Whilst Bagni di Lucca is an excellent centre to visit such places as Lucca, the Versilia coastline and the Apuan and Apennine ranges, both by public and private transport, when it comes to places such as Florence, Bologna and even Siena travel times can seem rather longer than originally estimated.
Yesterday we visited Florence and had a decision to make as to whether to reach it by car, train or bus.
It’s clearly possible to reach Florence by car quite quickly using either the toll-paying autostrada Del Mare or cutting across to the Fi-Pi-Li freeway but once you reach Florence the problems of traffic and parking start. Our solution is to put the car at Scandicci, just outside the city, which has plenty of space and take the excellent new tramway which deposits one near Porta Del Prato in the centre of town in a quarter of an hour.
There is a bus solution from Bagni di Lucca to Florence but we’ve never found the timetable reliable and, besides, after the recent accident of an inter-city bus plunging into a gorge in central Italy through brake failure with all on board wiped out, we feel that buses have a higher accident rate than our favourite means of transport in this country which is the train.
Trains obviously take different routes from both cars and buses and remain relatively cheap compared to the rest of Europe. The only problems about using the train to get to Florence from Bagni di Lucca are two:
- One must always change at Lucca (or even Pisa) and perhaps wait some time for the connecting train (“coincidenza”)
- The Lucca-Florence line is a truly meandering one describing large loops round Montecarlo, for example, and stopping more or less at every station on line. There is not a single train that does the Lucca-Florence stretch without at least five stops.
Having warned you about that, if one takes a good book or a good headset or a good companion and a fine day, the journey will always be a pleasant one, and once you’ve arrived at Florence station, the city bus services remain excellent, with times of approaching buses clearly signed on each stop.
Some people say that they prefer to travel by car to Pescia, which has the advantage of more car-parking space than Lucca station and also cuts the overall train journey time by one hour, but it can take an hour just to reach Pescia!
These were the trains we took yesterday (week-day) to reach Florence from Bagni di Lucca:
Bagni di Lucca 7.45 (a.m.). Arrival at Lucca 8.11. Capuccino in station bar. Departure Lucca 8.31 Arrival Florence 9.50. Total journey time 2.05 hours. Price Euros 9.
For the return journey the last possible trains to catch are the following:
Florence 20.10. Arrival Lucca 21.29. Departure Lucca 21.48. Arrival Bagni di Lucca 22.12
(The Puccini pictures recently installed in Lucca station’s waiting rooms)
That leaves one with a good ten hours in Florence which I feel is enough for one day’s energy spent on sightseeing, shopping and walking around.
What did we see in Florence yesterday? In point of fact nothing in Florence itself. We decided to spend most of our time in and around the ancient hill-top town of Etruscan origins overlooking Florence, Fiesole, which is easily reachable by no. 7 bus.
It was great to have the place practically to ourselves with sunny but fresh weather. Where were the tourists, I wondered?
Among the places we visited were the Etruscan and Roman remains which include a still-working theatre, a temple and baths, all beautifuly adorned with May flowers:
the archaeological museum with a particularly interesting exhibition not just on the Romans with some delightful pottery featuring animals:
but also on the Longobards, of whose presence here after the Romans, about forty tombs have been found in the 1980’s, several of which have been reconstructed in the museum,
the lovely walk past Fiesole cemetery to the old friary at the top of the hill dominating Fiesole with its delighful cloisters, monkish cells, beautiful paintings in the church
and its interesting, mainly far-eastern, ethnographic museum.
Ice-creams followed and we caught the same number 7 bus back to the station.
We didn’t want to reach Bagni di Lucca in the dark so we took an earlier train which missed the Lucca to Bagni di Lucca connection. But if you have to wait for an hour in Lucca what better place to delay in and there was a particularly good bar with hors-d’oevres just round the corner!