A couple want to book a spring break to Lucca to get a bit of warmth and some good Italian food.

They would like to travel in April or May and want a four-night break, ideally departing from Bristol airport. The budget is £700 for two.

For more on Lucca see this week’s feature on new city break options.

  • The target: Stroud and surrounding area
  • Wanted: A city break in Lucca

First Choice, 41 King Street, StroudFirst Choice

41 King Street, Stroud

I enquired by phone first, and a consultant called back with a quote of £675 flying from Gatwick to Pisa for four days, staying at the three-star Hotel Universo.

When I visited the agency, the window displays looked disjointed and the special offers weren’t very clear. Two staff were in the shop and one was eating her lunch at her desk. I spoke to the same consultant who had dealt with my phone enquiry, but she didn’t remember any of my criteria or have any notes from the previous day to hand.

She searched for a holiday on Citalia’s website, but it didn’t bear any resemblance to the one quoted on the phone. She managed to get a price of £634 for a three night break at Hotel Universo, flying from Bristol, but she didn’t find a four night break as requested.

I noted Thomas Cook had a large stock of Citalia 2010 brochures, but First Choice said they hadn’t received any brochures relating to Italy city breaks.

Thomas Cook, 6 High Street, StroudThomas Cook

6 High Street, Stroud

After three phone calls with a consultant, the final phone quote was a three night stay, flying easyJet and staying at the San Marco hotel for £697.

On visiting the shop, I noticed the carpet needed a vacuum. The consultant was friendly and really listened to what I was asking for. She knew her product well, but was hampered because she couldn’t check easyJet’s own website on the Thomas Cook computer system. She had to manually put in outward and return dates and wait for the computer to tell her if flights were available on those days.

She didn’t offer me the San Marco option that her colleague had suggested over the phone. The final quote was with Citalia for three nights at the Hotel Universo, including train transfer from Pisa airport to Lucca. The price was £645.

I was disappointed she couldn’t find flights from my local airport and didn’t offer car hire, as the train cost was £60 for two.

Midcounties Co-op, 26 High Street, StonehouseMidcounties Co-op

26 High Street, Stonehouse

The quote initially given over the phone was £1,909 staying at the San Lucca Palace, flying from Heathrow. When I visited the shop, the consultant remembered me straight away. She was very enthusiastic and went on Gazetteers.com to find operators who offered Lucca.

She dismissed some for only offering villas, and went to Cresta to get a quote for the San Lucca Palace hotel with flights from Gatwick to Pisa with easyJet, costing £965. She was very enthusiastic and was determined to find me the best option.

Unfortunately she failed to see the page with the Hotel Universo on it when she looked in the Citalia brochure, but she phoned me back the same day with the option of four nights at the four-star San Lucca Palace, flying from Bristol to Pisa, costing £667 without train transfers (although she found out prices and train times too).

She had found a four night break flying from Bristol, which the previous two agents hadn’t managed to do.

Miles Morgan Travel, George Street, NailsworthMiles Morgan Travel

George Street, Nailsworth

I called twice and each time had a rushed conversation as the consultants were busy. On the second call, my request details were taken and the consultant said she would email me some information, but I didn’t receive it.

When I went into the shop I wasn’t acknowledged, so went to a free desk. I explained about the call and the email, but the consultant didn’t apologise, saying the person who dealt with me was on a day off.

However, the consultant who dealt with me in the shop was enthusiastic and friendly and actually knew Lucca. She searched Gazetteers.com and called up Citalia and Kuoni, alternating between the two and firmly saying she wanted to get me the best deal.

She was also able to find me a four night break flying easyJet from Bristol, staying at Hotel Universo and costing £651. She also gave me additional prices for Kuoni and Kirker.

Tips: Selling Lucca

  1. Lucca is a classic Tuscan historic town, circled by Roman walls. There are several impressive piazzas, including Piazza San Michele with its white limestone medieval church. 
  2. The nearest airport to Lucca is Pisa, which is 18 miles away. You can either get a direct bus, a train or a taxi costs about EUR50.
  3. It would suit discerning customers looking to for something more off the beaten track than Florence or Rome. Nightlife is low-key, with a handful of upmarket restaurants and plenty of local cafes.
  4. Some UK operators offer a villa option in the surrounding countryside.
  5. For more information on tour operators to Italy, visit Gazetteers.com