We will be in Florence, then heading to San Gimignano and off to Rome. We are throwing around two ideas for transportation between the areas, especially for our time in San Gimignano.....
OPTION 1: renting a car in Florence, driving to San Gimignano and then driving to Rome where we would return it. With search engines such as; Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire, ect. the search criteria only allows you to rent from airport locations when you pick-up/drop-off in different cities.
OPTION 2: Taking the bus from Florence to San Gimignano and then renting a car through San Gimignano Transportation for our stay. Returning the car in San Gimignano and then taking public transportation to Rome (I could also use some suggestions on how to get from San Gimignano to Rome).
I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions.
Rachel, driving will definitely give you the option of doing some scenic detours.
Having said that, I know Italy pretty well (I have lived in Rome and travel to the country regularly) and I only ever take trains. Rail in Europe (especially in Italy) is very reliable, quick and cheap. Italy's rail company Trenitalia has a very good website with the option to translate to English (click on the UK flag on the top left corner): http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=4ddd1a035296f310VgnVCM1000005817f90aRCRD
Now the tricky things:
On Trenitalia, in spite of the translation, you still have to use Italian for station names. That means Florence is Firenze (Stazione Firenze Santa Maria Novella for the central station) and Rome is Roma (Stazione Roma Termini for the main station). San Gimignano proper is a historic hilltown so no trains go directly to the town, the station is on the foothill and is called Poggibonsi (or Poggibonsi-S. Gimignano), once at the staion there is a helpful tourist booth from where you can get tickets for the hill bus.
Trains tickets will be less than 10EUR and should be booked (online) in advance. Many regional trains require you to 'validate' on the machines at the station. Make sure to get your tickets stamped before entering the train or you may get fined.
San Gimignano is on the Regional Tuscany line so you will probably have to transfer in Florence to a train to Rome. Tickets are sold with the stop-over so the change of trains should be seamless and times coordinated.
Lastly, do check for train times beforehand and be especialy weary around Sundays and Holidays as rail/transport runs less regularly outside big cities.
Your bus option is certainly doable but I find it less comfortable and there are often traffic jams in/out Florence and Rome. Moreover, the bus stations are usually not as central as trains, you might have to catch buses from commuter depots and airports.
Full circle back to driving. One thing to keep in mind is that Italian city traffic is mental and hard to get used to. On the highway and countryside you will be fine but the historic one-way/alley streets of Rome and Florence are a maze and driving is aggressive. If you drive, it may actually be better to pick-up and drop-off at airports (it will save you time). Fiumicino Airport in Rome has a super convenient express train service to the city centre (remember to stamp ticket!) so I encourage you to leave the car at the airport and enjoy the city on foot!
Hope this helps! You have choosen great places to visit and will surely love San Gimignano, my favourite Tuscan town!
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