July 30, 2009, 02:48 PM
Ideas for 14 day stay Northern Tuscany
Hi, we will be staying in Vellano, Pescia for 14 days in Sept. We will have a hire care. We hope to visit Florence, Siena & Lucca. We also like hiking, hill walking and are fairly fit. Any ideas re good hikes/walks upto 4/5 hours, not too technical. Any recommendations re walking books or the region or maps. Interested in the coastal walks posted on this site 'Cinque Terre'? is this far from where we are staying (ie hours in car), could poss stay overnight if worth a visit. Any other good coastal spots worth a visit? Any good place to stock up on food/basics, as self catering - somewhere on route from Pisa airport to Pescia? Grateful for any help. Thanks, love the site, found really useful so far. Yorky
August 18, 2009, 12:19 PM
Ciao Yorky and welcome to our Forum!
You will be in a great location from which to visit all of the main cities as well as enjoy walking and hiking up into the Appenines. You can also head toward the Garfagnana area right next to the Apuan Alps - the Garfagnana hills are milder, better suited to a casual walk than the Apuane. The region caters to hikers so it is well mapped and marked, you will find that once you are in the area you will find maps and books with suggested hikes.
If you want to get something before you arrive - the ones we have and use are in Italian. A great one is "A piedi in Toscana" and for the area you'll be in vol.1 is the one to have. You can find this one in many bookstores here.
I have "Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria" by James Lasdun and Pia Davis but there is only one walk in Garfagnana listed so it wouldn't be very helpful - most walks listed are in the Chianti area and south of Siena.
A great guide is "Alla scoperta della Garfagnana" by Vittorio Verole-Bozzello which has lots of itineraries - we have the italian version but recall it was also available in English (Discovering Garfgnana). We got it at the Wind Cave in Garfagnana - I highly recommend a visit if you will be in the area. You can read up more about it here: http://www.discovertuscany.com/garfa...del-vento.html
I've been looking at getting "50 Hikes in and Around Tuscany" by Jeff Taylor for myself online. I see there are a few hikes around Abetone to the north of where you'll be. You can see the list of hikes here: http://hikingtuscany.com/hikesataglance.htm and decide whether you want to get it for yourself. Otherwise I'd wait and buy books here. Get maps here for sure (always get the 1:25,000 scale or less). You generally find them in the area you are interested in visiting.
The Cinque Terre is to the north of Tuscany along the coast in the Liguria region - from your location it should take you around 2 hours to get there. I've mapped it on Google Maps for you - http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&sour...6&ie=UTF8&z=10 - but if you want to go hike, I recommend you spend the night there and hike the 5 towns starting in the early morning. It takes about 5-6 hours total (including short stops in all of the towns) and I recommend starting in Monterosso, the furthest north, since the most "difficult" part of the trail in between Monterosso and Vernazza (lots of stairs to climb).
You could drive to La Spezia and take the train to Monterosso (10-15 min ride) and once you've hiked all the way to Riomaggiore, the last town, you can catch the train back to La Spezia. The towns are within a national park and while you can drive, the roads are narrow and steep and parking is very limited in each town. That is why I suggest leaving your car in La Spezia.
The area is beautiful and since you'll have time, I do recommend you try to go.
As for shopping for food - Not on your route to Vellano but useful to know as it is open on Sundays is that there is a large Ipercoop in Montecatini.
You will be passing through Pescia so I recommend stopping there, but as you'll be passing through other towns you might also see something closer and more convenient. Just know that the major chains are: Coop, Conad, Esselunga. I am sure that the owners of your self-catering apartment can also be useful in pointing out the nearest places to food shop, pharmacies and anything else that might be useful. If there is a local morning market, you will definitely find freshest ingredients there but those are easier to ask of your host.
Hope you have a great time in Tuscany! Let us know whether you still have questions about anything.