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22 May 2011

Adventures of Driving Under the Tuscan Sun in Italy


For anyone who has read the book or has seen the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” each different but equally brilliant, then you can imagine what it’s like to drive through the winding hills of the golden Tuscan countryside.  Here – where the sunflowers bloom, where rows upon rows of olive groves and vineyards offer their bountiful harvests, and where Cyprus-lined roads wind around hillsides to enchanting hilltop farmhouses – is where you'll find your Tuscany.  If ever a destination exists that delivers upon and exceeds expectations, it's Tuscany!  It's everything you would imagine it to be.  If Florence, Siena, Montepulciano, or even Cortona are on  your Italian itinerary, make sure you set aside an extra day or two, perhaps an entire week, for a drive under the Tuscan sun!

Montepulciano perched high atop the golden Tuscan hills! 
If you ask me, there is no other way to experience this spectacular region of Italy than to drive through the enchanting countryside at your own pace and stop to visit one or all of the the historic hilltop towns.  And, this is precisely what we did on our last trip to Italy.  Calling Florence home for six days allowed for more than enough time to explore the city centre and surrounding Tuscany.  On the day of our journey, we picked up our car and we were on our way!  After crossing over the Arno River, we made our way to SR2 and began our trek to Siena, Montepulciano, and at the recommendation of our Avis representative, the tiny hilltop town of Pienza since it was so close to Montepulciano. Along the way, we stopped many, many times to take a few pictures, okay, lots of pictures because around every bend in the road, a picture-perfect Tuscan landscape was waiting there to greet us. All were absolutely delightful and I will share our experiences at each of those destinations soon.  But for now, let's keep our eyes on the road.


Know before you go:

If Florence is your base, you'll find conveniently located rental car offices along the Arno River on Borgo Ognissanti, just west of the Duomo.  From here, it's quick and easy access to A-1 and SR2. When you book your car, make every attempt to secure an automatic, a hard commodity but well worth it because of the narrow hilly roads and driving in and around the hilltop towns.

As for navigating the roadways, be alert because they are not marked very well, sometimes not at all.  During the journey, you must rely on small blue directional signs to find your way. At times, we had no idea what road we were on so we continued and just hoped for the best. Hey, if worse comes to worst, remember, all roads lead to Rome, right? If you're concerned, don't worry, either do most of your driving during daylight hours with a good map or make sure you have GPS.  If the latter, you have nothing to worry about except if it doesn't speak English.  Only kidding however, it does bring up a very important point – make sure you take along an English-Italian dictionary because the Italians who live in these rural areas, although extremely friendly and eager to help, speak little to no English so stopping for directions, may present a challenge or two, but nothing you can’t overcome.


To ensure you make the most of your adventure through Tuscany, keep OFF the super highways running north and south such as A-1, or you'll miss the sublime Tuscan scenery.  Also, driving in Italy is the same as in the U.S. so getting acclimated is quite easy compared to driving in the U.K. However, some Italians enjoy driving a little faster and are familiar with the roads, so stay to right, drive at a reasonable speed, and most importantly, be alert!  If driving in a foreign country scares you, no worries.  Although I was somewhat fearful of the prospect, my fears melted away as soon as we hit the open road.  It was exhilarating to say to the least.

Here are some more spectacular vistas that await on your Tuscan adventure.


A spectacular scenic view of the Tuscan countryside taken in Pienza. 


All in all, it was a most amazing day in Tuscany! We ventured through medieval hilltop towns, saw breathtaking vistas around every turn, photographed the sometimes surreal and scenic landscapes every chance we had, ate great food, of course – and all of this at our own pace.  By far, renting a car and being the master of your destiny is one of the biggest benefits to touring the Tuscany region of Italy – you can take your time and smell the roses for as long as you like. And we did!

Happy motoring!

Arrivederci!

Additional Reading

Experience Tuscany with Simon from WildAboutTravel.com as she Eats, Prays and Loves her way through this region.

39 comments:

  1. You've captured everything I love about Tuscany here Jeff! :)

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  2. Thank you Robin so much for you compliment! I too, love this region of Italy and my journey under the Tuscan sun is one that I will never forget. And, it's only the first of many more to come.

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  3. What an incredible journey, Jeff. Seriously, must visit Florence with you. You are officially the best guide to Italy I know!

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  4. Hi Charu and thanks for stopping by to comment! It was a most incredible journey, one that I will remember always! And of course, we will be touring Tuscany together very soon!!!! Count on it!!!

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  5. I definitely must travel the Tuscan countryside the next time I'm in Italy. Looks & sounds beautiful :)

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  6. Hi Shivya,
    Thanks again for your comment. The Tuscan countryside is every bit as extraordinary as you would expect. You must tour the region the next time your travels take you there.

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  7. Gorgeous photographs and information on Tuscany, Jeff! I was just in Tuscany last summer and your words and photos make me want to return. It's such a remarkable area of Italy.

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  8. Great photos – nothign can compare to those views in Tuscany. Oh wait and the wine too lol.

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  9. Hi Suzy and Sarah, thank you both again for stopping by and sharing your experiences!!

    Suzy, I was just thinking about your trip last year...funny you mentioned it.

    Sarah, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the wine!!

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  10. Jeff,
    Serendipity Traveler tours this region and i have driven the roads and backroads often. Thanks for sharing the exquisite photos and commentary on this region of Italy. It is easy to live
    La Dolce Vita here.
    Peggy Coonley

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  11. Hi Penny,
    Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts! I fell in love with Tuscany long ago and yearn to return sooner than later!! I need to check out Serendipity Traveler...maybe offer up some information on what I am sure are fabulous and informative tours of the region.

    Thanks agaiN!!

    Jeff

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  12. What a beautiful place is Tuscany you showed us. Photos are fabulous. Very nice place.I am dying to visit their. Thank you very much for sharing such an wonderful experience.Europe Travel

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  13. Hi Kevin,

    Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Wanderlust courses through my veins as well and there's always a longing to get back to Tuscany just as quickly as I can...

    Have a wonderful day!

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  14. Hey Jeff...enjoyed reading your post. In Italy I've only made it to Venice...would love to do Rome, Florence and Tuscany one day!

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  15. Hi there Mike!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! You must do Rome, Tuscany and Florence when you return to Italy. At least you saw Venice, one of my FAVES in the world. To experience Venice is ineffable! So much history, so much culture, so much LIFE!!!

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  16. I can't stop looking at your photos! I didn't get a chance to "drive under the Tuscan sun" but I did get to see some of the countryside by train and that was amazing, too.

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  17. Hi Vanny...
    Thank you so much for your kind words!! I really appreciate each one of them! And, I love the train too!! Great way to sit back, enjoy the countryside and let someone else do the driving!!

    Thank you again!!

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  18. Hi there Travel 4 Vitality!
    I agree with you, Tuscany is breathtaking...you just can't believe it's all real once you're there...Thx for stopping by, your kind words and sharing your thoughts!

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  19. How lucky you are to have gone to Tuscany. Those are terrific sceneries! Passing by beautiful views like these can make you feel that you've seen the best gifts of nature.

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  20. Hi John and thank you for stopping by. You don't have to be lucky to go to Tuscany, you only need to make it happen. If you enjoyed these pics, then I can see Tuscany in your future. You must go and drive through the rolling hills and some of the most breathtaking landscapes, or as you say most eloquently, gifts of nature. Thx again and be sure to stop by often. And, remember to share your Tuscan experience when you return.

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  21. What an amazing landscape! Can't wait to see photos of your trip to Italy with Charu. Hope it's on!

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  22. Leslie, I couldn't agree with you more. Around every Tuscan hilltop, more and more breathtaking landscapes literally swept me up into the Tuscan experience. It was a fascinating day!

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  23. I bet there are a lot of motorists out on the Tuscan roads right now thanks to inspiration found in this wonderful post and pictures.

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  24. Hi there Traveling Ted!! Thank you so much for your kind words and compliments...I am very flattered!!! This was such an unforgettable journey for us and so I tried my best to convey our experience through this wonderful region in Italy!

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  25. Awesome! Dreaming of living here. Watched Under The Tuscan Sun few times.

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    1. Hi there Emila and thanks so much for stopping by. I too dream of living there and funny enough, I just finished watching "Under the Tuscan Sun" as well--one of my favorite movies of all time!! Thx for stopping by and sharing your dreams...we have something in common!

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  26. If I can be here, Id just stay where I can see the entire vista and write. I will just sit here for hours and reflect the beauty which unfolds before my eyes.

    I would love visiting this and write non-stop about it. :)

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    1. Hi there Wendell and I couldn't agree with you more!! Imagine spending the day writing while enjoying the splendid views of Tuscany? I could get used to that very quickly!! Thank you so much for stopping by to share your thoughts!!

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  27. I did read "Under the Tuscan Sun" (and saw the movie, but prefer the book) and would love to take a drive through Tuscany. Thanks for all the information about what to see -- I have a friend who is thinking about a Tuscany trip with her daughter. I'll email this to her.

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    1. Hi there Cathy and thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts! I loved the book too...and her other works as well. Thx for sharing this with your daughter too!!

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  28. Sound advice and wonderful photography as ever, Jeff. Slow travel is where it's at ...

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    1. Hi there Gillian and thx so much for stopping by and for you kind compliments! Love your "slow travel."

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  29. Ehi ehi!! You forgot to mention the beautiful San Gimignano and its many wineries to visit!
    Anyway very nice post ;-)
    if you like to comeback to Tuscany come to visit me www.facebook.com/Guardastelle

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    1. Ciao Fausto and thx so much adding San Gimignano to my list. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to squeeze into my itinerary so that's why it's not included however, it definitely deserves to be mentioned!

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  30. A great article, Jeff with beautiful photos!!

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    1. HI there Margie and thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind compliments!

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  31. Great article Jeff and superb photography.
    Haven't been to that part of Italy - I want to now :-)

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    1. Hi there Lynne and thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words! I really appreciate it! Yes, you must visit the south of Tuscany and be sure to rent a car when you do! You won't regret it!!

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!