March 11, 2014, 01:48 AM
Lucca as a base?
Hi - after doing some research on what town to pick as my base to explore Tuscany, I have short-listed Lucca. Main reasons: close to the sea for day trips to the beach; historic medieval town; close to other must-see towns in Tuscany. Note: I don't mind driving an 1-1.5 hours to get to a destination.
Can someone advise me of other towns like Lucca that I might want to consider? Being close to the coast is really not a necessity as we will be spending some time further south on the Amalfi coast.
Related to this is the following question: what would be wrong with picking Lucca as my base?
March 11, 2014, 03:44 PM
If you enjoy quaint towns, vicinity to the sea, history, good food and welcoming people I certainly confirm your decision for LUCCA! Even if I am Florentine I must say that Lucca is the perfect antidote after a long day of touring in museums/streets of Florence, which is gorgeous, but a little more crowded than any other destination in Tuscany.
From Lucca you can very easily reach PISA, VIAREGGIO (sesaside location), PIETRASANTA, FLORENCE, MONTECATINI, PISTOIA or even the CINQUE TERRE by train, so do not even have to worry about parking, directions, traffic.
Lucca is great, in every season. Enjoy your vacation, and if you pass by Florence, let's stay in touch for a stop at one of the most delicious ice cream shops!
A presto, Elena
as far as the Tuscan beaches: the seaside close to Lucca has mostly sandy beaches.
The Amalfi Coast offers instead most rocky spots to sunbathe.
If you have a car I suggest you to drive to Marina di Vecchiano where you find a long free access to the seaside and you can even see the marble quarries of Carrara in the distance.
Last edited by Elena - Florence Guide; March 23, 2014 at 12:36 PM.
March 11, 2014, 05:40 PM
I also think Lucca would be a perfect base!
March 20, 2014, 11:50 PM
Grazie molto, Elena e Lourdes ! I have a follow-up question, if I may.
I'm reading about a lot of negative experiences tourists have with ZTLs. Seems like they will be present in every city/town I plan on visiting (Lucca, Pisa, Sienna, Florence, Rome). I'm reading things like they aren't always well indicated, that sometimes there's just no choice to avoid them once you realise you're about to enter one (i.e., no possibility to turn off/back up). Can you help shed some light on this?
Having driven confidently in Europe before I can't imagine them being as intimidating as people make them out to be.
To put the chances on my side (of not getting a ticket), my plan is to drive to the outskirts (e.g., a train station), park my car there and walk into historical centres of the cities/towns I will be visiting.
Speaking of parking, I'm figuring rates run about 1-2 Euro per hour, pretty much anywhere. Is this about right?
March 23, 2014, 12:34 PM
yes, the problem of the ZTL is something you should be really carefull about.
As far as FLORENCE I am sending you the link to check the exact limits.
MAP ZTL FLORENCE
You need to keep off the blue area but are allowed to drive along the streets marked with the red contour around the ZTL.
Usually there are parkings before or close to the ZTL, where the cost can vary from 2 to 3 euros per hour.
You are absolutlly right, if you have drive under the camera of the ZTL you canot drive backward, no you canot turn off because you risk a double ticket for the infraction.
Usually ZTL are well indicated by traffic lights (with a big RED light!) and a camera.
The ZTL are active in Florence until 7:30pm but during the summer time there can be further restrictions in the night. For more info pls check the web-site above.
If you decide to reach the outskirts by train it is a great decision. You will not have the stress of driving in town and you may avoid the higher costs for central parkings.
The car is perfect to explore the countryside and the city outskirts but it is better to avoid it to get into an historic downtown!
March 24, 2014, 12:30 PM
I think the most important thing to also consider is the layout of each of the towns and know that the ZTL is there to discourage unnecessary traffic through HISTORICAL CENTERS where all of the tourists are out and walking in (and are still inhabited by residents, of course).
Lucca's historical center is within the walls, the rest is more recent and not part of the ZTL - just don't try to drive into the center and you'll be fine! The walls are enormous, there is no way to do a wrong turn in as there is a street that goes all the way around and you are not forced to turn in. Parking is easy to find outside of it.
Siena is also a walled town. Most of the entrances into the city are through large doors along this wall. The ones I have personal experience with are the ones to the west and south of the town - there was always a large square right in front of the wall entrances where you could turn around and there was street parking leading up to this entrance or away from them. Once we went under the doors, there were signs to get to the paid parking lot to the right (if you went straight there was a stoplight and signs marked ZTL so it was pretty easy to figure out which way to go). We went into the parking lot and right out again, not paying anything to do the turn to go back out of the entrance! The paid parking lot was NOT within the ZTL. I've seen two other lots, they were the same way - there was a way to reach them without entering the ZTL.
If you've driven in Europe already, then you already know there are a lot of ONE way streets. When in doubt, follow signs to parking lots as they usually are NOT within the ZTL since they are for visitors who don't have access!
Pisa and Rome are a little harder to determine boundaries but in Rome, you generally won't want to drive anywhere - too chaotic and parking is a nightmare. So park and then take bus or metro or walk.
Pisa and Florence - as long as you keep to the main boulevards AROUND the center, you are not in risk of entering the center. Florence used to be a walled city, the main boulevard that surrounds the center is actually where the old walls used to stand. The map seen on the page Elena linked above highlights what is the ZTL - there are some entrances where you CAN turn onto another street and thus head back, there are others which don't offer the option. You can pretty much drive into Florence and just go around the center and park - all of the paid parking lots (except for the SMN and San Lorenzo market ones) are OUTSIDE of the ZTL so you can easily drive to them without ever risking entering the ZTL. That way you are parked within walking distance of all of the sights. Take a look at the parking lots on this page:
April 1, 2014, 07:54 PM
Thanks again, Elena and Lourdes! You guys have provided me with excellent information - very much appreciated.