Florence is one of the world’s most beautiful cities – the city of the Renaissance, one of Italy’s defining spots. It’s majestic, mysterious, enigmatic, and scenic. But sometimes, you just want to get the heck away from the crowds, and go on some day trips from Florence. Because there’s only so many times you can hack your way through huge mobs of people taking selfies at the Duomo, amirite?
Fortunately, there’s a whole truckload of places near Florence which are within easy reach, and spectacular in their own right. Indeed, they’re world-famous sights, and even though it’d take a lifetime to explore all of the glories which Florence has to offer, you may feel like you’ve missed out on something if you don’t take the opportunity to go beyond the city itself.
In addition, Tuscany is stunningly beautiful – trust me, you’ll enjoy the journey as much as the destination! And that totally sounds like something that should be printed on a inspirational diary, but it’s true.
Let’s look at the best day trips from Florence!
Pisa! Land of structurally-interesting towers, and the cliche photographic souvenir (if you go to Pisa and don’t do a I’m-propping-up-the-tower pose, did you really go? Actually yes, because I resisted. I’m edgy like that).
The truth is, if you don’t go to Florence and make a little side-trip to Pisa, you’ll feel like you missed out a bit. Although the Leaning Tower might be thronged with tourists taking selfies, who amusingly look like they’re doing some kind of mass yoga workout in front of it, it really is a must-see sight. It’s one of Italy’s Big Three sights (the other two being the Duomo in Florence and the Colosseum in Rome), and you’ll see it everywhere in souvenir shops and postcard stands. It would be a shame to be this close, and not visit.
Happily, it’s one of the easiest day trips from Florence – you can go from Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, and be at Pisa Centrale in about an hour (be aware that difference services have different journey durations – at the worst, it’ll be about 90 minutes). The ticket office at Santa Maria Novella is large and efficient – take a number and wait your turn – and services to Pisa are extremely regular. They generally depart from platform 2 or 3, and will usually have a destination of Pisa Centrale or Livorno. Just remember to validate your ticket on the platform before getting on the train, or you can be hit with a €60 fine!
You can check Trainline EU for timetables (they also have a handy-dandy phone app, which came in extremely useful for me), or you can check out my article on getting from Pisa to Florence for an in-depth guide – simply follow the train directions in reverse!
Once you arrive at Pisa Centrale, you’re only a twenty-minute walk from all of your epic selfie dreams. Use your favourite map app (I like maps.me, with its excellent offline maps) to navigate yourself there, or simply follow the crowds!
Going to Siena is definitely one of the best day trips from Florence you can take, just to experience the intriguing contradiction of this Tuscan town. On one hand, it’s absurdly pretty: stately, decorative, and historic, it’s definitely a rival to Florence in the scenery stakes. On the other hand, it’s completely off its head.
The reason for this might not be completely obvious, until you visit the central square at Piazza Del Campo. See how it’s not flat, like most Italian piazzas, but slopes downwards in an almost shell-like shape? See that rim around the edge of the piazza which looks almost like a racetrack? Well, that’s because it kinda is. Twice a year, Siena holds the Palio, a completely bonkers horse race which has been taking place since medieval times. Racers have no saddle, and do three laps – if they can stay on. The winner brings glory to their neigh-borhood (see what I did there?), and best of all, the horse can be a hero and win it by themselves if their rider falls off, as happened in 2018. Power to the horses!
If, like me, horse-racing isn’t really your thing, there’s still plenty to enjoy. The town itself is stunning, with some real architectural gems (as you’d expect from a town which practically invented banking), with some stunning views. The cathedral is an absolute stunner, even though it was never completed. And you can still enjoy the atmosphere of the Palio festivals, even if you’re not keen on seeing the actual race.
Again, Siena is easily reachable by train, making it one of the most convenient day trips from Florence. Hop along to Santa Maria Novella station, and use the ticket office as described in the Pisa section above. Check the departures board for your train, and you can be in Siena in a mere 90 minutes! There’s usually two trains to Siena per hour.
3. San Gimignano
If one of your day trips from Florence isn’t a journey out into the Tuscan countryside, then you’re really missing out. And what better than a picturesque hilltop town, steeped in history, surrounded by rolling fields, and filled with a surprising number of speciality cheese shops? Nothing, that’s what!
San Gimignano looks like a medieval version of Manhattan as you approach it: the town has a number of campanile (bell towers) which rise and form a gorgeous skyline – indeed, the town is known as “The Town of Fine Towers”. Add a whole lot of medieval buildings underneath them, and it all adds up to the town centre being a UNESCO World Heritage Site; perfect for snapping photos, exploring, and generally frolicking around in. Though the reason why the town is so well-preserved is actually a bit grim – the population was flourishing until the Black Death wiped half of them out, and it never really recovered. Not so much frolicking!
Oh, and did I mention that it has, quite literally, the best gelato in the world? That’s not just my opinion: the Gelateria Dondoli is the current world champion in ice cream making. To be honest, it would deserve the accolade purely for the photo of their extremely happy-looking owner on their website, though the gelato definitely deserves it alone!
San Gimignano is about an hour and a half away from Florence by bus – there’s no train station here. Catch the number 131 bus from the bus station just adjacent to Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, and get off at the town of Poggibonsi (this takes just under an hour). Catch a number 130 bus to San Gimignano, and you’ll be there in roughly 25 minutes!
4. Cinque Terre
The villages of Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”) are probably the most famous of the day trips from Florence available to you – if you’ve ever seen a calendar or screensaver with colourful houses tumbling down a mountainside, nestling around a small harbour lit up by lanterns in the evening light, then you’ve probably seen Cinque Terre. It’s a perfect picture of Italian loveliness, the epitome of la vita bella, and it’ll look darn good on your Instagram feed, natch.
The five villages which make up the Cinque Terre – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are notoriously gorgeous. However, it comes at a price. That’s because everyone knows that it’s gorgeous, and everyone wants to see it for themselves. So, you can get insane amounts of people visiting from Florence, or from cruise ships docked at nearby La Spezia, all descending on these tiny villages at the same time. If you’re visiting in the summer, expect to be sharing limited space with an awful lot of other visitors.
Cinque Terre is one of the longer day trips from Florence, but still nice and simple to do. You can get a train from Santa Maria Novella station in Florence directly to Corniglia (in the middle of the five villages), or get one to La Spezia and change there. It’ll take about 2h30 on the direct train, and closer to 3 hours if you go via La Spezia.
If, however, you want a bit more time to fully look around the five villages – and they’re all beautiful, so why wouldn’t you! – then consider booking a hotel in the area for one night. It’ll give you a little trip away from Florence and a taste of village life, as well as an opportunity to explore when the crowds have gone for the day. Take advantage of the properties offered by our partners at Booking.com; there’s some bargains to be had!
Nothing is true, everything is permitted.
No, that’s not the motto of my high school (it was “shut up, you ‘orrible children” actually), but anyone who’s ever played the Assassin’s Creed games will be familiar with the aforementioned creed, as well as bouncing around the rooftops of Monteriggioni – it’s your character’s home base. And guess what: you can visit in real life too!
Monteriggioni isn’t far from Siena, and it has a similar medieval vibe – it even has its own Medieval Festival held in July, where you can don a pointy hat, dress in some fetching leggings, and slay fearsome dragons (probably). Or you can just let the locals take care of the dressing up, which they do with aplomb. Otherwise, you can just enjoy wandering through this scenic village, taking in the fourteen towers along a fortified wall, or just stopping for a good meal. It’s a pretty pocket-sized place, so you can easily see everything it has to offer.
Also, Monteriggioni is in the heart of wine country – doing a wine tour in Tuscany is definitely something you should do! Shame not to, right?? *hic*
And if you want one more fun fact on Monteriggioni, how about this one: the village once had a moat of coal stretching all the way around it. If you’re thinking that a moat of water sounds more useful, consider how seriously badass a moat of coal is once you set it on fire.
You can reach Monteriggioni easily by bus – in fact, it’s the same bus as for one of our other day trips from Florence: San Gimignano. Again, it’s the number 131 from the bus station near Santa Maria Novella train station, but you don’t have to change buses at Poggibonsi; just hop on, put your feet up, and you’ll be there in about 1hr15. If you want to double up your day trips, you can always get off at Poggibonsi on the way back, and catch a bus to San Gimignano!
The next of our day trips from Florence is so easy, yet so historic, and a city which is just begging to be discovered by visitors to Tuscany. I’m letting you get ahead of tourist trends here; see how good I am to you? But joking aside, you really should spare a day to go and see Lucca.
If you can resist singing Suzanne Vega songs all day, then you’ll find that Lucca has a lot to offer. Roman architectural remains, medieval churches and piazzas, and Renaissance buildings rub shoulders in this delightfully uncrowded city, which is one of the most beloved spots in Tuscany, according to the Tuscans. You can also go for one of the most awesome walks in Italy – the city walls are completely accessible by foot, and stretch around the city. So not only do you get a four-kilometre walk, you also get a walk with gorgeous views over the city on one side of you, and the Tuscan countryside on the other!
If you get hungry, stop at one of the bakeries in town, and try buccellato – it’s a sort-of sweet bread with raisins in. It’s yummy, filling, and it’ll keep you going while you’re exploring the city’s hundred churches!
It couldn’t be easier to get from Florence to Lucca. Trains from Santa Maria Novella train station take 1hr45, and depart every hour.
You may be thinking “but this is an article about day trips from Florence! Surely Bologna is miles away?”. Well, it is (57 miles, to be precise), but thanks to the very efficient Italian public transport system, it’s incredibly quick and easy to get to Bologna – and it’s definitely a city which deserves to be explored!
Let’s put aside Bologna’s many sights for now, and ask a simple question: do you like food? If the answer to that is yes, and I sincerely hope that you do indeed like food of some variety, then Bologna is the place for you! It’s in the region which brought us Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto ham. Bologna itself has given us mortadella ham, lasagna, and tagliatelle alle Bolognese. Let’s be frank: it’s worth going to Bologna just to stuff your face as much as possible, and bring back a huge bag of foodstuffs which will totally stink on the plane on the way home.
But, there’s Bologna’s sights too! Asinelli Tower is the tallest in the city, and you can walk up it for the views. If the thought of climbing a tower after all that pasta is just too much, then consider taking the toy train to the gorgeous church of Santuario di San Luca, or just hanging out by the Fountain of Neptune. Probably whilst eating more delicious food.
So how long does it take to reach all the myriad delights of Bologna? Well, the train from Santa Maria Novella train station takes a mere 35 minutes. That’s probably less time than it’d take you to walk across Florence. You can’t get many better day trips from Florence than that!
Have a peek at this excellent guide to things to do in Bologna if you’re considering a day (or longer) there!
How to take 3 day trips from Florence in one day
Yes, it’s possible to do this, because I’ve discovered time travel. I’ve been hobnobbing with Leonardo da Vinci, partying with Caligula, and having a cup of tea at the Boston Tea Party. It’s been pretty fun!
Okay, I lied. But it really is possible to do three of the best day trips from Florence in a single day.
You might’ve noticed that I’ve been including a few links under each day trip with tours from GetYourGuide, so if you want to do something quite fun or different whilst you’re on your day trip, you can see what your options are! But the link below really is the One Tour to Rule Them All, and I know that for a fact because I’ve been on it.
I’m quite difficult to please when it comes to guided tours – after all, I have a side job working in a museum; we do guided tours. I know a good one when I see one. So, I can assure you that you really do get a picky-person-approved tour here! You definitely get your money’s worth – I had an early start being picked up in Florence, then a full and brilliant day visiting Pisa, San Gimignano, the Chianti region, and Siena.
It’s very well organised, and the tour leaders were absolute sweethearts (they were very considerate of a couple of people who had mobility issues, and translated everything for the Portuguese-speaking members of the group). Instructions were clear, and you were largely left to explore the destinations by yourself, which I prefer. They’ll even give you their phone numbers so you can give them a call if you have any problems. Crucially, the amount of time in each destination was good – you can’t see everything in the time, but that’s the price you pay for fitting a lot of the area surrounding Florence into one day.
If you’ve got a bit more time in Florence, then you’ll probably want to see it yourself by public transport. But if you’ve only got a few days, I really, really recommend this tour for seeing the essentials! Feel free to email me or leave a comment below if you have a question about it!
And that wraps up our foray into the best day trips from Florence! The great part is that they’re so easy – none of the public transport options are complicated or arduous, allowing you to really explore Tuscany as much as you want. Florence is absolutely beautiful, but seeing the towns and villages around it really help to add context to the city. You’ll notice the differences, the similarities, the neighbourly rivalry between the cities. It all adds to give you an experience of Tuscany, of Italy, and not just of one corner of it!
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