Holiday review

3 nights in Tuscany

We both managed to secure a few days off work (and found someone to have the dog!) and thought, all being well, we’d head somewhere for a short city break. We didn’t have any fixed ideas about where to go but instead thought we’d see where we could find some cheap flights. We found some return flights (with hand luggage only!) from London to Pisa for the grand total of £100 and jumped at the opportunity!


We settled on a base in Pisa, an Airbnb opposite the central station. Thanks to the Pisa Mover (a train that runs between the airport and Pisa central station between 6am-midnight), it was ridiculously easy to get from the airport to the apartment. The apartment was directly over the road from the station (but far enough away to be quiet at night!), meaning we could plan our day trips by train and wouldn’t have to factor in getting to the station etc.

The apartment itself was beautiful. It had one stunning double bedroom and a surprisingly comfortable sofa bed in the living room. The owner had left some little treats out which were much appreciated after a day of travelling and there were plenty of little shops around to stock up on snacks and the all important wine!

So we had 3 nights (and 3 full days) to explore this part of Italy. Here is what we got up to!

Day 1 – Lucca

On our first morning, after a quick breakfast in a little café around the corner from the apartment, we jumped on a train to Lucca. Train travel in Italy is not only easy to plan and use but really reasonably priced. We used the Trainline website to plan our journeys and you can easily buy your tickets using the machines at the station (you can put them into several different European languages!). To give you a sense of the cost/timings. A train to Lucca, from Pisa, takes around 30mins and costs 3.40Euro for an adult. The trains are spacious (with several double decker trains – hugely popular with the little people!) and very clean so journeys were very pleasant!

We spent the morning exploring the old town (the station was an easy walk from the main attractions). We’d last been to the city when I was pregnant with my eldest so it was a real journey of re-discovery. We stopped for lunch (Pizza of course!) in the main square (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro). The Piazza was once a Roman Amphitheatre and the shape of the piazza corresponds to a great extent to the area of the ancient arena. There are several restaurants to pick from so you’ll be spoilt for choice! After a lovely lunch we searched out the nearest bike hire shop and hired a family bike for a trip around the world famous town walls. The phrase town walls doesn’t really do them justice – they are 4km of gardens, stunning views, cafe’s and play parks! Having exhausted ourselves cycling, we returned the bike and found an Italian ice-cream, stopping outside the main cathedral to eat it whilst watching the world go by.

Our final activity for the day was a trip up Torre Guinigi – one of the last remaining medieval towers in the town. What makes this tower unique is the small garden at its summit. The Guinigi family planned this garden to represent rebirth and renewal. The garden is divided into three flowerbeds where Holm oaks are planted. There is a wonderful view of the city and surrounding mountains from the garden. We didn’t book but I gather reservations are recommended on weekends, in particular – check out the tower website.

After an action packed day in Lucca we returned to Pisa in time for dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2 – Florence

Our daughter (called Florence!) was, for obvious reasons, desperate to visit the city. Both of us had been several times but it was to be the children’s first visit. Again, we set out by train (most of the trains take about an hour but do check the Trainline website – we nearly got caught on a 2 hour slow train and had to jump off at the last min!). Having arrived in Santa Maria Novella we walked down towards the wonderfully impressive Duomo. The famous church dominates the skyline and close up it is so huge as to be quite overwhelming. The exterior is covered in a decorative mix of pink, white and green marble – it really is a sight to be seen. We chose not to go inside (the queues were huge and with only a day in the city we wanted to see as much as possible!) but you can find out more about visiting here. It it advised to book in advance – tickets for the dome (with it’s stunning views!) sell out weeks in advance. Instead, we settled on a quick coffee in an extortionately expensive (but beautiful!) café in the square.

With food on board we continued our journey to the world-famous Piazza della Signoria. The piazza is filled with sculptures by the greatest artists of the Renaissance and best of all, it’s free! The children enjoyed laughing at the naked statues and attempting to get squirted by the water in the fountains and then we strolled on past the Uffizi (for another time!) towards the Ponte Vecchio, the everlasting symbol of the city. With the compulsory photos taken, we strolled over the bridge, admiring (but not visiting!) the various jewellery shops, on route to our favourite restaurant, Gusta Osteria. Gusta Osteria has become somewhat of an unexpected family favourite. I first visited the un-imposing little restaurant, in a square opposite a church, with my parents when aged 17. We’d stumbled across it on the search for a less touristy (and therefore cheaper!) place to eat. Years later I had coincidently returned to the restaurant with my husband and here we were again taking our two little people! It lived up to our expectations and we had a lovely meal sitting outside soaking up the spring sunshine.

Once again revived by food (there’s a theme emerging here!), we set out on the walk up to Piazza Michelangelo. A short climb from the Arno River, Piazza Michelangelo is easily one of our favourite places in Florence. The large elevated piazza south of the Arno river offers incredible panoramic views across Florence: there are postcard-perfect views of the Florence skyline and the Duomo. At sunset, there is a fantastic ambience at Piazza Michelangelo and it’s the perfect place to watch a stunning sunset with a bottle of wine and enjoy some family time. Alas, this time we settled on a quick drink before making the trip back down to find yet another ice cream!

We chose Cantina del Gelato – a relatively new place with some unusual flavours as well as the firm family favourites. We sat on a bench admiring the Ponte Vecchio (and a car being towed away!). I found this fab guide to ice-cream places in the city really helpful!

We were now starting to flag so we decided to head back towards the train station, via the famous Porcellino Fountain. Legend has it that touching the nose of the Porcellino is lucky and means you will return to the city someday (our daughter was getting sad at the thought of leaving ‘her city’ so we went with the legend!). We stumbled across a lovely vintage Carousel in Piazza Della Repubblica (think retro horses and golden carriages!) and at only a Euro for a ride, it made for the perfect final treat.

An action packed day in Florence, a mesmerising city and one I’m confident we’ll return to (after all, we did touch the pig’s nose!).

Pisa and Viareggio

Our final day (we had an early evening flight booked back to the UK). After a leisurely breakfast, we checked out of our apartment and left our bags at the central station. We then took a train out to Viareggio, a seaside town near the city. Now, I had a vision of spending some time playing on the beach but it was stupidly windy so instead, we watched the kite surfers before strolling along the gorgeous avenue along the sea with some delightful Art Nouveau buildings. We came across a lovely restaurant (in the sun!) where we enjoyed fresh fish, pasta and some Italian wine!

We returned to Pisa and strolled down towards the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Children under 8 are not allowed up the tower so we opted for yet another ice-cream, soaking up the sun and admiring the view. There really isn’t a huge amount to do in Pisa so a short visit to the central area is more than enough.

All in all, a wonderful short break to an incredible part of Italy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this entry. Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do by best to answer!

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