Visitors to Italy are spoiled for choice when it comes to destinations worth exploring. One of the challenging aspects is deciding where to visit but the beauty of Italy is that if you choose the right destination as your base, you can easily explore the rest of the country via day trips (or multi-day trips if you prefer). We have been fortunate to explore Italy on several occasions but in our opinion, Florence is perhaps the best place to call “home” and utilize this as a spot to experience the very best of what Italy has to offer. If you are looking to experience a collection of day trips from Florence, the list of opportunities are endless thanks to the central location of this historic Italian city.
Whether you are intrigued by the thought of visiting Cinque Terre for the day or perhaps heading to the urban areas of Pisa, Bologna, Rimini or Cinque Terre, Florence is perfectly situated to allow locals and visitors alike to experience the very best places around Italy. With awesome public transportation and the ability to take guided tours during your day trips from Florence, it’s no surprise that many visitors choose this as the perfect location to explore the gorgeous Italian landscape. Let’s take a look at the best day trips from Florence along with what you can expect during your stay in Tuscany’s capital.
Things to Do in Florence
Before heading out of Florence to explore the inherent beauty of the Italian nation, take some time to experience the spectacular capital of the Tuscany region. Perhaps the most iconic attraction is the Uffizi Gallery but first-time visitors to Florence will soon find out there are plenty of other reasons to explore this city.
The Duomo Florence is yet another gorgeous architectural masterpiece and provides a towering landmark above the city. Take a guided tour of this iconic cathedral and don’t forget to capture a memorable picture of the breathtaking Renaissance dome that stands tall above the city. Whether you are an avid art aficionado or simply want to relax among the historic streets while indulging in stereotypical Italian cuisine, there are a myriad of reasons why Florence should be on your radar.
As you walk around the city of Florence, you will cross the Arno River, perhaps on several occasions as you venture between the plethora of historic neighborhoods that collectively make up this beautiful city. One of the iconic crossings is the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge that dates back to the Roman era and first documented in this location in the year 996. Michelangelo’s Piazza offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Florence and the square is decorated with a variety of distinctive sculptures created by this iconic artist. But rather than seeing Michelangelo’s works, it is the breathtaking views that visitors flock to this location to admire.
Day Trips from Florence
When it comes to the best places to visit during a day trip from Florence, the list is endless. Whether you choose to visit another iconic Italian city or perhaps head to a quieter, rural location, there are a myriad of opportunities just a short drive (or train ride) away from Florence. Here are some of our favorite spots that we think you should consider visiting during your next Italian vacation:
- Florence to Chianti – 1 hr 5 minutes (55km)
- Florence to Siena – 1 hr 8 minutes (78km)
- Florence to Pisa – 1 hr 10 minutes (85km)
- Florence to Bologna – 1 hr 25 minutes (105km)
- Florence to Cinque Terre – 2 hr 25 minutes (183km)
- Florence to Rimini/San Marino – 2 hr 35 minutes (226km)
Let’s take a look at each of these day trips individually and perhaps identify which each destination is worthy of taking a half or full day trip from Florence.
If you are ready to get outside of the urban environment and sample one of Italy’s finest wine regions, head to the beautiful town of Chianti and the surrounding mountainous villages that offer breathtaking panoramic views and amazing wineries. One of the iconic attractions in the Chianti region is Castello di Verrazzano, a castle located in the town of Greve that offers an on-site winery, vineyard and gorgeous views of the surrounding area.
For architecture and wine lovers, Chianti is perhaps the place to visit in Italy to experience the best of both, as you can frequently stumble across medieval buildings and castles that have either been converted into wineries or serve as the perfect landscape to enjoy the finest glass of wine.
A half (or full) day trip into the Chianti region of Italy offers plenty of attractions outside of the wine experiences, including a visit to the Chianti Sculpture Park, attending a local festival or even sampling an Italian cooking class at Borgo Argenina B&B.
Florence and Pisa may be the infamous cities associated with the Italian region of Tuscany but one of the lesser known locations that is well worth visiting during a day trip from Florence is Siena. Recognized locally as a city known for delicious cuisine, distinctive art collections, a diverse range of museums and of course, a medieval cityscape, Siena is a place well worthy of taking at least a half-day trip from nearby Florence.
Siena’s authentic architecture is epitomized throughout the city’s historic heart, namely the Piazza del Campo located in a central location and offering everything there is to love about this city. Renowned as a location for local, public celebrations, this historic square is unsurprisingly recognized across Europe as one of the most spectacular medieval squares. The Palazzo Pubblico and its accompanying Torre del Mangia are the highlight architectural masterpieces surrounding the square but as you relax with a cup of local espresso (or something a little stronger), you cannot help but admire the intricate details of this beautiful city.
Siena Cathedral is another popular attraction, notably given that its history dates back to the early 13th century and views across the city are breathtaking from the summit of the interior. Climb one of the walls to enjoy the spectacular panoramic scenes across Siena and beyond.
Can anyone justify a visit to Italy without taking some time to visit one of the world’s most iconic attractions – the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It should be noted that Pisa is much more than just this one landmark and despite attracting over one million visitors from all corners of globe each year, the Leaning Tower itself is a landmark everyone has to experience at least once in their lifetime. A short train ride or guided tour from Florence, Pisa is an Italian city that is perfect to experience for a short half-day getaway.
A visit to Pisa wouldn’t be the same without grabbing that infamous selfie that I am sure all of you have seen across social media…yes, that’s right, where you hold up the tower! It’s cheesy, it’s fun but taking some time to actually appreciate the architectural masterpiece and the ingenuity behind the design is well worth it.
If you arrive by train, you can experience much of Pisa by walking across the historic city to the Leaning Tower, taking in the local boutique shops and admiring the local artistry and culture that has helped transform a city that should be recognized for more than just a single attraction.
As you battle the hordes of tourists and locals attempting to sell their merchandise around the Leaning Tower, you can head away from the hustle and bustle of this attraction and admire the other architectural gems close by. The Piazza del Duomo is the urban green space that is home to the tower along with the nearby attractions of Cattedrale di Pisa (medieval cathedral dating back to the late 11th century) and San Giovanni Baptistery.
Head to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy to explore the historic city of Bologna. Another of Italy’s lesser known cities that frequently falls under the radar, Bologna is definitely worth experiencing if you love history, culture and the city’s pièce de résistance – Lambrusco wine! In less than 90 minutes you can be in Bologna from Florence and you will quickly realize that this is another very walkable city where you can explore a myriad of attractions in a short amount of time.
In term of the best things to do in Bologna, there are plenty of options. Why not start in the historic heart of the city by visiting Piazza Maggiore, a square that exemplifies how this city has continued to embrace the medieval and 15th century history surrounding it.
This central square is home to a variety of local restaurants, bars, coffee shops and more, meaning this is a popular spot among locals and visitors alike. The Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d’Accursio and Palazzo dei Bianchi are just a few iconic buildings you can explore here and it’s fair to say that you could probably spend several hours just admiring the architectural brilliance of this square.
The Towers of Bologna are another must-see attraction and for those brave enough to climb to the summit, the views across the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy are breathtaking. Perhaps one of the most iconic and unique characteristics of Bologna are the 40km of porticos that help create a distinctive atmosphere throughout the city. Embrace the “undercover” benefits of these ancient arches to explore Bologna regardless of the weather.
Cinque Terre, frequently recognized as the Italian Riviera is an area you will want to visit if you are looking for those picture perfect scenes across the Mediterranean Sea. A day trip to Cinque Terre is barely enough to experience the inherent beauty of the Liguria region of Italy but if you can only spend one day here, it’s well worth the effort because the scenery, cuisine and other attractions are breathtaking.
The Cinque Terre stretch of coastline comprises of five fishing communities, each of which are gorgeous and offer distinctive attractions and panoramic scenes that will make you want to explore. The real beauty of Cinque Terre is that even though you are visiting a hugely popular area in Italy, there is still a real sense of authenticity that has been preserved despite the five villages being transformed into such popular attractions.
Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore collectively make up the Cinque Terre area and realistically, if you only have one day to visit, simply choose one of these to enjoy the real beauty of this Italian coastline. Riomaggiore is frequently the first stop on tour visits to Cinque Terre as it’s furthest south and the views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea from the top of the ravine are just as spectacular as the experiences you will have in the quaint harbor at the bottom.
Rimini and San Marino
A more adventurous day trip will start by spending the morning in Bologna before heading south to the coastal town of Rimini followed by a visit to one of the world’s smallest countries, San Marino. If you want to bypass Bologna and save this for another day, you can easily spend a half day in Rimini followed by the second half in San Marino.
Rimini is home to northern Italy’s oldest standing triumphal arch, Arco d’Augusto, dating back to 27 BC to commemorate the construction of Via Flaminia. One of Rimini’s unique attractions is the “Italia in Miniatura” experience where you can view all of Italy’s iconic locations in miniature versions. Ponte di Tiberio is an ancient Roman bridge that epitomizes the history associated with this part of Italy, along with the nearby Borgo San Giuliano, a colorful quarter home to local residences, piazzas and more.
Head to the train station in Rimini to hop on the local bus that will take you deep into the heart of the Apennines mountain region of Italy and allow you to explore the microstate of San Marino. With a little over 30,000 locals, San Marino is barely populous enough to be classified as a city, never-mind a country. But for those of you looking to check off your list of countries visited across the globe, a day trip from Bologna to San Marino or even Florence is definitely an experience you won’t want to miss.
The steep streets around San Marino are such that this makes this architectural design an even more spectacular experience. From the top of San Marino, the views across the Emilia-Romagna region and eastern coast of Italy are a sight to behold. Don’t forget to head inside the local tourist office to get an official San Marino stamp in your passport, the one true souvenir worth collecting aside from your memories and pictures.
Florence is a city that you can easily justify a visit without needing to get away as there are plenty of attractions, rich history and culture associated with it. However, this city also serves as the perfect location to choose as a base to explore many other iconic destinations around Italy. In fact, you could easily argue that Florence is the best place to stay if you are wanting to spend a week or two exploring the very best of the Italian nation.
The above listed day trips are just a few examples of the experiences you can enjoy from Florence. For those of you that are really adventurous, you could consider day trips to Rome or Milan along with a variety of other cities in the vicinity. The Frecciarossa high-speed train system is a great way to explore Italy and if you utilize Florence as your base, you can combine this amazing service with a variety of organized day tours to ensure your Italian vacation is relaxing, memorable and a truly authentic experience.