Renaissance Tuscany 6th – 13th April 2011
Hotel : Hotel Ambrosiano
The hotel is a three star hotel and you get what you expect.
Points to note
* Staff are very friendly and speak very good English
* Prints from the internet and photocopies could be obtained at the hotel
* Breakfast is buffet / continental.
* Evening meals are Italian / five course (Soup, Pasta/Rice, Salad, Meat/Fish, and Dessert)
* It is on the main street so can be noisy at the front of the hotel.
* The shower we had was small. The rooms did not have a safe or a fridge.
* The pool is small and unheated, so it felt cold in April. However it was refreshing after a long day.
Day 1: As on all Ramblers Worldwide holidays we had an introduction to the area. Local shops for water and picnic food are close by, as are Cash Machines. Our local walk included a look at the outside of the local spa houses and a walk through the local park. It was very nice and peaceful. It ended with our first stop at a local ice cream shop.
Day 2: Our first real walk was up to Montecatini Alto, followed by walks in the surrounding countryside and the town, with a walk back down to Montecatini Terme – each part being optional.
The optional part of the walk up to and/or down from Montecatini Alto was via the connecting funicular railway. The walk up is via the stations of the cross and largely follows the route of the funicular. Montecatini Alto is a small town on two rises. Its square has a good selection of bars and restaurants and is where we had both coffee and lunch. The walk in the countryside was lovely with excellent views.
Day 3: Our day visit to Florence. We travelled in by train which was very easy and (usually) on time. I expect many ramblers will have been to Florence already so I’m not going to say anything specific about it. The Uffizi museum was beautiful as a building, even without looking at the pictures.
Day 4: A trip to Pistoia. We again travelled by train. The start of the tour was to the towns’ Fortezza followed by a walk into the town to visit its’ Duomo, Battistero, and some of the towns other sights. The day we went it was market day which added a great deal of life to the town. We got to see the silver altar in the Duomo which was stunning. The main part of the group optionally went on to Prato which they really enjoyed, seeing more churches etc. We went back, by ourselves to ride the Montecatini funicular, having done the walk on the first day.
The square of Montecatini Alto
The Duomo in Pistoia
Day 5: Really our day off, but we all were guided (on our guides “day off”) to Pisa. All of the sights are so close together that it was rather surprising. So many times you see the leaning tower all on its’ own in pictures. A must do here (apart from the tower) is to visit the Battistero. It seems that every half hour the building is closed and someone comes in to hum. It echoes and sounds wonderful, almost like a Gregorian Monks’ chant. In Pisa there is so much to see that you will not see it all.
Pisa – Duomo and Battistero
Day 6: The second “walk” of the week, and really the only day you need a picnic. It starts, via train, with the churches of Pescia. After these the walk is along a hilly Roman road to the town of Collodi. It was an Italian cultural week when we were there so we got into the gardens of Villa Garzoni free. We visited the butterfly house there which was “extra”. All of it was amazing. Some of us walked into Collodi which was like going somewhere where time has stopped. The walk can be circular, but it was a hot day when we went so we did the walk through Collodi and then returned along the track to Pescia.
The gardens of Villa Garzoni
Day 7: Lucca. Our guide described it as “the icing on the cake” and I think we all understood why. The churches were again stunning, each with its own speciality. The streets were fascinating. In the afternoon we walked the city walls, which takes about an hour and a quarter to complete. We did take a break to go to the City Museum. It was an unexpected delight. My wife described it more like a National Trust property than a museum. I think it was this that made her day there.
The Coliseum in Lucca
Overall if you like Italy, art or churches you’ll probably love it. I’m going to be biased as we had fantastic weather all week and an enthusiastic guide who joined in and shared in many of the sights and wonders that we had during the week.
Some museums gave concessions to EU Pensioners. So if you think you may qualify take along, or get a photocopy of your passport.