave us, since there were hardly any tourists and only local people were on its streets. The first part of the day we weren’t very lucky, as it rained, but after noon it started to clear and we were able to go exploring with a blazing sun.

Lucca is a walled city like many in Tuscany, we enter it through Puerta de Elisa, the eastern entrance. We were touring its streets and alleys visiting the Chiesa San Michele, the Cathedral of Saint Martin and the popular Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, an oval-shaped square that served as an amphitheater for the city. If you are one of those who like to enjoy the cities from above, you should climb the Torre Guinigi € 4, from there you can admire the snow-capped mountains on the horizon and the silhouette of the wall surrounding the city of Lucca. Curiously, at the top of the tower there are planted trees, it is said that in this way it became the highest tower in the city.

Day 3: Volterra and San Gimignano

Just an hour and a half from Lucca is San Gimignano. This was perhaps the first city of skyscrapers that existed. In this town, the families of the city fought to see who had it bigger (the tower, don’t be bad thinking) and that is why there was a moment in history when up to 72 towers coexisted. Currently only 15 of these towers remain standing. Although the towers cannot be visited, the stop at San Gimignano is a must on any route through Tuscany.

At the Dondoli ice cream shop you can try the best pistachio ice cream in the world.

Keep in mind that you will have to battle with hundreds of tourists to be able to walk through the town, San Gimignano along with Florence is perhaps the town that attracts the most tourists in the region. I am going to get very heavy with this expression, but it is what I must tell you; get lost in its streets, explore up and down, walk the wall and see the vineyards that surround this magnificent city.

For lovers of adolescent literature (without the intention of offending anyone) I recommend that in the afternoon you visit Volterra. In Volterra several scenes of the Twilight saga were recorded; It is where the Volturi lived. But do not fear that luckily or unfortunately no Edward Cullen will come to turn you into a vampire.

What should you visit in Volterra? The Roman theater, you can enter or observe it from above the wall, honestly there is not much difference between both options, the Palazzo dei Priori, the Cattedrale de Santa Maria Asunta and watch the sun set from one of its walls.

At the moment everything was going smoothly and the weather was respecting us. But upon our arrival in Siena the unexpected happened. For some reason that we do not know, the trunk was closed to not reopen, you will say it is not such a problem, the seats are lowered, period, because in this car model it was not possible.

After waiting three hours and calling the RACC (AAA) we gave up and went to AirBnB with what we were wearing. They treated us in a rather incompetent way and sent us a person to perform the wrong service. It is very frustrating to pay for a service and it ends up coming out this way. The next day we went to the dealership of the brand to explain our situation and very kindly after two hours they managed to remove the rear seats and release our luggage. The negative part is that we could not use the trunk again for the whole trip, still on day 4 of our route.

Parking Tip: You can park Parcheggio Pubblico Il Campino about 10 minutes walk from the center. Keep in mind that the historic center of Siena is pedestrianized and you will have to park around the city.

Day 4: Siena

After a couple of hours fixing the car we return to the center of Siena to continue our visit.

Siena as well as Lucca took our breath away, especially the imposing Piazza del Campo. Square world renowned for its unique structure, shaped like a shell and slope. Several Palazzi Signorili surround the piazza, the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia. The Piazza del Campo earned Siena a Unesco heritage historic center.

The square, which also served as a municipal market in the 14th century, is now one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. In it you can also find the Fonte de Gaia that dates back to 1419 and was part of the system of underground conduits that carried water to the fountains and fields around Siena.

I recommend that you explore its historic center from top to bottom, every corner of this city has something to see, the Duomo of Siena, Battistero di San Giovanni Battista, Fortezza Medicea and many more places that you should not miss.

In Siena is the oldest bank in the world (1472), Monte dei Paschi di Siena. It started out as a pawn shop.

To finish off the day, return to Piazza del Campo. At the end of the day, all the hustle and bustle of the city is concentrated in this iconic square for the famous aperitivi.

Days 5 and 6: Montalcino to Montepulciano and Chianti

During the next two days the more rural Tuscany begins, which will probably remind you of the famous movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. We will visit very little crowded villages outside the most touristy route and we will discover the vineyards of the Chianti and Montalcino region.

The objective was to go little by little from Montalcino to Montepulciano where we had the AirBnB.

The first stop was Montalcino, a small town on top of a hill. Montalcino is famous for its high class Brunello wine, along the county road to get to the town you will see endless vineyards and this is one of the best designations of origin in Italy. We stopped for coffee and to recharge for the day. Aside from buying an authentic Brunello di Montalcino, don’t forget to visit the Fortezza.

We continue with the route through the SP-55 road that takes us to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo located a few meters from Castelnuovo dell’Abate, it is a monastic complex that dates from 750dC. Take the opportunity to take photos of the landscape and the monastery where you will surely be alone.

We continue on the SP-55 for almost an hour until we reach Pienza. Where starving we look for somewhere to eat, until finally we find the Bucca della Fatte restaurant, a traditional Italian trattoria. After lunch we were walking through the town and admiring the landscape and it is that most of the towns in Tuscany are located in the mountains from where you can see the infinite vineyards and cultivated fields around them.

On the way to Montepulciano we stopped a couple of times to take photos among flower fields and vineyards.

The next day, we woke up with a fresh juice and local cold cuts for breakfast at the magnificent AirBnB where we had stayed and headed to Chianti, another notable Tuscan appellation of origin.

Before arriving in Chianti in Greve, we stopped at Badia a Passignano and although we were unable to enter the monastery to visit it, we were able to take a walk through its gardens and vineyards and play with a dog that we became friends with. This is one of the most remarkable monasteries in Italy and despite the many battles that Siena and Florence fought in Chianti in the 11th century, it remains practically intact.

In the afternoon we went to Villa S. Andrea, which apart from being a winery was also our hotel to visit Chianti. At Villa S. Andrea they taught us the whole wine process and explained to us what types of grapes were used in their vineyards. We were able to try various types of Chianti and take some souvenirs with us. Point to improve, we were not taken to the fields, but totally recommended to stay here. The villa is more of a castle and the decoration of the rooms reminds you well of the Middle Ages.

The three varieties of Villa S. Andrea wine

In Chianti you will be able to distinguish the quality of the wine by the color of its label and you will know that it is a Chianti if it has the famous black rooster on the neck of the bottle.

For dinner we went to Greve in Chianti and had dinner at the Cantina restaurant, where we had a spectacular pizza and burratta salad for only € 27 for two people. It is a classic in town, the best indicator is that you have to wait a long time to be able to sit down and most of the diners are local.

Days 7 and 8: Florence

Florence is perhaps, along with Rome, the place in Italy where more tourists accumulate, be patient and assimilate that most of its streets will be overcrowded and you will have to queue for everything.

So without prior reservation or anything, the negative part of improvising we headed towards the Duomo. The Duomo of Florence is perhaps one of the most spectacular that you can see not only in Italy, but in the world. The one in Milan is amazing but I prefer the one in Florence without a doubt. With its 114-meter-high orange dome that you can see from miles away. Its dome is even taller than Giotto’s Campanile. Both can be visited as well as the Baptistery of San John, although in this regard we were a bit slow and there were no tickets left for that day … We had to queue for an hour or so to enter the Duomo for 5 minutes, It is free (it was not worth much, since the outside is more spectacular than inside and many areas were closed to the public).

But if what you want is to be able to contemplate the city of Florence from its heights and at the same time the Duomo, you are in luck. In Piazza de la Signoria is the Palazzo Vecchio, its ground floor currently serves as a museum and part of its galleries are open to the public for free. The entrance to climb the tower and see the rest of the areas is € 10.

As you may already be realizing, Florence has endless places to visit and you could spend days, so adapt your visit to the days you have. For this same reason instead of visiting the Ufizzi Galleries, we passed by because the next day we were going to the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze where Michelangelo’s David is located. In the same Piazza de la Signoria there is a replica for those who do not want / can go to the museum. In the Ufizzi galleries you will find all kinds of works of art, but the Venus by Botticelli stands out among them.

We continue with the crossing to the Ponte Vecchio, one of the most iconic bridges in the world and one of the few that are inhabited. Although most of the venues on the bridge are jewelers, people still reside on it.

To all this I forgot to recommend where to eat in Florence! Because in the two days we were there we ate three times in that place, you dare to guess? The central market of Florence, attention lovers of the San Miguel market in Madrid, you have seen competition. Without exaggeration, this place has almost 100 restaurants of all styles, from vegan, Japanese, pizzerias, pasta, seafood and even desserts. It deserves a visit.

The next day began in the same way that the previous one began, with great intensity. I don’t sleep much and I usually get up very early to be able to explore the sites well. So we entered the first shift at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, as I mentioned in a few lines above, Michelangelo’s David is, among others, the best-known work exhibited in the museum. Admission costs € 13 and it is important to book in advance.

A little later we went to Palazzo Pitti € 6, I really wanted to go back and this was my third visit to Florence, but it is a city where you always have new places to explore. The most incredible thing about Palazzo Pitti is its immense gardens and fountains that remind me of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, although in smaller proportions.

The rest of the day we dedicate to continue exploring the city and the list of places to see is endless, Church of San Lawrence, Basilica of Santa Maria Novela, Basilica of Santa Croce, Piazza de la Republicca and finally Basilica of San Miniato al Monte. Which has nothing to write home about and that day it was closed, but it offers unbeatable views of Florence, ideal for watching the sun go down over the city.

Daily budget in Tuscany

The first thing to keep in mind, no matter how obvious it may seem, is that on a road trip the costs are indirectly proportional to the people you are. In other words, more people cheaper and vice versa. So these are the transport costs for a car from Barcelona to Tuscany for two people, if you go alone multiply by two and if you go with a full car multiply by two and divide by five. The famous rule of three at school.

Tuscany roadtrip daily budget

As you will see, you can take a very cool trip for a more or less tight budget and probably with friends you can take bigger places at a better price. In this case € 100 per person per day is not bad considering that we did everything and visited all the places we wanted. In a group of friends, I think that for € 60 a day you could more or less manage it. There are plenty of hostels in big cities for € 20 a night and rural houses for similar prices per person, so nothing can stop you. At lunchtime you have already seen that we have mixed many restaurants with streetfood in markets but always looking for quality places. Withdraw cash for free with N26. If you don’t have an N26 card register and earn € 25 of free credit.

Where to stay on your route through Tuscany

It must be said that one is not always correct when booking hotels, but the fact of going by car gave some flexibility and most of them were a great success. There are a total of six recommendations:

  • Taberna del metallo // La Spezia: As I have already pointed out, La Spezia has no attraction, however in this AirBnB totally renovated with great taste we felt at home. The owners own a heavy metal tavern just below the Airbnb (you won’t hear a thing though). It is also one of the best restaurants in the city.
  • Lucca in chic // Lucca: Somewhat far from the center but a good idea when it comes to parking your car. Newly renovated rooms, very clean and in perfect condition. Nothing from the other world but a success if you go by car. It is a 7-minute walk to Puerta Elisa.
  • Salicotto 56 // Siena: Finding accommodation in Siena was quite an odyssey, but Salicotto 56 despite being a very average place was literally 1 minute walk from Piazza del Campo. Perfect for exploring the city. The negative part is that we had to park on the other side of town.
  • Pacifico // Montepulciano: A beautiful house on the outskirts of Montepulciano. The rooms decorated with a rustic touch and with the best breakfast of the whole trip. Very clean, we were at home.
  • Villa S. Andrea // Chianti Region: Regardless of whether or not you are going to do wine tasting, the place is charming, rooms decorated in a classic medieval style and a lot of charm. They gave us a bottle of young wine just for staying with them.
  • Ausonia // Florence: Florence is perhaps the most expensive place to stay, we stayed a bit far from the center because we also had to park the car, and in the center that is an odyssey. It is a very average Airbnb but clean and functional. We were able to park right outside the door with no problems.

What other places to visit on your roadtrip through Tuscany

The list of places in this case is endless, and when you go by car any distance can end up being acceptable and from 50 to 50 km you can plant yourself in Naples without wanting to. So I’m going to recommend a couple of places to stop on your way to / from Spain if you go and come back by car. We were in both.

  • Cannes: If it is summer, better than better, since the city has more life, the highest part of the city is somewhat ugly. The promenade is what really pays off in Cannes. It is the perfect stop for a couple of hours, to stay the night and to resume your trip the next day.
  • Monaco: Undoubtedly the most expensive city there is, parking your car will cost you € 5 an hour, but you have no alternative. Whatever car you’re driving, you’re going to look poor because nowhere will you see such a concentration of Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini etc … The best way to visit the city is to walk the F1 circuit on foot, if you like motor sports like me, you probably know the circuit by heart. Indispensable sites, the casino, the port and the Prince’s Palace. Turn off the data or you will remember all your life about the invoice that is going to arrive.

This is neither the first nor the last road trip that I do in Italy, it is one of the advantages of living relatively close and that the country has so much to offer.

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