Hotel & Travel Agency Review
Hotel Italia, Sienna: We stayed here for 3 nights in June 2019.
1) The rooms and bathrooms are very clean.
2) The front desk staff were very helpful and courteous.
3) Breakfast buffet is excellent in taste and spread. There were plenty of vegetarian choices.
4) The tariff was quite reasonable.
5) Wifi was free and the speed and connectivity was great.
6) The place is very quite at night and the sleep quality is good.
7) Location has plus and minus. The plus is that it is reasonably close to the station. You can take the automated escalators from the station and the hotel is within a couple of minutes walk from the top of the escalators.
1) The bad part about location is that the city centre is a bit far away. It is still walk-able. A 15 to 20 minute walk will bring you to the Campo from here.
2) The room size was a bit small. Bathroom was spacious.
- de' Montetini: We stayed here for one night in June 2019. This is one flat in a residential building. The flat has 3 rooms and a kitchen. So there are at most 2 other guests in the hotel.
1) The location is good. The place is within a minute from the Cathedral and 2 mins from San Francisco Church.
2) The room was spacious with an attached bathroom. There was even an upright piano in the room.
3) The room and bathroom were extremely clean.
4) The hostess was a very nice and friendly lady. She gives you extensive advice on what to see and do in the city and where to eat etc.
5) The breakfast was simple and nice.
6) The WiFi is free and the connectivity and speed were great.
7) The tariff was reasonable.
8) The place is very quite at night and the sleep quality is great.
There weren't any.
- Corte Dei Neri, Florence: There are two Corte dei Neri - 6 and 11. This review is about 6, Corte dei Neri. The two hotels are almost right across each other. This hotel is just one flat in a residential building. You are given the keys to the building, flat and your room and there no front desk. There are at most 3 other guests in this flat.
1) The location is half way between Palazzo Vecchio and Santa Croce. There is a supermarket close by.
2) Given the location, the price was reasonable.
3) The rooms and bathrooms were extremely clean. Our room was cleaned every day. We stayed for 5 nights here.
4) The WiFi speed was great.
5) The place is very quiet at night and the sleep quality is great.
6) The place has a lift to get to your floor.
7) The room had an attached bathroom.
1) There is virtually no front desk here. There is just one day time staff and he generally sits at No. 11. And he is only available from 10 to 6. Check-in is before 6 and you have to pay 10 euros an hour for every hour you arrive late.
2) The WiFi connectivity was poor in the rooms. It connected well in the common area.
3) This is a pure boarding place. There is no breakfast. But there is a kitchen.
Travelling around Tuscany
Tuscany is so popular that I am not going to compete with the likes of Rick Steves and Lonely Planet telling you what to see and do here. Instead I am jotting down some of the harder to find logistical details.
- Connectivity between towns in Tuscany via public transportation is not great. Trains leave you far from the hill towns and taxis are hard to find. We took a few one way taxis and here are the rates that we paid. When we needed to call a taxi, we approached the tourist offices and they called one for us.
- Sienna to Montepulciano: Pain 130 euros on the way up and 110 on the way down.
- San Gimignano to Volterra: 40 euros.
- Assisi Basilica to the Assisi station: 15 euros.
- Assisi station to Perugia: 50 euros.
- Our Indian credit and debit cards just worked. We generally had no trouble withdrawing money from ATM or paying at any of the attractions or restaurants.
- WiFi was available in all restaurants, hotels and tourist offices.
- Vegetarian food is not a problem. Every place has at least one vegetarian pasta or pizza, at the very minimum. Vegan diet could be an issue.
- Sienna: Nothing opens here before 10:30 am which is when the bus loads of tourists start arriving from Florence. It is still worth overnighting here in Sienna as the town is a delight to walk around. The tourists mostly stick to the Cathedral and so the Museum, Santa Maria della Scala, Palazzo Publico etc are generally empty most of the day. So head to the Cathedral first. It is a 342 step climb to the top of the Torre Magia. Views are breathtaking. Three quarters of a day was sufficient to see the major sites at leisure.
- San Gimignano/Volterra: There are direct buses to San Gimignano from Siena, about once an hour and it takes about an hour to get there. It is easier to reach the moon than Volterra from San Gimignano. The fastest way to get between the two towns is a taxi - costs about 40 euros. But taxis are notoriously hard to find. As soon as you get to San Gimignano, you can call the taxi (any shop will gladly share you the number and the visitor centre would call them for you) and book one after 3 or 4 hours or how much ever you plan to spend in San Gimignano. The last bus from Volterra to Siena leaves at 5:20 in the evening and you have a change in the middle reaching Siena by 7:15 pm.
- Assisi: There is a convenient direct bus to Assisi from Siena - FlixBus. It leaves Siena at 8:30 am reaching Assisi by 10:30 am. And that is the only bus for the day. The bus from the Basilica down to the station is not frequent. But taxis are plenty and they charge a fixed rate of 15 euros.
- Perugia: From the train station, there is a mini-metro up (and back down) to the city centre. It is easy to get to Arezzo, Florence etc. from Perugia.
- Arezzo/Cortona/Florence/Pisa/Lucca: These are reasonably well connected by trains. Trains are not very frequent. So print out the schedule for the day and work your sightseeing around it.
- Firenze Card: It priced such that you have to use it for three consecutive days and be a 9 to 5 full time sight-seer to make it worth the cost. Since most places are closed on a Monday, and weekends are extra crowded, you have be in Florence for the Tuesday to Thursday to fully utilise the card. With the card, you still need to book the times at the three most important sights - Duomo climb, Galleria and the Uffizi. These places are teeming with tourists. Best to keep one per day. Head to Uffizi at 8 am on one of the days and go straight to gate 2. The line would be short here. This is the line to make a reservation. You should, in all probability, get in by the 8:30 or 8:45 slot. Things get frenetic only by 11 am when the tourist buses arrive. Head to the Duomo ticket centre as soon as you can and book the slot for the Duomo climb. If there is a choice, pick a time that is early or late in the day so that it is easy to time it.