Florence tours and excursions

Florence tours

Bicycle tours

I Bike Italy offers two hour city tours by bike, as well as excursions into Chianti on mountain bikes. Full-day tours (0900-1700) include lunch and a tour of one of the local vineyards. Bookings are taken in English over the telephone and a pick-up point in Florence is arranged.

Telephone: (055) 0123 994.
Bus tours

Most Florence attractions are closely grouped together and easily covered on foot. However, for visitors determined to take a bus tour, CAF Tours operate half- or full-day tours of the main city sites.

Telephone: (055) 283200.
Walking tours

Visitors can arrange a private walking tour or book one of the daily guided tours around Florence's key attractions through Mercurio. Walks include a tour of the Uffizi Gallery, departing from the reservations entrance at 1330 (Tuesday-Saturday); a tour of Pitti Palace and Oltrarno, which starts in front of the Pitti Palace at 1600 on Tuesday and Thursday, and a ‘Michelangelo & Florence’ city tour, which departs from the Ponte Vecchio daily at 1000. The walking tours range from two to three hours and include entry tickets. Commentary is from English-speaking local experts and advance reservations are required.

A number of walking tours are also offered by Artviva. The ‘Original Florence Walk' departs from the company's office, Via Sassetti 1, taking in the highlights of the city with tales from the past. The three hour tour runs daily at 0930.

Telephone: (055) 213 355 ; (055) 264 5033.

Excursions from Florence

Cinque Terre

Once you clap eyes on Cinque Terre, you will never want to leave. Made up of five separate villages each with their own charms and all connected by train, this is one of Italy's gems; it is also a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore steep hills flanked by colourful pastel-coloured homes overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Delight in the views as you tuck into freshly-caught seafood meals. To reach this area, take the train from Florence to La Spezia from where you have to catch another train to Riomaggiore.

Fiesole

The lush olive groves and valleys of Fiesole are situated 8km (5 miles) from Florence, just a short bus ride away (bus 7 from Piazza del Duomo). Formerly an Etruscan settlement founded in the seventh century BC, Fiesole grew under the Romans who left behind a 3,000-seat amphitheatre that is still used for outdoor summer concerts. The Area Archeologica features Roman baths, a Roman temple and an Etruscan temple. In the town, it is difficult for any man-made attraction to compete with the glorious views over Florence. Besides, the Florentines left visitors little choice when they ransacked the town in 1125, leaving only the Cathedral and Bishop's Palace standing. Included in your Area Archeologica ticket is the small Museo Bandini, Via Dupre, which contains some beautiful early Renaissance art.

Telephone: (055) 598 720 or 597 8373.
Pisa

Visit Pisa and its legendary 54m-high (177ft) circular Leaning Tower. Intrepid visitors can hike up to six floors, with open galleries but there are 294 lung-gasping steps to the top. Make sure you leave time to visit the city's oft-ignored other landmarks. These include: Piazza del Duomo or Campo dei Miracoli, one of Europe's greatest groups of Romanesque buildings; the 11th century Duomo, the Botanical Gardens, amongst the oldest in Europe and the former Benedictine convent of San Matteo.

Siena

Located some 50km (31 miles) south of Florence, medieval Siena is often seen as the female counterfoil to Renaissance Florence. At her heart lies the magnificent shell-like piazza, Il Campo, scene of the famous bareback horse race, Il Palio, which whips the town into a frenzy, twice a year. Must-sees include the humbug-striped cathedral, the majestic Palazzo Pubblico (town hall) topped by the soaring Torre del Mangia. Named after the medieval bell-ringer, the tower offers magnificent views. No visit is complete without a wander through Siena's cool, warren-like streets that wind around Il Campo. From Florence, Siena is best reached by bus. No cars are allowed into the city and Siena's train station is on a branch line, requiring a change at Empoli. Coaches depart from the SITA station on Via Santa Caterina, by the main railway station, at least every hour (journey time - 1 hour 15 minutes).

Telephone: (0577) 280 551.
Edited by Tina Banerjee
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