Florence is one of the most enchanting travel destinations in Italy. From the beautiful Renaissance art exhibits, to the breathtaking Old World architecture, there is no shortage of awe-inspiring sights and activities in the city. Nonetheless, after a few days (or weeks) in Florence, you may be interested in seeing what the rest of Tuscany has to offer. Thankfully, there are a plethora of quaint towns, exciting activities, and informative tours to experience in the surrounding region.
So after relaxing in your beautiful Florentine villa, to re-energize your Florence vacation, let’s take a look at some of the best day trips to take from Florence, Italy.
About an hour train ride is all it takes to get from the heart of Florence to Arezzo, a city that sits about 62 kilometers to the south east. If you prefer a quiet place that still has all of the amenities of a big city, then Arezzo is the spot for you. With a population that is just shy of 100,000, Arezzo lacks the hustle-and-bustle of Rome or Florence, instead it has authentic village atmosphere and plenty of things to see.
First and foremost, there is the historic Piazza Grande. This square sits on a slope and has functioned as a center of commerce and meeting place since its establishment in the Middle Ages. It is surrounded by buildings dated between the 13th and 16th centuries, with the grand Palazzo delle Logge being one of the most recent additions.
If you come at the right time of year, you might be able to catch the Saracen Joust, a biannual reenactment and celebration of the days when knights would compete in jousting tournaments. Additionally, every weekend you can go there to see the Antiques Fair and find a souvenir to commemorate your trip.
From the Piazza Grande, a 15 minute car ride will take you to Villa La Ripa. There you can sample fine wines in a centuries old farmhouse, or simply explore the beauty of the surrounding vineyard. If wine isn’t your thing, there are a number of gorgeous churches and museums to see in Arezzo, from the Basilica of San Francesco to the Museo Archeologico Mecenate.
Despite its modest population, things are pretty spread out in Arezzo, so it may be difficult to see everything on your list in one day. However, one of the city’s many guided tours can help you get the most bang for your buck. There are a number of tours and activities that can cater to your specific interests, from art and wine tours to pasta-making classes.
Situated south west of Florence, San Gimignano is about an hour (by car) or an hour and a half (by train) from the city. The small village of San Gimignano may not have a lot of inhabitants, but it is truly a wonder to behold. Surrounded by endless green hills and olive groves, San Gimignano is the perfect destination for anyone looking to soak in the local culture and enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the Italian countryside.
It features a number of medieval towers that give visitors a stunning view of the surrounding area. If you’re not a fan of heights, don’t worry because the village also has picturesque cobblestone streets leading you through the historic town center. From there, you can take a quick stroll to the Church of San Gimignano, which houses beautiful 14th century frescoes. Even if you don’t want to climb up to the top of one of the city’s many towers, you can still enjoy what’s inside. The Torre Grossa, for example, includes art pieces that span five centuries.
Finally, for those that want to sample authentic Tuscan cuisine, San Gimignano is the place to go. Whether you prefer larger restaurants or family-owned, hole-in-the-wall establishments, this village has a little something for everybody. If you like to stay out late, the Ristorante Osteria Delle Catene features seasonal dishes made with local ingredients. Visitors and locals alike enjoy La Mandragola, where both the food and wine selection are exceptional.
Additionally, if you’d like to sample the wines of Tuscany, consider taking a wine tour of San Gimignano with My Tuscan Wine and Tours.
If you take the train west from Florence, it will bring you straight to the heart of Pisa, one of the most famous cities in all of Italy. Many people are already familiar with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but the city also has many other attractions to help you enjoy your day trip.
Naturally, you should start your day out at the Piazza del Duomo, where you can join the other tourists in taking a picture with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or enjoy the medieval architecture of the Cattedrale di Pisa. From there, take a quick walk over to Pisa’s cemetery, where famous locals are buried and the surrounding structure is adorned with 14th century frescoes.
For those who appreciate Gothic architecture, Pisa has a number of worthwhile attractions. The Pisa Baptistery features panels by the great artist, Pisano, while the Santa Maria del Spina is known for its gorgeous painted ceiling and many statuettes.
However, cities like Pisa have so many great things to see that it can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, there are various guided tours to help you make the most of your day trip. You can check out DiscoveryPisa or Pisa Explorer for more information.
The beautiful city of Siena lies about an hour’s car ride south of Florence (or an hour and a half by train), and it is well worth the trip. It is best known for its gorgeous views of the Tuscan countryside and medieval buildings. Thousands of tourists visit the small city every year, mostly because Siena retains the centuries-old architecture and local charm of the Tuscany region.
One of the most exciting places to see in Siena is the Piazza del Campo, especially if you visit at the right time of year. In July and August, this historic city square hosts the Palio horse race, where riders representing different parts of the city compete.
If you would like to take a step back in time, you can walk over to the Duomo di Siena, a 13th century cathedral. The cathedral is easy to find, as its tower stands tall over the rest of the city. It features a beautiful facade and authentic art and architecture of the Middle Ages. From there, you can take a stroll and relax by the Fonte Gaia, an area that features beautiful statues and a majestic fountain. Finally, if you’d like to catch up on Italian literature, the Piccolomini Library is a breathtaking building with thousands of books to choose from.
Thankfully, if you’d like to learn some additional facts about the beautiful buildings and history of Siena, there are a variety of tours that you can join throughout the city.
As you can see, there are lots of amazing places that are just a short drive or train ride from Florence. So, once you’ve had your fill of “The City of Lilies,” be sure to check out all of the great sites, historical monuments, and fantastic food and wine of Tuscany!