3-4 days in Florence suggestions

Before we became acquainted with Rick Steves we started planning our 1st Europe trip. So we have some things booked already including non-refundable hotel on Florence. May not be bad, but would like some assistance making it as best as it can be. Staying at Residence La Contessina in Florence. Family of 5 made up of parents and 3 boys ages 18, 15 and 11. Arrive afternoon of June 30th on train from Lucerne. Should we stop and spend any time in Milan. Hotel stay starts night of the 30th. Leave for Rome on the 3rd. Currently thinking of evening train to Rome. So we have 3 nights in Florence. Was thinking of bicycle trip from Florence to Sienna or San Gimignano one of the full days. Also head to Cinque Terre for another of the full days. Then spend the rest of the time in Florence. Should we maybe delay heading to Rome until the morning of the 4th and stay in another town the night of the 3rd. We leave Rome the evening of the 7th for Venice.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5763 posts

Um, you need to do a little more research. A quick visit to Google Maps shows that it's about 100 miles roundtrip from Florence to Siena. Italy is not as small as you seem to think it is.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1396 posts

To enjoy the Cinque Terre, you need more than a day trip. It's worth an over night with all the boys. Dont' worry about not "following" Rick's advise. Whatever you chose will be fine. With 3 nights in Florence, you could Day 1. spend one full day exploring Florence Day 2. Day trip to Pisa and climb the tower
Day 3. Day trip to Sienna. climb the tower, visit the Duomo, enjoy the piazza and wonderful side streets. The day trips via bus to Sienna, and train to Pisa. Florence isn't that large, and once you've seen the Duomo, visited some museums, and the markets, the boys may be bored! It's great to base in Florence and day trip out since the bus and trains stations are right next to each other. Forget the bike trip as scheduled to Siena, but you could check out www.Florencebybike.com and find a day trip with them. Bike trips are not cheap, but lots of fun! it's great to get some fresh air and exercise and the boys should all be able to do the bike riding. Milan is worth a stop only if you want to see the Duomo and Sforza castle, but other than that, not a lot of things to see. As with any city, don't eat on the main piazza, walk the side streets and find a place to eat with just locals. Explore, explore, explore.

Posted by Marie
San Diego, CA, United States
857 posts

Totally agree with Ellen. Cinque Terre is really to far to go for the time you have. The boys should enjoy Pisa (easy by train) but Milan would probably be a bust for them. Sienna by bus would be a very nice day. There's a lot to see in Florence and certainly the boys should see David in the Academia (buy tickets in advance unless you like standing around in long long lines). Enjoy getting lost in Venice and go off the main tourist tracks. It's a small island after all. Take the water bus to Murano and back for a tour of the lagoon on the cheap. You can just stay on the boat until you've done a complete circle.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

Florence alone will take you two days at least, just to see the top 5 sights.
Search for the top attractions online and see what might interest you. Siena is nearly 50 miles from Florence and unless you are Lance Armstrong, I wouldn't bother. There are several steep hills to go up and down, so it's not an easy ride on the Chianti Way (bikes aren't allowed on the freeway).

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Keith, With such a very short time frame and so much to see, I wouldn't bother stopping in Milan, as your time will be better spent in Florence and area. In order to get the most out of your touring in Italy, it might be a good idea to pick up a copy of the Italy 2013 Guidebook. It will help to avoid wasting time and will be a good reference source to help in using your time efficiently. A few thoughts on your plans.... > 30th - You'll arrive late in the afternoon, so will only have a short time for touring > 1st - you might want to spend this day visiting some of the attractions in Florence: the Uffizi, Accademia, climbing Brunelleschi's dome-within-a-dome, etc. A bike trip up the hill to Fiesole should be feasable. If your budget will allow, your group might also enjoy a Segway tour in Florence. > 2nd - you could take a day trip to EITHER Siena or the Cinque Terre. Siena is an easy trip by Bus from Florence. A day trip to the Cinque Terre will be a LONG day but is possible. > 3rd - you'll have to be out of your hotel by about 11:00 but could probably store your luggage there for a few hours if you want to do more sightseeing. As the others have mentioned, bike trips from Florence to Siena are not really possible, especially given the very short time that you have. I'd suggest travelling to Rome in the afternoon of the 3rd rather than evening. There's a LOT to see and do in Rome, so your time would be better utilized there rather than Florence. If you're heading to Venice on the 7th, you'll need to plan your touring in Rome carefully as that's not a long time. Are you aware of the potentially expensive "caveats" when using public transport in Italy. If not, post another note. Cheers!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

If you bike to Fiesole I want you to know the last 4 km are uphill and pretty steep in some stretches. I could do it as a young kid, but I don't think I could anymore.

Posted by Keith
Lemont, Illinois, United States
26 posts

Our thoughts right now. - Day 1 in Florence Arrive and explore Florence and enjoy nighttime in Florence. - Day 2 early travel to Cinque Terre. Should we bus, train or tour to Cinque Terre. I see we can train through Pisa and maybe stop and get a shot of the leaning tower, then get back on train and head to CT. Plan to exhaust ourselves this day. Late travel back to Florence. Any thoughts on guides that would work with us this way? - Day 3 all Florence day. So can get a little more rest this day. - Day 4 checkout of hotel and do Gelato Bike Ride from iBikeTuscany. Heads to San Gimignano and they say it is appropriate for our 11 year old. Will also drive us into Sienna after bike ride if we would like. Anyone have experience with iBikeTuscany?
Since we are packing light we will bring our bags with us and they will hold on the support van and drop us off at train station in Florence at the end of the day. Thoughts?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Keith, "Should we bus, train or tour to Cinque Terre." Travel by train to the Cinque Terre is the quickest and easiest method. Use the Trenitalia website to plan your journey.

Posted by Keith
Lemont, Illinois, United States
26 posts

Ken sounds good. Our Hotel is nearly next door to the train station in Florence. So we will get out really early to CT, stop in Pisa for about an hour then head to CT to hike, eat, maybe swim and then head back late.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5763 posts

When in Pisa, be sure to go inside the round Baptistry building to check out the acoustics. Here's a video clip I took to illustrate what just one singer can do in that space: Baptistry