23 things to do in Lucca, Italy: discovering Tuscany’s walled city

Things to do in Lucca, Italy | PACK THE SUITCASES

If you’re planning a trip to this famous walled Tuscan city, here are 23 of the best things to do in Lucca, Italy, which should give you a good flavour of the place. I spent two nights in Lucca as part of a wider Tuscany trip, and this wee selection of sights, eats and activities is more than enough to pack into a short stay.

Lucca is known as the ‘city of a hundred churches’. I’m not sure whether that’s factually accurate, but there are a lot of them. You’ll enjoy visiting if that’s your thing. But if you’re doing a longer Italian trip and the thought of traipsing round yet another church makes your heart sink (we’ve all been there), fear not. There’s plenty of other things to do in Lucca, not least getting your 10,000 steps a day in walking the extensive medieval walls that encircle the city. There’s also a tower with trees growing on top, with stunning views. Oh and a beautiful yellow piazza in a Roman amphitheatre, where you can sit with a glass of wine and watch the world go by. 

If that sounds up your street, read on for more detail on 23 things to do in Lucca that I personally recommend…

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A guide to things to do on the magical Miyajima island, Japan

Things to do in Miyajima island, Japan | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here’s some of the best things to do on Miyajima island, Japan. Miyajima is one of the most popular places for first-time Japan visitors to head to. The island looks like a floating mountain range and has drawn in travellers with its unusual beauty and serenity for centuries. It’s famous for its picturesque orange shrine gate (Great Torii), which is out in the sea and 100% one of the most Instagrammable spots in Japan! The island is also well loved for its cutest residents: the tame Miyajima deer.

Visiting Miyajima is like arriving in another dimension, where time has slowed down. There are no cities, only small towns with simple houses and rows of tiny shops set against the backdrop of mountains. What’s brilliant about it is that you get the features of rural Japan in a 12-square-mile microcosm: shrines, deer, food, scenery and traditions. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, it’s likely Miyajima is already on your list as a day trip from Hiroshima. You could also treat yourself to staying overnight. But either way, you don’t need masses of time on the island to enjoy it. It’s just important to make the most of a short time there and get the most out of it. As a self-confessed Japan geek, I want you to fall in love with it too.

I hope this list of my personal recommendations of the best things to do on Miyajima will help you plan your time…

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2 days in Florence, Italy: a perfect itinerary

2 days in Florence, Italy | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here’s a quick itinerary for spending 2 days in Florence as a first-time visitor. I’d recommend a longer trip if you want to explore more of the wider Tuscany region, because there’s a wealth of other beautiful places to see like Siena and Lucca. But if you’re focusing just on the city itself, 2 days in Florence is about right to see the main sights and get a feel for the place.

So settle down with a glass of vino (a chianti from Tuscany, preferably) and enjoy picking what you like the look of from this itinerary for getting the most out of 2 days in Florence…

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38 things to do in St Petersburg, Russia

Things to do in St Petersburg, Russia | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here are 38 of my favourite things to do in St Petersburg, Russia. I fell in love with the city and spent a decent amount of time there exploring and getting underneath the surface. It’s a good place to start if it’s your first time in Russia as it’s much more tourist-friendly than the other major cities, and therefore less overwhelming for your first stop before heading on to Moscow or Kazan.

I’ve avoided including anything I didn’t fancy myself and I’ve only focused on the city of St Petersburg itself and a couple of day trips… If I go any further afield, this would turn into a million things to do and no one will have the patience to read it. I’ll be impressed if anyone actually reads all 38 things. But I hope it’s helpful, even if you just pick a few out for a shorter trip. Also note that I went to Moscow just before I came to St Petersburg, if you also want to find out about that (and I slightly preferred it, too – although I loved both).

Anyway, crack open the vodka and read on if you want some tips on things to do in this fairytale Russian city…

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How to do a Siena day trip from Florence, Italy: a perfect one-day itinerary

Siena day trip from Florence: one day itinerary | PACK THE SUITCASES

If you’re planning a Siena day trip from Florence, here’s how I recommend making the most of your time there. Only one day in Siena isn’t really enough, but in reality if you’re doing a trip around Tuscany, you’re probably going to have to limit your time in some places. There’s a lot to see in this charming medieval city, but if you plan ahead you can cram quite a bit in. 

Hop on a train from Florence bound south for Siena, and an hour and a half later (via lovely views) you’ll be there. Siena is the largest of the hill towns that are scattered among the region here, but it’s got its own distinct charm. As well as being famous for the huge Piazza del Campo, its main square, it’s also home to some stunning Gothic architecture, winding medieval streets, and a ridiculous quantity of delicious food and drink.

If you’re exploring the best of Tuscany, a Siena day trip is not to be missed. This is how I recommend doing it…

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2 days in Santorini, Greece: a dreamy itinerary

2 days in Santorini, Greece: the perfect itinerary | PACK THE SUITCASES

If you’re visiting the Greek islands, you may well be planning to spend 1 or 2 days in Santorini. It’s one of the most popular of the islands in the Cyclades, known for its white buildings, blue rooftops and lush pink flowers. Even if it’s not on your bucket list, you’ll instantly recognise it from about eleventy million Instagram photos! It’s one of the most well-known and touristy places I’ve ever visited, which isn’t usually my cup of tea, but I actually really enjoyed it. I mean, just look at it.

There’s plenty to see, do and eat if you’ve got 2 days in Santorini, but if you’re just visiting for 1 day from a neighbouring island while doing some island hopping, you can cram quite a bit into a short visit too. My only word of warning is that it isn’t cheap, so brace yourself and your bank balance. I managed to do it without bankrupting myself, but I planned ahead a lot to do that. If you just wander around and hope for the best, your purse is going to take a hit. Consider yourself warned.

Here’s my lowdown on the island, and an itinerary for how best to spend 2 days in Santorini…

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