Article from Rick Steves Comunity
We are interested in staying in a hilltown for a week in the spring and then going on daytrips to other nearby towns. We had decided on Cortona because it sounds like a great town in itself and seems centrally located. Google and Michellin maps give me the following time/distances from Cortona: Spoleto 1 1/2 hours, Montepulciano 45 minutes, Florence 1 1/2 hours, San Gimignano 1 hr 45 minutes, Assisi 1 hour, etc. Obviously, we are going to have a car. A friend of mine who has spent time in Italy told me those times are unrealistic and it takes much longer to travel around Tuscany. Is that true or are these times pretty accurate?
I think the Cortona area is a fine base for Tuscany, as are any of the nearby towns.
I’ll have to disagree with Jon. We were based right at the edge of Montepulciano and found Cortona to be exactly 45 minutes each way, and other driving times to pretty well match what you list above.
Note, though, that we had a GPS and didn’t have to slow down to study signs or maps. But we didn’t speed either. It just took us straight to our destination by the shortest route.
If you have a car, I’d advise you not to stay inside Cortona or any of the other old towns. Even if you could find parking, which is hard, the drive in and out of downtown each day is a killer, negotiating through the heavy traffic and narrow streets (mostly one-way).
And if you stay inside the old walls but park outside of town, the daily walk to and from your car will wear you out before you’ve even thought about spending a day sightseeing, plus the constant worry about your car being unattended.
My advice would be to find a place at the edge of town, where parking is easy, there’s less traffic, it’s easy to get in the car and go visit the nearby sites, and you can still stroll into Cortona anytime you want for shopping and meals.
I haven’t stayed in Cortona, so I don’t have a recommendation of a place at the edge of town, but if you can find one, that would be idea.
Cars are almost a must to visit Tuscany, but having one is something like taking an infant along on vacation. It’s constantly requiring special care and attention!