/ Ideas for extending a Florence "city break"

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Blue Straggler - on 04 May 2017

Hello, fishing around for some ideas here.
I have a work trip to Florence on 8-9 June. I'll arrive into Florence some time on Thu 8 (no work that day, only travel) and I'll be finished by mid-afternoon on the Friday and plan to stay the Friday night and enjoy the sights of the city on the Saturday.
I have most of my annual leave still to use up so was thinking of extending the trip for a bit more tourism. I see that Venice is about 2.5 hours away by train and offers many (cheap) direct flights back to the UK so I thought maybe that would be nice, tick Florence and Venice in one trip
Then again, Rome is only 1h15m by train. Maybe that'll be better? Will Venice stink like a sewer in the June heat? Will Rome be a crowded nightmare? Should I just go into the Tuscany countryside? I've not been to Venice or Rome before and I don't know if I am thinking about them only as "tick the box" type visits....

Any sensible serious ideas appreciated


Dolomites for my first dabble into Via Ferrata is also a half-formed idea but a) maybe early in the season and b) (also applicable to all of this of course) I will be alone.
Post edited at 22:54
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simon c on 04 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

My intial thought was Siena but as you have already seen Florence, maybe too similiar. Then Rome, shouldnt be too bad in June with crowds and to be honest even at Easter and August I havent balked at them. Some heavy tick offs to see if you've not been before, but go to the Maxxi if you can. Well worth the visit and well curated. One of my personal favourite spaces. We usually stay in lower end of Prati district, just off the beaten track and tourist trail but central enough to see all.

Venice is a once experience for me, Rome I have been to many times.
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abseil on 04 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Been to both. Both are great but very different. Venice is unique and unmissable, but it's said to be crowded in summer - I went in winter then again in early spring: both seasons were great times to be there. Rome was very good too, but not so easy to visit as it's a much larger city.

If it was me and I had to choose I'd go for Rome. Hope you have a great trip to Italy!
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Yorik on 04 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Pisa and Bologna are both within easy commutes and are both amazing cities, would stay away from Venice though it will be packed, and yes in June it will hum a bit as well.
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ActionSte on 04 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

On our last trip, the Mrs and I went Venice - Florence - Milan. Milan being a couple of hours away from florence by train would be my suggestion. Very nice city
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simon c on 04 May 2017
In reply to ActionSte:

Good call on that.
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Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017
In reply to ActionSte:

Milan is a tricky one because I have a friend living there who by bad luck will be away from June 9 - 16! It wouldn't feel right to visit her city when she's away, somehow...
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Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Yorik:

I know only of the leaning tower in Pisa, and nothing of Bologna other than a spaghetti sauce
I think I'd better get myself to the library...but to do Pisa and/or Bologna before Rome or Venice, really? (notwithstanding "packed" and "will hum a bit" )
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ben b - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Was in Bologna (meeting) and Venice (afterwards with family) last year.
The food in Bologna is pretty fabulous. It's an Italian city: hot, sunny, great restaurants, not too traffic filled either (especially in the centre). There aren't really the jaw dropping buildings of Rome or Venice, but it is a very pleasant place for a day or two - possibly not much of a change from Florence overall though. The Towers are pretty cool. Bolognese sauce is NEVER served with spaghetti in Bologna, you'd be shot. Tagliatelli all the way. Also lovely tortellini and tortelloni etc.

If you haven't been to Venice before it is well worth it - an extraordinary place. Train connections are fast and very cheap (the Frecciarossa tickets from Bologna to Venice are about the same price as a good coffee...). Walk out of the staion (Venezia Santa Lucia, not Mestre) and get on the water bus (vaporetto no 2, about 6 euros) outside the station and you go straight down the Grand Canal to St Mark's Square. While the Piazza, Campanile, rialto etc are the big ticket sights the charm of Venice is getting a bit lost wandering around the back alleys. For a city about 5km across it's quite easy to walk 20-30km! There's a weird moment when you go from a land based infrastructure to aquatic - the bin man drives a boat, the ambulances draw up and moor outside the hospital, white van man drives a barge and has a sack truck for deliveries etc, and your understanding of how a city works gets flipped on its head. Will it be busy? Yes. It was quite busy late September when we were there (only quiet time was early December 1997 when we went before!). Does it matter? Not if you only dip in and out of the main areas. Most recent summer visitors say it doesn't really smell these days.

I'd suggest a night or two and a wander around. Go early if you want to visit the hotspots (no-one around at 6am). I can give you a few pointers for good places to eat (the food in Venice is OK but not up to that of much of the rest of the country IMO).

Have a great trip

b






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sg - on 05 May 2017
In reply to ben b:

Agree completely with the above - Venice is fabulous and unmissable. We spent the day there with the kids in height of summer last year and all loved it. Main drags and squares are busy but easy to wander away from them and just get lost. We wished we'd had an overnight booked.
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Fraser on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:
I can thoroughly recommend a day trip to San Gimignano which is about an hour south of Florence by car. Not sure about access by public transport but I'd imagine it's not too hard. SG is a World Heritage Site and considered the birthplace of the 'skyscraper', but with the towers being built in mediaeval days.

It's a cracking wee town to wander round or just sit in the small, central piazza with a gelato watching the passeggiata. Tuscany at its best.

http://www.discovertuscany.com/san-gimignano/?gclid=CMSi-NaP2NMCFS4W0wodGrYFgw

Edit: given the choice between Rome and Venice, I'd choose Rome every day. It's life-affirming to spend any time there and never fails to impress, no matter where you turn. I love it.
Post edited at 07:38
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nniff - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Pisa's easy - one hour on the train. Not sure how you're getting to Florence, but Pisa airport is the main airport for Florence. There's now a shuttle that goes from Pisa station to the airport every few minutes. About 8 minutes each way. 'Pisamover' it's called.
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Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Thanks for replies so far. With respect to the other suggestions, I think this may come down to a flip of the coin for Rome vs Venice. I think there will be future trips to Florence, looks like maybe 2 per year but I am not guaranteed to be on all of them (the work is just doing 2 presentations to a class of young professionals, basically 2.5 hours of Powerpoint from a standard existing presentation) so maybe I can look at Bologna, Pisa, San Gimignano some other time

It's funny that I mentioned via ferrata in the OP on a forum frequented by climbers and nobody has referred to it yet :-D actually whilst driving into work today I was expecting to check this thread and find a lot of people saying "why wander around any old city when there is via ferrata not so far away" but it seems that ice cream, coffee, dirty pigeons and selfies are the way forward!

I was initially thinking of flying into Florence (flights from London City, for example) and out of Rome or Venice.

Maybe I can do some crazy "fly into Rome, see it for an afternoon, blast up to Florence on a late evening train, sleep, do presentation, see Florence in the afternoon and evening, sleep, get early train to Venice, see Venice, sleep, go home on the Sunday" :-o
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bedspring on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Tuscany is special. Hire a bike and ride some "via blanca*" which I believe is a network of green lanes, never done it but a friend of mine raved about it, easy riding with a stiff finish riding to a hiiltown each evening.
San Gim is good and Lucca is great.
This also may inspire you http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08lsz6t

* you may need to google a little for this as that maybe the wrong phrase.
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stevieb - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

It really depends how you like to travel. If I had a work trip to Florence, I would extend it staying in Tuscany and hiring a car. Siena is beautiful, and cycling or walking around the little hilltop villages in early summer would be great. Lucca, Montepulciano and San Gimignano are good, go to Pisa for the photo, but maybe don't stay so long there.
Venice is fabulous and is famously better in spring time, so early June should be a good time.
The Via Ferrate are great, but they are mostly over 400km away. If you had a work trip to London, would you want us to recommend you extend your holiday by going to Keswick?
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Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017
In reply to bedspring:

I hadn't thought of the bike idea, thanks, I'll mull that one over
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Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017
In reply to stevieb:

I hadn't been planning on car hire but maybe it's a good idea.
I think you are right about the via ferrata, I just got carried away as I saw that it's not so horribly from Venice, if I were to use Venice as the "start point". But via ferrata should be done as a separate proper trip I guess. With friends, even!
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Bjartur i Sumarhus on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

someone disliking all these posts....some odd people around these parts
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stevieb - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

And just to advise, all the clichés about Italian driving are true. If you hire a car, you'll be far more relaxed if you have the excess insured. But from memory, Tuscany is far less hectic than most of Italy, the rural areas aren't that busy, and you generally have to park outside the historic towns. I hired a car in Naples last year, and that was quite an eye-opener.
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Stig - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I know only of the leaning tower in Pisa, and nothing of Bologna other than a spaghetti sauce I think I'd better get myself to the library...but to do Pisa and/or Bologna before Rome or Venice, really? (notwithstanding "packed" and "will hum a bit" )

I would definitely recommend a trip to Bologna - I loved it but its a big city, quite dark and bustling. But please don't call it spaghetti sauce - it's a ragu and you don't eat it with spaghetti! Sounds like you need the education ;-)

Rome is amazing but worth a proper trip, I really don't think it's worth visiting for the day. I think we went for a week and still barely scratched the surface.

Siena is also pretty special but as others have said, somewhat similar to Florence in terms of the architecture and art. If you do go the pizza in the main square is the best I've ever had.
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PJD - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Venice will be quite a lot quieter in the evenings, the tourist hordes are mainly day trippers.

The Cinque Terre is not far.
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whenry on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Just got back from Italy, and did a quick visit to Rome on the last day en route to the airport, as we'd got some time to kill. The main tourist attractions were absolutely rammed. If you're in Florence, both Arezzo and Perugia are within 1-2 hours of Florence by train, are quite interesting, and won't be absolutely packed with tourists.
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Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Bjartur i Sumarhus:

> someone disliking all these posts....some odd people around these parts

It is probably some forum regular who believes, wrongly but perhaps understandably, that I machine-gun all their threads with dislikes
Blue Straggler - on 05 May 2017

A plan is forming! Wednesday 8am flight Birmingham to Rome arriving at lunchtime. Afternoon and evening in Rome, plus as much of the next day as I want too. Thursday is written off as "travel day" anyway. Train to Florence any time on the Thursday, maybe see some of Florence (thinking that if I am definitely there for early evening I can enjoy the fading sun and do some people-watching whilst having a lovely Tuscan steak dinner). Hotel. Presentations the next day, finishing around 2pm. Option to linger in Florence through the rest of Fri OR head to Tuscan countryside. Either way I'll be in Tuscan countryside at some point Saturday. Saturday and Sunday do the biking thing. Sunday evening train to Venice. Monday "do" Venice. Fly home Monday night or some time Tuesday.
That's Rome, Florence, Tuscan countryside and Venice all ticked and only 2 or 3 days annual leave used (and legitimately only needing to pay up for my own accommodation for 3 of the nights and arguably only pay for one of the train journeys...), with full recognition that Rome will be a bit of a rush :-D
Post edited at 18:20
Welsh Kate - on 05 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Difficult one! I'd go to Rome, I lived and worked there for a year and loved the place (but I'm a Roman historian, so possibly a tad biased). Or, I'd tour around Toscana, visiting San Gimigniano, Orvieto and the coast.
nniff - on 06 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Ah bless! We've caught a really little inadequate one who's been down the whole thread and disliked everything - we really ought to throw him back. Run along now, poppet.
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Blue Straggler - on 06 May 2017
In reply to bedspring:

I couldn't find "via blanca" on a very quick search, there is "strade bianchi" but this seems to be hard riding, emulating some gnarly races and lots of white gravel.

This looks more like my kind of thing - all organised, shuttle vans, ticks some nice sights, and includes wine
https://www.bikeinflorence.com/tours/san-gimignano-to-siena/
Blue Straggler - on 06 May 2017
In reply to nniff:

They haven't disliked yours yet. Would you like me to do the honours?!
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Blue Straggler - on 06 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> They haven't disliked yours yet. Would you like me to do the honours?!

Beaten to it!
ads.ukclimbing.com
Si dH - on 06 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> A plan is forming! Wednesday 8am flight Birmingham to Rome arriving at lunchtime. Afternoon and evening in Rome, plus as much of the next day as I want too. Thursday is written off as "travel day" anyway. Train to Florence any time on the Thursday, maybe see some of Florence (thinking that if I am definitely there for early evening I can enjoy the fading sun and do some people-watching whilst having a lovely Tuscan steak dinner). Hotel. Presentations the next day, finishing around 2pm. Option to linger in Florence through the rest of Fri OR head to Tuscan countryside. Either way I'll be in Tuscan countryside at some point Saturday. Saturday and Sunday do the biking thing. Sunday evening train to Venice. Monday "do" Venice. Fly home Monday night or some time Tuesday. That's Rome, Florence, Tuscan countryside and Venice all ticked and only 2 or 3 days annual leave used (and legitimately only needing to pay up for my own accommodation for 3 of the nights and arguably only pay for one of the train journeys...), with full recognition that Rome will be a bit of a rush :-D

Sounds great. You'll only see at most half the main sights in each place in that time, but if you think you'll be going back that's probably a good thing!
bedspring on 06 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I shall try and contact my friend for more info. I fancy it myself. Torre del Chiusi is very romantic, but as your on your own maybe another time.
Blue Straggler - on 06 May 2017
In reply to Si dH:

Thanks Si. My experience on city visits is that even if I were in each place for longer, an exhaustive attempt to see x number of "sights" can soon cause ennui for me anyway so personally I like to dabble and keep on the move. Hopefully getting a flavour of each place will guide me for future trips where I can decide "stay 3 full days in location X and leave the others for now"
For Rome I may well get on an open topped guided bus tour to start with. The kind of thing about which in our youth we were snobby, but in my middle age, well "time is short" etc
I also have the option of only doing the biking for one day, and I think I am veering toward that option to be honest. Gives me longer in Venice (or another whistle stop on the way there!)
Blue Straggler - on 06 May 2017
In reply to bedspring:

Thanks, yes for the biking I just did a brief bit of Googling and fell upon the link that I posted. There may be preferable options so I will appreciate any extra info
fimm on 09 May 2017
In reply to Blue Straggler:
A couple of small tips for Florence; if you decide you'd like to climb one of the towers on the cathedral, the tickets are not sold at the front of the queues but in a ticket office elsewhere - you need to go there first.
If you decide to go into one of the art galleries book your ticket in advance for that too, to avoid queuing. If art isn't really your thing but you fancy one gallery then I'd recommend the Academica over the Uffizi; the reproduction David is not a patch on the real thing (and the "Slaves" were one of the most memorable things I saw in Florence (and I was there with my sister who studied art, so I saw a LOT of art...))

(and if you know all of the above then I apologise for not answering the question)
Post edited at 11:44
abseil on 09 May 2017
In reply to nniff:

> Ah bless! We've caught a really little inadequate one who's been down the whole thread and disliked everything - we really ought to throw him back.....

I reckon it's someone who had a bad pizza and therefore by association hates Italian food, Italy, and any mention of Italy.
Blue Straggler - on 09 May 2017
In reply to fimm:

Thanks for that gallery tip. I think my plan was to sort of wander (of course with Florence almost being a free outdoors gallery, you can get away with that to some extent but I appreciate that recommendation. Art "isn't really my thing" but in the last couple of years I have started to enjoy visiting the occasional gallery.
I am armed with guidebooks from the library too.
I am inclined now to give Venice a bit more time and just do that cycling thing for one day.

Again thanks all
Blue Straggler - on 16 May 2017
Just bumping this in case anyone has more suggestions.
I have booked a flight into Rome and a cheap central hotel there, arriving at 11.40am on the Wednesday and probably departing by traing for Florence at around 3.30pm on the Thursday to get there and enjoy some evening light. Work Friday may finish at 2pm or may drag out to 5pm depending on whether I am expected to join the students on a lab visit. Friday evening is free. Saturday I am looking at booking a bike tour with the link I put in earlier, waiting to hear back from organisers.
Hopefully a train to Venice on Saturday evening, won't get there that early I guess, depending on how long the biking takes.
Have not booked anywhere in Venice, getting various suggestions to stay elsewhere like Padua. Not sure of the merit of that. I don't need luxury hotels on this trip they are just for sleeping and having a wash, really. Seems to be enough places in the £45-60 per night range. Would stay Sat and Sun night in Venice, and probably get a late afternoon flight back to UK.

I guess I am just fishing for recommendations of whether to stay in Venice or Padua / Jesolo etc

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