We are thinking of spending three to four nights in the Barga area. We know we should rent a car. Should we fly into Florence or Pisa? Can we easily drive to Ct for a day? What other things should we consider doing along with Pisa and Lucca?
How somebody from Butterfield (Minnesota I presume) ended up in Garfagnana is a mystery to me. Nevertheless. Pisa is closer to Barga than Florence, albeit not by much. The problem might be flight availability since most flights at Pisa are low cost (RyanAir especially) while Florence is served primarily by Lufthansa, Swiss, Alitalia and AirFrance. Coming from the US, Florence may have more options, but if you AirFrance (Delta Partner) you can fly to Pisa as well since there are 3 dailies from Paris to Pisa. Just choose the best flight, the drive from Florence is not much longer than from Pisa, maybe 30 min. longer. From Barga to the Cinque Terre is a good 2 hour drive. It's not long but you are a distance away from the freeway, so most of the time will be wasted getting to the freeway. Since you are in the area, enjoy the rural Garfagnana valley. Also visiting the Apuane Alps and the marble quarries above Carrara is a must (there are tours). Of course the rest of Tuscany is not that far. Florence (1.5 hours), Montecatine Terme (1hr), Vinci (1.5 hrs), Volterra (2hrs), Pisa (1hr), Lucca (40 min), Abetone Mountains Ski area (1hr). If you want a beach try the Versilia beach resort such as Viareggio (1.5 hrs) or Forte dei Marmi (1.5+hrs).
Thank you Roberto. Would it be better to break up the stay with two nighs in Pisa to travel to CT. If we fly into Florence and pick up the car then drive to Barga with a stop in Lucca on our first day, we could do locacal area of Barga on second day. We will have jet lag.
First let's talk flights. Coming from MN you are likely to fly Delta or AirFrance (both Partners with Sky Team) from Minneapolis MSP. Both Delta and Airfrance operate direct non stop flights from MSP to Paris CDG. From Paris CDG you would then proceed to either Florence FLR or Pisa PSA with AirFrance (Delta codeshare). There are 3 daily flights with AirFrance from Paris CDG to PSA (each direction) and six to FLR (each direction). The Delta/AirFrance solution is probably the easiest and fastest from Minnesota. Just one stop in Paris along the way. Look for the cheaper solution. Barga is almost equidistant from Pisa and Florence (1hr to PSA and 1.5 hrs to FLR) so either airport will work. Delta also has a direct non stop from JFK to PSA in Summer. The night before flying back you will need to find a hotel near the airport (either PSA or FLR) because the flights to Paris to catch your connection back to MSP are very early in the morning. The flight to JFK from Pisa is early PM, so you can leave from Barga. Don't stay in Pisa to go to the Cinque Terre. You won't save much time compared from driving from Barga. It's less than one hour difference in driving time and changing hotels is a time waster. Maybe you could stay a couple of nights in the Cinque Terre, instead of Barga, but staying in Pisa to go to the Cinque Terre is useless. Also no reason to stay in Lucca if you already have accommodations in Barga. Barga and Lucca are very close (25 miles, 40 min drive on regular two lane highway).
I am not coming from MN. I would fly from Newark or Savannah depending on cost and length of flights. The reason for the hotel locations is to use our Marriott Rewards account. We will stay in Arezzo after our stay in the northern part of Tuscany. I was trying to get a taste of the Italian Rivera and mountain area by staying in Barga or Pisa.
I recommend Pisa over Florence. FLR is more crowded and is undergoing construction as well, and they have moved the car rental area to east boondocks (allegedly temporarily). Further, since Florence is in a basin, they are more prone to weather delays, and they don't have sufficient runways to cope. This info from a pilot who was on our delayed flight from FLR. Pisa has numerous airlines, and while it's not uncrowded, it handles it fairly well. Coming from Boston we like Lufthansa-Munich-Pisa as the flight leaves later and the Munich transfer can be done by sleepwalkers. It would also be a less hassled drive to Barga, and shorter.