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Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre- visit from "home base" or stay as we go?

Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre- visit from "home base" or stay as we go?

Old Nov 6th, 2009, 10:48 PM
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Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre- visit from "home base" or stay as we go?

Hi,

Background:

Mother and 20 year old daughter traveling together. Travel plans that are locked in are flight from Paris to Italy and need to fly out of Milan to home ( Australia). Flight out cannot be changed. Have previously spent time in Rome, Florence and Venice. Need to travel late April- May 2010. Probably only have 10 days max in Italy- not interested in renting a car.

Thinking of concentrating on Pisa. Lucca, Cinque Terre and Milan. My thoughts at the moment are:

Fly Paris (Orly) to Pisa with Easyjet , overnight in Pisa

Spend some days in Lucca (possibly apartment) then train to Cinque Terre, on to Genoa , train to Milan, couple of nights in Milan and fly out.

The question!!

Is it more prudent to base ourselves in an apartment in town of Lucca ( or elsewhere) and do day trips to Cinque Terre and Genoa then train to Milan OR stay at these destinations along the way and finally take train from Genoa to Milan?

Your experiences will be greatly received- also interested in any recommendations for accom in these areas- thanks!
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 11:01 PM
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that's a tough one... but i would be inclined to stay as i go. the trains along c.t. are just so weirdly scheduled that you could get stuck and not be able to get the train you want back to lucca. when we were in the area, we stayed at the north end of c.t. in rapollo and really enjoyed it. (it reminded us of santa monica.) sounds like a good trip!
kawh
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 04:18 AM
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While the CT is fairly easy to visit from Lucca (by train), Genova would be pushing it. IMO it would be a better choice to do a couple of days in Lucca, then move on to the CT (with a day trip to Genova from there) and eventually on to Milano.

Don't bother doing an overnighter in Pisa as Lucca is less than a 30 minute train ride away. If you are interested in seeing the Tower, it can be done from Lucca (by train).
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:13 AM
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When my sister, her husband and I went to Italy in April, we stayed in the CT at Vernazza for six days. During the week we took a day trip to Lucca by train. Another day we went to Pisa by train. Both easy trips. The other days which were perfect for us (we are New Englanders, so warmer climate people might think otherwise), 60's and sunny. We hiked the trails between the five towns, went up into the National Park trails and poked into art galleries and craft shops along the way. We both felt a day in Lucca and one in Pisa were sufficient for those cities, but others might think otherwise.

We landed in Milan and took a train to the CT. The train stopped in Genoa and it didn't seem as if it were far to Vernazza from there, so you could do another day trip from CT to Genoa.

In summary, I think you could base in CT and then return to Milan for your last days which would involve fewer moves.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:14 AM
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Thanks for your input. meganinitalia do you have a suggestion as to which CT town would make the best base to stay for a couple of days?
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:16 AM
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We liked basing in the CT because it meant that we could get an early start on hiking before the heat of the day, stop for a picnic lunch or in a cafe and then amble back later.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:37 AM
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Hi lavender,
We just returned from our trip to Italy and we stayed in Vernazza for three nights. We really enjoyed it. Plenty of places to eat and shop. Very nice harbor to sit and watch the sunset and waves crashing. Stayed at Albergo Barbara. Very easy and quick to get to the other CT towns by train or boat.

We visited Pisa and Lucca on the way from CT to San Gim. Spent about 1 hour at Pisa. Although the tower is nice and it is set in the Field of Miracles with other beautiful buildings, I felt myself becoming increasingly annoyed with the vast amount of vendors and the thousands of tourists that were doing that very touristy 'holding up the Tower' pose. But of course, I was there too so I really can't say much...what I mean is that you probably will not spend as much time in Pisa as you anticipate.

We really liked Lucca...very nice to walk around and we rented bikes and rode around the top of the wall for a couple hours. We were only there four hours but it would have been nice to have been there longer.

We had a car so I cannot comment on the public transportation aspect.

Please look under my name to see the train caution I posted about the CT area in October. Hopefully it will save you some heartache and money.

Take care,
Michele
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 07:16 AM
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It's nice to be in a town with more things to do, restaurants, etc. in the evening. For that, I'd choose Lucca or Pisa as a base. DH and I travelled to Lucca and CT from Pisa. We also went to San Gim and Siena by train/bus from Pisa.

We loved the non-touristy feel of Pisa once one left the Tower area. The Pisa Duomo is awesome inside btw. We stayed at Royal Victoria Hotel there and I always recommend it. If the phrase "old world charm" resonates with you, you'd love it. There is a university in Pisa so there were many convenient places to eat.

OTOH, we have friends who swear by Lucca. We liked it but loved Pisa. To each his own. Do look online at both cities and see what calls out to you. If you are avid hikers, CT might be the place to stay.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 10:06 AM
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With 10 days I would do 3 days Lucca (from which you can visit Pisa), 3 days CT , and 3 days in Milan. I wouldn't spend time in Genoa. I have been in Lucca twice, staying as much as 2 weeks at a time and love it. I have only been to Pisa as daytrips so can't comment for its feel as a place to stay over, but Lucca is charming and has many good restaurants. When in CT yu should also visit Portovenere. We stayed there this past summer and loved it.

You could go by train from La Spezia or CT to Milano. From Milano you could do a day trip by train to lovely Verona.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 11:23 AM
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If you want to have a base I would use Lucca without any reservation. I like it as the most relaxing Italian city we have visited mainly due to the lack of traffic and the walks on the walls - the size of the fields between the walls and the ring road leave the city feeling like an oasis from the madness of Italian life. People actually CYCLE in Lucca - strange concept in Italy.

The distances for day trips out not prohibitive but in view of their size it would seem logically easier to stop and go.
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Old Nov 9th, 2009, 01:35 AM
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Thanks everyone- will take on board all advice. Neither of us are 'hikers" or indeed are interested in difficult walks but would love to experience the beauty of the Cinque Terre. Do people stay there and enjoy the scenery and lifestyle without great walks?
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Old Nov 9th, 2009, 04:33 AM
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You can definitely enjoy CT without the walks (though they are spectacular). You can get a train pass and hop from town to town, spend time just enjoying the views (get a place with a good terrace!) and of course, the FOOD! There is also a ferry that goes between towns. We based ourselves in Vernazza and I'd highly recommend it. Info and pics from our trip at http://patrinadoestheglobe.blogspot.com/ (There is also info on Pisa and Lucca)
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Old Nov 9th, 2009, 04:38 AM
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katrinab, you have been travelling! Sounds like Vernazza is what lavender has in mind. Lavender, please do check distances for travel. Even look at the trenitalia site and see timetables.

Enjoy!
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Old Nov 13th, 2009, 05:58 PM
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Thanks again everyone, really useful information to ponder. katrinab , checked out your link- fantastic!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 03:01 AM
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Still working on this itinerary and have managed to include more time!

Now planning on overnight train Paris to Florence then train to Lucca. Thinking of spending a week in apartment in Lucca as a base to tour other parts of Tuscany before moving onto CT for about 4 days. Have previously visited Florence and Sienna.

What are the pros and cons of an apartment inside or outside walls of Lucca? Like to be walking distance to train station as would expect to be using it frequently.

Any recommendations for apartments in Lucca? Have seen a few possibilities on VRBO but of course personal recommendation is always the best!

Would Lucca still be the best base for visiting Pisa, Pistoia, maybe Cortona or is there a better Tuscan base before moving onto CT then Milan.

Thanks for you input
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 04:49 AM
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I stayed in the center of Lucca, right by the Guinigi tower, and it took me about 15-20 mins to walk to the train station. I strongly recommemd accommodations within the wall. Check
http://www.luccaholidayhomes.it/ It's managed by a lovely lady called Debora. She showed me a number of the apts she handles, all were very good. During that trip i was stying at La Romea BB. In our latest trip we couldnt stay at any of her apts because they have a one week min, but wouldn't hesitate to rent throgh her.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 09:59 AM
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I stayed for a week in Lucca about fours year ago and found it rather dull after the first few days. And without a car, it isn't necessarily a great base for touring Tuscany by train. Use Trenitalia to see how many switches you would need to make to see Cortona.

Regarding my feelings about Lucca, which is sure to raise howls of protests from people who enjoy tourist culture more than I do, Lucca is a beautifully preserved Italian city and it is among the first Italian cities to really cultivate itself as a tourist destination to the exclusion of almost everything else inside its historic (and amazing) walls. It has done this in a very sophisticated way. The tourist ambience there is quite high-end and gentile, and you see many well-heeled Italians coming there to enjoy its fine restaurants for special occasions. But it can lack the real vibrancy of other places in Tuscany which have just as many or more attractions but are penetrated by a lot more modern, workaday commercial activity of all types (even if they get more tourists!).

Something else you might consider is that while Lucca has architectural attractions of high quality and importance, it has nowhere near the density and depth of them that Firenze does, or even Pisa. (It's the reason I got bored spending an entire week there).

Last but not least, Tuscan cooking runs to the bland and meaty side. Lucchese cooking is that squared, and while Buca di Sant'Antonio is one of Italy's best dining experiences, and I also enjoyed one or two other restaurants there, my experience of Lucchese food is that it's not great unless handled brilliantly. (Were I to go back, I would eat ONLY at Buca di Sant'Antonio or cook for myself.)

I liked my apartment, which was inside the walls but right near the train station, at balaurdo San Colombo. I'm sorry I no longer have a link to it. Were I going back to Lucca for more than a week, I would definitely consider staying outside the walls, because I would want something other than the rather airless feel inside the walls. But basically, I wouldn't go to Lucca for a week again!

Were I going to base myself for a week in Tuscany and try to see many places by public transportation, I would pick Firenze (Florence). Yes, you've already been there and it is compromised terribly by tourism, but few people exhaust the fantastic sights there and it has reasonable transport connections to Lucca, Pisa, Bologna, Arezzo, Cortona, Pistoia and many more.

If you can't bear the thought of returning to Firenze, check out Arezzo.

Have a great trip!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 10:05 AM
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I also add that I agree with TDudette that Pisa is a wonderful, rich town despite the hokey tourist vendors who ring the Tower, and I would much prefer it to Lucca for a week's stay. However, if you have a specific agenda for day trips, use Trenitalia to see if you can get everywhere you want to go easily from Pisa.

It can be nice to stay by the sea as a base -- but again, use the train timetables to see if you want to make the longish-trips to say, Lucca.
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Old Feb 9th, 2010, 02:41 AM
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Hi Lavendar,

How exciting for you and your mum. I too will be travelling to Paris end of April and staying till end of May 2010. We plan on travelling through Italy and have a cruise around the Greek Islands booked in.

You thread is answering a few of my question so thank you.

Cheers
RC
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Old Feb 9th, 2010, 04:13 AM
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Hi Lavendar,

I hope you got everything sought for your Italy trip, I'm actually will be in Italy at the same period as you and our itinerary are quite similar only I will fly out from Rome not Milan.

Have you ever been to Montecatini Terme? It between Lucca and Pistoia, If you have some spare time I would recommended to check out thermal bath at Spa Tetuccio it's very beutiful, also from there you can take the Funicular up to the old town (Montecatini Altro)

Also Pistoia have two market days Wed and Sat from morning to 1 or 2 p.m. it lovely to just walking around the town centre. on the way to centre about 100 meter on your right hand side from train station has one small pizza shop sale by slide nothing fancy but very tasty and very cheap you can sit and eat at their outdoor table, otherwise they are plenty of coffee shop and restaurant in town. Have fun.
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