ECU Tuscany: For Visitors

Dear Family and Friends,

Though we enjoy showing off our program in Certaldo, we ask visiting family and friends to understand that students are remarkably busy with classes or class trips on most days of the week, even weekends.  If students miss class activities because they are traveling either independently or with family, it WILL affect their class grades.

Please try to schedule your visits to overlap the semester break period during the Fall or Spring terms, so your sons and daughters will not be distracted by your presence on class days.

During the May and June shorter programs, the itinerary is very compressed and the only available time to visit is before or after the program dates.

For liability reasons visitors may not join us on charter buses, boats or other transportation that is booked for our students.

Because of immigration laws, NO ONE is allowed to have overnight guests in the apartments because everyone who stays in them must be registered with the local police.  Very near our school however, are a lovely hotel and a bed & breakfast as well as apartments you may find on Air B&B.

Possible day trips to nearby places of interest are too many to count. You can take day trips by train from Certaldo while your son or daughter is in class.  After many requests for assistance, we prepared the following information to help with your travel planning.

Pack Light

We highly recommend that in place of large, heavy bags each person on your trip carry a small carry-on rolling bag, even if you decide to check it.  It is much easier to manage multiple pieces of small luggage than large bags.  For a week you will find yourself wearing the same thing over and over again and you won’t need to dress up.  Only 1-2 pairs of shoes, and no heels will be needed.  Laundromats are available and easy to find.

Getting Around

Car or Train? Train travel is very cheap and often much easier than traveling by car; plus you don’t need to deal with finding parking places, parking costs (high), or the very high cost of fuel in Italy. Many city areas are off limits to cars that do not belong to residents, taxis, or buses.  Even if you plan on renting a car, we suggest you wait until you get to Italy to make that decision.  You might want to start your travel with the train and rent a car only if you decide you want to do some scenic day trips in Tuscany.  If you take the train you will be delivered into the historical centers of the cities. If you drive a car, you’ll need to park outside the cities (Florence or Siena) and take a bus in.  It is easy to transport luggage on fast trains between major cities. They have luggage storage and assigned seats on each train with even a snack/meal car and often internet. If you purchase your tickets at least a week ahead, the prices are a good deal less expensive.

Where to Stay

We suggest you pick a central location where you can settle and then take day trips from there.

In Certaldo Alto, we recommend two places to stay.  Both are very nice and they give our visiting families fair prices.  Here are Certaldo Alto lodgings we recommend:

  • Il Castello – or you can email  This is a lovely small hotel run by our English speaking friend, Alfred.  Beautiful garden and homemade breads at breakfast!
  • Locanda Linando – or you can email to This is a charming B&B owned by our English-speaking friend, Chiara.  She is extremely helpful and hospitable and makes lovely breakfasts.  She takes good care of you and often houses our students.

From the Rome Airport

Many of you will land in ROME because the flights are more likely to be direct from the states with no European layovers.

It’s very easy to get to the Rome train station from the airport via a 45-euro cab ride. Go out the glass doors to find the taxi drivers – most speak English.  Just give the cab driver the name of your hotel and you will be delivered there, or say termini station if you want to go to the Rome train station.

Another way to get to Termini Station is to take the Leonardo train (14 euros each).  It’s much faster than a cab ride and very easy to do.  There are signs to tell you where to buy tickets.

When booking lodgings in Rome, we suggest you stay near the train station.  It’s a great location because you can catch the bus or metro there to see everything in Rome.  The number 40 and number 64 buses will always take you back to Termini station if you are out and about. The metro is very easy to navigate.

Bus or Metro tickets or Leonardo airport express tickets can be purchased at the Tabacchi stores (newspaper stands) in the train station or at the airport.  If you are flying back to the states out of the Rome airport it is a good idea to stay then night in Rome then simply take the Leonardo train from Termini for 14 euros to the airport.  It takes about 40 minutes.

From the Florence Airport

Take a bus to the city center (Santa Maria Novella train station) then at the train station buy a ticket from any machine to Certaldo.  Just spell out Certaldo and it will calculate the train ticket cost which is about 6.50 euros to get to Certaldo from Florence and takes less than an hour.  You will take the train toward Siena and take the stop that says Certaldo, usually the 4th stop, the first stop after Castelfiorentino (stops are announced).

From the Pisa Airport

There is a train that goes right into the Pisa airport.  You can purchase your ticket in the small airport at any Tabacchi store or at the ticket counter you will see.  Just buy a train ticket to Certaldo. You will change trains in Empoli to get to Certaldo.  Get off in Empoli and take the train that says it is going to Florence, then get off in Certaldo.  It is the first stop after Poggibonsi.

Travel to Certaldo from other cities

From Naples, Venice, Milan or Rome – take the FAST train to Florence, then the regional train to Certaldo.  From the major cities you can connect to many other places of interest with the fast train, like Bologna or Padua. You can get regional trains to smaller cities.

Here are websites to purchase train tickets:

You simply put in your departure and arrival cities and the prices of the various tickets come up. The closer you are to the travel date, the higher the cost is for the FAST TRAIN.  You can purchase regional train tickets once you get to the major cities, for very little and the costs do not fluctuate.

Ticket Box

REMEMBER – Always punch your ticket in the red/white/green box at the end of each train track before getting on the train.  It validates the ticket.  The conductor will walk around the train and ask to see your ticket and it should be punched when he sees it or you may get a fine.

Where to stay/What to do

Please keep in mind that in the larger places our groups tend to stay in less formal places that welcome students.  If you are looking for something more upscale you might want to have a look at Trip Advisor or Rick Steve’s or one of the other established travel sites.  We often use


If you plan to stay in Rome try to stay near the termini station. We usually stay at the Alessandro Palace, a hostel for students, and the Hotel Piemonte, or Smooth Hotel for staff.

You will want to go to the Vatican and the Coliseum during your Rome visit.  Be sure to see the Pantheon during an evening followed by a stroll to nearby Piazza Navona. From the train station the number 64 or 40 bus will drop you at Pza Argentine and it is a very easy walk to the Pantheon from there.  Just ask at your hotel.


In Venice it can be difficult to find reasonable lodgings during tourist season. In the quiet winter season the hotels very near San Marco square are available. Here are a few hotels that are reasonable and also comfortable and clean.  It is suggested that you Google them or look on for contact info and reviews.

  • Pensione Seguso (right on the water near Zattere boat stop)
  • Hotel Pausania (near pretty canals)
  • Hotel Belle Arte (also near Zattere and the Grand Canal)

MONTEROSSO (Cinque Terre)

You can get here in about 2.5 hours from Certaldo for a day trip (leave by 7am and arrive by 10am – then depart on the 4:30 train to be home before 8pm).  Or you can spend one or two nights if your itinerary allows it.  Just buy the train ticket from the train station in Certaldo the day before you depart, so you can make your plan based on the weather. We love our hotel in Monterosso, Hotel Marina, which is very reasonable. They offer a great breakfast and afternoon buffet. Hotel Amici would be next on our list.


If you want to stay overnight in Florence you might go to and search near the Santa Maria Novella station.  You could also try the following hotels that are comfortable and reasonable with great locations near the train station so you can easily drop off luggage:

  • Hotel Azzi
  • Palazzo Vecchio Hotel
  • Porta Faenza

Again, if you do plan to be in Certaldo on class days, please be mindful that it can be a distraction to your sons or daughters so please choose dates to plan visits when they have no classes.  Our classes do not meet on a regular schedule because each week is different to accommodate field trips and take advantage of good weather.  Classes also take turns meeting at 8 am and we post the schedule on Saturday, for the next week- it is difficult to plan what days your son or daughter might be in class unless you see FREE DAY on the itinerary.  Please see the itinerary for free breaks during semester programs.  There are no free days during summer programs. Email the director if you have any questions:

Buon Viaggio!