Tuscany and UmbriaFor the next part of your vacation, you'll rent a vacation house or agriturismo in Tuscany or Umbria, where you can visit some great Renaissance and Medieval towns, drive through beautiful countryside, and experience Italian life as more than just a tourist in a hotel.
By staying in a house for a week, you can usually save some money, shop and eat where the locals do, and spend more time relaxing. I always look for a house with a washing machine, too, so I can pack light and wash my clothes in the middle of the trip. And I enjoy shopping at Italian farmers' markets and specialty food shops so renting a house lets me buy food to eat or cook at home (another way to save some money).
You'll need to arrange your house a few months before you want to go. You can choose a house in a small village, such as Panicale in Umbria (where I spent a very enjoyable two weeks), out in the countryside in an agriturismo, or even in a castle, such as Castello Ripa d'Orcia near Pienza. If there are certain cities you really want to visit, be sure the house is within easy driving distance so you can get there and back in one day.
Italy's train system is inexpensive and pretty efficient (see Train Travel in Italy). I recommend taking the train from Rome to a city near where you have arranged your house rental. Then pick up your rental car (which you have also pre-arranged) and drive to your house. I recommend booking a car through Auto Europe as there are no hidden extra charges. If you're renting a vacation apartment in a town you may not need a car.
Most house rentals run from Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday morning. Since Italian shops are generally closed on Sundays, you will want to do a little shopping when you arrive to stock up for the weekend (you will at least want bottles of water and wine!). See Food Shopping in Italy for shopping tips. Then spend a little time walking nearby.
Tuscany and Umbria are fairly compact, so you will be able to visit a number of places easily. If you want to visit Florence or some of the other larger cities, save yourself some hassle by driving to a nearby train station and taking the train.
Tuscany Travel PlanningBest Places Go in Tuscany
Places to Stay in Tuscany
Tuscany Distance and Rail Map
Books About Tuscany
Tuscany Travel Directory
Umbria Travel PlanningBest Places to Go in Umbria
Places to Stay in Umbria
Umbria Map (on Europe Travel)
Umbria Travel Directory
Page 1: The Grandeurs of Rome
Page 3: A romantic stay in Venice