What can I say? Nick and I absolutely fell in love with Tuscany over the summer. But there was a lot we didn’t get a chance to explore, and there were many places we were eager to revisit. So…. just four months later, around Thanksgiving, we came back to this magical part of Italy. This time we went even more off that proverbial beaten path and spent time in areas even less frequented by tourists. And because November is considered off-season for tourism in Italy, oftentimes we had the sights all to ourselves!
Nick and I rented a car and drove to many remote places which wouldn’t have been accessible by public transport. It’s amazing how many times we heard “You’re American? We rarely see Americans here!” comment from the locals. They were pleasantly surprised and welcomed us with open hearts. Not that there is anything wrong with having American (or any other) tourists around, but, over time, tourism does inadvertently impact and change a once “virgin” (i.e. free of tourists) destination. I feel (and the locals concur) that in order to truly absorb “real” Tuscany, one must go off the beaten path (after you’ve visited “celebrities” such as Florence or Pisa).
For these very reasons it was yet again quite wonderful to choose the road less traveled and spend time in Tuscany in this very tranquil time of the year. It was…. perfect! 🙂
I will soon be posting in-depth blogs about each location on our trip, but for now here is the…
– Our trip lasted 8 days (+ 2 days in Zurich, see my blog).
– We rented a small car (VW Golf) with AutoEurope at Rome’s FCO airport.
– We drove a total of approx. 900 kilometers (550 miles) using one tank of gas.
– We went on a truffle hunt (in the forest near Montalcino) with Valentino Berni, owner of the winery & farm Azienda Agricola Loghi.
– We stayed 2 days at each of these locations:
– Monte Argentario (a former island in the South-Western and lesser-known part of Tuscany) at the Argentario Golf Resort & Spa
– Montepulciano (a medieval hilltop town in the Province of Siena) at Palazzo Carletti, a historical residence of the noble Carletti family
– Bagno Vignoni (ancient village in the Val d’Orcia Natural Park) at Albergo Le Terme, a family-owned hot springs resort (formerly a 15th Century lodging of the Pope Pius II)
– Podere Collupino, the farmhouse at Castello Banfi (medieval castle + world-renowned vineyards near Montalcino)
ADVANTAGES OF TRAVELING OFF SEASON
While I think the advantages are obvious, I’ll list them anyway 🙂
– less tourists everywhere!
– significantly lower prices (you can get fabulous hotels for a fraction of peak-season prices)
– availability of… everything! From your choice of hotel rooms to museum tickets to rental cars to any other activities which might be impossible to get in peak season
– more chances to interact with the locals and soak in the vibes without the distraction of the crowds
– I know I’m forgetting something… help!
ONCE AGAIN, WE RENTED WITH AUTOEUROPE
For this trip, once again, we collaborated with and rented a car through Auto Europe (you may remember my blog on why you must rent a car in Tuscany: singertravelista.com/2018/07/25/why-you-must-rent-a-car-in-tuscany/ where I make my case of a rental car necessity if you want to get away from the major tourist attractions). AutoEurope operates worldwide but here is the Italy website: autoeurope.com/car-rental-italy.
AutoEurope is basically a broker that searches for best car rental deals through a number of local and chain companies (like Hertz, Dollar, Sixt, EuropCar, etc), so you get better prices and have quite a vast choice of vehicles/pick up locations when you book.
What I like most about Auto Europe is the fact that they include collision damage waiver, theft protection and third party liability insurance in the quoted price (with most other car rental companies, from my experience, it’s a separate and quite high daily surcharge). And there is zero deductible for this insurance. That means you can drive rather worry-free. If there is a scratch or a dent in the car, or a fender bender, or anything else, you walk away without paying anything extra. It’s great to have this peace of mind.
The only extra feature you have to pay for (on top of the quoted price) at the rental counter is GPS. We paid for ours on the last trip, but for this trip we only used my phone’s voice-navigated Google Maps feature (I LOVE it!).
A FEW IMAGES
I’ll post a lot more in the coming months, but for now here are a few. Click on the first one and go next. I put captions under most pictures.
The verdict? Yes on going off the beaten path, yes on exploring at your own pace with a rental car, yes on off-season travel!
While our AutoEurope car rental was complimentary, all views and photos are entirely my own. I stand by every word – as always.
Any comments and thoughts? What did I miss? What should I see next time in Tuscany? Please let me know so I can mark it on GoogleMaps for future travels! Also.. if you find any typos, please let me know. I am obsessed with proper grammar and spelling but…. I type too damn fast and sometimes simply space out:)