They say that the best way to see Tuscany is by renting your own car to cruise through the endless hills of the countryside. But if you’re like me and don’t feel like shifting gears to maneuver around narrow cliff-hugging roads, then there is an alternative that doesn’t include booking a group tour, and that is public transport.
After a bit of research, I realized it is possible to see Tuscany without a car.
In planning my trip, I used Florence as a hub, figuring that it was a major artery for public transport through the Tuscan region. From Florence, I took day trips to Siena and Chianti, and quite frankly could have squeezed in a couple more spots, but chose to stay true to my style by travelling slowly:
Siena is a medieval city that is characterized by brick buildings embedded in the peaks and valleys of Tuscany’s rolling hills. Many choose Siena over Florence for sleeping because it’s a bit quieter and less touristy, but it’s hard to see that distinction when Siena’s streets are flooded with day-trippers and tour groups. The city is no doubt rich with history and certainly has no shortage of eateries and gelaterias – my favourite!
Getting There: I walked to Busitalia Nord Autostazione from Florence’s historic centre (10 minutes). From there, I purchased a ticket for about €8 and hopped on a direct bus to Siena (1.25 hours). The route is part of a regional service, so the buses are coach and very comfortable with plenty of seating and space for luggage.
Let’s be honest. In planning my trip to Italy, there were two things on my mind: wine and food. I have day dreamed so many times about driving through Italy’s robust wine region in my red Convertible with the top down – and sadly, it shall remain a dream because that is definitely not how I saw the ever-popular wine region, yet it still turned out to be nothing short of fabulous! I took a day trip out to Greve in Chianti, which was easily accessible by bus and unfortunately a far cry from my imaginary Convertible road trip. The views were spectacular – tiny homes perched atop rich, green, hills with meticulously partitioned vineyards spanning across each property. Chianti is a must-do in Tuscany.
Getting There: Again, I walked to Busitalia Nord Autostazione from the historic centre (10 minutes). From there, I purchased a bus ticket for about €8 and hopped on a coach bus to Greve in Chianti (1 hour).
Getting Around: If you plan on wandering out of the centre (which you will since the centre is rather small), note that Greve is certainly not as walkable as Siena. I attempted to do a walking tour of the wineries and failed miserably. I love to walk, but I warn you: if you can’t withstand several hours of walking up and down hills (mainly uphill) through the countryside with no opportunity to stop and grab a bite of food or have a sit-down, then this is not the option for you. A smarter alternative would be to rent a bicycle, or even better, a vespa to handle the hills and actually get you to where you need to go before nightfall.
- The regional buses offer two route types to popular destinations: Ordinario (Ordinary) and Rapido (Rapid). The cost is the same, but the Rapido is the equivalent to the North American “Express”, meaning it is direct and makes no other stops. If you have the bus schedule, plan to take the Rapido bus, otherwise just hop onto whatever comes first – like I did!
- Officials say you MUST validate your ticket: Scattered across the stations and aboard the buses are validation machines, which riders are expected to use to validate their ticket for each ride. If you do not validate your ticket, then it is technically “not used” and you could use it for a return trip or future trip. That being said, by law, tickets are to be validated for each ride and individuals who do not do so are subject to fines.