Florence side trips and Lake Como

My husband and I are planning a trip (10-14 days) to Florence and Lake Como this fall. I had thought of going in October, but read the weather guide which generally predicts more rain, cooler temps and less daylight. Would going in September be that much different? Curious as to your opinions. We had thought of spending 4 nights in Florence and then going to the CT. After spending some time on homeaway, there are great options for apts and it is appealing to spend a week in Florence and take side trips from there. We have been to Siena, Pisa, Orvieto, Montalcino and Montepulciano so are thinking of venturing out to San Gimignano, Lucca and possibly Greve. We will not be driving. So if anyone has comments about the ease of traveling by train or bus, that would be greatly appreciated. I also would like to go to a winery. Is our only option a bus tour from Florence since we don't have a car? Also, I am hearing differing views on CT. Should we leave Florence to overnight in the CT or look into a day trip? We'll end our trip On Lake Como. We were in Bellagio for one night a few years ago. Our first night was beautiful, but it began to rain heavily the next day so we left. We have always wanted to return. Do you like to stay in Bellagio or Varenna?
Thanks, I enjoy reading everyone's opinions!

Posted by Frank
Wilmington, DE
1476 posts

Lucca is an easy trip from Florence by either train or bus. Direct Lazzo bus is usually faster (40 minutes last time I took it) and same price as the train, but bus is subject to the possibility of traffic conjestion whereas train isn't. Lazzi bus station is on Via Valfonda at Piazza Adua (close to train station), not at the main bus station. There are several daily buses to San Gimignano (except maybe Sundays). They leave from the main bus station and require a change in Poggibonsi. I found the bus trip to be pretty easy. Haven't been to Greve, but I suspect there are multiple buses each day from either the main bus station and/or from the Lazzi bus station. If your schedule allows, I'd suggest staying 2 nights in Cinque Terre. Arrive late afternoon/early evening the first night, spend a full day exploring and depart for Lake Como the following morning.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I would go in the time period mid-Sept to mid-Oct. If you end up on Lake Como later you may find it too cold and rainy. It can be rainy anyway. If you go to CT for a brief trip from Florence, plan to stay overnight. It takes a long time to get there. You could take the train to Lucca for at least an overnight, then on to CT from there. For both trips, it's likely you will change trains in Pisa, but check schedules. I recommend two nights for each so you will have a full day to enjoy these places. I believe you can catch a train from either La Spezia or Monterosso to Milan, then on to L. Como from there. Allow at least 4 hours for the move to Varenna, if that is where you are going.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17796 posts

Susan, I've been in that area in September and early October, and the weather is usually good (although the evenings can be a bit "chilly"). There are of course never any guarantees, as I found out on September 25th, 2011 in Lucca (that was exactly one month prior to the devastating floods that affected two of the C.T. towns). The first part of the day was sunny, but by early evening there was a torrential rain of biblical proportions, accompanied by thunder and lightning. I had never seen rain of that intensity before, but experienced the same thing in Taormina (Sicily) in September 2012. I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Cinque Terre. While it can be done as a long day trip from Florence, it's better to spend at least one (and preferably more) nights there. One important point to make - if you're planning to stay there, be sure to book a hotel room WELL in advance! Do you have any idea which of the towns you might like to stay in? The train trip from Florence to the C.T. is relatively short and easy. It would be easy to go directly from there to Varenna. Regarding Lago di Como, I haven't stayed in Bellagio as I prefer Varenna. There are some good accommodations in Varenna, and I really enjoy walking along the lakeside promenade in the evenings and watching the boats go back and forth. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1202 posts

Hi Susan. I prefer Varenna to Bellagio but it's simply a matter of preference. Varenna is more quaint, quiet and picturesque. Bellagio is bigger and has a lot more dining, shopping and lodging options. Bellagio is more "up scale" in my opinion. In Varenna, I love Albergo Milano and preferably a room with a frontal lake view. I suggest going in September since you'll be in Northen Italy & there will a greater tendency towards rain and cooler temps in October. Keep in mind that when it's cold & rainy, there's not much too do in Lake Como or the Cinque Terre so I prefer to travel to those places when the chance of nice weather is greatest. I would travel early to mid-September if possible. I would not visit the CT as a day trip from Florence. I don't think a day trip will do the CT justice and I would stay a minimum of 2 nights on your way from Florence to Lake Como. Have a great trip!