Two Side Trips from Florence Italy

Check Out These Two Great Destinations

Author: The Traveling Professor/Saturday, June 22, 2019/Categories: Italy

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Here are two great day trips from Florence from The Traveling Professor's Guide to Florence by Professor Steve Solosky and Melanie Wilson.

Lucca is one of my favorite side trips from Florence, due to its unique tall walls from centuries ago that still surround the ancient city center.  Lucca is also known as the city of 100 churches, yet this city can luckily be seen in a day trip.

To reach Lucca from Florence, I suggest the train from Santa Maria Novella station in Florence.  This ride will be between 1 hour and 20 minutes and 1 hour and 45 minutes, and will cost about 8-10 euros one way.  It is a frequent train, running usually more than 25 times a day.  The train station is right in front of the walled city and it cannot be missed.  Follow the crowds, of tourists and commuters, into the ancient city.

Start with a walk around the 4 kilometers of Renaissance wall.  The wall is a in essence a park around the city.  There are also bikes available for rent at multiple locations - including the train station - where bikes can be rented for just a few hours or up to 15 euros for the day.  

Lucca’s charming appeal is not due to specific sites, but more so the captivating historical feel within the walls.  This includes the churches, such as San Michele, Basilica of San Frediano, and Cattedrale di San Martino, and not to forget, the Piazza dell' Anfiteatro.  Though the actual Roman arena is gone, it has become a bustling place for markets and events.  Spend some time climbing one of the remaining tower houses of the 1300s, Guinigi Tower, with an easily spotted cluster of trees at the top!  Enjoy the day wandering through piazzas, antique storefronts, and the botanical gardens to discover an old world type of Tuscan life.

is another great destination. Famous and popular, I’d personally visit Siena during the week when there is a chance for slightly less people during peak tourist season.  Nevertheless, Siena is a top day trip destination because of its beauty, history, and anticipated horse race twice a year.

The medieval “square” (more like a shell shaped center) Piazza del Campo is the center of attention and a must, as it is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, as well as flocked with people during July and August’s Palio Horse Race.  This is just the beginning of the historical setting, as another intriguing visit to the Duomo is a must here in Siena.  Many centuries went into the architecture, as did many artists create the work inside this Romanesque-Gothic cathedral.  For those visitors lucky enough to visit in late summer - mid fall, the full view of the art is on display, as it is not viewable other times of the year.

Along with the Duomo, there is the Museale Santa Maria della Scala in the complex, with history seeping out of the walls in the form of frescos, archaeological exhibits, and a children’s museum.  For those particularly interested in the religious aspects of the history, head over to the Sagrestia Vecchia (Old Chapel) for further frescos by Bartolo.

The climb up Torre del Mangia in Museo Civico is worth it for those who are not claustrophobic.  The view over the many neighborhoods of Siena is telling and vast.  In general, the city’s beautiful architecture and small cobblestone roads can keep a visitor wandering for hours and not get bored.  

Siena can easily be reached by Florence either by train from Santa Maria Novella Station or bus at the station next to SMN (Via Santa Caterina da Siena).  Grab the Rapida, line 131R, as it is a non-stop bus.  Tickets are about 10 euros one way.  Travel times vary depending on which train or bus chosen, but allot about 1.5 hours for transit. 

Join Professor Solosky on one of his small group tours to Italy.

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