> SlowTrav > Stories > Pauline's Pages > 2002, Switzerland, Italy

Tuscany/Umbria Notes

Autostrada Notes

Tolls

In Italy you pay to drive on the Autostrada. On some parts you get a ticket when you enter the Autostrada and pay when you exit (so you pay for the distance you drive). In other parts you pay set amounts at toll booths.

The toll both at the Levanto exit was an machine. You put in your ticket, it told you the amount, you put in cash, it gave change. You could also use credit cards.

You can buy a Vincard at the Autogrill gas stations and use it for paying tolls.

Autostrada Tolls from Levanto to Cetona

5.10 euro - from Levanto to Lucca/Firenze exit
10.80 euro - from Lucca to Chiusi exit
TOTAL 15.90 euro from Levanto to Chiusi

Drive With Lights On

It is a new law that you must have your lights on at all times when driving on the Autostrada. You will see the sign "In Autostrada Anabbaglianti Sempre Accesi" - on the Autostrada, keep your lights on.

Terms

Tangenziale - means tangential - usually a ring road around a large town.

Gas Prices

Gas from Shell at an Autogrill stop: 1.089 euro/liter (47 euro for us to fill the car).

Driving Times

Cetona to the A1 Autostrada: 15 minutes

Cetona to the Siena exit on the A1 Autostrada: 30 minutes

Cetona to the Arezzo exit on the A1 Autostrada: 45 minutes

Cetona to the Sud Florence exit on the A1 Autostrada: 1 hour, 35 minutes (but we had heavy traffic on the A1 approaching Florence for the last 30 minutes)

Autogrill

There are rest areas all along the Autostrada. Many are run by Autogrill. The larger ones have a Ciao Ristorante, where you can have lunch or dinner. They have a full menu posted, but on any day they will not have all the items.

See my notes about Driving in Italy.

Prices

Breakfast at the Autogrill: espresso .80 euro, cornetto .80 euro

Breakfast at caffe in Florence: espresso .80 euro, cornetto .80 euro

Breakfast at caffe in Cetona: espresso .72 euro, cornetto .72 euro

Dinner for two at Autogrill restaurant (vegetarian, no wine): 17.25 euro

Pay Public restroom in Florence: .50 euro

Entrance fee for Santa Croce, Florence: 3.00 euro

Sunday Lunch for two at Ristorante Daniela, San Casciano dei Bagni: 74.25 euro (2 courses each, one vegetarian, one fish, desserts, wine)

Cetona Notes

Our 12 nights here seemed to go by in a flash. I am used to slower days when we are in Italy (and when we are at home), but there were so many things we wanted to do here that it was hard to fit them all in. I loved Cetona as a town. There is a peacefulness that I feel in this corner of Tuscany - Cetona, San Casciano dei Bagni - but you do end up doing more driving from here - 40 minutes to Pienza (even using the better back roads).   

Cetona is small enough, and untouristed enough, that people get to recognize you after a few days. We liked the couple that run the newspaper/magazine shop on the piazza and made sure to buy our International Herald Tribune (2 euro) there every day. I also bought some nice notebooks (for writing) and a stack of Italian magazines to take home.

We had dinner at one of the local restaurants (Ristorante Osteria Vecchia) our second night in Cetona and then saw the owner each day in the caffe in the morning. We ate at his restaurant again on our last night.

We switched back and forth between two of the three caffes on the piazza for our morning coffee and cornetto. I liked the "old man bar" on the side of the piazza because you had to fight your way through the crowd of men around the bar in the morning and you could sit outside right on the piazza sidewalk and watch everyone parking, but our favorite bar was the one at the beginning of the piazza with the bar on one side of the street and the garden area with tables and chairs across the street (in front of the bank).

Cetona Caffes

There are three caffes on the main piazza.

Bar Il Caffe

At the top of the piazza, where you enter from the main street, closed Monday. See "Cetona Caffe" Photo Album for pictures of this caffe.

Small bar offering the usual, a few tables inside, lovely garden area across the street at the top of the piazza, in front of the bank. You can order at the bar and they will bring your coffee out to the garden for you. This was our favorite caffe, also recommended as the best by Sacha.

Photos of Bar Il Caffe in Cetona

Other Caffes

There is another bar on the left side of the piazza (from the top of the piazza looking into it). We also enjoyed this bar, but it is much more the hangout of the men in the morning and the young people in the evening. The have pool tables, video games in back and a few tables on the sidewalk of the piazza.

At the far end of the piazza. This looks like a very nice caffe with tables inside and lots of outside seating, but Sacha does not recommend it and I don't think we ever went there.

When you are spending a week or two in a town, it is worth it to find a favorite caffe right away and keep going there. It is fun because they get to recognize and it becomes a nice familiar place.

Cetona Shops

The main piazza is lined with shops:

Clothing shops, antique shops, ATM machine, two banks, small natural foods store (organic grains, noodles and beans and tofu and seitan), Despar grocery store, butcher, bakery (closed the time we were there), fruit and vegetable store, very good newspaper/magazine store.

A good enoteca at the end of the piazza, up the street on the left. Pecorino, wine, olive oil, local products.

There are also shops on the main driving street, just outside the historic center of Cetona in the direction of Chiusi. Another bakery (this is the one we went to - good breads and other things), another grocery store, hairdresser, garden store.

On that same main street, in the direction of Sarteano, is a larger grocery store.

A very large supermarket is about 10 minutes away, toward Chiusi, just before the A1 Autostrada. It is in the Etruscan Mall - on your right as you approach the Autostrada entrance.

Photos of Cetona shops

Vacation Rental Review

About the apartment - Torre San Domenica

From TuscanHouse www.tuscanhouse.com

This is the most beautiful place we have ever rented in Italy. The house is a tower from the 1300s which was built up to become a home at some later time. It is on four levels. You enter from a typical narrow street in the upper part of Cetona. It is a few minutes uphill walk from the main piazza - the uphill is not bad at all (I have seen much worse) and we were well prepared after the time hiking in Switzerland.

Parking: You can drive the car to the house, but it is a tricky turn around to get back and you cannot park there. Sacha showed us how to do the drive and Beppe drove the car out for us (although Steve insists he could have managed the turn around). When we were leaving, we just did two trips rolling our luggage down to the main piazza and loaded the car there. You can park in the main piazza, but it recently became pay parking (blue lines). You do not have to pay after 8pm and if you put in enough money, it carries over to the next morning so you can park there at night and not have to move your car at 8am. There are two free parking lots just outside the main part of town.

Downsides:

- The uphill walk from the piazza and the four floors in the house.

- The parking which is not at the house and means you must be very organized bringing things out to the car for the days activities. But this is a common situation with an apartment in town.

- There is noise in the front of the house from the street. Cars drive by every now and then and you can hear it in the kitchen and the top floor bedroom. Our bedroom on the second floor was quiet.

- You are in a town and can hear noise from the town and the highway outside of town. It felt very different from being at La Fornacina (last year) out in the country.

- No outside garden area, just the terrace.

Upsides: Cetona is a wonderful town to be in. This house is a beautiful place to stay.

See my complete review - Review 397.

Restaurant Reviews

Cetona: Ristorante Sobborgo

Via Taddeini, 48, tel:0578-239191

We had our first meal in Cetona here, but it was not that memorable. They have a nice outdoor area, but it was booked on the Saturday night, so we ate inside. The service was rushed. Before we sat down, we made sure that Steve could get fish and I could get vegetarian things, but then when we were ordering, we could not have fish because it is only served for two.

The restaurant is probably fine - but we enjoyed Osteria Vecchia, also in Cetona, much better. Vegetarian dinner for two, 60 euro (1/2 liter house wine)

Cetona: Ristorante Osteria Vecchia

Via Cherubini, 11, tel:0578-239040

We loved this restaurant. It was recommended by Sacha and Beppe and by Tom (Goldengate) who ate here the year before. It is in a small alley off the main piazza. You enter in to a small restaurant area - maybe 10 tables. The kitchen is off here. It wasn't until our second time eating there, when I went downstairs to find the restrooms, that I realized there is outdoor seating and a large dining room downstairs.

We sat upstairs both times. The owner is very present in the restaurant - he takes the reservations and does some of the serving and cooking. The service was excellent and the food was excellent.

Our second meal here: Pauline had Bruschetta al Pomodoro and tagliatelle al porcini; Steve had spelt soup and pici with duck (see, he is not a vegetarian); Paula had grilled vegetables and pasta with chickpeas. We all shared potato, salad, 1/2 bottle of wine and water. 57 euro for 3 people.

Citta di Castello: Mon Ami

Via del Monte, 2, tel:075-8559904

A very nice restaurant in the historic center of Citta di Castello. This is a favorite of Judith who lives nearby. We had an excellent lunch here in September 2002.

Florence: Ristorante Francescano

Largo Bargellini 16 (across from Santa Croce), tel:055-241605

This restaurant is owned by the same people who own Baldovino Trattoria, and is on the same block. We had lunch there in September 2002. The food was excellent. I had small thin fried polenta squares topped with porcini, ravioli with ricotta, zucchini and tomato sauce, grilled radicchio. Steve had onion soup and bread, baccala (fish), french fries. We went there with Nancy who lived in the area - this was one of her favorite places.

Pienza: Latte di Luna

We have eaten here several times and always have a good meal. It is best to go for lunch so you can sit outside (it can be noisy inside at night). Make reservations.

Pitigliano: Trattoria dell Orso

Located on a pretty piazza in the center of town, good outdoor seating, good food.

San Casciano dei Bagni: Ristorante Daniela

We have eaten at this restaurant several times. On our September 2002 trip we had Sunday lunch. This year they added outdoor seating - which now makes it the perfect place for Sunday lunch! We had an excellent lunch and enjoyed the sunshine. The restaurant was full.

I made a note of what we ordered. I started with Bruschetta, Steve with onion soup. Then I had gnocchi with cabbage and truffles, Steve had swordfish. We shared some grilled porcini. House wine and bottled water. For desert we both had gelato (I had "After Eight", Steve had "Coffee and Cream") and coffee. The price was 75 euro (service included). Not cheap, but it was a very good meal in a lovely setting.

San Quirico d'Orcia: Trattoria Al Vecchio Forno

Via Pizzola, 8, tel:0577-897380, closed Wednesday
www.palazzodelcapitano.com/restaurant.htm

The perfect place for lunch. They have a large outdoor garden area full of tables (about 30 tables). There is no view but it is very pleasant to sit out there. There are turtles that live in the garden. The food and service were very good. The menu has several vegetarian antipasti and primi, plus three vegetarian secondi.

For our lunch in September 2002, for three mostly vegetarians, we had a great bruschetta, spaghetti with tomato and basil, soup, gnocchi with truffles, contorni (potatoes, spinach), tagliatelli with porcini, grilled vegetables, panna cotta, coffee. No wine. 67 euro for the three of us.

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