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Florence and Tuscany, only one week?
Old 12-15-2015, 07:48 AM   #1
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Florence and Tuscany, only one week?

Planning a week in Florence with a friend in May. We are 60 yr old females, spouses not interested. Time limited due to eldercare issues here at home.
Thinking vrbo/airbb, using an apartment in Florence as a home base and doing day trips into Tuscany to Sienna and Lucca perhaps. Is that reasonable? Seems easier than moving around luggage etc hotel to hotel.

Any suggestions or pitfalls? Concerns about neighborhoods, walking distances etc in Florence? We are both good walkers, but don't want safety concerns walking home from train at night, etc.

VRBO reviews and TripAdvisor have been helpful, but I know you guys will have experience also.

Thanks!
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Old 12-15-2015, 08:03 AM   #2
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Yes, you can do daytrips with Florence as home base. Travel light with sturdy wheeled bag that you can drag around the cobblestones. In Florence, I rented an apartment just beside the Duomo for 8 days. And DW and myself did day trips to Sienna and Orvieto. We love both. We took a train to Sienna, and I think we took the bus to the walled city of Orvieto, which sits on a plateau and home to the Ethruscans. Orvieto had the best pasta primavera we ever tasted. If you climb up the bell tower of Orvieto, you will have a very nice view of the Tuscany countryside - monasteries, vineyards, villas - bring a binocular. In Florence, the train and bus stations are near each other. But the bus station is a bit hidden. Just ask. If you decide to see the original David, it will take about 3 hours (or half a day) waiting to go in. The Ufizzi gallery is of course a must in Florence, and should take you a day to enjoy it. The Santa Croce church is burial site of famous people like Galileo, Dante, etc. Florence is relatively safe.






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Old 12-15-2015, 08:10 AM   #3
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In 2006, we stayed in an "agroturismo" villa (a working winery, whose owners had added a guesthouse with government money) for a week, rented a small car to visit local sites of interest (only manual transmissions available at that time - fortunately I drive stick) and took the train to Florence twice.

Google "agroturismo tuscany" for more information and a list of potential places to stay.

We had a fantastic time. Our suite had a full kitchen, so we cooked food from the local market instead of having to buy all our meals out. And we bought our wine directly from the source, so it was both good - and cheap.

Oh...safety concerns? Although no place is without bad people, we always felt safe. The area is semi-rural, and tourists are important to the local economy. The locals were nice to us, and seemed to appreciate my pathetic efforts to speak Italian from a guidebook. We did a lot of communicating via signs :-) We did not find many English speakers, except for the lady who ran the guesthouse.

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Old 12-15-2015, 10:44 AM   #4
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We had a one week rental in Lucca as our home base and took the train into Florence and days trips to Sienna, San Gimignano, Pisa.

It should work fine. Except a week is not enough!
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:01 AM   #5
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Except a week is not enough


that's for sure, but it's either a week at a time, or not at all! So we did Paris this way 2 years ago, too short but the best I can manage to be away for.


Staying in the countryside sounds absolutely wonderful! Since we are pressed for time, I want to do as much as possible and I think a city apartment will work best this time. Plus can use the kitchen for breakfasts; the pasta, bread, pizza, gelato will be hell on my low carb diet! Not to mention the chianti!


Anything else about neighborhoods in Florence? Stay by the main attractions or south of the arno? Found some vrbos there, still near a train stop. I will also look into staying in Lucca as well.


you guys are the best!
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:30 AM   #6
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If you don't want to have to do a lot of walking, I would not stay south of the Arno.

And a week gives you at most one or two day trips.

But for those day trips, you may want to be within walking distance of the train station.

The SITA bus offers round trip bus with an audio guide to Siena for under €20.

However, you can search sites like Viator.com, which has coach tours to surrounding towns. For instance, I took one such tour which went to both San Gimignano and Siena on the same trip. They may have one that goes to Lucca and Pisa too. Also a bunch of tours for wine tasting to Chianti towns.

Around Florence, you may want to allot an afternoon to go up to Fiesole, which overlooks Florence. And on the other side of the river, there is Piazzale Michaelangelo and San Miniato offering the best views of Florence. Possible to hike up but it is uphill. There is bus service or taxi too. You can take picnic supplies or just look through tripadvisor restaurant reviews where some of the best rated places are panini places. There is a park up on the way to Piazzale Michaelangelo with not quite as good views as those up above where you can eat your picnic lunch.

For Uffizi, you want to Google about making a reservation so you don't deal with the long ticket queue.
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:30 AM   #7
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" ......The Ufizzi gallery is of course a must in Florence, and should take you a day to enjoy it. The Santa Croce church is burial site of famous people like Galileo, Dante, etc. Florence is relatively safe. "


Most people apparently prefer Ufizzi to the Academmia (where David is). DW and I had the opposite reaction; clearly artistic tastes vary. Regardless, you'll love Florence.

We were only there 2 1/2 days; FWIW we always felt safe. But do keep your eyes peeled on your surroundings for pickpockets, strangers approaching you, and groups of children (who may cause distractions for the pickpocket to take place). We did NOT experience any of these, but stories indicate this may not be uncommon.
You might also want to consider the Firenze Card, to prepay admissions for multiple museums at discount. Most importantly, though, with the card you get priority admissions and jump ahead of the lines to get in.
THE CARD
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:48 AM   #8
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We have done this a few times. Our favourite was training to Florence for a few days. Then we rented a car and stayed in agrotoursims and used them as a base to explore the surrounding countryside.

It is so nice to get out and drive the country roads in Tuscany and Umbria.

Have a great trip no matter how you decide to tour.

PS Very easy to catch a local bus from Florence to Siena. Bus stop is right behind the SM train station. Two bus routes-milk run and faster. Go for the faster of the two.
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:53 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by mystang52 View Post
You might also want to consider the Firenze Card, to prepay admissions for multiple museums at discount. Most importantly, though, with the card you get priority admissions and jump ahead of the lines to get in.
THE CARD
Wow, that is exactly what I need for my visit to Firenze next April! Thank you.
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Old 12-15-2015, 03:13 PM   #10
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Sienna is magical after the day trippers have left, so think about spending a night there.

Remember to get your ticket validated once you board the bus. We forgot once and were bawled out by the conductor. I didn't understand a word and my apparent nonchalance got him even more agitated.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:15 PM   #11
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Don't miss the Cathedral in Sienna and the magnificent Library inside the cathedral in Sienna. The Library has paintings that look 3D and reminds me of the Sistine chapel.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:55 PM   #12
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We spent an entire week just in Florence -- never more than a mile from our hotel -- and we still didn't see everything. As others have mentioned, the lines to get into the Accademia and the Uffizi are enormously long. Buy your tickets online so you can skip to the front of the line. We bought individual timed admissions when we went, but the Firenze Card mentioned earlier seems like a good idea.

Here are some suggestions for things that are a little out of the ordinary

1. Go to the opera at St. Mark's English Church. It is a very intimate venue and we enjoyed a lovely performance of Carmen there. The proceeds go to help orphaned children in Africa. Opera at St Mark's Church Florence, a unique intimate venue

2. Stop in the small, simple Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, in which you will find the crypt of Dante's great love, Beatrice Portinari. The lovelorn leave notes and letters for Beatrice in the two wicker baskets that sit next to her burial vault. If you are bold enough, you can pull some out to read. Written in all all hands and every language, they pour out their hopes and dreams to a young woman who died over 700 years ago. The most poignant one I read said simply (in English), "I just want to find someone to love me."

3. If you are in shape to climb 463 steps, you can go up to the the top of the Duomo. Climbing through the rabbit warren of tunnels between the inner and outer domes, you can appreciate the genius of Brunelleschi the architect. Twice on the way up, the stairs stop and you are on one of the two inner balconies that circle the great dome at its base. The congregants below look like ants and you have a spectacular view of Vasari's painting that covers the inner surface of the dome. The real reward, however, is the view outside, from the top of the dome. You get a 360 degree view out over Florence and the surrounding countryside.

4. Walk out of town, south of the Arno, to the hill known as Bellosguardo. Within half a mile of the Arno, the city stops and you will be surrounded by stone walls, olive groves and old farmhouses. When you finally get to the top of the hill, you can look back at the picture postcard view of the city, with Brunelleschi's great red tiled dome rising there in the middle of it.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:59 PM   #13
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I haven't gone up the Duomo but the Campanile also has great views and seems to have a much smaller queue.

I like Palazzo Vecchio too.

At the Uffizi, you can go out to the roof top restaurant. You don't have to dine at that overpriced cafe there, there is space to look at the top of the Palazzo Vecchio there.
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Old 12-15-2015, 07:10 PM   #14
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+1 for the opera at St. Mark's. My wife forced me to go see it (after our daughter had recommended it). Not only did I not fall asleep as I expected, but I genuinely enjoyed it.
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Old 12-15-2015, 07:38 PM   #15
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It's a shame you don't have just a few more days for your trip. We spent a long weekend in Florence 1/2 block from the train station and then moved 25 miles south to an apartment on a farm (agriturismo) for 4 days.
Tuscany has so many hilltowns to visit, and most are best seen via rental car after seeing Florence. We found Sienna best visited by bus as a day trip from Florence.
We loved San Gimignano (after 4:00 p.m.) and Volterra earlier in the day. Many speak highly of Lucca, but it's over an hour west of Florence by train and out of the way since your time's so short.
Booking.com is a great place to find accommodations, even agriturismos.
We stayed in Orvieto on our way to Rome (70 min. south by train), and we absolutely adored the place.
We're leaving 4/24/2016 for Rome and then taking a cruise to Malta, Greece & Turkey--ending up in Venice. Italy's one of those places travelers return to.
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Old 12-15-2015, 10:41 PM   #16
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I really enjoyed visiting the Pitti Palace in Florence. The best part was walking up the back terraces up to where you look out the back over the Tuscan countryside with olive groves and those (Lebanon?) cedars. It looked just like the backdrop of a Renaissance painting.
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Old 12-15-2015, 10:45 PM   #17
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The Boboli gardens are huge. You have to plan for some time there
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Old 12-15-2015, 10:50 PM   #18
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I would highly recommend getting lost on a street corner. The time I did this in Florence, I stopped to take a closer look at my map and re-orient myself when an elderly gentleman walking 5 cocker spaniels walked up to me, smiled, asked where I was going (in Italian, which I don't speak). I figured it out, and told him in English. He smiled, offered his arm, and he and the dogs proceeded to take me on a 2+ hour guided walking tour of the city, all in rapid-fire Italian of which I understood not a word. At the end of it, he returned me to my original street corner and pointed to my destination, which was a couple of blocks away.

It was serendipitous and lovely. Since then, I've dedicated a day in each new city to just wandering. If I'm lucky, I even get lost.
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:56 PM   #19
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If you haven't, read Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo before you go. The book covers a lot of the art and architectural history of Florence.
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Old 12-16-2015, 01:31 AM   #20
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Get advance tickets online to Uffuzi and L'academia to see David. Walk to piazza michaelangelo to see the city scape. See the house of Michaengelo. Enjoy the beautiful city.


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