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Insight & suggestions please 1 week flying in & out of Pisa in Oct

Insight & suggestions please 1 week flying in & out of Pisa in Oct

Jun 22nd, 2010, 03:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 3
Insight & suggestions please 1 week flying in & out of Pisa in Oct

Hi All

I'd really appreciate your insights and suggestions on my rough trip plan below. We have a week in Oct and fly in and out of Pisa. We like to soak up scenery and atmosphere, people watch, walk around, enjoy good food... I want to 'make the most' of our time but I don't want to be rushed or tired (i'll be 6 months pregnant!).

Sat - Arrive in Pisa early evening - dinner - bed!
Sun - Breakfast in Pisa, walk around, train to Cinque Terre (via La Spezia correct?) I think we'll stay in Manarola.
Mon Cinque Terre
Tues Cinque Terre
Weds Leave Cinque Terre am - head to Siena - explore Siena that afternoon/evening. Do we take a train which appears to involve several changes and takes 4 hours or hire a car? I don't necessarily want a car in Siena as it seems like that would be a pain, however it could be handy for rest of trip see below.
Thurs Siena and/or bus to local towns in Chianti region
Fri Back to pisa via San Gimignano - is this possible on buses? Stay overnight in Pisa again
Sat Fly out of pisa at 11 am

The key issues I am chewing over is whether to hire a car for second half of our trip or to take trains & buses and whether there is a way not to have to stay in Pisa on our last night. Do you think I am trying to cover too much ground in a short space of time? Would I be better off with a Pisa - Lucca - Cinque Terre trip? We have both been to Florence so don't want to factor a trip there on this trip.

I'd really appreciate any insights and feel free to critique away. I'm at that point where my head is buzzing from the guidebooks and I'd appreciate another perspective.

dolores2010 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 12:20 AM
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Every single place you have mentioned except for Lucca and Pisa is extremely vertical, involving constant stair and path climbing from the minute you arrive to the minute you leave. Will you be up for that every day?

If so, I suggest you rent a car for the entire trip. In October, you will have much less difficulty parking it, even in le Cinque Terre if you go, and it will spare you needing to haul your own luggage around train stations and buses. Plus, it will give you a LOT more flexibility about sightseeing and you can plan your days and your stays around the weather. And you run no risk of getting nauseous on bus trips through hilltowns.

There is a big difference in weather between the beginning of October in le Cinque Terre and the end. Any time after about Oct 10, you run the risk of rain that hangs in for more than a day.

Were it me, I would fly into Pisa, rent a car, and drive to an agriturismo in Chianti. From there visit Siena and do your other daytripping. Then move to an agriturismo in the hills of Lucca. Weather permitting, include a day trip to le Cinque Terre. Use the car to drive yourself to the Pisa airport for your departure flight.

If you are not up for constant stair and hill climbing, you need to rethink your itinerary entirely. You can enjoy a driving vacation through the Tuscan hills and finding places to park where it is easier for you to walk around. You can enjoy some of the small charming flat towns near Lucca of Pistoia and Pescia, or visit Portovenere instead of le Cinque Terre. But don't head out for a hilltown like San Gimignano (which is prettier from the road anyway) without first having some idea whether it will be fun for you to be walking around it.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 12:24 AM
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PS: Even in the beginning of October, it is likely to be too cool to enjoy constantly sitting outside in le Cinque Terrre, especially in the evenings, and there is really nothing to do there except enjoy the outdoors. You really don't need to book in advance for these places in October. Make a reservation for the first nights of your trip someplace other than the beach, and then check the weather to decide if you want to visit, and for how long.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 08:32 AM
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Such great advice. Thank you so much. I'm pretty fit but I don't want to have to walk & climb & lug if I am not feeling up to it!

I was worried about getting lost/pain of parking/crazy driving but I think when you weigh that up against the convenience of a car it makes more sense to hire one.

I guess I'll just ensure we have GPS!!

I am now going back to the drawing board with your suggested route in mind. If we do decide to stay a night in the cinque terre (I am so enchanted by the idea of it!) is there one village that would be easier with a car?

Thanks again... now to research agriturismos!
dolores2010 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 08:45 AM
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The only place you can get the car on Sunday is Pisa airport.
I would also drive, and I would stay in Portovenere. From there you take the hop/on/off ferry to the villages to best see the coast from the water. Your only other good option would be Monterosso, but I think Portovenere gives you more attractive options in case of bad weather.

You will need the car in Tuscany. Read your guide books for best location, but do not assume you must stay in Siena.
Sounds like a nice trip to me--we have done early Oct. more than once in Tuscany.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 08:48 AM
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I think you might do best to stay in Levanto, which is right next door to le Cinque Terre, five minutes at most by train. Not only will you find more parking there (book a hotel with parking), but the town is flat. So you can roll your luggage to the hotel. Plus, you can easily day trip into le Cinque Terre but in the evening, if you are tired, you will have a flat walk to your dinner restaurant and back, instead of another staircase climb.

I meant to say before that if you feel you need a night in Pisa when you get off the plane, by all means do it, especially if you want to see the Leaning Tower. You can pick up a car the next day at the Pisa train station.

If you decide you want to head straight to Chianti, check into the possibility of flying into Florence (and out of Pisa or whatever is convenient). The Florence airport would give you a shorter drive to Chianti.

A week's car rental is often the same price as a few days' rental by the way.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Bob and I were posting at the same time.

If you stay in Portovenere in October, I think you face a greater possiibility that the ferries may not run due to rough seas. If you want to see le Cinque Terre, you'll end up driving to Monterosso al Mare. I disagree with bob that the only other good option is Monterosso al Mare for sleeping, because you'll face some hills trying to get in and out with your luggage, and Levanto is flat and has the train right -- just 5 minutes from Monterosso al Mare.

It's true that it is easier to get out of Portovenere if it rains and go day tripping elsewhere. But I don't think you should go to the area at all if you aren't sure it is going to be sunny. You can wait until you get to Italy to make that call -- and book either Portovenere or Levanto or one of the le Cinque Terre towns if you think you've found the right spot with parking (you can always leave your luggage in the car and take an overnight bag). But watch the weather from Chianti. You won't have trouble booking on short notice for the coast.

If it looks like solid rain, I would switch to plan B.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 09:10 AM
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I meant to add that if the ferries are running, they will also run from Levanto. So if you want to see the villages from the water, staying in Levanto doesn't preclude that option, but you can also use the train in case you are not up for a boat ride that day.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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Hello again, thanks so much to you both for your excellent suggestions. I really appreciate it. I went back to the drawing board and have a new plan - if you have a second to let me know your reaction to it and any other suggestions that would be great

Fly into Pisa - hire car at airport - drive to Lucca. I really want to see Lucca and as we've already been to Pisa its worth a short drive after our long travel to get to where we want to be and allow us to stay for longer than a night on our first stop. Anything we should know about Lucca or suggestions on surrounding area?

Looking at La Magnolia B&B and B&B La Romea as options in Lucca where we'll stay for 3 nights to see the town and surrounding area.

Then head to either Levanto as you suggest or Santa Magherita Ligure - any thoughts on Santa Magherita? Plan is to relax one day and take train to cinque terre the next weather permitting. (It will be first week in Oct).

Then I will be really adventurous (for me ha ha!) and not reserve anything for the end of the trip we can then have the option of going on to Chianti region/Siena or staying put depending on weather and how we feel. I have read elsewhere on this forum that Lucca and Siena are too similar to warrant visiting both cities in just a week, would you agree?

dolores2010 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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Good plan !
Check out the map for location of SML verus Levanto--big difference. If the CT is your aim then choose Levanto. If just a coastal experience is your goal then you pick it.
I like Lucca--try to see Portovenere regardless.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 02:17 PM
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To me, Siena and Lucca are totally different! Who are these people who post on Fodor's?

Siena is a monumental fortress hilltown with a war-like past and a competitive fury that you can still feel today in its annual Palio (a breakneck horserace they run around the middle of main stone pizza in town.) Siena makes this huge bruiser red wine and eats wild pig.

Lucca is an almost feminine Renaissance town -- the city of silk and a poetic shrine to a beautiful dead bride. Lucca turned its defensive walls into a strolling park more than 100 years. It's got a rather fancy eggy cuisine and most of all: It's totally flat!

Both are beautifully preserved but you can't visit both from a base in Lucca, although if you get to Chianti, it's not very far if you don't mind steep streets. It's a much more dramatic town then Lucca, with an eye-popping central piazza, cathedral and freschi to rival Florence.

It's a total toss up between Levanto and Santa Margherita Ligure. I live close to the latter, so obviously I prefer it! That said, if the target is le Cinque Terre, like bob said, it's only a four minute train ride from Levanto. (Santa Margherita Ligure is more like 40 minutes.)

Personally, I think you should be even more adventurous. Don't book the Riviera. Wait to see what the weather is on the coast. If it is lousy, check to see what the weather is in Siena. If it is lousy in Siena, go to Ferrara until the weather clears up. It's a 2.5 hour drive from Lucca and Ferrara is a small town full of art, covered walkways to keep you dry and GREAT food. You can day trip to Parma from there, or Bologna (use the car for Parma, the train for Bologna.)


But do whatever you think is fun! Have a great trip.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 02:42 PM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 704
I agree that Lucca and Sienna are totally different. And both are worth spending some of your time. By the way, I just stayed at B&B La Romea last month and it was nice.
krgystn is offline  
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