Hoping I'm not totally off track here. We plan to fly Barcelona to Pisa. Would Lucca be an acceptable base for 3-4 days even if we were using public trans? We enjoy kicking back and enjoying the small town life, but would also make a day trip to Cinque Terre. From Lucca, spend a day in Florence(were there before) and then to Siena for two nights. Does the fast train run from Siena to Naples or would we have to head back to Florence to catch that? With 4 days and public trans, what's the best plan for the Amalfi Coast (and Paestum maybe?). We would hope to walk/hike, bike, beach, Blue Grotto, people watch...and don't need luxury. We'll take Sorrento bus to Rome for trip home.
As a note, this trip is planned for the first two weeks of September 2013.
We did some parts of your trip in May. We found that getting from where we were in Tuscany (near S. Gimignano) to Sorrento was surprisingly cumbersome. However, part of the complication was due to us having a car, which had to be dropped off somewhere. We ended up driving to Naples and taking the Curreri bus from the airport to Sorrento. Getting to Paestum is also not easy, because you have to get back to Naples or Pompeii on the Circumvesuviana to access the Trenitalia train. We decided to do a tour with Golden Tours. They picked us up in Sorrento and took us to Salerno and Paestum. The guide was good; and the cost, 40 euroes/pp, manageable. Amalfi and Ravello are lovely towns. I wouldn't bother with the Blue Grotto
If you want to use a base to visit Cinque Terre, Siena and Florence, then Pisa is, from a logistic point of view, a better choice than Lucca. Pisa is the rail hub on that side of Tuscany (the Coast). Pisa would also work very well to visit Lucca during the day. They are less than 15 miles from from each other. However if you prefer to stay overnight in Lucca, you can do that too. However that will make your day trips more difficult. Sorry, no fast trains from Siena. Take the bus and backtrack to Florence. You will need to catch the train to Naples from there. Any other option, although intuitively more logical geographically, will take longer. If you use Sorrento as a base for the Naples area, you can reach easily Pompeii by train, Capri by boat, Positano, Praiano and Amalfi by bus. With only 4 days, I'm not sure you can also fit Paestum in the trip. You could but that's too much I think. You'll have no time to relax for a day.
Thanks, Roberto and Rosalyn. I DO get it. I realized putting this together that Pisa is a good central location, but has anyone stayed and spent time in Pisa? My husband enjoyed the 3 nights we spent in Orvieto 2011 so much...I hoped to create another relaxing few days in Volterra or Lucca for him/us. Volterra seems even harder to use as a base. Perhaps there are other towns that would work better. We will only spend the day in Florence - a Fiat 500 Tour. We could do that (after Siena)and depart for Sorrento directly from Florence. I appreciate any and all advice regarding the Amalfi coast. Where to stay? We certainly would consider a recommended tour for one of our days there. Thank you Rosalyn for that. I had heard previously the Blue Grotto is highly overrated. Sounds enchanting though.
I'm not sure what you consider small town and if either Pisa or Lucca would qualify. Both are twice the size as Harrisburg, PA and Pisa is one of the most important University towns in Europe. Neither Pisa nor Lucca can be put in the same category as Volterra, which is indeed much smaller. The size of the two is virtually equivalent. I like Lucca better, but others may have different opinions. In any case since you are relying on public transport for day trips, Pisa is the better choice.