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What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

New York
Level Contributor
92 posts
101 reviews
What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!


I am planning a 2014 trip to Italy and am in the very preliminary phases. We will be traveling with my 8 year old son and 15 year old daughter. We're thinking 10-14 days as we want to see as much as we can but need to be cognizant of work schedules. We just did a 10 day London/France trip that went incredibly smooth so I'm hoping I can plan a similar Italy trip.

I'm thinking of flying to Rome. Staying there for 3 days and then taking the train to Florence and staying there 2 days. From there, I want to rent a car and drive to a Villa where we can spend 5-7 days exploring Tuscany and potentially the Italian Riviera or Cinque Terre area. Not really sure but think that the kids may like the coast and the slower pace of Tuscany after exploring 2 cities.

I was really set on staying in Siena as I've heard great things but in looking at the maps, it looks like the best place to stay is in and around Lucca because it's within driving distance to Sienna but also within driving distance to the Italian Riviera towns. Also want to see Pisa just because I need to see the tower :)

What do you think? Is Lucca a good base or should I look in the Siena area because it will be nicer?

Is Cinque Terre even worth seeing? Or should I just spend the remaining 5 days exploring the Tuscan hill towns?

Finally, if we end up staying in a hill town, is it better to stay in the town itself (and forget about a pool) and worry about parking or stay in a country villa where we will have to drive to the different hill towns but will have a pool? We are going in June/July.

To be honest, a pool is not necessary as we have other vacations planned that are all about pool/beach but thought that having a pool and visiting a beach town might break up some of the heavy sightseeing we plan to do in the bigger cities.

Any insight will be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help!

Gourock, United...
Level Contributor
396 posts
41 reviews
1. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

My daughter is 11 and wouldn't take her on holiday at that time of year without a pool as its not much fun for anyone when anybody is too hot and grumpy. We stayed at lovely apartments in Lucca not far from town and supermarket that had a fantastlc pool. I've reviewed it on here if you're interested. Nice quiet area and great host. There was parking available though we didn't use it as we prefer not to drive on holiday. If you have a car there is lots of places to go or you could always just walk or take the train like us. We went by train to Florence this year, previous years we have went to Cinque terre afterward for a few days too which was also nice.There is also a bus station in Lucca which has services going up to Barga which is quite a pleasant journey.

Level Contributor
12,823 posts
56 reviews
2. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

hi there: my first impulse regarding where to have a home base w/ 2 kids is beautiful LUCCA. It is easy and relaxed and has a great wall around the town for bicycles and just meadering in the late afternoon. It's a fabulous Italian city with good food, beautiful cathedrals, bookstores, music. You will have come from Florence, so Lucca would be a welcome relief from the crowds in Firenze. I happen to love both Lucca and Siena; they are very different towns. Siena is an incredible medieval place but Lucca may be better with kids.

You are going June/July? There will be huge tourist crowds in the major cities. We went in Sept/Oct 2011 and could barely walk down the streets in Florence. Here was our itinerary for 17 days on the ground: Florence (fly in-4 nights), Lucca (3 nights), Cinque Terre (4 nights), Siena (3 nights), Florence (3 nights-fly home). We took trains & buses exclusively. You only have 10-14 days...you need to include your 'travel days' by car/train/bus in with that timeframe. If I could have changed anything it would have been the long time out at the Cinque Terra....3 days/2 nights would have been better. It was extremely crowded and the saving grace was taking day-long ferry rides and trains up the coast and out to Pisa. You ask if the Cinque Terra is "even worth seeing".... no one can answer that for you. I suggest reading some travel books now while you in the early planning stages. Personally, I would not want to drive for days around Tuscany unless I had a month or more to explore Italy. With only 10-14 days, I would have as my mantra "see less, do more". Have a wonderful trip!

Level Contributor
265 posts
2 reviews
3. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

Hi Jy

The Lucca area is perfect for your sea side, Cinque Terre,Tuscan Riviera,Pisa visits. The motorway connects also quickly with east and south east (Siena) visits.

Try looking at actually flying into either Pisa Airport(only 30 minutes) from Lucca and possibly Florence Airport(45 minutes from Lucca).You'll have save time and money by flying closer to your final destination.

You will no doubt read of how brilliant Lucca is and how its giving Siena a run for its money. It has got busier this year so here's some more advice to make your stay in the area better.

To maximise your budget and be in a cooler more relaxing place try looking at an area 25 minutes north east of Lucca above and around the roman spa town of Bagni di Lucca. No need to look further up the valley to Garfagnana and Barga since you'll only be doubling your time and petrol costs.

You can pick up a villa with a private pool and wi fi for around 1,499 euros or 1,999 us dollars in this area. Try getting that around the Siena area. Also bare in mind that Florence and Siena often rage between 30% to 35% more expensive than Lucca and if your a little further out these difference increase further.

I personally will always go for a place with a private pool. Grumpy kids = a grumpy holiday and I would nip things in the bud by having that option there for use.

Finally remember, Villa properties in Summer only rent out only by the week and have a manditory Saturday arrival and departure.



New York
Level Contributor
92 posts
101 reviews
4. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

Thank you all for your great advice! This is why I love the tripadvisor forums.

It looks like I will be looking into a place near Lucca with a pool!

Doaknic - will look for your review as I almost always book places based on feedback from others.

Chester - I didn't even take into account travel time. I will read up more on the Cinque Terre area to see if we want to take a trip there. It may be one of those "let's see how we feel when we get there" things!

John - good idea about flying out/in from Florence or Pisa. I didn't even think to do that. Great insight on where to look and how to maximize budget - so helpful. BTW, we just came back from London - the whole family LOVED it and we had a lot of fun. Great city!

Thank you all again.

Alexandria, VA USA
Level Contributor
616 posts
77 reviews
5. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

A bit of advice when looking at villas: be sure to inquire about about they cool the villa during summer months. We stayed in a gorgeous villa a few weeks ago, but to keep it cool, we had to close it up entirely by 9 a.m. to keep the sun out (and by entirely I mean every window and heavy wood shutter), and had to keep it closed in the evening if we were in rooms with the lights on due to mosquitos. If I had to do it over again, I'd look for a place that was a bit more modern. Okay, if I REALLY had to do it over again, I wouldn't go to Italy in July. :) My prior trips were spring and fall and much more enjoyable.

Gourock, United...
Level Contributor
396 posts
41 reviews
6. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

Our place, though an apartment and not complete villa had full air-conditioning throughout. I agree that during the summer months this is very important for everyones comfort. Certainly nowhere near the expensive prices quoted for "villas" nearby...

Edited: 24 July 2013, 04:31
north carolina
Level Contributor
6,617 posts
154 reviews
7. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

In either Siena or Lucca parking will be a problem if you want to be close to the historic center, but if you get into town without a car, then Lucca makes it much quicker, easier to walk to bus or train stations for day trips.

If you decide to take a car and keep it, then it probably makes better sense to stay out from the historic center, and then either town should be great. At any rate, you should check on parking, bus access, train access wherever you decide to stay.

Baltimore, Maryland
Level Contributor
6 posts
2 reviews
8. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

I know I'm a little late and you probably have your trip planned out. From my experience you should rent a villa outside the wall of Lucca with a private pool. We did that last year July'13 and returning on July'14. We rented a large villa with other families with 5 kids and 8 adults total. Last year we only stayed 1 week, Sat-sat. and 4 days in Rome. However, no discussion the highlights of all trip for the kids was the villa, the pool and the afternoon gelato and biking on the Lucca walls. Last year we had a lot of plans to see and do.....the result after we got to the villa.....no one was willing to leave that place since everything was so peaceful and relaxing. We usually had most of the meals in the villa sticking with Italian basic local salumi (cold cuts) pasta and sipping vino in good company. Most probably you'll need a car for day trips or running errands, however, if you stay within the city limit could do without a car relying in public transportation. If you flying from the states, Bologna is an alternative since is a major hub about 1.5 hrs from Lucca and a little cheaper most of the times. This July we are staying 2 week and planning to include few day trips, Cinque Terre, Portofino, Florence, Pisa a day or two on the beach .....hopefully Venice and Siena, both of them a little further for a day trip. If it was up to me, I'll stay in Lucca and visit different small local paesini (villages) and enjoy the Italian slow food aperitivo culture and the dolce vita ......however that's boring for my daughter-:))))). if you need more information you can email me.

9. Re: What town should I use as a base? Siena? Lucca? 2 kids!

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