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Orvieto or Cortona

Cape Cod
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Orvieto or Cortona

My husband and I are planning our Fall, 2011 Italy trip. This year we decided not to rent a car as in previous years but stay in one Tuscan town for 5-7 nights and then onto either Rome or Florence for the remainder of our trip. Both Orvieto and Cortona are on rail lines (We visited Orvieto for a day a few years back, but never Cortona). We need a town where we could book a few day trips. Any ideas which town would suit our needs or is there some other place we haven't thought of (needs to be on a rail line). Any suggestions for accomodations. We are retired and are not on a tight budget so we generally look at 4 star lodging. Thank you for any help. Francesca

Montepulciano
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1. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

Ciao Francesca !

Maybe Montepulciano could be one of the options to consider: the town is located at 20 minutes by car from Cortona and 40 minutes from Orvieto.

The nearest train station is Chiusi, on the main rail line Rome-Florence ( about 1 hour 30 minutes far from both towns). The distance Chiusi-Montepulciano is about 20-30 minutes by car . A taxi ride to Montepulciano costs about 40 Euro one way, or a bus service is available.

A possibility could be arriving to Chiusi by train, and then renting a car for a couple of days (there are 2 rental companies just outside the train station) and exploring Cortona, Orvieto and all the Val D'Orcia from here. Other distances by car: Pienza is 10 minutes, Bagno Vignoni and San Quirico 20 minutes, Montalcino and the Abbey of Sant'Antimo about 40 minutes, the Crete Senesi/Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore are at 30 minutes, Perugia or Siena are at 50 minutes..

You can drop off the car at Chiusi station and take from there the direct train to Rome or Florence.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should need any additional information. Ciao!

Roma
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2. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

If I understand correctly, you want to base in a middle-small town and to make some day trips by train. So Arezzo might be fine. It is an interesting town, though it is not very well known, it is exactly on the railway between Florence and Rome, and the railway station is close to the centre. Orvieto would be fine too, but if you know it, choose another place you don't know. The historical centre of Cortona is far from the station, so going every day or most days centre/station might be annoying. Montepulciano is not well connected too; it would suit just to visit the area of Siena.

But, if you based more time in Florence? It would be the simplest way to visit Florence itself, of course, and also to visit most towns in Tuscany.

Los Angeles...
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3. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

Of the two towns you indicated, and based strictly on the small town charm, I would pick Cortona; however, you would have an access to rail issue.

I also second Aristofane's suggestion that you base in Florence and take day trips from there. This is probably the most prudent of options. Hard to disregard Less' recommendation also, since Montepulciano is certainly a "heart breaker" of a Tuscan town, but for rail proximity. Perhaps you could hire a car just for the countryside portion of your journey so that you could travel independently between small towns? I think it would solve mobility issues and open other possibilities for you.

Cape Cod
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4. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

Thank you all for your suggestions. Oct., 2009 we stayed in Val d'Elsa area 5 days and Pienza 5 days. It gave us a chance to see visit many of those towns mentioned. There were a couple we would love to visit again, but at present we are thinking of trying to visit areas using the rail system and maybe day tour companies or a private car. We didn't think of Arezzo and really don't know much about the town. Is it in the Chianti region? Are there other town in the Chianti area that may work. A taxi ride to the town from the train station would not be a problem but we would want to be in a town where we can make use of day tour companies or rent a car for a day. Thanks again all of you. Francesca

Montepulciano, Italy
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5. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

Arezzo is on the edge of the Val di Chiana to the south east of the Chianti. It has an extremely beautiful old city centre that is most definitely worth a visit, it's also very rich in art, but it's a largish place with a lot of businesses/ some light industry on the outskirts and away from the centre itself possibly lacks the charm of so many other towns. I personally wouldn't want to be based there on vacation for more than a day or two. Nearby Cortona would be a better choice and although others with more experience of staying there will be able to advise you, I often walk by the Villa Marsili and it always strikes me that that looks a nice place to stay if budget permits. My one concern would be that you are so heavily reliant on public transport as the two railway stations that support the town (Camucia and Terentola) are some distance away, Terentola especially. And it would be the same if you were at Montepulciano. I know people do come here on vacation and have a perfectly good time without a hire car but I live here and honestly cannot imagine what it would be like relying on our very limited bus service. And having a car allows you so much more freedom during your precious vacation time plus permits you to visit many of the smaller villages not served by bus, which are what Tuscany, in my opinion, is really all about.

If you are determined not to hire a car, I would recommend you stayed in Florence and took day trips out. You could see a few of the Chianti villages by bus, go up to Fiesole, maybe further afield to Lucca on the train, plus Arezzo and Cortona together on a long day.

Montepulciano, Italy
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6. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

Alternatively, have you thought of Siena? Re-reading your mail above I see you don't mind cabbing from stations. Siena makes a good base as it's so centrally located and is a beautiful town to enjoy in the evenings when the crowds have gone leaving you with a fine range of restaurants / medieval streets to wander.

Amsterdam, The...
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7. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

We visited Cortona earlier this year and it is a charming small town, but was not aware that it had a railway station; certainly access could be an issue for you since the town sits at the top of a hill!!

I agree with the earlier poster that Arezzo would be worth considering; it has a main rain station in the city centre and it is a charming place; much more charming than busy Florence in my view.

Le Marche, Italy
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8. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

I think if you want to spend five days in a small town, you really need to seriously rethink the idea of using public transportation. Alternatively, if you really want to use public transportation, you should consider a larger place such as Siena or Arezzo. Siena might be the best for your purposes, as it has bus connections to any number of small towns, and train connections to others.

I think Cortona would be the worst choice for you. It's not only very poorly served by public transportation, it's off on the eastern edge of Tuscany. Orvieto has better train access, but the train that goes there doesn't go to directly to many other places; you would normally have to connect in some larger city to get to where you want to go.

Arezzo is indeed well connected by train; it has easy access not only to Florence and Rome, but also to Perugia and Assisi. I haven't spent a night there, but on day trips to Arezzo and Cortona, I have to say I liked Arezzo better. If you're an art lover, Arezzo will satisfy you. If you're their around the beginning of the month, there is a great antiques fair on the weekend.

Norwich, Norfolk, Uk
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9. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

The two train stations that serve Cortona are indeed down in the valley and so one needs to use the bus that connects the town to the stations. Last time I stayed in Cortona there was a bus every half hour or so running down to the stations, but that was some time ago and I really don't know how late that service runs. Because of the bus to train and back situation, I don't think it is the best place to be based without a car and wanting to make lots of day trips.

Personally, I agree with lastraniera about Arezzo in that I wouldn't want to stay there for longer than a day or two. The attractive central part of the city is really quite small and Arezzo suffered heavy bombing in the war and so is a mixture of new and old. That said, it does offer the easy access to the train station that you require.

I like Orvieto a lot and although it is also above the train station, the station is close and very well connected by bus and funicular, the bus running late into the evening. However how well connected it is for day trips depends on where you want to go. It is on the main line from Rome to Florence and you could easily visit those places, Arezzo, Cortona, Chiusi, etc. Accessing other places in Umbria, such as Assisi, Perugia, Spoleto etc would be more difficult, involving a change of line. There are a number of bus services out of Orvieto of course.

Edited: 29 December 2010, 09:07
Cape Cod
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10. Re: Orvieto or Cortona

So many things to think about. Good thing I'm planning 9 months ahead. It looks as though we may have to rethink - possibly stay in one of the afore mentioned towns and hire a car as needed (2-3 days). We really enjoyed the day tours with a guide because it gave us a lot of history which we would not get on our own. That is why we were thinking of utilizing that aspect more. I know there are several of the larger towns that house such trips via their intown "travel agencies". Thanks to all responses. Will continue to explore your these options. As an aside, if we were to decide to rent a car for 5 days, are their any towns in the Chianti region you would recommend - large enough to explore on our own, restaurants, local shopping,etc.; but small enough not to be a tourist mecca. Francesca

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