I am planning on a trip with my wife and sons ages 11 and 15 and am looking for recommendations on which is a better choice. We will be at one of these locations for a week in an apartment rental. Thoughts?
Lucca. More variety at night, more to do for the kids - biking on the walls, day trips, etc.
Thanks for the prompt response. Have you been to both locations?
I am taking a sabbatical (my first) and am trying to balance relaxation for me and something to offer for my family. We are also looking at spending a week in France, possibly Avignon. Any other suggestions?
I've been to both. I just thought Lucca would be better for your family because of the variety of things to do. Great restaurants, by the way.
As far as France goes, I'm not sure i would recommend Avignon as a base. A bit more urban. I'd suggest St. Remy if you have a car. Your kids would enjoy Les Baux nearby for one day trip. Pont du Gard is not too far.
I'll go the other way.
San Gimignano is a medieval town that captures the imagination. The towers and small alleys are great to explore. To me it was the epitome of a Tuscan hill town. It was touristy but I didn't find the prices higher than surrounding towns.
Lucca is a bigger town and somewhat less touristy. The wall is not medieval. It looks more 18th century (maybe state of the art late 17th). They also have a piazza that at one time was an ampitheater, now it looks like any square surrounded by shops and cafes. Except for the nice park they have made of the wall, there isn't anything charming about the town.
I'm not sure I would stay at either for a week. Having been to both. I would plan to stop again in San Gimignano and wouldn't stop at Lucca again.
I haven't been to Lucca but have been to SG. I think Lucca would give you better options and although SG is lovely it is quite small and with 2 boys I think Lucca will give you more options.
With regards to Avignon I used it as a base for the surrounding areas and found it great. I liked the town.
Hi- I've been to both. Both are beautiful, have excellent accomodations and food; SG is full of tourists during the day, magical when they leave. Lucca is full of locals, day and night. It is more of a "real" city, and it's likely that your kids will find more to do in Lucca.
I am going to ditto what Tony said. I have been to both places. San Gim is a tourist place. Only thing about San Gim is you can day trip out to the out lying areas. Volterra is 20 minutes away, Siena is 40 min., Chianti Road is close. All worth the visit.
Lucca is also right next to Pisa, so there's a great day trip for you.
A week is a long time in either place. Lucca is closer to Florence for day trips; One day in SG is enough (some tours give you a couple hours). It's pretty touristy as well. I suppose Lucca is better as a base, but certainly not enough for a week within it's walls for kids.
Lucca is just big enough to be lively and seems to have a lot of children the age of yours. I suspect they'd wind up making some new friends in Lucca over the course of a week. Day trips are also easy from Lucca by either car or public transportation.
The consensus is go for Lucca, and I agree. Check out Albergo Villa Marta for a lovely place, with pool, close to town but not inside the walls.
Rusty, Would you consider 1/2 week in each town?
I lived outside Lucca for almost three years in a small village and went to the city for my shopping and enjoyment. SG is strictly oriented toward tourists, but still a worthwhile stopover. Lucca has far more options for a week. The train station is only five minutes by foot outside the city center with hourly connections to Florence and to the Cinque Terre for sightseeing, swimming and beautiful scenery. Both are aprox 90 minutes by train. If you have a car you can drive to Pisa in less than 30 minutes or take the train there in about the same amount of time. The leaning tower and the Piazza Miracoli are about all you need to see in Pisa.
If you like outdoor cafes and people watching (not just other tourists), or just wandering around, Lucca is a good bet.
Rusty, travelling with kids can be fraught. I'd go with Lucca as a base. Easy train tips to Florence, Pisa, the coast. Your boys will love the old 'cartoon' painted history of a battle as they climb the Tower with the tree on top. 'The defensive walls you see today (a complete kidney-shaped circuit built from 1544 to 1654) are Lucca's fourth and most impressive set and perhaps the best preserved in all Italy.' Lucca is nice and flat and bike riding is both easy and a great family activity. Having a week in one location will allow you and your wife to maintain more of the regular routines, and also allow for whole family imput of whose turn it is to select 'what will we do today. Enjoy.
We stayed 2 nights in SG and 3 nights in Lucca...both are very interesting, but I would definitely give the nod to Lucca for a week long visit. Much more for the kids to do including easy bike rentals. For those who have commented on Avignon versus other towns in the South of France, we spent 4 nights in St. Remy and loved it as our base, but if I were to do it again, I would definitely stay in Avignon or Arles...more to do and see.
I forgot to add, if you go to Lucca, and if you like really good wine, go to Enoteca Vani at Pazza Del Salvatore. They have the most amazing stock of select great italian wines featuring older vintages of hard to find Brunellos and Barolas (underground in various tunnels). I sent home a case (they handle the details of the packing and shipping) that included a vertical tasting of of Casanova Di Neri Brunello Cerretalto, 1997, 1999, and 2001 at 95, 97 and 100 points wine spectator respectively. This enoteca has been named as the best in all of Tuscany.
Thanks so much for the very good advice. I am also going to take your advice on the recommendations in France.