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 for several day trips in the area. Some of the best places to visit in Italy are just around Florence, making it a perfect base. Within a few hours, you can visit not only 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 various options to go on the best day trips from Florence. Here are the day trips that are sure to make your Italy trip a great one.
How to Get Around
Although you can make many of these day trips with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. With your own four wheels, you control your time and schedule. Depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the lowest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies, helping you find the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries! We’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
Famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this small city near the Tuscan coast may surprise you with how much it has to offer. While you’ll certainly want that photo with the tower, there are other fantastic attractions nearby. Right next to the tower, you’ll find the gleaming white dome that is the Pisa Baptistery of St. John and the equally remarkable Pisa Cathedral. You can go inside this marble cathedral with its reserved entrance pass.
You’ll see exquisite Renaissance palaces in Pisa’s historic center, particularly around Piazza dei Cavalieri. You can also revisit the Arno River there, though the riverfront looks quite different from Florence’s. Cross the river to see the gardens amongst the remains of an old fortress, Cittadella Nuova (also known as Scotto’s Garden).
Getting there: Trains run from Florence to Pisa quite frequently, taking about an hour. Driving yourself may take longer than the train, and it could be hard to find parking, so an easier approach (if you don’t want to take the train) is to take a relaxed half-day or full-day tour.
For a stunning Tuscan city, look no further than the hilltop Siena, whose Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of medieval character. The Piazza del Campo is a great place to start your day in Siena. This saucer-shaped plaza is not only the site of the semiannual Palio di Siena horse race, but also home to striking buildings like the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia.
You’ll come across plenty of historic brick buildings and palaces elsewhere in the city, including Palazzo Salimbeni. Of course, you’ll need to visit the Siena Cathedral to see its beautiful striped design, and the entire Piazza del Duomo around it offers much to see.
Getting there: Hourly direct trains run from Florence to Siena and take around 1.5 hours. The direct 131R and regional 131O buses also leave hourly and take about as long (though some can make the journey in just over an hour). The journey by car is only an hour, but the best way to see Siena is on this full day tour from Florence. You’ll visit not only Siena, but also the beautiful town of San Gimignano and the Chianti wine region on this tour.
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. 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 also include a wander through the portico arcades of Via Rizzoli, which help define the look of the city. Look nearby for the beautiful Palazzo della Mercanzia and the medieval Two Towers, the beloved symbol of Bologna. Don’t forget to visit some of the historic buildings at the University of Bologna, the world’s oldest continuously operating university.
Getting there: Bologna is probably the easiest of the many easy train trips from Florence, with frequent intercity trains making the journey in only 35 minutes.
Not all Florence day trips need to be other cities, the Cinque Terre being one of the best places to visit from Florence. This national park on the Italian Riviera boasts a gorgeous stretch of dramatic coastline, which is home to the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.
Tours to the 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 plan your visit, consult our guide to the Cinque Terre.
Getting there: The best way to see all of the Cinque Terre for a day trip is on a guided tour from Florence, as the guides are experts at fitting all of this incredible national park into a single day. A day trip to the Cinque Terre can be challenging to plan and organize on your own, and a tour lets you simply enjoy the experience without the hassle. If you want to get there on your own, though, you’ll first catch a train to La Spezia, where you’ll switch to the local train that stops at each of the five villages.
A short trip from Florence takes you to the atmospheric and wonderfully preserved historic city of Lucca. Surrounded by high city walls, Lucca is untouched by the ravages of time. Start with San Martino Cathedral, exploring the interior and climbing 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, step into the rounded Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, with houses where a Roman theater once stood. See the heart of the city with a visit to Piazza San Michele – one of Lucca’s most attractive spots, thanks to landmarks like the Palazzo Pretoria and Church of San Michele in Foro. You can find more things to do here in our Lucca itinerary.
Getting there: Hop on one of the hourly trains or buses from Florence to reach Lucca in around 1.5 hours. For easier sightseeing, though, consider joining a tour to Lucca instead. This particular tour comes highly recommended, as it stops in both Lucca and Pisa – which is perfect if you don’t have much time in Florence.
Many day tours from Florence show you towns in the Tuscan countryside. One of the most popular of these is San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its skyline of medieval towers.
You’ll have no problem walking around this small walled town, starting at Piazza del Duomo, where you can see both the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta – a collegiate church and basilica also known as the Duomo di San Gimignano – and the Palazzo Comunale, which serves as the town hall. It’s also where you can climb Torre Grossa and see the town from above, not to mention the surrounding olive groves and vineyards. In fact, Piazza del Duomo and neighboring squares are where you’ll find many of the town’s 14 surviving towers, poking out from medieval and Renaissance palaces like the Palazzo Vecchio del Podestà.
Getting there: Your best options for visiting San Gimignano are to join one of the many guided tours there or simply take the 50-minute drive from Florence. Otherwise, it’s a two-hour journey on the bus, with a transfer in the town of Poggibonsi. Most guided tours, like this one, stop not only in San Gimignano but also in Siena and the Chianti wine region. Joining a tour is a particularly good idea if you don’t have access to a car, as you’ll get to see three different places in one day.
The typical mental image of Tuscany is row after row of grapevines amongst rolling hills. That view is what you can expect on a tour of Montepulciano, a picturesque hilltop town in southern Tuscany. Your eyes and taste buds are both in for a treat, as the town is known for its medieval buildings and famous wines. For sightseeing, head to Piazza Grande, home of Santa Maria Assunta (the town’s Renaissance cathedral) and Montepulciano Town Hall.
After you’ve wandered the backstreets of this labyrinthine town, it’s time for some wine tasting. Montepulciano is known for its noble reds, which you can experience in some of its oldest wine cellars.
Getting there: Some tours of Montepulciano include transport to and from Florence, while others start in town. Otherwise, the best way to get to Montepulciano is by car, as the drive only takes an hour and 15 minutes. The public transport is a little awkward and takes over three hours.
The underrated city of Perugia in the Umbria region makes for quite the day trip. Spread across rolling hills and fortified with imposing walls, Perugia seems somewhat inaccessible at first glance, but it’s a great place for tourists, with its many historic sites and delicious porchetta sandwiches. Starting in the historic center, you can wander down Corso Pietro Vannucci to Piazza IV Novembre, where you’ll see incredible buildings like the Palazzo dei Priori and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo.
For 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 Arch at one end of town and the subterranean markets inside the Rocca Paolina fortress at the other.
Getting there: Trains from Florence to Perugia leave every two hours, with the journey itself taking just over two hours. While it may not be any faster, you could save a little money with a ride-sharing service like BlaBlaCar.
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. There’s no sense starting anywhere but the Castello Estense, as this large castle and its moat dominate the city center. From there, head down to the several joined squares around the refined, Romanesque Ferrara Cathedral.
To see an excellent example of a converted palace, visit the marble-encrusted Palazzo dei Diamanti, now home to the National Painting Gallery of Ferrara. To delve into the city’s long history dating back to the Etruscans, head for the National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara.
Getting there: The best way to reach Ferrara from Florence is on one of the regular high-speed trains. This is even faster than driving, as the train journey takes just over an hour.
Pienza and Val D’Orcia
Some destinations not only are great in their own right, but also allow you to experience their wider regions. For that kind of pairing, it’s hard to beat the town of Pienza and the Val D’Orcia region. Nicknamed “the Ideal City,” Pienza earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status with its many 15th-century buildings. These include Pienza Cathedral, the landmarks around Piazza Pio II, and 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. Val D’Orcia is protected as a national park and culturally important for its celebrated wines and cheeses, not to mention its moving scenery. Unsurprisingly, tours to Pienza and Val D’Orcia revolve around the region’s wine and food.
Getting there: Driving and traveling with a tour are the only options that give you the chance to explore Val D’Orcia fully. Driving from Florence should take around an hour and 20 minutes, while the bus journey would take three hours.
Well, that sums up the best side trips from Florence. The difficult part is deciding which one to do first!