Once you’ve spent a few days in Florence exploring all there is to explore, it’s best to allow some extra time in your itinerary to take several day trips in the area. Some of the best places to visit in Italy are just around Florence, making it a perfect base from which to travel. Within only a few hours, you can not only visit other major Italian cities, but remote hillside towns and Italy’s spectacular coastline as well. Thanks to ample public transport and great-value tours, you have a myriad of options for how to go on the best day trips from Florence. So here are the day trips that are sure to make your Italy trip a great one.
Famed for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this small city out near the Tuscan coast may surprise visitors with how much it has to offer. While you’ll certainly want “that photo” with the tower, there are actually many other fantastic attractions nearby. Right next door to the tower, you’ll find the gleaming white dome that is the Baptistery as well as the equally remarkable Pisa Cathedral. You’ll want to take advantage of the chance to visit inside this marble cathedral with their reserved entrance pass. Over in Pisa’s historic center, you’ll see exquisite Renaissance palaces, particularly around Piazza dei Cavalieri. You can also revisit the Arno River there, although the riverfront looks quite different to that in Florence. Lastly, don’t miss the gardens set amongst the remains of the Fortezza di Pisa over the river.
Getting there: Trains run from Florence to Pisa quite frequently, and the journey takes just about an hour. As the drive may be longer than by train and means you’ll need to find parking, an easier approach would be joining a relaxed half-day or full-day tour from Florence.
For a stunning Tuscan city, you need look no further than the hilltop city of Siena which has a UNESCO heritage-listed Old Town full of medieval character. The Piazza del Campo is a great place to start off your day in Siena. This saucer-shaped square is the home to Siena’s classic Palio di Siena horse race, as well as striking buildings like the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia. Elsewhere in the city you’ll come across plenty of historic brick buildings and palaces, the Salimbeni Palace being one of them. Of course, you’ll need to visit the Siena Duomo with its beautiful striped design, and the entire Piazza del Duomo which has much to see.
Getting there: Hourly direct trains run from Florence to Siena and take around 1.5 hours. You may find a quicker option is to go by bus with both the direct 131R and regional 131O buses running around every hour. The drive by car on the other hand is only an hour, but the best way to see Siena is on this full day tour from Florence. On this tour you’ll not only get to visit Siena but also the beautiful town of San Gimignano and the Chianti wine region.
Certainly, there are plenty of fantastic things to see in Italy outside of Florence and Tuscany, but Bologna has to be one of the best. With its own great history, Bologna has long been an important Italian city. It’s best to start your visit in Piazza Maggiore, the large central square where the evocative Fountain of Neptune and impressive Palazzo Re Enzo both sit. A tour of Bologna should include a wander down Via Rizzoli with its portico arcades that help define the look of the city. Nearby there’s the beautiful Palazzo della Mercanzia and the beloved Two Towers, tall medieval towers which are symbols of Bologna. Bologna is home to Archiginnasio of Bologna, the world’s oldest Western university, so don’t forget to head over and see some of the university’s historic buildings.
Getting there: Bologna is probably the easiest of the many easy train trips from Florence, with frequent high-speed intercity trains taking only 35 minutes.
4. Cinque Terre
Not all Florence day trips need necessarily be to other cities, as is the case with Cinque Terre, one of the best places to visit from Florence. A national park on Italy’s Ligurian coast, Cinque Terre boasts a gorgeous stretch of dramatic coastline home to the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Tours to Cinque Terre will have you hopping from one seaside village to the next, admiring the colorful houses and scenic harbors. With hiking trails linking each of the villages and often providing the best views, you can easily spend your day here stretching your legs. For a quieter time, there are several great beaches that suit both swimming and sunbathing. To further plan your visit, consult our guide to Cinque Terre.
Getting there: As a day trip, the best way to see all of Cinque Terre is on a guided tour from Florence. Cinque Terre can be a long day trip and challenging to plan and organize on your own, and a tour just lets you enjoy the experience without the hassle. However, to get there on your own, first get a train to La Spezia where you’ll switch to the local train that stops at each of the five villages.
Just a short trip from Florence lies the atmospheric and wonderfully preserved historic city of Lucca. Surrounded on all sides by high city walls, Lucca has been untouched by the ravages of time. On arrival, start with the San Martino Cathedral, explore the cathedral interior and climb its belfry for wonderful city views. Lucca is a sea of towers, so you can also climb the Torre Guinigi and Torre delle Ore to see more of the cityscape. Down at street level, you can step into the rounded Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, with houses where a Roman theater once stood. In the heart of the city, the Piazza San Michele is one of Lucca’s most attractive spots thanks to landmarks like the Praetorian Palace and Chiesa di San Michele in Foro. For more things to do here, be sure to take a look at our Lucca itinerary.
Getting there: Simply hop on one of the hourly trains or buses from Florence to reach Lucca in around 1.5 hours. For an easier time sightseeing around the city, consider joining a tour to Lucca instead. This particular tour comes highly recommended as it not only stops in Lucca but also Pisa. Perfect for people who only have limited time in Florence.
6. San Gimignano
Many day tours from Florence are designed to take you out and show you towns in the Tuscan countryside. One of the most popular of these towns is San Gimignano, famous for its skyline of medieval towers. Within the small walled town and UNESCO world heritage site, you’ll have no problem walking around starting from the Piazza del Duomo. The hub of town life in San Gimignano, this piazza is where you can see both the Duomo and the Town Hall. It’s also where you can go to climb the Torre Grosso and see the town from above, not to mention all the olive groves and vineyards that surround the town. In fact, this and neighboring squares are where you’ll find many of the town’s 14 surviving towers poking out from medieval and Renaissance palaces like Palazzo Vecchio del Podestà.
Getting there: Your best choices for visiting San Gimignano are either to join one of the many guided tours there or simply to do the 50 minute drive from Florence yourself. Otherwise, it’s 2 hours on the bus, switching in the town of Poggibonsi. If you don’t want to drive yourself, consider joining this full day tour from Florence. On this tour you’ll not only stop in San Gimignano but also in beautiful Siena and in Chianti for some wine tasting.
For many people, when they picture Tuscany it is an image of row after row of grapevines amongst rolling hills. That view is what you can expect in Montepulciano, a picturesque hilltop town in southern Tuscany. On a visit to Montepulciano, both your eyes and taste buds are in for a treat as the town is known for both its medieval buildings as well as its famous wines. As for sightseeing, you’ve got the Piazza Grande where both the town’s Renaissance Cathedral and Town Hall are found. After wandering the secret backstreets of this labyrinth town, it’s time for some wine tasting. The town is known for its noble reds, which you can experience down in some of Montepulciano’s oldest wine cellars.
Getting there: Getting to Montepulciano is best done with a 1 hour 15 minute drive as public transport is a little awkward and takes over 3 hours. Otherwise, you can join a guided tour from Florence.
Over in the region of Umbria, the underrated city of Perugia makes for quite the day trip. Perched across rolling hills and with imposing fortifying walls, Perugia comes across as both impressive and inaccessible. And yet, it’s a great place for tourists with its many historic sights and delicious porchetta sandwiches. Starting along the Corso Pietro Vannucci in the historic center, you can wander down to the Piazza IV Novembre where you’ll see incredible buildings like the Palazzo dei Priori and the Perugia Cathedral of San Lorenzo. For the best views over parts of Perugia and the Umbrian countryside, your best bet is the terrace at Porta Sole. Down below, you have the enormous and ancient Etruscan Gate at one end of town and at the other the subterranean markets inside the Rocca Paolina Fortress.
Getting there: Trains from Florence to Perugia run every 2 hours with the journey taking just over 2 hours.
People rightly associate Florence with the Renaissance, but it’s far from the only city in Italy with impressive Renaissance landmarks. Just take the small walled city of Ferrara, home to plenty of attractions despite its low-key nature. In Ferrara, there’s no sense starting anywhere but Este Castle, this large castle and moat dominate the city center. From there you’re best to head down to the several joined squares that run around the refined Cathedral of Ferrara with its Romanesque architecture. Ferrara is no stranger to converted palaces like the marble-encrusted Palazzo dei Diamanti home to the National Picture Gallery. To delve into the city’s long history dating back to the Etruscans, head for the National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara.
Getting there: Even faster than driving, the best way to reach Ferrara from Florence is by train. Aboard one of the regular high-speed trains, you’ll make the journey in just over an hour.
10. Pienza and Val D’Orcia
Some destinations are not only great in their own right, but also allow you to experience the region they’re in. For that kind of pairing, it’s hard to beat the town of Pienza and the Val D’Orcia region. Often referred to as the “Ideal City”, Pienza earned UNESCO world heritage status thanks to all of its 15th century buildings, from the Cathedral and palaces around Piazza Pio II, to Palazzo Piccolomini, once home to Pope Pius II. Other than its history, the big draw of Pienza is its views out over the sublime Val D’Orcia countryside. Besides its moving scenery, Val D’Orcia is protected as a national park and is important culturally for its celebrated wines and cheeses. No surprise then that tours to Pienza and Val D’Orcia revolve around the region’s wine and food.
Getting there: Traveling by car or on a guided tour are the only options which are going to give you the chance to fully explore the Val D’Orcia. Driving from Florence should take around 1 hour 20 minutes, while the bus journey would take 3 hours.
And that sums up the best side trips from Florence. Now the difficult part is deciding which one to do first!