Debbie and I chose Florence to be our home base for our first 16 day stay. Immediately, I began searching the Forums on TripAdvisor for advice, suggestions, warnings and tips on travelling to and staying in that wonderful Renaissance city. So many questions in those helpful forums were from people just like us. People were seeking information and advice on planning their itineraries. A typical question would be, "With Florence as a home base for our four day stay, would it be doable to see Siena, San Gimignano, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Pisa and Venice?" The answers could be very encouraging of such an ambitious itinerary or reasonably advising not to try to see everything in so short a time. We found the answers very helpful in planning our first trip.
Even a seven day stay in Tuscany will somewhat limit how much you'll get to see. We were fortunate to have 16 days which opened up a lot of opportunities for us. Florence alone could take a week just to touch on some of the high points. Realizing that for many a trip to Italy may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, it would be tempting to say you can do it all, but attempting to do too much could cause a lot of stress. Much depends on whether you're going to rent a car (more on this in another post), or solely use public transportation like we did. Since we had decided not to rent a car, Florence was the perfect place for us, especially because we would travel to several towns by train. As we began to plan what places we would like to see, the Trenitalia web site became a frequent stop for us. Using Italian spellings for city names, it is pretty easy to get the cost and duration of your day-trip train transportation. This also helped us choose an itinerary that would be doable and enjoyable for us.
We knew that there was a lot to see in Florence (Firenze), so we decided to take day-trips every other day and spend the alternate days discovering what Florence had to offer. This also gave us time to relax, enjoy our apartment, savor staying in a truly Italian neighborhood, shop for groceries and wine and do our laundry. With that in mind, we chose the following towns/places to visit: San Gimignano, Siena, Lucca, Fiesole (take bus #7 in Florence), Greve in Chianti (on a 1/2 day wine tour), Cinque Terre (on a one day tour) and finally, Venice for a day (which was not recommended by many). We were also lucky enough to have our apartment hosts (ora, i nostri amici), Gabriele and Stefania, take us on an adventure one evening to see Monteriggioni and Pienza, both of which were just beautiful.
We did cover our whole itinerary without feeling too exhausted, though a few of the days, especially going to Cinque Terre and Venice, were very full. We did relax whenever a nice trattoria or caffe beckoned and we weren't averse to having another glass of great wine, lingering while people watching or taking in a spectacular view. Each day day, we got up early and headed out on another venture.
Now, that we have been to Florence three times for a total of five weeks, we realize how much more we have to see there. More soon on the sights of that city and on our itineraries from two more trips to Italy.
If we could do all of this on our own, we're sure that you could, too. Remember, Italy is waiting for you!
|Cinque Terre View|
|Barry & Debbie in Corniglia, Cinque Terre|
|Piazza Dell'Anfiteatro, Lucca|