DayTripQuips

DayTripQuips
Enjoy recommended day trips from top destinations around the world ... MY FAVORITE PLACES!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

DayTripQuip: Pensione Bencista - Fiesole From Piazza San Marco By Bus (Florence, Italy)

We have spent quite a bit of time in Florence over the years, most recently staying the month of July in an apartment near Mercato San'Ambrogio (don't miss it) in addition to other trips ranging from a few days to over a month.

The ATAF Bus - Line 7 - travels between Piazza San Marco - Via La Pira and Fiesole - Vinandro Osteria about every 20-30 minutes between 5am and 1am. Bus stop: FM0373 (REDRESS) is on the main road to/from Fiesole and a short 10 minute stroll from Pensione Bencista. You can purchase tickets at any tabaccaio (tobacco shop - look for a dark blue sign with a big "T") and the hotel may have some for sale. The stop going to Florence is across the road close to the top of the big bend and the one going toward Fiesole is up the road (to your right) 100 or so feet.

Piazza San Marco is close to the historical center (centro storico) of Florence, very close to Galleria dell'Accademia where Michelangelo's "David" resides and short walk to the Duomo, central Florence, Palazzo Medici Riccardi and the train station (Santa Maria Novella).

From Santa Maria Novella, you can go pretty much anywhere in Italy or Europe for that matter. Nice, short day trips available via rail are to Prato, Lucca, Pisa, ArezzoSiena and Bologna, all of which leave you close to the city center.

You can read my numerous reviews of Florence restaurants, hotels, museums, and attractions here on TripAdvisor and on my popular blog where there is much more detailed information, including my patented and popular DayTripQuips.

Enjoy Firenze and buon viaggio!

CombatCritic

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Title: DayTripQuip: Pensione Bencista - Fiesole From Piazza San Marco By Bus (Florence, Italy)

Key Words: Fiesole Pensione Bencista, Florence, Firenze, pensione, Bencista, Piazza San Marco, CombatCritic, TravelValue, DayTripQuip, day, trip, quip, travel, value, review, Yelp

Sunday, September 6, 2015

100,000+ Visitors ... That's Our Goal!

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Title: 100,000+ Visitors ... That's Our Goal!

Key Words: views, view, visitors, Blogger, blog, subscribe, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, hotel, destination, review, reviews, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

DayTripQuip™: A Free Bus Tour Of "The Prato You Do Not Expect"

That's Prato
Phone: +39 328 00 21 009
Web: ThatsPrato.com
Prices: € € € € 

Abbey (Badia) of Santa Maria of Montepiano
Across the piazza from Chiesa Santa Maria Novella, a free bus will take from Florence's Santa Maria Novella train station to various itineraries in and around Prato, a town between Florence and Pistoia heading toward Lucca and Pisa. You pay only for the entrance to museums (if applicable) and your lunch.
Monastery of St. Nicholas -Courtyard

The Province of Prato has organized these free weekly tours available on ten consecutive Sundays from May to July, taking four routes/itineraries with both Italian and English Guides:
  • CONTEMPORARY ART AND INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGY
  • WHEN THERE WERE THE ETRUSCANS / ETRUSCAN PAST
  • THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES
  • THE PATH OF PILGRIMS
I emailed That's Prato, asking for a reservation for the Path of the Pilgrims tour which was quickly accommodated with a reply the following day for the next Sunday. When we arrived at the train station on Sunday morning, the group was in front of McDonald's next to Track #1 as promised. We gave them our name, waited until everyone arrived, then made our way to the other end of the station where the bus was waiting.
Monastery of St. Nicholas - Fresco
In a modern tour bus with air conditioning and comfortable seats, we were quickly on our way to Prato, a historic city (comune) and one of Italy's newest provinces (Provincia di Prato), established in 1992 from the Province of Florence. There were about 30 tourists on the bus for The Pilgrim's Walk tour, mostly Italians and, oddly enough, from the Florence area no less.
"THE PILGRIM'S WALK:
The Prato area has a long history associated with monasteries and holy places as well as Marian devotion, Which dates to the Early Middle Ages. This tour retraces some of the stops made ​​by pilgrims as they journeyed through the Apennines."
Our first stop was the Dominican Monastery of St. Nicholas (admission € 5) in the city of Prato. Established in the 13th Century, the monastery has beautifully decorated chapels, a pharmacy, dining hall, and many other rooms with fabulous frescoes and antique furniture. One of the resident nuns accompanied us on the tour, providing details of the history and tales of the ancient building.
Small Lake - Montepiano
We then took a route through the city streets and squares of the old town, then up the winding mountain road to the top of the mountain for lunch in Montepiano, a small town in the Bisenzio Valley. After a reasonably priced (€10) two course lunch on the small lake, we hiked up the hill to Abbey (Badia) of Santa Maria of Montepiano, a small church also from the 13th Century with a fresco of Saint Christopher which sits on what used to be the main road from Florence to Bologna for hundreds of years.
Fresco of St. Christopher - Santa Maria of Montepiano
We then made our way down the mountain to Vaiano and the Abbey of San Salvatore with its small, but very interesting museum. This quaint complex dates back to the 11th Century and has a serene courtyard with fountain and bell tower, halls with ancient frescoes, and a museum with historic artifacts, the abbey's original kitchen, a small chapel, and trap door that leads to a 1,000 year-old lavatory. 
Abbey of San Salvatore - Paiano
Our bus driver then took us on the 40-minute ride back to Florence by the appointed hour of 6pm as promised, leaving us at the Santa Maria Novella train station where we had started our journey.
Kitchen (Fireplace) - Abbey of San Salvatore
That's Prato recently added free tours on eight consecutive Sundays in September and October with the following itineraries:
  • ART AT THE TABLE IN THE RENAISSANCE / ART AND FOOD IN THE RENAISSANCE
  • THE PATH OF PILGRIMS / THE PILGRIM'S WALK
  • THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES
A trip by train to Arezzo or Siena, for example, will cost you €16 per person for train tickets alone, so for just €15 including lunch and museum entry (both optional), you will not find a better value when visiting Florence in terms of day trips.

You can email thatsprato@po.camcom.it, visit their website: http://thatsprato.com/, or call them at +39 328 00 21 009 to request your spot on the tour.

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Title: DayTripQuip™: A Free Bus Tour Of "The Prato You Do Not Expect"

Key Words: Prato, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, train, Santa Maria Novella, Montepiano, Vaiano, abbey, monastery, fresco, church, antique, travel, value, Firenze, Florence, Italy, free

Monday, July 20, 2015

DayTripQuip™ - Beautiful And Historic Siena From Florence By Train Or Bus


Piazza del Campo
DayTripQuip™: Take the train (Regionale: 1 hour 28 minutes - €8.80/person each way) from Santa Maria Novella Station to Siena. Trains leave throughout the day from S.M. Novella at 10 minutes after the hour. Another option is the bus (Corse Rapido: 1 hour 15 minutes - bus station is just south of the train station - bus schedules below - €7.60/person each way) which is a little faster than the train, cheaper, and leaves you closer to the center of Siena. The Siena train station is a little over a mile and a 25 minute walk to the historical center of Siena where you will want to go. The Siena bus station is very close to the center (centro storico) and its fabulous piazza, ancient churches, beautiful cathedral, and historic buildings. Siena has restaurants, cafes, bars, and shopping galore if you would like a break from the frenzy of Florence for a few hours.

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 Bus Schedule




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Title: DayTripQuip™ - Beautiful And Historic Siena From Florence By Train Or Bus


Key Words: Siena, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, train, piazza, Piazza del Campo, campo, duomo, cathedral, fresco, church, antique, antiques, travel, value, Firenze, Florence

Monday, July 6, 2015

DayTripQuip™: Ancient Arezzo ... An Antique Aficionado's Allure

DayTripQuip™: Take the train (Regionale Veloce: 1 hour 10 minutes - €8.10/person each way) from Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence. The train station is in the center of Arezzo and just three blocks from the historical center (centro storico), a Roman amphitheater, ancient churches with famous frescoes, a beautiful cathedral containing the mummy of a pope, and a fabulous piazza. Restaurants, antique stores, and shops abound, providing a quaint respite from the crowds of Florence for a few hours at least.
Piazza Grande

Roman Amphitheater

Chiesa San Francesco

Chiesa San Domenico 
Duomo San Donato

Pope Gregory X

Fresco of Maria Maddalena - Piero della Francesca
 


Piazza Grande - Benigni's "La Vita e Bella" Was Filmed Here



Title: DayTripQuip™: Ancient Arezzo ... An Antique Aficionado's Allure

Key Words: Arezzo, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, train, Benigni, La Vita e Bella, vita, bella, film, movie, duomo, cathedral, fresco, church, antique, antiques, travel, value, 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

DayTripQuip™: Napoli to Ascea and Zona Archeologica di Velia (Scavi di Velia)


DayTripQuip: If you plan on visiting Naples, Italy (Napoli) there are an abundance of day trips available including Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, the islands of Capri and Ischia, Pozzuoli, Mount Vesuvius, or less than two hours by train south, the seaside town of Marina di Ascea. Spend the day at the pristine beaches with soft sand and award winning "clean" water or hop on a bus and visit Zona Archeologica di Velia (read full review by clicking this link), just ten minutes north of town. Entry to the site is just €3 ($3.40) where you can see well preserved and maintained Greek, Roman, and medieval ruins all in one place!










Title: DayTripQuip™: Napoli to Ascea and Zona Archeologica di Velia (Scavi di Velia)

Key Words: DayTripQuip, day, trip, quip, Napoli, Ascea, Zona Archeologica, Velia, Scavi di Velia, scavi, ruins, Roman, Greek, medieval, mosaic, fresco, villa, bath, travel, value

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra ... The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Day Trip

If you want to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, make a day trip out of it rather than staying overnight in Agra. Agra has few redeeming qualities other than these two extremely impressive landmarks in my opinion and spending even one night should be avoided. Let's face it ... Agra is a pit!

There are bus tours available or you can take a train from the main New Delhi station if on a budget, but I would not recommend the train unless you have confirmed reservations both coming and going. If planning a visit to Varanasi by bus, car, or train, another option is to visit Agra on the way as it lies between New Delhi and India's holiest city. However, by the time you pay for two or more bus tour tickets, you could hire a private cab to take you to Agra, leaving New Delhi at 9AM, visiting both Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, stopping for lunch and some shopping, and returning to New Delhi by 9PM.

Agra Fort Exterior
My wife and I hired a taxi for the day at our hotel near the New Delhi train station, charging us 7,500 rupees ($120.00) for the itinerary described earlier. We left around 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, a good day to go to as traffic is quite a bit lighter in New Delhi on a Sunday morning. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get to Agra Fort, including a pit stop, traveling on the toll road, which costs a little more than the toll-free route, but shaved an additional two hours off the journey ... each way!

A foggy morning, we decided to visit Agra Fort first to let the clouds burn off a bit before we headed over to the nearby Taj Mahal. We picked up our "complimentary tour guide" who briefed us on safety/security details upon arrival where "hawkers" and "pickpockets" reportedly would be waiting for us when we exited the taxi. The hawkers were no worse than any other tourist attraction in India and pickpockets are not a problem as long as you use a little common sense and pay attention to your surroundings.

Agra Fort is beautiful, impressive, and crowded. Entry was 350 rupees ($5.70 each) and we spent about an hour walking through the grounds, snapping photos, and learning about its history from our guide. We may have very well missed something as we found out later that our guide was cutting corners and not totally truthful in order to move us along so we had time to go shopping at a marble factory he was "touting" ("receiving kickback from", a common practice among taxi drivers and tour guides throughout India and elsewhere).

The Taj Mahal is open every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset, not "6am to 7pm" as advertised by About Travel's "India Travel Expert" in her Taj Mahal Travel Guide: What to Know Before You GoThere are three gates, but we entered through the East Gate (described as the "VIP gate" by our guide), paying 750 rupees ($12.15) each for entry, jumping on a tram for the short ride to the entrance. The lines were short both to buy tickets and enter the grounds, so this may very well be the best available option.


Once inside, there is a large courtyard to traverse before entering through the "Royal Gate", an ornate red sandstone arch where the enormous Taj Mahal looms in the background as you enter. Having seen countless photos and heard numerous stories about the Taj Mahal for many years, I was very interested in visiting, but until I actually saw it in person, I had no idea how impressive it actually is.

The long, narrow reflecting pond is cut in half by a raised terrace where "Princess Diana's Bench" or "Lady Di's Chair" is located, the location of a famous photo taken of the princess during a visit to the Taj Mahal in 1992. We were told, as were many other tourists apparently, that the bench closest to the "Royal Gate" (on the opposite side of the terrace from the Taj Mahal) was where the photo was actually taken. But I assumed it was actually the other bench (closest to the tomb and, oddly enough, ignored by most tourists even though it offers a much better photo opportunity) where it was taken, a hunch that was confirmed the next day when I checked the internet for the photo.

There is a small museum (free) on the West side of the grounds halfway between the Royal Gate and Taj Mahal that is well worth a visit. I knew it was there and as our guide tried to steer us toward the tomb I asked if we could visit, but he said "it's closed for renovations". I could see that people were entering and leaving the building, so I insisted on going over to check. "Oh, they must be letting a small number of people in, you are very lucky" he exclaimed as we walked up to the doorway. The museum has four small rooms with artifacts from the site and other interesting exhibits, so take 30 minutes and visit.

You can read about the Taj Mahal in many places, so I will not elaborate here. I will say that it is absolutely breathtaking and a MUST SEE in your lifetime, this coming from someone who has traveled to 51 countries and having seen many of the most beautiful and famous attractions in the World. Even though the tour guide lied to me about the museum, normally a deal breaker, he took 4+ hours out of his day to show us around Agra, so I gave him a 500 rupee tip ($8.20 - he probably would have gotten 1,000 rupees if he had not lied), a small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.

CombatCritic Gives The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort 10 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!





Title: DayTripQuip: New Delhi to Agra ... The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort


Key Words: Agra, New Delhi, new, delhi, Taj Mahal, taj, mahal, fort, taxi, bus, train, travel, tour, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, CombatCritic, value