Ben tours Europe on a shoestring, hops off along the way, meets travellers and finds the best way to get around Europe!
Busabout, based in the UK, offers travellers an excellent way to really see Europe cheaply and at their own pace, without needing to drive. They operate in 14 countries and visit around 66 cities, towns and villages.
Busabout has about 35 buses on the road at any given time, and at busy times, such as Oktoberfest, the number rises. Last year they carried over 12,500 passengers, and if you are 17 years or older, you are welcome aboard Busabout. You can book an itinerary in Australia and collect the paperwork in London or pay when you board the bus for the first time. If you would rather, you can book as you go along. It's all electronic and simple.
The bus has a driver and a guide who welcomes passengers aboard, gives a brief outline of the day's itinerary, points out things of interest to see, good places to stay and eat, money exchange offices and answers travellers' questions. It is their policy not to chatter on and on just to pass the time.
Day trips offer stops along the way so you can have a look around and stretch your legs before hopping back on board for the next section.
Getaway took the Rome to Florence journey, and stopped in Siena in Tuscany. Only 60,000 people live in the town which centres on the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, arguably Italy's most beautiful square.
Siena is one of Italy's most enchanting cities with cobblestone streets and an interesting tower named Torre del Mangia after its bellringer.
Perugia, an alternative place to visit en route to Florence, is the birthplace of Raphael and the city of chocolate. Its Duomo is said to contain the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary and 15 people keep 15 separate keys to open the box. Its beautiful fountain was created by Pisano, father of Bonnano, who built the Leaning Tower.
Mussolini set up a university for foreigners to assist Italy's image abroad, and people still flock there to learn or expand their Italian-speaking skills.
San Gimignano is another Tuscan town not far out of the way. As you approach, you can see the 13 towers of the town, noted during the 13th century for its fabric and as a pilgrim route to Rome. Its removal from the trade route spelt decline and in 1348 it was hit by the plague. It's a town with almost too much history.
Arriving in Florence from the south is breathtaking. Giotto's Campanile, Brunelleschi's Dome, the Santa Croce with a backdrop of hills, are all spine-tingling.
The town was also the scene of military battles and political tussles between families hungry for power. The Medicis, who ruled Florence, often warred with Pisa's Pazzi family. Much blood was shed, and the Pazzis were pushed into exile.
Sienna also offers tempting shopping, but beware the cheap leather. Even if the label reads "genuine", that may only apply to the label, not the item and believe it or not, it's completely legal. Leather look-alike fabric can be sprayed to smell like the real thing, so if it's too cheap to believe, you're probably fingering a fake.
Five kilometres south-west of Florence, in the village of Bottai, you will find Camping Internationale. There you can stay in tents, cabins or bungalows. The grounds are set amongst trees and overlook Certosa Monastery. Bungalows have a kitchen and shower; cabins have two rooms each with two beds, and tents share shower blocks. There is a pool, restaurant, supermarket, washing machines and dryers.
The bus to Florence leaves from right outside, and the journey is about half an hour.