Planning A Trip - Florence

I'm currently planning a trip to Italy to celebrate my wife's birthday. This time it is Florence - some say the capital of Tuscany -  our fourth visit to this beautiful city in ten years.

I thought readers might be interested to know a little about the organisation of the trip as we are independent travellers and I have forty years experience of arranging trips to Europe. On this occasion we are going to Florence for five nights, plenty of time to explore this enchanting place, enjoy some good Italian food and wine and relax. Over the years, I have used a range of cheap flight operators to Italy -  from Ryanair, when you could buy a return flight for £1 plus taxes, to Easyjet, Monarch and BMI Baby. It is best to shop around to find the most inexpensive flights and to plan your trip well in advance to get the best flight prices. I prefer to make a saving on the flights and then spend the difference on a good hotel. It is always cheaper to fly midweek to midweek. To get the cheapest flights you may have to sacrifice the convenience of flying from your home airport. In the days of £1 flights, we had to fly from Stansted to benefit from the deal. But on this trip, I found that the best deal, surprisingly, was with British Airways from Heathrow to Pisa at a return price of £56 each.

Why fly to Pisa? - Well, Florence does have its own airport, Amerigo Vespucci, but very few UK operators fly there and hence the flights are expensive. The alternative, is to fly to Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport, and then take the airport bus or the train to Florence. It only takes 60 minutes on the bus and 45 minutes by train. At Pisa airport there is a connecting PisaMover bus every 10 minutes at a cost of 1.30 Euros to the nearby train station from which there are frequent trains to Florence at a cost of  7.90 Euros. I recommend a direct fast train, rather than a local line that stops a number of times between Pisa and Florence's Novella train station. The departures board at Pisa station indicates the stops for each departing train. Remember to stamp you ticket on the platform before boarding the train as the conductor can fine travellers if not.

On this trip, we are planning to take an airport bus directly to Florence. I have booked our tickets on-line with Terravision at a return cost of 5.00 Euros each.  You can also get tickets from inside the arrivals lounge of Pisa airport and from the bus driver. The bus departs from the bus station outside the airport every 30  minutes at peak times and drops passengers at Florence's main train station, Novella, in Piazza della Stazione, from where the bus to the airport returns at the end of your trip.

Dependent upon where in Florence your hotel is situated, you could walk from the train station into town or take a taxi. On our last two visits, we stayed in a central hotel, some 10 minutes walk from the station. Hotel Brunelleschi (below) was close to the Duomo and is housed in  a Byzantime Tower and I would highly recommend it.  On this visit, we are returning to a hotel we stayed at on our first visit to Florence ten years ago - Plaza Hotel Lucchesi. On the banks of the river Arno, it is close to Ponte Vecchio and Santa Croce and within easy walking distance of the Uffizi Gallery.

I always book our hotel on-line directly with the hotel and avoid the use of on-line agencies, which may be a little cheaper but do not normally hold the 'better' rooms in the hotel. They also frequently quote room-only prices, while hotel direct prices provide bed and breakfast. For this trip, Hotel Lucchesi, had lots of three night and four night midweek deals on their website, for both standard and superior rooms. Being a creature of habit, I like to return to hotels that have provided a good service and thereby build up a rapport with them which results in frequent up-grades each time I return.

I hope this has proved useful. I will report back on this trip to Florence.


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