Travel Tips for Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast!

Travel Tips for Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast!

Enjoy 2 very different experiences in 1 trip!

Thinking of taking a trip to Italy?  I just got back from Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast and have some great tips to make your experience the best possible!

This is my third trip to Italy.  With each trip I have learned a little more about what to look for in terms of accommodations, how to maneuver the trains, using the information you read in the reviews, best locations, and of course, what to pack, just to name a few.

These are broken down by the 2 most amazing locations!

Our Trip to Tuscany

We had all visited Tuscany before and were looking for a more laid back, unscheduled trip this time.

We wanted our home base to include:

Tuscany, Fuecchio

  • a beautiful view
  • easy access to Florence and surrounding towns
  • easy access to trains
  • an outside space
  • a restaurant within walking distance
  • minimal # of stairs
  • washing machine
  • helpful host / hostess
  • sofa – I am very picky about this – I like to settle down and have a drink or tea at the end of the day – I always miss my sofa!
  • good beds (if possible).  I haven’t found the beds in Italy to be the most comfortable.
  • price – our accommodation in Tuscany was amazingly affordable.
  • a pool

Our perfect Tuscan holiday home 

LaScuola di Furio

This wonderful holiday home in Fucecchio met all of our needs plus some!

We booked two apartments that  were typical of Tuscany.  Simple and yet beautiful.  Our view was incredible, and we had a pool.  We had 2 apartments and we gathered every day in our apartment in the evening because it had 2 sofas – something to watch for when considering a place to stay.  Everything was provided for us – dishes, pots and pans and utensils.

Our hostess, Tiziana, could not be better!  She not only answered all of our questions, she gave us a tour of her family’s shoe factory and traveled with us to Cortona.

Tuscan Holiday Home

Information Specific to Location – Tuscany

It is a good idea to do some research before your trip and you definitely want to have some information to read through upon arrival!  You will have lots of questions, and it always better to ask them of someone rather than have to read about it.

Tiziana, our hostess, had brochures, maps and information on everything that we had questions about, plus she asked us what our plans were and answered all of our questions.

Where did we visit?Cortona

  • Fucecchio
  • Pisa
  • Lucca (one of our favorites)
  • Forte dei Marmi (best outdoor market)
  • Florence
  • Cortona.  Cortona was a distance away, but 3 of us had been there before and fell in love with it.  The Bottega Baracchi bar is fabulous and as you can see from this picture, the backdrop is spectacular!
  • If you are lucky, you will run into Frances Mayes, the writer of “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

Things you need to know to prepare for your trip to Tuscany:

Car

  • Recommend you rent your car at the Florence Airport.  They are also available at the train station, but you will be driving in the city and it is crazy!
  • Make sure you rent a small car, too, even though the trunks are small.
  • Take minimal luggage.  We took duffle bags as there were 4 of us and although our intentions were good, we failed miserably at taking the minimum.
  • Make sure you have parking available where you plan to stay.
  • The winding roads are narrow, to say the least.  Your driver must be okay with driving a small car on narrow streets with many turns
  • TOLL BOOTHS – do not go through a toll booth without taking a ticket!  We did, accidently, and it cost us 61 Euros!

Train

  • Take the train!  It goes everywhere (well almost).  Try it out – you get to see all the scenery without the stress!
  • Make sure you always check the arrivals and departures board at the train station for up-to-date information as it can be changed at the last minute.
  • At the small train stations there isn’t anyone to assist you and in the large train stations it is a bit chaotic.
  • All worth it, however.

Groceries / Meals

  • Love the food in Italy!  As a chef at a retreat that I went to in 2015 said, the Italians like each ingredient of their food to stand on its own; not to be smothered by an entirely different ingredient!  I think this is true of Italy also. Read more about this in my blog post here.
  • Ask your host/hostess the best place to purchase groceries and wine.  We found prices in the smaller villages very reasonable!  Your groceries will be fresh and you will be able to purchase your wine (totally inexpensive) there also.  While I am on this subject, try the Limoncello Cream – delicious!
  • Rent a place with a kitchenette.  Some nights you just want to stay in and eat simple!  This wasn’t something we thought we would want to do but the food is so amazing and easy to prepare!  Buy some pecorino cheese, mortadella, fresh tomatoes, tomatoe sauce, fresh pasta and bread – can’t be beat!
  • The bread – every single market, restaurant and supermarket sold bread that was always slightly different than the last.  How could we resist!  Even without butter – only olive oil is provided.
  • A word of warning – watch for extra charges at the restaurants – they information is usually provided in the menu posted outside!

Outdoor Markets

Forte dei Marmi Market

  • Plan on going to a few markets.  The best one we found, by far, is the outdoor market in Forte dei Marmi.
  • Double check the markets’ schedules!
  • Here is the link for the various markets.
  • I found a shirt and a dress that I have been wanting for years – linen, of course in the first 2 shops I visited.  Love the linen in Italy – thin and cool.  There is a cute little bar right across the street that offers free appetizers too!

The Beach

  • Go to the beach – also Forte dei Marmi.  Even if it is just to put your feet in the water!

Bathrooms

I know – a strange subject for many, but we kept running out of toilet paper and kleenex!  Yes, both of our holiday homes provided a bidet…  I’ll use it next time, or pack a few rolls of toilet paper – lol.

Jet Lag

So, if you have been up for 30 hours by the time you arrive at your destination, don’t be surprised if you go to sleep fairly early and wake up and think it is the next morning when it isn’t!  I did.  I thought it was 8:30 a.m. and the sunset was actually a sunrise.  Thank goodness one of my travel mates stopped by and after talking for awhile, and me looking at her like she might be an alcoholic drinking at this time of the morning; we both realized how confused I was.

I went back to bed only to wake up at 5:00 a.m.  I thought I would take a walk and when I returned to the apartment, discovered I had locked myself out!  It took 3 hours to wake my friends up – crazy!  Those old doors with those cool old fashioned keys don’t look like they would lock behind you!!!

Then onto the Amalfi Coast

Naples Train Station

What can I say…  We caught the train in Florence to go to Naples because by now we are experts at that (lol) and our hostesses at our holiday home in Furore arranged a driver to pick us up.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to see a sign with my name on it at the train station – not sure why, but I always wanted to experience it!

Depending on where you stay, you may choose to stay in a holiday home in one of the villages, or stay in the hustle bustle of one of the major towns (Amalfi, Positano or Sorrento).

If you have any mobility issues, the Amalfi Coast may not be for you, unless you stay near the village in Amalfi or Positano.  If not, you are certainly faced with stairs, a climb and hills!

We loved the trips on the ferry to Positano (our favorite) and Capri (very touristy).  We heard that Anacapri is more beautiful and quiet – it will definitely be on my list for the next trip.

We wanted a accommodation that would:

  • have a view of the sea
  • allow easy access to the town of Amalfi, Positano and Capri
  • an outdoor space  or balcony
  • a restaurant within walking distance of our accommodations
  • minimal # of stairs (screwed that up in this location – didn’t read the reviews carefully enough – 50 steps!, which was a problem for one of our travelers but I am so glad we didn’t notice before we left).
  • washing machine
  • helpful host/hostess
  • competitive rates – accommodation at the Amalfi Coast tend to be more expensive, but we were sharing it 4 ways and it was TOTALLY worth it!

Where we stayed

Amalfi Coast, Furore, View

Villa il Mignale

This holiday home is located in Furore and was perfect!  It has a  view that took our breath away.  There were beautiful little tables and chairs on various decks around the apartment from 2 of the bedrooms, kitchen and living room.  You can take the stairs within (or outside) the apartment to the upper deck where you could see beauty from every direction.  The holiday home had 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen, living room, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

Information Specific to Location – Amalfi

Our hostesses were Maria and her daughter Marianna.  They provided a lot of guidance for us even before we left for our trip – whether we should rent a car, where to take the train to for the quickest drive in, where to eat, what restaurant should we order take-out from, bus and ferry schedules, places to see, etc., etc.

We were a little lost trying to find the local supermarket so tried to ask a fellow that was working in his garden.  After a lot of attempted sign language and a few laughs from all of us, we gave up.  Much better to learn a few words you might need before the trip!

Where did we visit?

  • Real Pizza, Naples

    The Real Pizza – Naples!

    Furore (our home base)

  • Amalfi (town)
  • Positanto (definitely my favorite)
  • Capri
  • Naples (dirty city but worth going down to the sea in the evening!)

Things you need to know:

Car

  • We debated whether we should rent a car – many people do.  Thank goodness we did not.  Just on the trip from the Naples Train Station to Furore, one of our group felt car sick and had to take a gravol.  And that was the easy part of the trip!
  • The roads have hairpin turns and are on the side of the mountain.  When buses pass each other, it feels like there is barely an inch between their mirrors.
  • If you have someone in your group with issues with mobility, make sure you rent an apartment or hotel that is accessible.  Our apartment had 50 steps and luckily Maria and Marianna were able to take our bags up and down the steps!  Again, pack light!
  • Make sure you have free parking close by.
  • Confirm that there is easy bus service.
  • If you have any fears about driving, DON’T!

Bus Service, Taxis & Ferry

  • We were lucky to have a bus right outside our door that went into Amalfi. Sometimes there was standing room only, but that just meant we got to visit other people on the bus!
  • Ask your hostess to arrange to be picked up at the train station or airport.  The cost for us was approximately $110 Euros and there was 4 of us, so not too expensive.
  • Take Gravol and make sure you take it BEFORE your trip into Amalfi.
  • Take the bus into the town of Amalfi and take ferry trips to Positano (my favorite), Capri and Sorrento.  The village square in Amalfi is totally worth the trip!  People gather in the square, enjoy a glass of wine and a chat.  They are sitting on steps, in the outdoor restaurant and there are many little shops to visit.

Groceries / Meals

  • A restaurant within walking distance is a must for me. This holiday home has a wonderful restaurant a short walk away.
  • You definitely need a supermarket nearby.  In our case, the small supermarket was 2 km away.  One of our group braved the 300+ stairs down to the supermarket and up again (I only did it once)!  The lady who owns the café/store was wonderful, and made the best sandwiches!  We could have easily taken the bus the short distance and back.
  • Take advantage of home delivery.  Some of our best meals in Furore were delivered.
  • One restaurant also picked us up and took us home after our meal

The Beach

  • Visit the beach at Amalfi and Positano!  You can access them easily, right from the bus and/or ferry!  They are also both located near the town square and little shops and restaurants.

Positano Beach

What to wear

  • Pack light!  Take light pants and shorts and t-shirts.  The weather is hot and beautiful!
  • Purchase some of their light linen shirts and dresses.  I love mine!
  • Book an apartment with a washer.  They didn’t provide dryers in either place that we stayed but there was adequate space to hang our clothes.

The impact of Italy

As I said, life is simple in Italy.  The beauty is everywhere, and you are part of it!

On this journey of mine to live the most authentic version of myself, Italy definitely provides the perfect backdrop.  This trip to Italy left me full of gratitude for this wonderful country and experience.

For the first weeks after my return from vacation, people told me I glowed.  I felt amazing; my blood pressure was normal, my mind wasn’t racing a million miles a second, and I felt more me than I ever have, and totally happy!  When things get too hectic or I find myself fall into old patterns, I sit down and think back to my time in Italy.

I love it so much that plans are already underway for my next vacation to Italy.  Amalfi, Rome, Florence and Lucca (the walled city) are on my list of places to stay.

I would love to hear about your experiences and learn some of your  helpful hints!

Deborah

A small token of appreciation we left for our hostesses.

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