Where To Base Yourself In Tuscany : A Complete Guide

Where To Base Yourself In Tuscany : Where to stay in Tuscany
Image by David Bramhall via Flickr

Journeying to Tuscany is like looking upon the most captivating painting: the undulating landscape, family-owned vineyards, and old-world cities united to create an unrivaled draw. With its rich history, exquisite art, and delectable cuisine, this Italian region has much to offer to travelers seeking an unforgettable vacation. However, with so many delightful places to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to base yourself during your Tuscan holiday. There are nonetheless essential factors to consider when selecting the right place to stay in Tuscany. Only by determining the locations you want to see and the overall experience you seek can you decide where to base yourself in Tuscany.

Factors to consider when choosing where to base yourself in Tuscany

Planning a trip to Tuscany isn’t as simple as booking a chic hotel in Florence and doing day trips to nearby charming towns afterwards. There are, in fact, several things to be taken into consideration when choosing a base to explore the Tuscan countryside.

Where To Base Yourself In Tuscany : Where to stay in Tuscany
Tuscan countryside, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr
Colle di Val d'Elsa
Colle di Val d’Elsa, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr

What places do you want to visit in Tuscany ?

There is no perfect itinerary for a trip to Tuscany. Each traveler will have a different itinerary according to their preferences. (My 10 days in Tuscany itinerary is a prime example of this.) Some choose to spend most of their time in Florence to enjoy its museums and cosmopolitan culture, whereas others want to explore the countryside and go from vineyard to vineyard.

Tuscany is a large Italian region ; there is no shortage of treasures to discover, both famous and hidden gems. There is so much to see that unfortunately you won’t be able to see it all in one trip. You will therefore have to do some homework. 

The first thing to do when planning a trip to Tuscany is to buy a good old guidebook and read it (or at least skim it). Google the names of the different towns. Look at the suggested itineraries.

After that, list the destinations you are interested in and want to see; The places you want to visit and the restaurants you want to eat at.

Finally, locate every one of these towns on a map. You should usually try to base yourself in a location central to all these cities. 

Where to stay in Tuscany
If you want to visit Florence, Lucca, Arezzo, Volterra and Siena, choosing to base yourself in Florence can be a good idea.
Where To Base Yourself In Tuscany
However, if you remove Volterra and Lucca from the equation, Monteriggioni or Siena become good options to explore the Southen Tuscany.

How do you plan on getting around in Tuscany? With or without a car?

One thing is certain: if you want to explore the countryside, having access to a car is essential.

You don’t have to drive it yourself; you can always arrange private transfer when you want to go outside of the city you’re staying in. But visiting Tuscany and its countryside without a car would be a laborious process.

Where To Base Yourself In Tuscany : Where to stay in Tuscany
Siena, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr
Volterra, Image by Spiterman via Flickr

Yes there are buses and trains linking the towns to one another. However, the buses usually only connects with neighboring villages and the trains won’t get you to the most rural areas. If a train can get you to a remote village, expect the train station to be far out the town center. At that point you’ll have to choose between walking several kilometers or to get on a bus.

On the other hand, if you are only interested in the bigger cities of the likes of Florence, Pisa and Siena, you’ll be able to save yourself the bother of a rental car.

The 3 cities are well connected through public transport. You could easily hop on a tour from Florence and day trip to some of the quaintest villages.

Don’t base yourself in Florence if you have a rental car

If you plan to rent a car for your road trip in Tuscany, don’t think about basing yourself in Florence. Two options are possible if you want to see the region’s most famous city.

Option #1: The first possibility is to visit the city on a day-trip (thanks to public transport) from the town where you are based in. However, this option is not the most obvious if you want to spend more than a day exploring the streets of the timeless city.

Option #2 : Otherwise, consider starting your travel in Florence, spending as much time as you want there, and only renting a car once you’re ready to set off to explore the countryside.

Parking in florence
Florence, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr
Parking in Florence
Florence, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr

Why don’t you don’t want to deal with a car in Florence?

Florence has all the problems associated with a metropolitan city: heavy traffic, one way streets and elusive parking. All this doesn’t compare to its greatest challenge for tourists: the limited traffic zone (ZTL). 

What is the ZTL exactly? Basically, there are areas where you cannot enter with your car unless you are a resident. Although these zones are clearly signposted, it can be easy for a tourist to follow a resident inside the ZTL, resulting in a huge bill once you go back home.

However, it is possible to find parking in Florence. It just turns out to be more tedious and can cost a bit more than elsewhere in Tuscany.

Do you want to stay in a city, in a village or in the countryside ?

Best City to Stay in Tuscany

Although the matter of having a rental car can be more difficult, staying in the city has many advantages.

You have easier access to restaurants, shops, and many attractions. Taking a tour to San Gimignano is more easily done from Florence than from Volterra or Montepulciano. Also, the bigger the city, the easier it will be to use public transport to visit the region.

Best Cities to base yourself in Tuscany: Florence or Siena

SIena or Florence
Siena, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr
Best Cities to Stay in Tuscany
Siena, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr

Where To Stay In The Tuscan Countryside

The allure of a countryside Tuscan villa is undeniable. These utopic accommodations can however be remote and harder to access. Be prepared to brave longer travel time and unidentified roads.

Best countryside locations to base yourself in Tuscany: Chianti region, Val d’Elsa, Val d’Orcia

Staying in a Tuscan village

That said, many travelers will find a middle ground by staying in smaller villages or just outside of bigger towns.

Basing yourself in a small town lets you have access to public transport and be within walking distance of amenities while being able to easily use your car.

What kind of property you want to rent?

There are a huge number of hotels, apartments and villas available to base yourself in Tuscany. Whether you decide to stay at a charming AirBnb or the Westin will define the experience you’ll have in Tuscany.

Massa, Italy
Massa, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr
Where To Stay In The Tuscan Countryside
Chianti vineyards, Image by David Bramhall via Flickr

If you choose to go with an agriturismo (a farm stay), expect to be surrounded by some farm noise. These accommodations are not just pretty guest houses in the countryside. The are usually working farms. Opting for an agriturismo is great for people looking to stay in beautiful surrounding at a more moderate price than a private villa. 

Where can you find a typical Tuscan village?

There is no such thing as a typical Tuscan village. In reality, the Italian region’s scenery varies quite a lot as you travel from North to South. The south of Tuscany has what people have in mind when they think about the region: rolling hills covered with cypress trees and fields. On the other hand, Northern Tuscany is mountainous and densely mantled with woodlands.

Every area of Tuscany has something beautiful and unique to offer.

Do some research beforehand just to get the best out of this trip. (But you can’t really go wrong when it comes to Tuscany.)

How Many Days Do You Need To Stay In Tuscany?

Anywhere from 7 to 10 days is a perfect amount of time to visit the region.

If you are looking for a whole encompassing 10 days itinerary of Tuscany, mine includes Florence and Siena, medieval villages, wine country, and the beach.