Tuscany is an extraordinary region with so much to see and do. Often the challenge is where to start and what to focus on. Our Tour of Tuscany and L’Eroica Cycling Tour traverse the stunning areas of Chianti and the Val d’Orcia, and include the medieval towns of Siena, Montalcino and San Gimignano, and so we cover a lot of ground, but there is still a lot more of Tuscany to experience.
If you’re planning on spending some of your time pre or post tour in Tuscany, then this short guide provides you with a few places to consider, which we love and recommend, particularly if you are flying in or out of Rome, and are looking for a 2, 4 or 7 day itinerary to or from Fiumicino Airport.
Florence – 2 days / 2 nights
Our start and finish town for all of our Tuscany cycling tours is Florence. Whether you visit pre or post tour, we recommend staying 2 nights. For our tips on ‘A Florence Stopover’, visit our blog.
Lucca – 2 days / 2 nights
Lucca is probably one of the most loved and visited small cities in Tuscany. With its magnificent walls surrounding the city used by morning walkers and runners, to locals enjoying their late afternoon or evening passeggiata and nonnas enjoying their pre or post dinner chiaccerata (or chat), this green, tree lined promenade makes for a wonderfully relaxing ‘retreat’ after the hustle and bustle of Florence.
For a short stay, we definitely recommend staying inside the walls of Lucca.
B&B Arena di Lucca
Set in Lucca’s historic centre and located on Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, this authentic and beautifully styled family-run B&B is the perfect base from which to explore the town.
Albergo San Martino
Great location near the cathedral in the heart of Lucca, easy access to the train station, traditional Tuscan style rooms and wonderful staff and hospitality.
Eat & Drink
Lucca is not our favourite town in Tuscany for restaurants, however it is one of our favourites for its amazing local food speciality shops and delicatessens.
Dotted with specialist bakeries, chocolatiers and coffee shops, meandering and ‘picking your way’ around town for the day is in our books, a great way to spend the day.
Our favourite way to enjoy lunch in Lucca is to grab beautiful produce from one of the many deli’s and a bottle of wine, and venture out to a private picnic spot along the walls. One of our favourite delis is Da Sergio, on Via Michele Rosi, No.24.
Definitely enjoy an aperitivo in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, admiring the stunning architecture and amazing work of the Romans, while sipping a birra or spritz. While it is a ‘tourist-y’ thing to do, the amphitheatre does have a lovely ambience and light in the early evening, which is worth taking a seat for.
Aside from a walk, bike ride or seat to ‘people watch’ along Lucca’s distinctive 16th century walls, enjoy soaking in the ambience of the town’s wonderful amphitheatre, piazza’s and smaller, picture-perfect alleys over a casual coffee break, lunch or aperitivo.
Stroll its pedestrian-friendly cobblestoned streets (only few cars are allowed inside the city walls) and enjoy its charm and style. It is a great town for shopping, where both ‘big brand fashion’ blends seamlessly with ‘local artisans’, with streets still lined by shoemakers, knife grinders and silk merchants. Also, if you love antiques and Italian interiors, there is much to admire and buy.
Climb one or both of its most prominent towers, Torre del Guinigi and Torre delle Ore for magnificent views over the city, and if you appreciate opera, Lucca is home to one of the world’s most famous and successful opera composers, Giacomo Puccini. Check out the Lucca music events calendar when you’re in town as there are often open-air festivals and concerts on, celebrating his work. It’s a wonderful way to spend an evening.
Lucca itself is very ‘bike friendly’ but if you’re up for a couple of rides out of town to explore the sensational surrounding hills, you could do any or all of the following:
A beautiful spin north to the beautiful town of Bagni di Lucca, known for its thermal springs and architecture.
75k & 1250m
Head south along tiny lanes through the bosco (forest) and then up into olive groves as far as the eye can see on your way to Monte Serra, before a fun descent and a roll home along the valley floor.
55km & 1200m
Head east along some picturesque back roads towards lunch in Montecatini Terme and its art nouveau Parco delle Terme spa complex for a mid ride spa.
70km & 640m
Porto Santo Stefano – 3 days / 2 nights
A charming seafaring village on the Mediterranean, protected by a peninsula and national park, and only a 2 hour drive to Rome Fiumicino Airport, makes Porto Santo Stefano the idyllic place to spend a couple of days and nights when you first land in Rome, or before you depart for the long haul back to Australia.
For an ‘in the heart of it’ experience, stay at Hotel La Caletta.
This simple hotel will take you back to 1950’s Italian style with a slight modern twist, but there isn’t a better location to stay. Rooms overlook the ocean and are the perfect setting for a relaxing couple of days of sun, swim and sea.
If you prefer to stay a little out of town, but within an easy 1.5km walking and/or driving distance, stay at Albergo Filippo II.
Set on a hilltop with panoramic views across the sea, these large Tuscan styled apartments provide a wonderful place to rest and relax, pre or post flight.
Eat & Drink
This is where we get to eat one of our favourite Italian dishes, Fritto misto d’mare. Freshly caught that day, there isn’t a better place to eat amazing seafood in a casual setting.
Trattoria dei Frati
Higher up on the hill with great views, you’ll enjoy a quality, home made meal at this casual, easy going trattoria.
Quite literally, just enjoy unwinding in this charming, yet sophisticated village. Enjoy the sun and sea, sit back and watch the multi-million dollar yachts roll in over lunch or an aperitivo, stroll or take an active walk along the beautiful seaside promenade that stretches the distance of the cove, and watch fisherman arrive with the day’s local catch as you enjoy a sensational gelati.
If you want to venture a little further, you can catch a ferry across to the nearby Giglio Island or join a half day tour of the peninsula. Or if you have a car, drive across to the beautiful historic town of Porto Ercole for lunch and enjoy a day of swimming in the clear blue Mediterranean seas of the Monte Argentario peninsula before or after lunch. The small beaches and coves dotted along this national park coastline can be a walk to get to, but are worth every effort. The water is incredible and the setting, simply stunning.