Where to Go in Tuscany:The Best Place to Stay as a Base

Where to Go in Tuscany: The Best Place to Stay as a Base

Last Updated on Wednesday 25th, February 2015 / 09:15 Written by
Where to Go in Tuscany: The Best Place to Stay as a Base
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Tuscany may seem rather a small country to all coming from abroad, especially in comparison to huge countries like Australia, the United States, Canada….

But Tuscany is very rich in beautiful things to see as well as in countless things to do; you will find lots to discover in each area, you’ll certainly get the impression that time is not enough to visit all!

If you drive even for short distances from one place to another in Tuscany, you’ll be surprised by the countless sights to visit!

Florence is the capital of Tuscany, region in central Italy, and is one of the major Tuscan towns together with Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo. Tuscany also includes lots of small medieval villages, all famous for their beauty, like San Gimignano, Volterra, Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, Cortona, Pitigliano, and Monteriggioni. There are at least 4 main different and scenic areas in Tuscany: Chianti, Val d’Orcia, Valdichiana, and Maremma.

So the question is: Where is the best place to stay as a base for discovering Tuscany?

Much depends on the type of traveler you are… Like to enjoy the scenic countryside? Stay in a small Tuscan village or a famous art town? Like to visit most popular destinations or discover also off the beaten path spots?

There are lots of places that can be all great to stay, it can be difficult to decide on where to go in Tuscany; I’ve written many articles on this topic, each with a different location to use as your home base; Siena, Florence, Chianti, Valdorcia, Cortona, San Gimignano. You just have to choose according to your needs.

In this single post I’m collecting links to older posts to help you plan your next vacation to Italy and decide on the best location to explore Tuscany! Hope you find that useful 🙂

Where to base yourself in Tuscany

The Best Base to explore Tuscany

  1. Florence or Siena?

If it’s your first time to Tuscany and already know that Florence and Siena are the 2 major and most beautiful art towns in the region, then you’re probably wondering which between Florence and Siena is the best place to explore Tuscany.

Both towns are must see so anywhere you base they should be on your list of the things to see in Tuscany.

First, lets see the main differences between these 2 cities! Florence, standing on a plain in central Tuscany, is the town of Renaissance art, incredibly full of museums, exhibitions, events, wonderful piazzas and palaces, shops, and many people! The city is great as a base in case you intend to explore Tuscany using only public transportation, as it serves as a great starting point to undertake great day trips from Florence.

Siena, a totally different city, stands high on a hill top surrounded by scenic hills. Famous for its spectacular Palio, Siena has much more to offer its visitor beyond the horse race! Siena or its surroundings make a perfect base in case you’re having a car to move around and explore some of the best day trips in Tuscany.

  1. Chianti as a base in Tuscany

Make Chianti your base to visit Tuscany most popular landmarks, ideal for short trips or as base for part your stay. The Chianti region is a maze of winding country roads that go from one hill to another, from one vineyard to an olive grove, in a unique landscape to discover. Chianti is a very convenient location to stay in Tuscany thanks to its central location in Tuscany, as it lies between Siena and Florence.

  1. Val d’Orcia as a base to visit Tuscany

The Orcia Valley, south of Siena, is a magical place that will take you back in time. Here are beautiful and harmonious Tuscan hills running gently side by side, dominated here and there by spectacular hill towns. This place is perfect to indulge and is all to explore, while, from here you can go exploring some unexpected sights also more in the south of Tuscany.

  1. San Gimignano as a base in Tuscany

The hill town by the scenic medieval towers is so beautiful to make it a great location for a base in Tuscany. San Gimignano and its hidillyc countryside are a beauty in itself, while the strategic location in the Elsa valley between Siena and Florence, makes it a good spot from where to tour Tuscany.

  1. Cortona as a base to go exploring Tuscany and Umbria

Encircled by ancient Etruscan walls, Cortona is a charming and typically Tuscan village, that has received much attention after the movie adaptation from the novel “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Meyes. The panorama you enjoy from Cortona is enachanting as is the towns and its museums. Considering the location of Cortona in the southeast of Tuscany, Cortona can serves as a strategic base to discover Tuscany as well as the near and beautiful Umbria region.

Which is the best base for you? Planning your vacation in Tuscany? Contact me for a personalized travel assistance! for free!

About the author

Hi! My name is Elena, I'm a travel writer and a happy mom living near Florence. I love to explore Tuscany to discover special places and I have a great passion for Tuscan Cooking. On this blog I share my experiences on special hotels and places to visit in Tuscany and Italy, and about my grandmother's tasty Recipes! I'm happy to help travelers plan their holiday in Tuscany :-)

View all articles by elena nacci

11 Comments on “Where to Go in Tuscany: The Best Place to Stay as a Base

  • Hi please give me an idea places to see in each town. I’ve already been to Firenze. My trip specifically tuscany region on 5/30/2015 until 6/14/2015. I was thinking basing in cortona. ( please recommend hotels there will breakfast included. Need 2 rooms group of 4. My husband & I and my son and mom in another room. According to the map, Cortona is a good centralized main city where I can visit different villages/ towns in the tuscany region. We will visit the following cities:

    1. Cortona ( under the Tuscan sun movie trail/ tour
    2. San Gimignano- “medieval”
    3. Siena (sunflower field)
    4. Montepluciano- (brunello wineries)
    5. Sansepolcro, Arezzo
    6. Pienza- (monticchiello)
    7. Perugia
    8. Umbria- San Francisco de Asia basilica ??

    Plan to visit wineries:
    Wine tours in tuscany
    I will look for specific places to see/landmarks in each village of town.

    Please let me know if you think 16 days is too much for all these stops we would like to do.

    Thank you
    Sandra Fermin

    Reply
    • elena nacci Post author

      Hi Sandra,
      I’m happy to give some advice for your next trip to Tuscany:-)
      Tuscany is so incredibly rich in amazing sights to visit that 2 weeks is the right time to get the most out of the region! You have already visited Florence, so this time you can concentrate your visit to many more destinations.
      Cortona and the surrounding area work as a great base to explore Tuscany and the Umbria region. I actually speaks about Cortona as a base in Tuscany here, where I also make a list of the best day trips you can make in Umbria as well, like the beautiful Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, Spello, Gubbio and the scenic Trasimeno Lake, and many more. Also the list for the day trips you can make in Tuscany is long: Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Bagno Vignoni and all the incredible sights of the Val d’Orcia. In addition to San Sepolcro and Arezzo, you may pay a visit to the near suggestive village of Anghiari!

      A good hotel in Cortona’s town center is Hotel Villa Marsili, that enjoys spectacular views.
      As you’re staying 2 weeks you may also consider heading further south of Tuscany to visit really incredible and ancient hill tonws, like Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana! They all rise on imposing cliffs of tufa stone. Near them is the lovely Bolsena Lake and Civita di Bagnoregio, one of the most picturesque, quaint, and extraordinary villages of Italy.

      As for wineries all of Tuscany has plenty to choose from, especially in Montepulciano and Montalcino.

      There are so many things to see that 2 weeks will go by very quickly,
      Contact me again for any other advice you may need,
      Enjoy planning your long vacation!
      Elena

      Reply
  • Hi Elena. I love your blog, it is informative! I wonder if you can give me some advice on how best to spend my time in Tuscany please. I m a solo female traveler who will be spending 5 days in July (Sunday to Thursday) in this region and will be based at Pisa. Which villages/towns are worth visiting as day trips on public transport please? and where can I get information on train/bus time tables? Despite the tight schedule, I would like to visit one of the villages of Cinque Terre e.g. Manarola but is a bit unsure how easy it is to get from Pisa. Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • elena nacci Post author

      Hi,
      So happy you love my blog 🙂 Thank you!

      Pisa has the train station in the center, so you can conveniently make your day trips by train. Info on train timetables and tickets’ fares can be found on the official website of Italian Railways.
      Here are the villages/towns that are worth visiting as day trips on public transport from Pisa:
      -Lucca, really an enchanting town still enricled by its massive medieval walls that are also walkable.
      -Florence, there are fast trains, called Frecciarossa, running from Pisa to Florence in around 1 hour.
      -Livorno, nice city on the coast where to enjoy great seafood
      -Siena, the beautiful city of the Palio can still be reached by train in about 1 hour and 40 minutes, but you will have to change train to Empoli station.

      For other popular and beautiful destinations in Tuscany, like Volterra or San Gimignano, I would suggest using an organized tour. Reaching them by bus would take a bit of time really.

      I remain at your disposal,
      Have a nice Sunday,
      elena

      Reply
      • I went to the places you suggested. Very easy to get to from Pisa Centrale. Tuscany is beautiful and I will definitely go back. Grazie mille !

        Reply
        • elena nacci Post author

          Hi,
          Very happy to hear you like Tuscany 🙂
          Thanks to you for getting in touch!
          ciao from Florence

          Reply
    • elena nacci Post author

      Ciao!
      I forgot to answer you about the Cinque Terre, sorry!
      It’s very easy to get to the Cinque Terre by train from Pisa. You simply have to take a train from Pisa Centrale train station to Monterosso, and then from there reach Manarola again by train.
      elena

      Reply
  • HI Elena,
    Your blog is a real lifesaver! IM hoping that you could ease my mind and help us make a decision for our trip next Spring. We are well traveled adults (late 30’s early 40’s) traveling from NYC. We plan on staying in this region for 4 nights. We want to spend some time relaxing and enjoying the moments and scenery but we also want to journey to small towns and eat good food (and gelato) along the way! This is our FIRST time to Italy if you can believe it. We are staying for a night (or two) in Florence to really soak up the local vibe so I am not worried about being close by for a day trip. Also, you should know that from Tuscany we will be traveling to Cinque Terre for 3 nights.
    As of today, the question is: Do we stay at a small B&B right outside the town of Greve… http://www.poderecampriano.itThis place is a 10 minute walk to the town. It’s small but beautiful. Would be convenient for dinners and such and also wouldn’t require that we keep a car for 5 days. Also, we would have Breakfast prepared and there are cooking classes offered etc.
    The other spot we are considering is located outside of Castellina in Chianti. Not walking distance. We would need a car our entire time. This place is more secluded and self serving. We would supply meals etc. but this place is stunning! http://www.ilcellese.it
    I guess my questions are these –
    A. Do you think we will take SO much advantage being walking distance from Greve or will we go once and not go again?
    B. Will we need a car anyway so being so close to a town wont matter much?
    C. IS the location by Greve a better base than Castellina? I think they are just 20 min apart.
    D. Does the breakfast matter so much … I do think it’s nice to wake and have cafe’ waiting. I guess thats a personal question! ha!
    AM I overlooking a town do you think?
    I so value your thoughts and am thankful for your advice!
    Best Wishes,
    Nicole

    Reply
    • elena nacci Post author

      Dear Nicole,
      Thanks a lot for contacting me! I’m happy to give some adice for your first time in Italy:-)

      Staying in Florence’s center for one or two nights is a great idea, the city is beautiful and offers a lot, not just in terms of art and culture. Try the ice-cream at GROM, behind the Duomo.
      The Cinque Terre are also beautiful!
      Coming to your time in the Chianti countryside, of course is a great advantage being walking distance from Greve in Chianti and all its facilities, but consider that any property you’ll stay I’d rent a car anyway! With the car you can go explore the area, its scenery, castles, wineries, and hill towns, and maybe also visit Siena and San Gimignano. As for the breakfast, I also think that it’s nice to wake and have cafe’ waiting:-) Both places you’re considering are very nice anyway, so just choose the one you most like, or maybe take a look at this one, still in Greve in Chianti.

      Feel free to contact me again,
      Have a great holiday!
      elena

      Reply
  • Tamer Demirbilek

    Hi Elena, As everyone here i am also searching best possible options for great vacation in Tuscany. I am surprise and also thankfull to see you are helping everyone who ask questioins and your suggestions. Perhaps soon you will have to change your website name from tuscanchic to tuscanangel 🙂
    I have been in Italy before in Cities of Rome, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Venice, Ravenna, Messina and Palermo. I used to work for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Ships as Asst. Restaurant Manager. Thats how i was able to see those seaside cities many times. However it will be first on landbase trip to Italy. There will be a couple and my sister travelling with me (age= ladies 35, mans 43). They never been out of the country so i am kind of tour guide for them 🙂 lots of responsibility to make sure they enjoy. We are flying to Bologna and we plan to rent car from airport to travel Firenze. I already book the hotel near the train station and also very close acces to highway road. We will be staying there 4 nights, so 3 full days we have.Now the question is; it is little absurt but they also want to see Venice for a day, our group is not much in to history or art, we like to visit beautiful enviroments, walk in the streets of the towns, eat in good restaurants and of course drink a lot of wine. I know for Venice we need to plan another trip, going to Tuscany and wasting one day on the train to venice back and forward not really my choice but i have to cope up with them on this decision. on the day of arrival to Florance i planned to spend time in Florance and have dinner there. perhaps next day could be Pisa, however we cant spend all day in Pisa, on the way back i like to stop few places like Luca, San Gimignano, Montecantini Terme or Cinque la Terre. which ones you recommend? Obviously we cant see all of them. We also need to stop for a lunch in one of those town which has a good food and wine. Second day i plan to visit few of Chianti vineries for vine tasting and perhaps lunch in one of them. One time when we stop by Livorno with the ship, we rented big van for 9 person to Castel di Nipozzano Frescobaldi vinery for wine tasting, It was great experience. I am hoping that i could find nice vineries like Nipozzano for vine tasting and lunch. Your suggestions might be great help in that matter :), what would you suggest we can do the best in that limited time in Chianti region. Wine suggestions also will be great help, Perhaps i only know commercial wines but still i like them (Chianti Classico Rufino Riserva Ducale, Lucente, Lucente, Mormoretto, Chianti Rufina Nipozzano), would you suggest any other wines and vineries on same scale. I know i ask alot but when you have only 3 full days you want to do best out of it. Thank you for your help a head of time, I really appreciate… Looking forward to hear from you. Himm by the way we are coming on September 13th to 17th. Thanks
    TAMER

    Reply

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