a VirtualTourist member from Kalispell
Hello! We will be staying in an agriturismo near Siena for three nights in June, and we will be travelling there from Rome after having spent four nights in Rome. I'm trying to work out the logistics of what we want to do in my head and I am having troubles. Basically, we will be renting a car to get us to the agriturismo and spend the next two or three days driving all around Tuscany. BUT, I would also like to spend four or five hours exploring Siena's city center while we are there (since parking is apparently a nightmare, it made sense to me to have a time in Siena first, and rent our car after we're done). It seems to be working down to three options:
1) Take the train from Rome to Siena - good because the train station is close to the car rental place. Leave our two backpacks in storage lockers somewhere, bus into town, enjoy Siena, bus back down and take our car and leave.
2) Take the bus to Siena - good because it is less hassle and arrives in the middle of Siena. Don't really know what we would do with our packs all day (unless there are lockers somewhere in the city center), then take a bus down the hill to the car places, rent our car and leave.
3) Rent a car in Rome, drive straight to our agriturismo, then try and find parking and deal with the hassle of actually getting into Siena while already possessing our rental car.
Things to take into consideration are neither of us has ever been to Italy or driven in Europe before -- having our introduction to European driving being a three hour journey out of a huge city is daunting to me, to say the least. It seems like a lot of back and forth to rent the car in Siena (train station to town to train station to rental place, etc..., since from what I've read it's tough walking to Hertz or wherever from the train station due to the busy streets between them) -- but it can't be THAT bad can it? Any advice?
We did this last year- we stayed on a farm in Tuscany, and because we wanted to explore the area, we hired a car.
Having the car is good, because it gives flexibilty.
Make absolutely sure that you also get a GPS with hire car.
Re driving- we live in Australia, so my husband also found the highways quite challenging. The Italians do not drive slowly. and many signs are in Italian. However, after a day or two he got the hang of it.
In Sienna, we found a underground great car park just near the bustop. It has about 6 flights of escalators which take you right up into the centre of the city. It was so easy.
BUT...............train travel is great in Italy, and after our week in Tuscany, we dropped the car in Florence, stayed there for 4 days, the used fast trains to get to Rome & Venice.
No parking worries by train.
So......you can go to Sienna by train from Rome. Hire your car- drive to parking lot (and leave your bags in the car while you explore the city- then drive to your agriturismo,
I second what @Lynne writes: don't rent the car in Rome because it will (might) be a nightmare to get out of the city, especially when you say you haven't driven in Europe before.
But maybe you like to consider not to take the train because Siena's train station is way out of town. I would suggest that you take the bus. The bus station in Siena is at Piazza Gramci, here on Google maps:
(if you zoom out you see the Campo). All the ticketing offices are beneath ground, and when I bought my tickets to Firenze there some time ago I remember that there were lockers. But hopefully another VTer can tell you about lockers at Piazza Gramci.
Then explore the city and then rent a car.
Regarding renting a car in Siena: I did that in 2010 and found, comparing the prices, that Avis was exceptionally expensive, but Europcar was really reasonable. I wrote about the car rental thing here:
[original VT link]
But on the other hand, if you contact AVIS US, you might get a better rate than what was offered to me in 2010. I made my decision to spend a weekend out of town quite spontaneous and didn't have time (and computer access) to compare and find the best price.
But then: you say that a rental car place is close to the train station: which one is that? I didn't check this one in 2010, because I was interested to find a car rental that is easy accessible. Avis was just outside of the town walls, Europcar a bit out of town but with excellent bus access.
Have fun :-))
You will be fine, provided you are a confident / competent driver, going to Siena is no problem, certainly parking is tight, but when we went, you just park in the numerous parking lots on the outskirts of the town centre and you walk about 20 minutes (which is easy) into the main area, so no problem and much better than thinking about trains. Go for it.
If you are driving out of Rome, a good navigator / map reader sitting in the passenger seat is handy, however you can always hire a GPS if its that much of a problem or you are nervous. Again, in & out of Rome by car is perfectly do-able.
Once you are near Siena, you will either park in a municipal lot (as noted above) outside the city center, or if you can't find it, drive to the train station, because there should be parking near the train station, and there are always buses from every train station in Italy to the city center. The train station is well outside the ZTL (limited traffic zone) in Siena, so you will have no problems, there. And your luggage is covered (I hope) in the trunk or backseat of the car.
Option #3 also allows you to do other things, such as stop at Orvieto or Chiusi or a lot of other places on the way.
If you think the car is expensive (it is), note that the bus fare is 23 euro each, and the minimum train fare is 16.35 each (and can be much higher)...and on the train, you get to handle your own luggage... so the car is simpler, not that much more expensive, and the Italians actually drive very well on the highways, which you will be on all the way from the airport in Rome to the turnoff on the A1 to go to Siena...
There is a free parking lot below San Francesco church with an escalator up to the Old Town in Siena. We've never had trouble finding a place there. A Tuscan friend told us about it; it's where she parks. The area roads are good and driving is no worse than here at home although you will be dealing with driving on the "wrong" side of the road. We've done that in the UK and you'll adjust quickly. We always reminded each other about the correct side of the road as we got into the car just as a precaution.
Enjoy a beautiful part of Italy.
As someone who deals a lot with guests who have asked me exactly the same question many times over the years, I can give you what I believe to be the definitive answer:
Rent your car in Rome, as near to where you are staying in Rome as possible - dragging luggage around is never fun, specially in the Rome heat. Driving in Rome will be fun! Getting out to the airports is an absolute NIGHTMARE and will waste hours of your precious time and be exhausting. Trust me.
Drive direct to your agriturismo. Do not pass go, or collect $200. Shower, unpack, open a bottle of wine, enjoy the scenery. Eat some food. Enjoy the Tuscan countryside! Otherwise, why bother staying in an agriturismo at all?
Next morning, get up early and drive to Siena. If it's a Wednesday, market day, my instructions would differ slightly, but otherwise head into town and follow the signs to the football (or 'soccer', if you are a yank) stadium - you're looking for a football on the street signs. The route will take you past the old Fortessa (fortress) - you can't miss it: huge calls, fortressy looking place. Under the wall you'll see a big car park. Drive in there, and park. It's free. If it's full (as it will be on market day) then just pull in and hang around - you'll get a space in a few minutes. From there it's a beautiful but short work through the Fortessa grounds to the city centre. Is say get up early because Siena gets busy quite quickly, and the Piazza del Campo is much more beautiful when it's not shared with several thousand tourists armed with cameras and following people waving umbrellas. You can spend some of your money getting a very expensive coffee and cake and admiring the real beauty of the place.
Once you don'e a few hours of touristy stuff, come back to the Piazza del Campo. See the big tower? Just to the left of it there's a side street. Go down there. 20m on the right there's a small restaurant called La Torre. Eat there. Doesn't matter what you eat, all the bast is freshly made in house and you probably wont understand the waiter anyway, so just eat whatever they give you and say thank you. It'll be worth it (and very inexpensive).
If you decide to go straight to Siena and want to park near the station, or you decide to train-it in, then no need to catch any buses as there is an escalator that takes you from the station right up into town.
"As someone who deals a lot with guests who have asked me exactly the same question many times over the years, I can give you what I believe to be the definitive answer:
Rent your car in Rome, as near to where you are staying in Rome as possible - dragging luggage around is never fun, specially in the Rome heat. Driving in Rome will be fun! Getting out to the airports is an absolute NIGHTMARE and will waste hours of your precious time and be exhausting. Trust me."
Sorry, Simon, I have to take exception to this. As a former resident of Rome and still visitor (although not often enough ), renting the car as close as possible to where they are staying can invite disaster. First, if they are staying inside a ZTL (limited traffic zone) and the rent car office is also there, then they can't legally drive there at all when the ZTL is active, unless they managed to get the hotel to get permission from the city. Lord knows that the rent car company won't care (I've asked). So, they could start off with a big fat fine.
Second, the OP (original poster) made it clear that he/she didn't want to start the trip in Italy by driving in Roman city traffic - which you are asking them to do. Suppose the OP is near Termini and rents a car from one of the car rental agencies near there. If the OP drives north or west, the OP drives straight into a ZTL. If the OP drives south, the OP wastes a lot of time going in the wrong direction. The OP 'can 'drive east out to the ringroad, but again this is through Rome itself, even if not the city center. One wrong turn, and disaster.
Third, it is 'not 'a nightmare to get out to the airports - you can do it by taxi, train, bus, Metro - multiple combinations. Yes, you have to schlep your own luggage (except for the taxi, of course), but it is not the nightmare that you portray. Indeed, from most parts of the city center, it's 45 minutes or less by taxi, and the taxis charge a fixed fare - i.e., one fare for a carload...all of a sudden, the 14 euro per person Leonardo Express doesn't look so good. And once you are at the airport, you will never go near Roman city traffic as you head out of town - it's highway all the way until you exit near Chiusi.
I learned to drive in Rome when I was a young man. I thoroughly enjoy driving in Rome...but I am not going to suggest to anyone who is new to Europe and from a rural part of the US that it will be "fun". It will be fun after 3 weeks when you've finally figured out that the rules of the road aren't the ones on the signs, but a different set of rules that people just know...but he'll be gone by then.
James (the OP), please just "trust me"...Bill and former resident of Rome...
We're your average American couple and we found it very simple to get from central Rome to the airport. You go to the train station (we walked), buy a ticket, get on, enjoy the scenery and get off at the airport. Short of taking a taxi, it couldn't be any easier.
We've driven in Florence but not in Rome and I wouldn't describe it as fun. Outside of the cities it's just fine, but we now leave our car in a nearby town and take either a train or a bus into the cities. If you don't want to go to the airport, find a car rental location near the ring road in Rome on the north side of town.
Bill- I take your point, but still think that the option of taking a train or bus to Sienna- hire car in Sienna, put luggage into boot, park car in car park, take escalators up to the city and explore. After- go to the car and drive to agriturismo. My husband is an excellent driver, and after our time driving in Tuscany was VERY happy to get rid of the car. When we arrived (in Florence and Rome) he said THANK GOD I do not have to drive in this crazy traffic
Well its now up to the OP- he sure has plenty of options
Thank you all, as always, for the extremely helpful suggestions. Honestly, we're not too concerned with lugging our belongings around - we'll just have backpacks. If the metro/train situation in Italy is anything like it was in Spain, getting in and out of the airports doesn't worry me -- besides, we're spending four nights in Rome before even going to Siena. I will look into renting a car outside of Rome somewhere to drive right to the agriturismo -- but I'm guessing we're probably going to end up just renting in Siena. I like the idea of locking the luggage in the car, so I think lynne's suggestion is what we'll end up doing -- rent the car, drop our stuff in it, park in one of the lots. Although I did like TuscanyAdvisor's tips on what to do in Siena - we'll definitely check out La Torre for sure - and maybe since it's going to be crowded by the time we roll in it would make more sense to just head to the agriturismo right away and come back some morning if we're gonna have to pay for parking anyway.
Thanks again, mccalpin, you've been extremely generous with your advice in just about every thread I've started! You're right -- even driving in Seattle is exhausting to me, staying off the streets in the busy city I think will remove a lot of stress. Thanks!
Your plan sounds good. Have a lovely time whatever you choose to do