Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station || creative commons photo by Bjørn Giesenbauer
Tuscany‘s capital city is such a feast for the senses that it’s the place where “Stendhal syndrome” originated. These days, that sense of being overwhelmed can be as much from the throngs flocking to Florence‘s many attractions as it can from the beauty of the attractions themselves. It’s handy, then, that there are so many great day trip options from Florence.
Personally, I prefer day trip destinations that don’t eat up too much of the day in transit. If I’m lucky, that means I’m only on the train or bus for a couple hours total. There are many such places near Florence, but there are also several options that are perfect if you don’t mind spending a little more time getting there and back.
I’ve broken down this list below by how much time you’ll spend in transit, so you’ll be able to pick the day trip that suits your travel needs and your tolerance for the journey. There are many more places you could visit on a day trip from Florence than what’s listed here, too, but I think this is a great place to begin your research and planning.
Guided Tours In & From Florence
The places I’ve listed below are all do-able as DIY day trips, but if you’d rather just leave the planning to someone else here’s a selection of tours both in and from Florence.
Quick Day Trips from Florence: 2 Hours or Less in Transit
Fiesole || creative commons photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose
- Fiesole – When you stand in Piazzale Michelangelo and look back at Florence, it’s a great view… And you’re also aware that there are hills behind you. Take a 20-minute bus ride into those hills and you’ll get to the little town of Fiesole. It’s basically a Florence suburb, but oh, what a ‘burb! The views of Florence are sublime, and the small-town vibe so close to the city is really lovely.
- Bologna – Thanks to the high-speed train system, the distance between Florence and Bologna has been slashed to a mere 35 mins one-way, making it an easy day trip option. Bologna and the region of which it’s a capital are responsible for Italian food classics like bolognese pasta sauce, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and parmigiano-reggiano, so it’s a serious foodie city. It’s also home to the headquarters and factories of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Ducati, as well as the world’s oldest continually operations university.
- Siena – To many people, Siena is the jewel of Tuscany. The historic center, ringed by old city walls, is easy to explore on foot in a day, since part of the charm of Siena is just walking around. There is a train station in Siena, but from Florence it’s actually faster and easier to take the bus, which makes the journey in about 45-50 minutes one-way.
- Greve in Chianti – Wine lovers, get yourselves to the heart of the Chianti wine region with a visit to Greve in Chianti. It’s a pretty little town with an historic monastery and an annual wine festival in September, and even if you don’t have time to go wine tasting in the area there are wine shops in Greve you can visit. It’s about a half-hour away if you have a car, or roughly 50 minutes from Florence by bus.
- Pisa – Pisa is home to one of Italy’s most recognized symbols (it’s so closely identified with the country that it serves as the Italy Explained logo!), the leaning tower. Historically, it was one of Florence’s biggest rivals – but today, it’s arguably the most popular day trip from the Tuscan capital. There are regular trains back and forth, and the trip takes just under an hour.
- Arezzo – Arezzo was once a major Etruscan city, and today is home to a monthly antiques market that’s considered by many to be the best in Italy. If you’re a treasure-hunter, this is the place to be during that market, and it’s a little less than an hour from Florence by train.
Medium Day Trips from Florence: 2-4 Hours in Transit
Via Francigena leading to Monteriggioni || creative commons photo by Visit Tuscany
- San Gimignano – San Gimignano doesn’t have a train station, but that needn’t stop you from visiting this picturesque hilltop town. It’ll take you one hour 15 minutes to get there from Florence on the bus (with a change in Poggibonsi), or you can book a guided tour with transportation, but either way you’ll love the scene as San Gimignano comes into view – there are 14 medieval towers (once there were far more) rising from this well-preserved town.
- Monteriggioni – Monteriggioni is a walled Tuscan town, with walls dating from the 13th century. There are towers along the walls, and a pretty central piazza. Dante fans may recognize the town name, as it’s featured in “The Divine Comedy.” You’ll need to take a bus from Florence to Monteriggioni, and the trip lasts about one hour 15 minutes one-way.
- Lucca – The town center of Lucca would be charming on its own and a worthy day trip in Tuscany even without its intact city walls, but the walls make it even better. The walls date from the 3rd century, though most of what stands today was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. They’re wide on top, and there’s a walking path up there that circles the city. Lucca is just under one hour 20 minutes from Florence by either train or bus.
- Cortona – Cortona became almost a household name after the publication of Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun,” but it’s also an historic Etruscan city. There’s an Etruscan museum in town and some Etruscan tombs nearby, as well as some beautiful buildings. Cortona is about one hour 20 minutes by train from Florence.
- Viareggio – On the Tuscan coast not far from the Ligurian border is Viareggio, an historic seaside resort city with a well-known annual Carnevale celebration. The large papier mâché floats in the Carnevale parade were introduced in 1925, although the festival in Viareggio dates from the 1870s. Viareggio is just over an hour and a half from Florence by train.
- Rome – Rome might already be on your itinerary, and even if it’s not you’d be hard-pressed to do much in this huge city in one day… But it’s only one hour and 20 minutes one-way from Florence, so it could be the perfect day trip if you’ve already visited the city before and just want to see a couple things. A guided tour is recommended if you’ve never been before and want to maximize your on-the-ground sightseeing.
- Cinque Terre – Taking a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre isn’t ideal time-wise, since it’s almost two hours by train one-way with changes in Pisa & La Spezia, but if you’re determined then it’s do-able. An organized and guided trip may be a better option, especially if it includes transportation, but if you’ve already hiked the trail between the five towns before and you just want to go stare at the sea for a little while, then by all means do that.
Longer Day Trips from Florence: 4+ Hours in Transit
Volterra || creative commons photo by Dave & Margie Hill
- Volterra – Volterra was once a major Etruscan city and is still surrounded by 13th century walls. You can see a 1st century B.C.E. Roman theater there, and visit an Etruscan museum. It takes a little less than three hours to get there from Florence by bus (with a change in Colle di Val d’Elsa), or a mere one hour 15 minutes by car.
- Montepulciano – Today, the hilltop town of Montepulciano is known mainly for its Vino Nobile wine, but it was originally founded as an Etruscan city. This is a tricky day trip if you’re relying on public transportation, as it’s about three hours one-way with a combination of trains and buses – but if you’ve got a car, it’s an easy one at just over one hour 20 minutes one-way.
- Pienza – The gorgeous town of Pienza is in the heart of the Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is notable as essentially a Renaissance “planned city.” The town that had been there was rebuilt from the ground up by Pope Pius II, who was born there, as his “ideal Renaissance city.” It’s just under an hour and a half from Florence by car, but more than three hours one-way by train.
- Montalcino – Montalcino is another Tuscan hill town famous for its wine (Burnello di Montalcino, in this case) and fortifications, including a 14th century fortress that’s still intact at the top of the hill. This, too, is a difficult day trip on public transportation, at roughly three hours one-way with a combination of trains and buses, but with a car it’s about one hour 45 minutes one-way.
- Assisi – It will take you about two and a half hours one-way to get to Assisi from Florence on the bus, and that doesn’t run every day, either. The train to nearby Santa Maria degli Angeli takes about the same amount of time (and runs more frequently than the bus), and from there you need to catch the bus into Assisi itself (a five-minute trip). The main point of interest is the UNESCO-listed complex of buildings dedicated to St. Francis, including the crypt that houses his tomb (a major pilgrimage site).