Guest post by shizzletastic
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
Day 1: Milan to Montecatini
Arrived in Milan on Emirates, amazing airline. Would recommend to everyone. We booked through a travel company, Gate 1 Travel. Felt like they withheld some information (for example, a $650 hold the rental car company had that inconvenienced a lot of people in the group) and didn’t really like them. Website was antiquated, they weren’t really willing to work with us at all when we thought we might have to cancel the trip/not helpful, and we wouldn’t book through them again. Rented car through Locauto.
Drove to Montecatini Terme (4 hours and change). Very old and antique hotel, Grand Hotel du Parc et Regina. Easy to find, not modern on purpose and a truly authentic feel.
Day 2: Lucca and Pisa
- Piazzale Verdi
- Leaning Tower of Pisa
Took local roads into Lucca (30 minutes), parked inside city wall near the bus terminal. Walked through the town, couple vendors like artists and musicians which was really cool. Great gelato. Great town to walk, enough to see without being overwhelmed. There is a center palazzo with a lot of restaurants in a circle, great place for a meal.
Drove to Pisa, only about 20 minutes away. It’s hard to find if you’re using GPS, but if you see a collection of people and vendors with tents, it’s probably it. Paid for parking and walked to Pisa, took pictures of the tower, cathedral and fountains. Not that big of a deal.
Day 3: Florence
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
- Piazzale Michelangelo
We took the train to Florence and I wouldn’t recommend driving. Train worked out well. You need at least 2 days in Florence. You can buy “skip the line” passes for museums, but we didn’t have time to do that. The cathedral is enormous, beautiful, and detailed on a breathtaking level. Get a map. Bought some local art, beautiful high-quality and affordable.
Don’t get too drunk if you’re going to walk up to the viewpoint that overlooks the city (Piazzale Michelangelo). There is a park on the way up, but wasn’t too impressive. Cool to see the cityscape but there were cranes everywhere which took away from it. You can see remnants from the old city wall, however, which was cool.
Day 4: Greve in Chianti
Greve is a tiny valley town, but you could easily spend the day walking through the streets and looking at stores.
We did a 4-course cooking class with the grandma of the family who owns Vignamaggio. They give you wine the whole time, best cappuccino I’ve ever had. After the cooking class, they give you a tour of the winery. We bought some olive oil and wine. Wonderful experience, great day. I would have stayed here for the whole trip if I had known better beforehand.
Day 5: Montecatini
Relaxed day, stayed in Montecatini. High end stores but it’s a small town. We took the funicular up the mountain to the old city (Montecatini Alto), nice views. Ate dinner in the main palazzo, good for people-watching.
Day 6: Viareggio
Drove to Viareggio for a beach day (45 minutes). Paid for a couple of beach seats – didn’t think $20 for 2 people was bad. Beach was clean but there were peddlers so you should rent a locker for your stuff. This was a Sunday and it seemed like the whole country was going back to Milan in the evening, as we were. Took us almost 6 hours and the traffic was horrible. Stayed at a Milan airport hotel and flew home the next day.
Some things we learned – eat at the places that are crowded, that usually means the food is good. Coffee is small so if you’re a big drinker, it’s probably going to be expensive. Don’t rent a car – take public transportation. Language barrier wasn’t that bad, I learned some common phrases but everyone is so animated when they talk it’s easy to get directions based on gestures. Ask for the house wine in each of the places you go. It’s always good and more affordable. If you want the authentic rolling hills and vineyard landscapes you imagine when you think of Tuscany, go to the Chianti region.
Traveled in September 2016
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