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All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

by SandiM Online Now Nov 14, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Are you familiar with Pienza and its surroundings? Here's what I need to know. My mother and I have a tight schedule for Tuscany in April 2010--we have 2 nights in Siena and after that, we want to leave by bus early on a Sunday morning to head to Pienza. Is it true there is realy only 1 (fairly direct) bus service (route 112/A) from Siena to Pienza and it leaves at 10:50am? Or are there any more buses leaving earlier on that Sunday morning? Once in Pienza, we only have 1 night there. So, in the afternoon after we check-in to our hotel, we want to SOMEHOW get down to La Foce (via Monticchiello) to snap some photos of the famous twisty road with the cypress trees, then go back to Pienza. The next morning (Monday), we'll take a bus to Chiusi to train it down to Rome (this part I think I got it right, we have to go to Montepuliciano by bus first, then transfer to a bus for Chiusi). So, how far is Pienza to La Foce? Is it walkable? (probably not). Are there places to rent bikes or motorscooters or a car in Pienza? Any online links? Last note: if the bus schedules are really that hard to navigate for Sunday's/Monday's, I will consider renting a car in Siena as long as I am able to return it in Chiusi. Any suggestions for rental companies? Mille gracie!

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by mccalpin Online Now Nov 15, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    Some notes while you're waiting for people familiar with Pienza (not me):
    1. Car rental company offices are usually closed Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday across Italy, except at airports and very large cities. For example (and I think this is typical), the Avis office in Siena is open Saturday morning 8:30-12:30 and closed on Sunday. So, if you rent a car (quite doable), you'll need to account for the 'blackout times' to pick and and return the car.

    2. Once you have a car, you really shouldn't feel constrained to have to drive to Chiusi and drop it off at the first opportunity in order to take the train. If you drove all the way to Rome, it's only 2 hours by autostrada. If you want to avoid the city, you can take the ringroad around to the opposite (south) side of Rome to Ciampino airport, where there are all the car rental agencies. From Ciampino, there are multiple ways to get to the city center.
    You could drive to Fiumicino airport as well, but it's farther out, although no more difficult to find.

    3. If you do find a car rental agency in Chiusi (there are car rental companies there, but no big chains when looking at the Italian Yellow Pages), look for it in Chiusi Scalo, where the train station is (right next door to Chiusi). You might look for Europecar, and see if they have a partner in Chiusi...but, really, you could just drive to Rome, and I think at that point (since you already have the car) it might be cheaper than switching to the train...

    Bill

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  • SandiM's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by SandiM Online Now Nov 15, 2009 at 10:29 AM

    Hi Bill, thanks for the reply! We considered taking a car right down to Rome however we've had some misgivings about being on that fast of a road (maniac drivers, toll booths, not much to see). Also, we are unbelievably good at getting lost, so I have no doubt this will be the case once we get near Rome. Doesn't matter how good a road map we have, leave it to us to fumble it up. And coming from Canada we weren't sure how good the road signs were, etc. I did find a car company that would let us rent in Florence, and then drop off in Chiusi, and it was Hertz. I haven't had the time to see if the drop-off is near the station or not, I will do that later today. For 3 days, the rental is183 (Canadian). I wasn't sure if that included unlimited miles or not. I think we'll need an international drivers licence, yes? Right hand road driving? I forgot to check on that also.

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  • kathymof's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by kathymof Online Now Nov 15, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    Just make sure you visit old town Pienza. It is delightful and go around the side of the church where you will find some classic Tuscany scenery. I have some photos on my Pienza page.

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    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by kathymof Online Now Nov 15, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    That is a good rate for a three day rental in my opinion, especially with a return to a different location. And yes, Italy required an international driving permit plus your own license. Right hand side. Most cars are manual transmission - you will pay a real premium for an automatic.

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by mccalpin Online Now Nov 15, 2009 at 6:42 PM

    Sandi, you should know that Italian drivers actually are very well behaved on the autostrade. The fast drivers stick to the left lane and the slower ones to the right - there's none on this 'passing on the right' to get around a slow driver like we have in North America. You pick the lane which is going at the speed that you're comfortable with, and you just stay in it. Besides, the autostrada is not like the Autobahn where there are no speed limits (although even the Autobahn often has speed limits) - the top speed is actually pretty reasonable.

    As for getting lost, I suppose you could do it, but it would be very difficult. First, you were already going to drive from Pienza to Chiusi anyway, right? That's the hardest part of the trip to Rome.
    - First of all, you cross the autostrada just before you get to Chiusi (4 kilometers).
    - Then you take a right (go south). Now you are on the A1 autostrada.
    - Then you travel a little less than two hours until you see an exit for the A1DIR which is the bypass that goes to Rome (the A1 itself passes Rome on the east on the way down to Naples).
    - Then you hit the GRA, the Gran Raccordo Anulare (the "big ring road"). This is exactly how it is signed (as the "G.R.A.") although it is also the A90.
    - Take the GRA to the left to head down the east side of Rome. NOTE - if you make a mistake and go the wrong way, it won't matter, because you'll just go down the west side of Rome and end up at the same place on the south side of Rome - it's a RING road, you know.
    - Exit at the Via Appia (probably says "Via Appia Nuova").
    - Go south (away from Rome) an exit or two (actually, it may be the first exit, it ain't far) and exit where you see the signs for Aeroporto Ciampino - the airport is literally just a few hundred meters south of the intersection of the GRA and the Via Appia Nuova.

    So when I say it will be difficult to miss, I mean it, because once you get on the A1, it's well-signed highway driving the entire way.

    As for Chiusi, only regional and Intercity trains stop there on the way to Rome. The regional trains will be rather time consuming because of all the stops (and they go slower too, to let the higher speed trains go by), but the InterCity (IC) trains stop only once every two hours all day long - you could be in Rome by the time the next train shows up.

    This is what I mean - so long as you already have the car, it won't cost you a lot more to just drive all the way (OK, viamichelin.com estimates 10.50 euro in tolls plus 19.30 in petrol in a compact), but the IC trains will be 15 euro for each of you one way, second class - purt'near identical, as we say in Texas.

    OK, the ride is not all that scenic, I remember a long stretch of it being in a shallow valley with mostly vegetation on both sides, but this also gives you the option to make a stop or two on the way...like at Orvieto...

    Bill

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  • SandiM's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by SandiM Online Now Nov 15, 2009 at 9:38 PM

    Argh! Ok, Bill, you make a good argument. Kathymof, thanks for the intel! It's definitely making more sense to drive a little farther, especially if I've got the darn thing for the entire day. Plus, this is encouraging me to detour down to Rome through the Val D'Orcia a little more, instead of the highway (we also wanted to see Sorano near Grosseto, but thought it would be out of our way). We're not in a rush to get to Rome, the hotel will be waiting for us that night. It should only take a few hours to go from Pienza down through Sorano, and thence to Rome, am I right? I'll take a look at a couple of google road maps to see...have to find a good road map for Tuscany soon...something non-online.

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by mccalpin Online Now Nov 16, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    When I looked at the suggested route from Pienza to Sorano at www.viamichelin.com, it has you going straight south on local highways/roads rather than going over to the A1 and heading south. Surprisingly, it's only 68 kilometers, which they estimate to be an hour and a half. Even if you somehow getting totally lost, remember that you can always drive east until you hit the A1, then head south to Rome, because for most of this trip, you'll be within 15 kilometers of it.

    For the Sorano to Rome segment, viamichelin.com has you going down the west side of Lago di Bolsena towards Viterbo, then cutting across to the east to Orte where you pick up the A1. It's probably a very scenic drive, but if it starts getting dark, you may it easier to go east from Sorano to Orvieto and pick up the A1 there - it's a lot closer. Once you're on the A1, darkness won't matter as it is, as I said, a well-signed modern highway.

    Bill

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  • SandiM's Profile Photo

    Re: All About Pienza (and a little bit about Siena!)

    by SandiM Online Now Nov 16, 2009 at 7:26 PM

    Hi Bill, this viamichelin.com sounds like my kinda road map. Will check it out. Yes, the plan is to 'see' Italy, not whiz past it so the Sorano route is right up my alley. May also hit the hippie town of Calcata on the way down to Rome, even stay overnight somewhere if it gets too dark. It's definitely got my attention these past few days, trying to figure out how to swing this portion of my Italy trip. YOu wouldn't believe my itinerary for 2 weeks! But, it's coming together. I'll be posting a lot more questions on the Italy site before our April journey as I keep changing the itinerary--please feel free to chip in when you see my goldfish avatar, ha ha!

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