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ballfamily Sep 21st, 2012 06:38 PM

Using Lucca as a base for visiting Tuscany -- thoughts/comments??
Would appreciate your thoughts and comments about our thinking of using Lucca as a base for a 4-day visit (with car) to the Tuscany region. Thanks!

bobthenavigator Sep 21st, 2012 06:45 PM

I love Lucca as a city, but it is not a centro base location for classic Tuscany. You can cover a portion of west and NW Tuscany and even parts of the coast from Lucca, but my favorite Tuscany venues are at least a 2 hour drive each way. Siena is a better base location.

tuscanlifeedit Sep 21st, 2012 06:48 PM

I agree with Bob, but I will add that there is spectacular scenery in the far north of Tuscany.

But if you're looking for classic Tuscany, Lucca isn't it.

Anna_Galea Sep 21st, 2012 07:29 PM

I would choose an agriturismo in the Chianti region, close to Florence, Siena or San Gimignano.

golfernz1 Sep 22nd, 2012 02:36 AM

The last time I was in Tuscany I made a visit to a agriturismo which was run as a farm stay and restaurant using the farms produce, meat and wine. It was dream, close to San Gimignano. The name is Fattoria Poggio Alloro, they have their own website. It is family run and the hosts were lovely.

pizzocchieri Sep 22nd, 2012 04:42 AM

First of all, Lucca is IN Tuscany, and the Lucchese would be pretty amazed to hear that their town isn't classically Tuscan!

I think what other people are trying to tell you is that there has now come to be a classic tour of "Tuscany" for foreigners, largely inspired by the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, which was mainly shot in southern Tuscany, in the area of lots of vineyards and towns on hills with castles. It is really hard to tour this area without a rental car. Although Cortona was the featured town in the movie, the most popular touristic area is the val d'Orcia, especially the towns of Montepulciano, Pienza and Montalcino. Along with those towns, there are other towns right near them or farms near them that have lots of accommodations and restaurants so you can use as a "base" if you have a car.

People also go to the vineyard area of Chianti, where there are many small hilltowns with medieval layouts and castles. But you also need a car for that region.

If you don't plan to rent a car, Lucca is a key Tuscan town on the train line that runs between Tuscan Florence and the Tuscan Mediterranean. You can use the train to see other classic Tuscan towns like Pisa, and the much smaller Pistoia, and other small charming towns like Pistoia or take the bus into the pretty Serchio Valley of Tuscany. But few of these places are hilltowns with castles surrounded by vinyards, even though they are classically Tuscan in art, layout, culture and history. It's just not tourist "Tuscany."

pizzocchieri Sep 22nd, 2012 04:48 AM

Sorry, I just saw you have a car. If you want to stay in Lucca, there is plenty of parking by the train station, but you won't be able to bring the car into the historic walls.

Are you traveling with kids? Many people with kids prefer Lucca as a base to other places, because it is mainly pedestrianized so the kids can run around more freely, plus they can bike ride around the walls. It makes for easy day trips to Pisa, and Florence plus the seaside. There is easy access to hikes right above Lucca, or a visit to the Tuscan marble quarries in Carrara. Moving around the area in a car often involves less time on very winding roads, which make some kids carsick. (Me too!)

Some kids find scenic driving through vineyards not all that engaging; likewise the castletowns, which are mainly about shopping, but San Gimignano and Volterra are often a big hit with kids, and Siena too.

carolsc Sep 22nd, 2012 04:51 AM

We are spliting 8 days beteen Lucca and Montepulciano (4 in each). That way we have Tuscany covered (well, sort of).


pizzocchieri Sep 22nd, 2012 05:07 AM

If you like Tuscany and get a chance to come back, the Maremma is very beautiful too. But I know very few people -- even Italians -- who have ever seen all the scenic and culturally interesting parts of Tuscany. It is so big.

But classic Tuscan culture is really anywhere you go in Tuscany. The places where the classic wines are made are two fixed rather small areas, but classic Tuscan culture and geography is more than that.

ballfamily Sep 22nd, 2012 05:05 PM

Thanks for all the comments! It's just my wife and me on this trip, and we will have a car for the entire time we're in Tuscany. I appreciate the recommendations and insights.

bobthenavigator Sep 23rd, 2012 07:41 AM

You do not want a car in Florence.

TDudette Sep 23rd, 2012 09:16 AM

list of priorities. We also liked a town large enough to have a good choice of restaurants and one with a university for that special "vibe".

We loved our first visit to Pisa and returned to make it a base for train/bus day-trips to Siena, Cinque Terre, San Gim (had a long wait in Poggibonsi for the bus), Livorno, Florence (we'd been there-returned to see a Botticelli exhibit) and Lucca.

Lucca was sedate the day we were there. It didn't feel like a touristy town either which may be your preference?

In my opinion only, pizzocchieri is a little off base about the "Under the Tuscan Sun" folks. Although Ms. Mayes made Cortona a household word, most Fodorites have been visiting the area without the benefit of her nice books.

ballfamily Sep 23rd, 2012 12:50 PM

bobthenavigator: We are definitely NOT taking a car into Florence; will drop it at the airport and then find our way into the city. Actually thinking of even staying in Lucca a couple extra days and doing day trip(s) into Florence instead of staying in Florence for 2 nights.

TDudette: You are right -- what attracts us to Lucca as a base is that it is not as touristy as other places we've considered :)

bobthenavigator Sep 23rd, 2012 01:39 PM

Great--your comment above confused me--" we will have a car for the entire time we are in Tuscany".

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