Travel beyond the cobbled streets of Florence and discover an enchanted world. Check out our 10 best day trips from Florence, each revealing breathtaking scenery, rich history and unforgettable experiences.
A day trip from Florence to Pisa is a delightful adventure that never loses its appeal throughout the year. The centre of attention is inevitably the remarkable Piazza del Campo dei Miracoli, home to the legendary Leaning Tower of Pisa, the undisputed emblem of the city's glory.
Also amongst this splendour, the vast Romanesque Campo Cathedral stands out, while Camposanto beckons with its treasure trove of Italy's most extraordinary tombs and frescoes. Naturally, Pisa is buzzing with activity during the summer months. As with any other famous destination, summer sees an influx of tourists, so it's a good time to explore alternatives to Italy's famous sights.
- By train: Travelling by train is a convenient way to travel between Florence and Pisa. There are frequent direct train services between the two cities and the journey usually takes between 1 and 1.5 hours.
- By bus: There are also buses between Florence and Pisa, which can take between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, depending on the route and stops.
- By car: You can also hire a car and travel by car. The distance between Florence and Pisa is about 100 kilometres and the journey usually takes about 1.5-2 hours.
How to get to Pisa from Florence
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Tasting the local wines is a major pleasure on any Italian trip and the vineyards between Florence and Siena offer a wide choice of the most exquisite grape varieties, thanks to a temperate climate that is favourable at any time of year.
Siena is the perfect counterpoint to Florence. It remains self-contained behind its medieval walls, its chief attraction is its cityscape, a majestic Gothic whole that can be enjoyed without venturing into a single museum.
In its great piazza, Il Campo, it has one of the loveliest of all Italian public squares. In its zebra-striped Duomo, a religious focus to match; and the city’s whole construction, on three ridges, presents a succession of beautiful vistas over medieval rooftops to the bucolic Tuscan countryside on all sides.
- By train: Trains run at least hourly from Florence direct to Siena, but some services involve changing at Empoli.
- By bus: From Florence, hourly or more frequent buses for Siena depart from the bus station on Via di Caterina da Siena, just west of the main train station; take a Corse Rapide or Rapido (about 1hr 15min), as some buses (misleadingly called Corse Dirette or Diretta) are much slower and run via Colle di Val d’Elsa and Poggibonsi. Both services arrive at La Lizza-Viale F. Tozzi/Piazza Antonio Gramsci.
- By car: Florence and Siena are linked by a fast four-lane highway that starts from the Firenze Certosa junction on the A1 autostrada, 6 km south of Florence; from central Florence, head through the Oltrarno to the Porta Romana and follow “Certosa” signs.
How to get to Siena from Florence
Chianti, the territory of vineyards and hill towns that stretches between Florence and Siena can seem like a place where every aspect of life is in perfect balance. The undulating landscape is harmoniously varied; the climate for most of the year is balmy; and on top of all this, there’s the wine, the one Italian vintage that’s familiar to just about everyone.
The English and others from similarly unfavourable areas have long noticed the delights of Chianti as one of the best destinations for day trips from Florence, and tourism has become the region's most important cash crop.
- By bus: Buses from Florence and Siena connect with the main Chianti towns.
- By car: Your own transport allows you to roam the quieter recesses and to visit any of the area’s wine producers: every village has tastings on offer within a few hundred metres of the main street. There’s basically a choice of two main roads to follow through Chianti: the old Florence to Siena road (N2) along the western edge of the region, or the so-called Chiantigiana road (SS222), through the Chianti heartland.
How to get to Chianti from Florence
Nestled within the heart of the captivating Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna stands as an exceptional day trip from Florence. It is a thriving city whose light engineering and high-tech industries have brought conspicuous wealth to the old brick palaces and porticoed streets. It’s also well known for its food – undeniably the richest in the country.
Bologna is certainly one of Italy’s best-looking cities. Its centre is startlingly medieval in plan, a jumble of red brick, tiled roofs and balconies radiating out from the great central square of Piazza Maggiore. There are enough monuments and curiosities for several days’ leisured exploration, including, most conspicuously, the Due Torri, the city’s own “leaning towers”.
Thanks to the university, there’s always something happening – be it theatre, music or just the café and bar scene, which is among northern Italy’s most convivial.
- By train: The fastest way to get to Bologna is by direct train from Florence, the journey takes about an hour.
- By car: If you prefer to travel by car, this is also not a bad option to get to Bologna with an approximate journey time of just over an hour.
How to get to Bologna from Florence
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5. San Gimignano
San Gimignano – “delle Belle Torri” – and its stunning skyline of towers, built-in aristocratic rivalry by feuding nobles in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, evoke the appearance of medieval Tuscany more than any other sight. The town’s image as a “Medieval Manhattan” has long caught visitors’ imaginations, helped by its convenience as a day trip from Florence or Siena, 27km away to the southeast.
San Gimignano is all it’s cracked up to be: quietly monumental, well preserved, enticingly rural and with a fine array of frescoes. The town attracts hordes of tourists in summer but it's still a delight to explore and possibly one of the reasons Italy is second only to New Zealand in the most beautiful countries in the world.
Aim to spend the night here. In the evenings San Gimignano takes on a very different pace and atmosphere and the town deserves at least a day, both for the frescoes in the churches and museums and for the surrounding countryside – some of the loveliest in Tuscany.
- By train: Most people visit San Gimignano on a day trip. You can take a train to Poggibonsi (10 daily; 28min), and then one of the roughly hourly buses from the station for the 20min journey to San Gimignano.
- By car: The road trip from Florence to San Gimignano takes about an hour by car, but please note that cars are banned from the centre. The simplest option for a short stay is the car parks on the road that runs around the wall.
How to get to San Gimignano from Florence
Stay at a beautiful hotel in San Gimignano, a medieval hill town halfway between Florence and Siena. Tuscany is known for its wines and food and that's what you'll be exploring on this tailor-made Wine and Food trip in Tuscany.
6. Val d'Orcia
The Val d’Orcia stretches from San Quirico d’Orcia down towards the border with Lazio and the Lago di Bolsena. A gorgeous stretch of country, the region is marked at intervals by fortresses built from the eighth century on, when the road through the valley, the Via Francigena, was a vital corridor north of Rome.
The first major attraction is the remarkable Medicean sulphur baths of Bagno Vignoni. With a car or bike, you might strike south from here to the region’s medieval power base, the monastery of San Salvatore, being sure to detour to the superbly situated Radicofani.
- By train and bus: You can take a train from Florence to Siena and then take a bus or taxi to one of the Val d'Orcia's towns.
- By car: The most convenient way to get to Val d'Orcia is by car (the journey will take about 2 hours).
How to get to Val d'Orcia from Florence
Lucca is the most graceful of Tuscany’s provincial capitals; set inside a ring of Renaissance walls fronted by gardens and huge bastions, it’s quiet without being dull. The city absorbs its visitors with ease, with a peaceful, self-contained historic centre where it’s delightful to wander at random. This is one of the few places in Tuscany where many locals ride bikes, and as a result, much of the old centre is refreshingly traffic-free.
The city is reputed to have once had seventy churches, and even today you can hardly walk for five minutes without coming upon a small piazza and a fine, marble-fronted church facade. Endowed with excellent museums, including one commemorating composer Giacomo Puccini’s birthplace, the city evokes elegance and a cultured way of life.
- By train: There is a frequent direct railway service between Florence and Lucca.
- By car: The distance between Florence and Lucca is about 70-80 kilometres and the road time usually takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on traffic and the chosen route.
How to get to Lucca from Florence
The road to the hill town of Cortona winds up through terraces of vines and olives, with Lago Trasimeno visible over the low hills to the south. Via Nazionale is the only horizontal road in the centro storico, and the steep streets are more or less untouched by modern buildings.
Until the mid-1990s Cortona didn’t get much tourist traffic, then Frances Mayes published Under the Tuscan Sun and the town instantly began to attract crowds of readers, eager to see the place where Mayes had realized the expat dream.
- By train: Trains from Florence and Arezzo call at Camucia-Cortona station, from where a shuttle bus (approximately hourly; 10min) runs up to the old town, arriving at either Piazza Garibaldi or Piazza del Mercato; buy tickets at the station bar.
- By car: The centre is closed to all but essential traffic, though there are several free car parks on the periphery.
How to get to Cortona from Florence
The hill town of Fiesole, which spreads over a cluster of hills above the Mugnone and Arno Valleys some 8km northeast of Florence, is conventionally described as a pleasant retreat from the crowds and heat of summertime Florence. Unfortunately, its tranquillity has been so well advertised that in high season it’s now hardly less busy than Florence itself.
That said, Fiesole offers a grandstand view of the city, retains something of the feel of a country village, and bears many traces of its history. First settled in the Bronze Age it rivalled its neighbour until the early twelfth century, when the Florentines overran the town. From that time Fiesole became a satellite, favoured as a semi-rural second home for wealthier citizens.
- By bus: Fiesole is an easy hop from central Florence: bus #7 runs from Santa Maria Novella train station to Fiesole’s central Piazza Mino da Fiesole (3–4 hourly; 30 min).
How to get to Fiesole from Florence
Perugia is a place of some style – at least in its old centre – and a city proud of its big-league attractions, its chocolate, its university for foreigners and its football team. In terms of sights, Perugia’s interest is essentially medieval, despite its considerable Etruscan heritage.
In addition to the Palazzo dei Priori, home to the Galleria Nazionale and the Perugino-painted Collegio del Cambio, there is the Duomo and a full quota of memorable churches.
The locals’ cultural sophistication is highlighted at July’s Umbria Jazz, Italy’s foremost jazz festival, which attracts big stars each year. Also hugely popular is the twice-yearly Eurochocolate festival in March and October in which hundreds of booths offer chocolate in every conceivable form.
- By train: Travelling by train is a practical and popular way to travel from Florence to Perugia. There are direct trains and the trip takes about 2.5-3.5 hours depending on the type of train chosen.
- By car: The distance between Florence and Perugia is approximately 160-180 kilometres and the road trip time usually ranges from 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on traffic and the chosen route.
- By bus: You can also get to Perugia by bus, but it should be noted that although this is a budget option, it will take longer (about 3 - 4 hours) than travelling by train or car.
How to get to Perugia from Florence
If you're feeling inspired and want to explore even more Italian cities, read our guide to the best day trips from Rome.
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