Ever since Frances Mayes wrote the bestselling Under the Tuscan Sun, Americans have been drawn to Tuscany in droves. Summer, with its long days and fields in bloom, brings the loveliest season of the year to the countryside.
"Besides a plane ticket, the biggest cost for a Tuscan trip is accommodations," says Kathy McCabe, editor and publisher of the travel newsletter Dream of Italy. "Travelers can save money by staying in an agriturismo, a working farm that provides rooms. Some can be quite luxurious while others are simpler and cheaper." You can find listings of agriturismo possibilities on Agriturismo.net, Agriturismo.com, and Agriturismo.it.
You can also save by renting a villa. "If you are traveling with more than two people, staying in a villa or apartment for a week is almost always cheaper than a hotel. Plus, you can cook your own meals, another money-saving strategy," says McCabe. Browse the many listings on Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) or RentVillas.com to start your search.
To truly see the countryside close up, you'll need to rent a car or investigate package tour offerings, depending on your travel preferences. Compare rates to ensure you're getting the best deal. "Renting a car can be pricey, especially if you need an automatic," says McCabe. "Auto Europe usually has the best rates."