Subject: Re: Tuscany Bound (long)
Dear Georgette,

Have you considered picking the car up in Rome and driving to Tuscany? It's only about at 2.5 hour drive, and you might save more money than paying train fare for 7 people, plus transportation to the airport outside of Florence.

Regarding driving in Italy, just have a good navigator and a non-nervous driver. There are blue directional signs in the shape of an arrow with the town names on them. Know what towns are in the same direction as where you are headed, as sometimes you need to follow one name until you get to the next town. Also, the signs pop up very quickly, so you might miss a turn and have to navigate back to it, sometimes figuring out the maze of one-way streets. Generally, we find driving in Italy no problem, as long as you have someone who can read a map and think fast. You should consider purchasing a good driving atlas for Italy, as there are many small roads. I suppose if one were from a smaller town, one might find driving in Italian cities a bit nerve racking, but then so would they when driving in New York or L.A.

As for things to see in Tuscany for a week, it really depends on your interests. Between the hill towns, monestaries, wineries, museums, beautiful drives through the countryside, architecture from every time period, you will have a lot to choose from. Try to read up on what there is to see in the area and get input from your group. Sometimes it's nice to stay in while other members of your group see something that may not be of as much interest to you, and you get to enjoy an afternoon in the countryside with some peace and quiet and a good book. Whatever you do, don't jam pack your days or everything will start to look the same and you may forget what was where. Just get a feel for the area and know that you can come back another time.

In Tuscany I particularly like Siena, Arezzo on the first weekend of the month for the antiques market, the ancient ruins in Fiesole, the abbbey ruins of San Galgano, the Abbazia Monteoliveto Maggiore, Volterra, San Gimignano in the evenings, driving through the Chianti area and stopping at wineries, driving through the marble quarries in Masss and Carrara, Lucca. This summer we will visit more places in Southern Tuscany and maybe add new favorites to the list. You may want to spend a day in Florence, parking at the large lot under the train station and wandering around the old town, seeing the museum in the Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Croce, San Lorenzo, the Duomo and Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, an art museum if you feel so inclined, and shopping.

Enjoy the planning and have a wonderful trip!

Ciao, Kristy S.F.