COVID-19 Travel Advisory: Stay up to date with the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.   Learn More >

Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

A day-trip from Florence – to do or not to do, and which one?

A day-trip from Florence – to do or not to do, and which one?

Old Apr 7th, 2014, 08:13 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,464
A day-trip from Florence – to do or not to do, and which one?

Hello all:

I will be spending from Wednesday April 16th (evening) to Tuesday April 22nd (evening) in Florence. I am thinking about a day trip, although realize, because this is Easter, transportation might be limited.

Initial thoughts, having read some wonderful trip reports, are: Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena (been before twice). All are about 1.5 hours by bus or train each way, although I am having a very hard time figuring out the SITA bus site.

So, which one would you chose? Or are there others that you would recommend?
Also, I am very open to those that suggest NOT leaving Florence, as there is so much to see for a museum buff like myself - I have already booked the Uffizi and the Accadamia. I have been to Florence three times, but it has been several years since my last trip, so I could definitely visit every site again, and it will be like the first time.

I always try to do too much on a trip – I am a bit of an ADD traveller, very high energy and I generally walk about 9 hours per day. I love good food, and always take at least an hour over a good lunch and glass of wine.

I’d like to get your feedback on both sides - should I stay or should I go? .

Many thanks to all of you that have posted such interesting trip reports – I am in your debt.

Best regards ... Ger

P.S. I have booked my hotel, so will update that thread this evening. Some of you may not approve!
OReilly is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,812
The easiest one it a train to Piza and a bus to Lucca and a train back. You can miss out Piza if you like and just do the Lucca trip. Just suburban trains no reservation, cheap as chips.

Seina catch the train and then the escalator to the city. A little harder but very pleasant.

San Gim. I guess there is a bus but the road wiggles a lot (not for the car sick)

An hour for lunch, well if you must rush you must.
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 08:26 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,478
Hi Ger,

glad to hear that you've sorted the hotel problem; I'll be interested to see where you're staying!

[am i an expected approver or non-approver i wonder?]

given that you've already been to Siena twice, I'd cross that off my list. San Gim is likely to be over-run with tourists, i gather that it's much better at night. So of your 3, I'd choose Lucca - I gather that you can rent a bike and drive round the walls which would be fun. ot just stroll and browse, which might be just as good.

another option [actually 2] would be Bologna, an easy trip by train, which are frequent.

The other is to catch the bus up to Fiesole from piazza san Marco [combines nicely with a morning visit to the monasterio di san Marco to see the Fra angelico frescos, as it only opens from 8.15- 13.30 - ]

it only takes about 30 mins, and when you get there, there's the duomo, a lovely view over Florence, a walk up to the monastery of San Francesco with its weird museum, and the roman amphitheatre and museum. with a nice lunch, it makes a very pleasant 1/2 day + trip.

the best thing about these two outings is that you don't need to decide in advance - just get on the bus or train, and go.
annhig is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 9,171
Lucca, rent a bike and ride the wall.
flpab is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 08:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Siena to me is one of the finest - the iconic hill town or really in this case hill city - just an amazing main square with cathedral, etc. Esy by SITA bus from next to the Santa Maria Novella train station - go few times each hour and only cost a few euros - quicker and cheaper than the round-about train route.

Pisa would be a neat choice too - walk thru the town center from the Pisa Centrale train station - Pisa is a neat town but yes you can twin it with Lucca - a small train station right by the Leaning Tower complex has hourly trains to Lucca, which has trains back to Florence. I loved Lucca, one of the finest walled towns in Europe, known for its many tower where the rcih could escape both the rabble and the plague!

Assis is a neat old town but a special interest site - religious buildings galore and St Francis' out of town abode where he talked to the birds...

If you like big cities Bologna to me is sadly underrated - said to have more historic medieval buildings in its town center than any other in Italy - a large university adds pizzazz.

You really can't go wrong but yes in five days I think you'll have explored on foot every alley in Florence and be ready for something different.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 09:31 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 6,534
During most days of the year most Italian towns -- especially small ones -- are extremely quiet between 12.30 pm and 4pm, when almost nothing but restaurants are open. On what is sometimes called "Good Friday" -- this will be even more true. I would expect just about any Italian town to be flat out locked down tight -- and in addition you will be unable to visit any churches that might be open because they are likely to be having services.

So if you pick day trip destinations that are 1.5 hours away you run a very high risk of arriving just in time for the town to go dead except for tourists.

As for Bologna, its markets are closed on Thursday afternoons anyway, and I wouldn't recommend trying Friday, but they might be extremely lively on Saturday afternoon, when a great many people will want to go shopping for their Easter feast. There are also a couple of historic chocolate shops in Bologna that will no doubt be pulling out all stops.

Were it me, I would stay in Florence for lunch and then head out for a day trip. If you are sick of croweds of tourists, try Pistoia on Saturday afternoon (train from Florence) or even for Easter Sunday lunch. It has lovely sights and is a real change of pace from the mega-tourist-malls like Siena, Pisa and San Gimignano and is a lot easier to get to. Enjoy the town when the locals do, which is between 4pm and 7pm.

sandralist is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 09:49 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,812
"you can twin it with Lucca - a small train station right by the Leaning Tower complex has hourly trains to Lucca"

P you have taught me something new, I've only ever done this on a bike
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 10:42 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,203
I've never seen anything closed for Good Friday in Italy, neither museums or shops, and most of the services are in the evening, often accompanied by religious processions.

There are no masses at all on Venerdì Santo (Good Friday), because between the evening mass on Holy Thursday, and the Vigil Mass of Easter (Saturday Evening) the church is officially in mourning, and the mass is considered a festive celebration. If any communion is offered at all, it's in a simple ceremony using elements from the mass of the day before. So, if anything, the churches should be more accessible that day than on others, with the exception of the evening services, which are usually around 7 or 8 PM.

In the US, many churches have a three-hour service, from noon to 3 PM, on Good Friday, but I've never seen this, or heard of it, in Italy.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,203
Transportation at the Easter season is very much as the rest of the year. On Easter Sunday, the "festivo" schedule will be followed, which is the same for that of any Sunday. Easter Monday is also a holiday, so transportation will be on the festivo schedule that day as well.

The week after Easter, partly because it includes a public holiday, is always a popular week for holidays in Italy. (You get a week's vacation with only four days taken from your annual leave.) This year, because there are two public holidays that week, the 25th being Liberation Day, and also because Easter is late this year, I would expect it to be a very busy week. You might want to keep this in mind when planning activities for Monday and Tuesday. Were it I, I would prefer to spend those days in some place off the overly beaten tourist track.

Trains always run on holidays, but many buses are used mainly by students and commuters, so don't run on Sundays and holidays. If I were going to Lucca from Florence, I'd prefer to take the train. The station in Lucca is outside the wall, but it's an easy walk to the center, and the train doesn't have to deal with traffic. Some of the direct trains take only a little over an hour.

I think Lucca is a great destination for a day trip. It's a small city that I always think looks livable, or at least that I wouldn't mind living in. It could be combined with Pisa, as mentioned above, but you could also easily spend a whole day in Lucca.

Assisi is another lovely town; I've never been there in Holy Week or the Easter season, but I imagine there would be a lot of pilgrims, which would make it busier than usual.

Bologna is a bigger city, very bustling and a bit edgy. I love Bologna, but I know that a lot of people don't share my enthusiasm.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 11:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
For a surgical strike on Pisa's Leaning Tower take the train right to the small sleepy station literally a few stones throw from the Leaning Tower area (no baggage storage) and then get the hourly trains to Lucca and spend most of the day there and rail back to Florence - these are all regional trains so just buy ticket and board any regional train - reserved seats not even possible.

Pisa S Rossore is the name of that station, served both by mainline trains on the Pisa - La Spezia line and regional trains Pisa Centrale to Lucca.

Book your admission to the Leaning Tower online so you need not have an insufferable wait in line - every limited numbers can be let in or up at any one time.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 12:01 PM
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 6,534
Regarding whether one has seen things go into deep quiet mode on "Venerdi Santo," must depend on where you've been in Italy on that day. Not only have I seen churches in Italy have rituals going on inside churches on Venerdi Santo and therefore tourists are pointedly discouraged from walking around freely, I've also seen towns where there are processions during the afternoon (not in the evening) and all the shops close along the route. Don't know what the scene would be like in the mainly for tourist areas of Pisa, Luccca, San Gimignano and Siena but if one were going to Bologna for the markets, I wouldn't pick Friday before Easter (and Thrusday afternoons never, no matter what time of year).

If one wanted to go with the flow, then Arezzo, with its Legend of the True Cross, might be having a big procession. I believe Siena has one at night, perhaps inconvenient for a day trip.

sandralist is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 12:14 PM
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 6,534
for bvlienci
sandralist is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 12:42 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,203
I've been in Italy every Venerdì Santo for the past 16 years, and I think I'm pretty well versed in the liturgical practices of the Catholic Church.

There may sometimes be processions in the afternoon, and in cathedrals there will usually be a matins or lauds service in the morning. In monasteries and convents, they'll have all the normal liturgical prayer hours. These are all things that would take place on any other day of the year, except that there would usually also be several masses. There may also be more people in the churches engaging in private devotions or saying the rosary than on other days. Visitors should always be quiet and respectful in churches.

The Liturgy of the Passion is normally in the evening, possibly a little earlier than what I've stated, especially in urban areas where there may be a lot of people who would drop in as they're leaving work. In any case, unlike masses, which are celebrated multiple times during the day, even on weekdays, the Liturgy of the Passion is celebrated only once in each church, so that the entire community participates together.

To be sure that my view wasn't based on my own provincial world, I've just checked the calendars of parish churches and cathedrals in other parts of central Italy. I can't find any that has the Venerdì Santo liturgy except in the evening, or at the very least after 6 PM. The official celebration at the Vatican is at 5 PM, probably because they close the Basilica at 7 PM. It's followed by a procession at the Colosseum at around 9 PM.

I'll concede that there may be the occasional exception, but I stand by my statement that on Venerdì Santo churches will be no less accessible, and probably more accessible, than on other days.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,203
The video was of the Duomo of Milan, which uses the Ambrosian rite, different in many respects from the Roman Catholic rite. In any case, they celebrate the liturgy at 5:30 PM, which is what I call evening.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 01:10 PM
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 38
O'Reilly...would you mind updating your post after your return with any day trip suggestions? I'm heading over to Florence for a week at the end of May. Right now the only day trip we've scheduled is to Siena.
We too, are ADD travelers and love to see as much as we can on foot. After visiting the tourist highlights, we escape the bustle for walks/hikes off the beaten path. We've used Sunflower Guides along the Amalfi Coast and French Riviera and experienced our most memorable days discovering small villages, amazing restaurants, and lovely people. I just ordered the guide for Tuscany, but noticed online that most of the walks originate in Florence and cover 10-13 miles, easily done in a day.
Just wanted to bring this up as an option since you love to walk, like we do!
Enjoy your trip!
jglags is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2014, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Well in Florence itself Fiesole, high above town is a favorite short escape from the city - especially for folks who like to walk - walk up there - maybe 4 miles or so then walk up the trail to get the sweeping views over Florence huddled between mountains and bisected by the Arno River!
PalenQ is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2014, 06:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
OReilly - I too an an inveterate walker - seeking to explore the real town like Florence as well as the touristic center - one day I spent the whole day walking around Florence - literally around the town working clockwise and I came across several really interesting areas - local markets - sports complexes - skateboard parks and also several places young Florentines quite openly smoking pot in parks - a whole different view of what is really a vibrant town all around, so to speak. One of the highlight's of my many Florentine adventures.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2014, 07:43 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,464
Hi guys:

Sorry I have not been back - busy at work.

I got so seduced by your recommendations; I have extended my trip until Thursday . Client moved the project dates by two weeks last Friday, so I thought - why not! It only cost me $69 to change the flight, and am now looking for an hotel room, and there is a lot of choice.

Now I can start planning the day trips, because I have more days.

From the top:

Bilbobrgler (what an interesting handle): I am interested in Lucca, but not Pisa, from what I have read here and elsewhere. Thanks for the directions.

Good advice regarding crowds in San G. At the weekend. I have extended my trip to Thursday, so may be able to organize San G. for Tuesdays to avoid the crowds.

I have visited Bologna before, unfortunately a week after 9/11, and when I discovered my BIL, who I had known since I was born, was in the final stages of cancer. I was also reading ‘Fallen Sparrow’, a book about a father who had lost his daughter in the Bologna train station bombing. It rained solidly and heavily for four days. I cried my way around Bologna. Its a beautiful city, but I need to give it a whole weekend of its own to get over the trauma and remembrance.

Piazza San Marco is a wonderful recommendation – Thank you! That will fill an afternoon, and I love using local transportation.

flpad: Good suggestion – I could certainly do with the exercise!

Nice to hear from you again. Once again, thanks for the advice on Amsterdam – invaluable.

Lucca calls me, but Pisa not at all. See above about Bologna. Yes, I agree its wonderful, but deserves at least a whole weekend on its own. I can get a direct flight from London City, 20 minutes from my house, so I will do a weekend later this year or early next year.

Frisole is on my list for sure, and I have looked up the buses – easy! And, I will walk my socks off around Florence, but I am NOT going to ‘smoke in parks’ with skateborders, anymore than I ‘smoked in Amsterdam’, despite your encouragement, you wicked Boy! Jeez, I would just be happy finding a bar where I could smoke a couple of Silk Cuts (regular ciggies) with a glass of wine 

Sandralist: Lots of great advice – thank you.

Your have mentioned places I had not thought of: Pistoia and Areszzo, and I am checking them out. The link you provided is excellent re towns in Tuscany.

Thank you. You reminded me of my childhood in the church choir, where I spent from Thursday to Sunday singing. This included, a mass on Thursday evening, the Stations of the Cross on Friday (no singing, but you had to do the Stations), the midnight Mass on Saturday, and on Sunday the Children’s mass at 1000 and the High Mass at 1200. A religious marathon, and the music was excellent, particularly the ‘Panus Angelicus’. It was a magical time, and I loved the ceremony of it and the music.

Thank you for providing such excellent practical advice on transportation and locations that will help me plan my extended trip. Do you live in Italy? I am in your debt.

Jglags: I will do a trip report, and I will walk a lot, but it will certainly not include hiking up mountains.

Once again, thanks to all.

Best Ger
OReilly is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2014, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,478
Piazza San Marco is a wonderful recommendation – Thank you! That will fill an afternoon, and I love using local transportation.>>

Ger - the monastery in the Piazza can only be visited in the morning; i would hate for you to get there at 2pm and find it closed. My idea would be to get there early [it opens at 8.15] to beat the crowds, then to have a late breakfast in the cafe on the corner of the Piazza where it meets the via Cavour - lovely food but even if you just want a drink worth a visit to see the waitresses' uniforms with their terrific hats! [I was last there 3 or so years ago; i hope it hasn't changed too much]. you could also book to see the Accademia at the same time as it is just round the corner from the bus stop up to Fiesole [and if it's cold, or even if it isn't, the little bar just there does a great cafe corretto]
annhig is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2014, 12:45 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,464
Initial planning for Florence Trip

Hello all:

Many thanks for your recommendations. I have created an initial itinerary for your review and comments. Please feel free to rip it apart. Note, in some cases, for the day-trips, I have not check out the transportation links, so may not be possible.

Accept the fact that I am high energy, and can walk 10 hours a day, and I am travelling next weekend – Easter, so I would welcome any advice regarding – not possible during Easter, or will be overflowing with people.

Here is what I have on my wish list:

The walks in Florence, because I LOVE walking: I downloaded a self-guided walk from Audible, which I used on a previous visit, when it was known as Florence Walks. There are the four Walks:
- Dante’s Florence
- Renaissance Princes
- Market and Antiques
- Artisans – Oltrano

Other walks:
- Fiesole
- P. Michelangelo

The Museums – all non-negotiable!
- Uffizi (booked)
- Accademia (booked – been before)
- Bargello (been before)
- San Marco
- Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens (been before)

The day Trips:
- Lucca (love it, never been –many thanks for your recommendations)
- San G. (never been, but want to see it)
- Siena (been twice, but still enticing!)
- A choice between Arezzo, Cortona and Pistoia (never been to any, and have not checked out the travel logistics yet, but I need to chose which one to do)

So, here is my preliminary Itinerary

Wed 16th:
Flight from London City Airport in the afternoon, and arrive in Florence at 1900. Straight to the hotel, and dinner that night in the restaurant. BTW, I have not booked transportation from the airport to the hotel, and would prefer to do so, so if you have any recommendations I would appreciate. Must do that tomorrow.

Thursday 17th:
Dante’s Florence self guided walk (2 hours) – from the P. Duomo to the Arno and back.

Uffizi: Despite I have visited Florence three times, I have NEVER made it to the Uffizi. I booked the earliest available slot (1100). I will spend at least three hours there, and might spend the whole day. However, I assume that later in the day it might get very busy, so I may do a second visit later in the trip.
Medieval Princes Walk (2 hours).

I need to fit in lunch and a glass of wine at some point during the day, so please feel free to provide recommendations in the area.

Friday (Good Friday): 18th
Accademia : I have a 0900 booking, and assume I will spend 3 hours there, at least. Hunger will drive me out, so again, any restaurant recommendations appreciated.

I thought I would then take bus/train to San. G.for the afternoon. Not sure if this logistically possible. Have any of you managed this? I assume it would be by bus, rather than train. Is this an insane plan?

Saturday 19th:
Day trip to Lucca: I can take a train at 0900, arriving in Lucca at 1030. Return would be 1730. I think this works well.

Sunday 20th (Easter Sunday) : I am leaving this day fairly open, just to enjoy Florence. I might go to Mass. I need to book a good restaurant for lunch, so would welcome any recommendations. I might finish the day up at P. Michelangelo, before heading back to the hotel.

Monday 21st : A day-trip to where? I love Arezzo and Pistoia, possibly Cortona. I am leaning toward Arezzo. Which would you recommend? Its a holiday, and therefore all towns may be very busy. Which would be the best choice for a day-trip on Easter Monday?

Tuesday 22nd: I am thinking about spending the day in Siena. I have been there twice, but it is so lovely, it deserves another visit.

Wednesday 23rd: Another day in Florence: The morning in San Marco, and the afternoon waking Fiesole. Lunch in Fiesole, so would like recommendations on favourite restaurants.

Thursday 24th: A day in the Oltrano: Walk around the area, and visit the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. Off to the airport for a 1945 flight to London City Airport.

I am very grateful for the advice you have offered, which has allowed me to put this preliminary trip plan together.

Best regards Ger
OReilly is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information