/ Pisa, Bologna, Rome again, or elsewhere...?

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Blue Straggler - on 06 Nov 2017
Earlier this year I took nice advice from this thread that I started, regarding extending a trip to Florence.

I have another trip to Florence, giving a talk on Monday 18 Dec. Will be finished by about 3pm.
I am thinking of travelling to Italy on the Saturday and exploring somewhere before reaching my hotel in Florence on the Sunday evening.
I can possibly blag a day on the Tuesday as "work travel".

In the earlier thread, Pisa and Bologna were mentioned a couple of times.
Do either of these sound like interesting options to visit for a day? Friends elsewhere have suggested that Pisa is basically "just take a photo of the leaning tower if you have some time to kill before a flight"

Looking at various flight options, there is a possibility to arrive in Venice on a Saturday evening and immediately take a train to Bologna, have a look around and stay over, have another look around then get train to Florence on the Sunday. And then Florence-Rome to have some Rome fun on the Tuesday before an afternoon or early evening flight home. OR Florence-Pisa is a possibility. Or fly into Pisa and out of Venice... etc etc.

Basically I think I am asking "what's in Pisa and Bologna?"

telemark - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Would agree about Pisa. Bologna is great with loads of interesting stuff - mediaeval, Italian, food, markets, shops etc. Our choice for a single day would be Lucca - walled town not far on the train from Florence, small enough to explore a good bit of it in a day, big enough for there to be a variety of things to see.
Wainers44 - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to telemark:

Totally agree about Lucca.

We stayed at Pescia...outside the actual town thank goodness, and went to Lucca and Pisa.

We "had" to do the standard Pisa visit, which was very good and more than just a leaning tower piccy, but Lucca was better. Hire a bike and spend a couple of hours riding the traffic free trail on the top of the medieval wall (4K I think??) stopping at one of the cafes for a drink. Then head down into the delightful town, great food, some interesting towers to enter which give wonderful views of the area.
Lantys Tarn - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to telemark:

I would agree with all your points
Clarence on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

You are not that far from Siena which is lovely. Beautiful towers, black and white churches and the best gnocchi I have ever had.
Blue Straggler - on 06 Nov 2017
Wow, thanks everyone already for such prompt and informative answers!

I have in the meantime popped to the library and borrowed a DK Eyewitness Guide to Italy

I visited Siena briefly in June and it strikes me as somewhere that may be nicer in the summer (then again I suppose that describes a lot of places especially in Italy!)

Fingers crossed I'll be doing the same Florence job in June again and might use it as base to spend more time in Siena.

I'll look into Lucca and Bologna and look at logistics. Modena and Rimini, anyone?
Deadeye - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Well, Pisa you will be going to anyway on the way from the airport. And it's lovely (and I can recommend you a great place for lunch) BUT

The answer to your question is actually Sienna
seankenny - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Spent five days on holiday in Bologna this summer and it was great. Fabulous food, lovely vibe, buildings pretty cool. There are two very good art galleries and the obligatory cathedral.

Il Saraceno was the best restaurant we visited, €30 is enough to eat like a king. Swordfish, vongole or seafood spaghetti were all good.
ben b - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I'm not long back from a 4 day course at the University hospital in Pisa. I had various folk (including, I suspect, me in a previous life) saying there was not much more to Pisa than the tower.

In fact it was really very good. I'd agree not as much to see as Bologna - which was very good indeed, not too touristy and the food was every bit as good as it is reputed to be. I say that as a vegetarian too - when even the veggie food is fantastic you can imagine what the omnivorous version is like.

Pisa is certainly worthy of a day - and another at Lucca. Pisa airport is about 4km from the middle of town so it's an easy walk with a pack from the front door of the airport to town through the back streets - the airport feels more like a train station by position, you walk out the door, cross the road and you are in residential Pisa already. The tower is essentially bonkers. You think it must be on a bit of a lean until you actually see it at 90 degrees on and wonder how on earth it stays upright. The university area is very 'Italian student' as expected. Strolling along the banks of the Arno to the hospital in the morning was delightful. I stayed in a mad airbnb place in the attic of an old building on the riverfront which would suit a person of very restricted height (or wear a helmet), which was quite entertaining. Train connections are good and cheap. The general vibes were good strolling around at night.

I always think the delight of going to these places is just wandering around getting a little bit lost, randomly finding a restaurant packed with locals for lunch, and seeing what happens. Sure the 'big ticket' sights might as well get a tick but 25km of wandering was a day well spent!

Have fun

telemark - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to seankenny:

Good choice - another vote for il Saraceno, lunch or dinner!
Blue Straggler - on 11 Nov 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I am thinking Bologna on the Sunday and Rome on Monday evening / Tuesday daytime. This is as much to do with sensible logistics as anything else. Not confirmed decisions yet and may yet opt for Pisa/Lucca in one direction. Just thinking that Rome might look beautiful lit up at night near Christmas time, and that Pisa/Lucca might be better in June when I am likely to return

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