Best day trips from Florence: day tours and do it yourself options

Best day trips from Florence: day tours and do it yourself options

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Right in the centre of Italy, Florence is a great base to explore Tuscany and beyond.

With fantastic transport links via the train and major roads, you can visit pretty medieval towns, wine country and the spectacular coast from there.

Here are our pick of the best day trips from Florence.

We chose places that are a maximum of 2 hours travel each way from Florence by train or by car that you can explore on your own or as part of a group tour.

These are places where in a day you will have a little time to explore on your own, have a leisurely lunch and see some sights before returning to Florence.

In the article you will learn how to do these Florence day trips on your own or if you prefer group tours we recommend our favorites.

Best day trips from Florence summary

siena tour from florence

Here is a summary of the destinations covered in this article. To see photos and read more about each day trip use the table of contents below.

DestinationStyleBest forDIY transportRecommended toursFamily friendly
PisaCity tripCulture lovers
Families
TrainHalf day - click here for infoYes - short trip
LuccaCity tripCulture lovers
Families
Train, bus or carFull day including visit to Pisa - click here for infoYes- parks and outdoor activities
SienaCity tripCulture lovers
Foodies
Car or busSmall group tour of Siena and San Gimignano - click here for infoYes - better with older children
Val D'OrciaCountrysideView seekers
Foodies
Wine lovers
CarGroup tour to southern Tuscany - click here for infoNot recommended unless driving or taking a private tour
ChiantiWine tourWine loversCarWinery tour plus lunch - click here for infoNot recommended
MontalcinoWine tourWine loversCarMontalcino and winery tour plus lunch - click here for infoNot recommended
Cinque TerreCoastTime poor travelers
Train or carBus tour - click here

Private tour - click here
Not recommended unless taking a private tour
ViareggioBeach dayFamilies
Beach lovers
Train or carNoneYes
Forte dei MarmiElegant beach resortFamilies
Beach lovers
Train or carNoneYes
MilanCity tripCulture lovers
Fashionistas
TrainMilan city highlights tour - click here for infoNot recommended for small children. OK for teenagers

Of course technically you can reach Rome and Venice in this time frame but we would not recommend that approach unless you are visiting to see one attraction. There is simply too much to do in those cities and they warrant several days’ exploration.

If you have limited time in Italy you might like to read our 10 day itinerary that covers the major cities as well as Cinque Terre and excursions from Florence.

Florence to Pisa day trip

florence to pisa day trip

Famous for the Torre di Pisa, the Leaning Tower, Pisa is perhaps the easiest day trip from Florence. The city can be tackled in half a day if you just want to see the tower, cathedral and baptistery found in the city’s Piazza dei Miracoli.

But it is worth having a leisurely lunch and wandering through this pretty university town on the river Arno.

Be aware that the main tourist area is very crowded with tour buses and people. There are lots of hawkers trying to sell you things. If you find that annoying, find a place on the grass to relax behind the cathedral where it is less crowded.

This day trip is easy to do on your own but we have made some tour suggestions below if you prefer.

Top things to do in Pisa

  • Admire the architectural wonders of the Piazza dei Miracoli
  • Take the photo of you pushing the Tower – everyone does it
  • Climb the Leaning Tower and visit the cathedral – book skip the line tickets here (recommended)
  • Explore the old town and beautiful Piazza Dei Cavalieri

florence to pisa tour

Where to eat in Pisa

Recommended tour to Pisa from Florence

Join an afternoon tour from Florence and travel direct to the site with your guide who will explain the history and significance of the area and architecture. Tip – guides usually know where to get the best photos

Alternatively, this 8 hour tour combines a visit to Pisa to view the Leaning Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli with a guided walking tour of Lucca – >click here for more information

How to get to Pisa 

The journey from Florence to Pisa takes:

  • around an hour by train from Florence Santa Maria Novella – fare €18 return. From there it is an easy half hour walk to the Leaning Tower. There are up to 5 trains per hour between the cities
  • 1 hour 30 minutes by bus from Stazione Nazionale – fare €16 return. It’s about 15 minutes from the bus stop to the tower on foot
  • just over one hour by car via the A11 – there is parking a short walk from the tower at Via Andrea Pisano, 17

Lucca in a day

florence to lucca day trip

Lucca is a walled medieval city with lots of charm. A little off the beaten path, a day trip to Lucca will show you another side of Italy.

Here there is a more relaxed pace but it is also a city with more locals than tourists. Lucca has a wonderful and unique history and was the home of opera composer Puccini.

The journey from Florence by train is around 1½ hours. From the train station it is a short walk to the city walls that were converted into a beautiful park in the 18th century.

You can hire bikes to ride around the walls or simply enjoy a stroll along the 4km pathway before heading into the old town to explore.

Top things to do in Lucca

  • Walk or ride the city walls
  • Take in the views from Torre Guinigi
  • Admire the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro – a former Roman amphitheatre
  • Visit San Michele in Foro – one of the most spectacular churches in Tuscany

what to do in lucca tuscany italy

Where to eat in Lucca

  • Ristorante San Colombano on the city walls has lovely views and some interesting local dishes – especially risotto
  • Osteria Tosca in beautiful little Piazza Cittadella. Ask for a table outside so you can dine with (a statue of) Puccini

Recommended tour to Lucca from Florence

This 8 hour tour includes a stop in Pisa to view the Leaning Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli and a guided walking tour of Lucca with a stop to try the local cake – >click here for more information

How to get to Lucca 

The journey from Florence to Lucca takes:

  • just under 2 hours by train from Florence Santa Maria Novella with a change in Pisa – fare €20 return
  • 1 hour 30 minutes by bus from Stazione Nazionale – fare €16 return
  • just under one hour by car via the A11 toll road, make sure to park outside the city walls – there are plenty of parking spaces

>> Read our full guide to Lucca here

Siena

florence to siena day trip

Siena is a historic city in the heart of Tuscany.  Listed on UNESCO’s world heritage sites, the centre of this beautiful town is worth exploring on an outing from Florence.

While you could simply wander the cobbled streets in search of a trattoria for lunch, the city has a wealth of treasures to uncover.

The impressive Duomo is home to artworks by Michelangelo, Donatello and Bernini while the views from the Torre del Mangia of the surrounding countryside are breathtaking.

Lastly, spend some time in Piazza del Campo, the main square, where the city’s famous Palio horse race is held each year

Top things to do in Siena

  • Relax in Piazza del Campo
  • Visit the Duomo to see masterpieces by Renaissance masters
  • Explore the medieval streets and piazzas
  • Climb the Torre del Mangia

florence to siena bus

Where to eat in Siena

Recommended tours to Siena from Florence

This small group tour to Siena and San Gimignano including lunch at a winery in Chianti sounds like the perfect way to experience a taste of Tuscany in a day. Covering both Siena and San Gimignano, there are a maximum of 16 people on the tour – >more information

Traveling on a budget? You can visit Siena on a full day bus tour that also covers San Gimignano, a traditional Tuscan lunch and wine tasting in Chianti. – Note this is a large group tour >more information

How to get to Siena 

As the train station is quite far from the centre of town in Siena, most people opt to take the bus which is also quicker.

The journey by bus from Florence to Siena takes around 1¼ hours from Firenze Autostazione Via Santa Caterina da Siena, 15/17  – fare €10 return. Last bus returns to Florence around 20:30pm

You could also do the trip by car in around an hour on Raccordo Autostradale Firenze Siena in Impruneta. You can find parking for around €35 per day at Parking S. Caterina Siena [Via Esterna di Fontebranda, 51]

Val D’Orcia

val dorcia southern tuscany tours from florence

The Val D’Orcia (Orcia valley) south of Florence is the home of some the most enduring images of Tuscany. Tall cypress trees sway in the breeze over rolling hills covered in vines.

Pretty hilltop towns with cobbled streets overlook the countryside. Our favorite of all is Pienza – the ideal Renaissance town, built to spec by one of the Piccolomini popes.

This area is where you will find some of Italy’s finest wines including the renowned Brunello di Monticalcino and delicious pecorino sheeps milk cheese. The Val D’Orcia is a must visit area on your trip to Tuscany.

Top things to do in the Val D’Orcia

  • Visit the hilltop towns – Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Montichiello
  • Have a long lingering lunch admiring views of the valley
  • Taste the local pecorino cheese
  • Discover the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine

pienza tuscany day trip from florence

Where to eat in the Val D’Orcia

  • Osteria La Porta – Tuscan cuisine with incredible views from an ancient terrace – must book!

Recommended tours of the Val D’Orcia from Florence

This tour of Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano including wine tasting is a great option for those on a budget. Be aware that this is a large group tour – >click for Val D’Orcia group tour information

Or, if you want the fully personalized luxury experience, choose a private guide with all the insider knowledge of the Val D’Orcia area to make your day in southern Tuscany truly memorable – >more information on private tours

How to get to the Val D’Orcia

For this trip you definitely need a car if you are not joining a guided tour. Take the A1 highway south from Florence towards Rome, then head south west along the SP15 and SP46 roads until you reach this area. It takes just under 2 hours without stops and there are some tolls along the way.

From there explore the back roads of the Val D’Orcia. I had to keep getting out of the car to take photos, it is that beautiful.

Note – if you want to visit wineries you will need to make advance reservations.

You can return to Florence via the same route or go via Siena – this takes a little longer.

>> Read our full guide to Pienza here

Tuscany wine routes

wine tours florence italy

One of the most famous wine regions in the world, Tuscany is wine lovers dream. There are thousands of wine producers across the 10 main wine districts of Tuscany. Of these, the most famous are Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Planning a do it yourself wine tour of these areas is, in our opinion, for the truly committed and wine connoisseur. Unlike in the United States or Australia, wineries do not operate an open cellar door. You need to make reservations in advance and plan a tight schedule.

If you are driving, your tasting will of course be restricted by the law and staying sober.

For these reasons we suggest joining guided tours of your favorite wine regions.

Chianti

chianti wine tour from florence

Wine lovers need no introduction to this area. The region of Chianti lies between Florence and Siena and produces wine of the same name in stunning surrounds.

Rolling green hills, stone villages and vineyards as far as the eye can see make this a popular place to tour from Florence.

Wine tours of Chianti usually visit one or two producers with a stop in Greve – a picturesque village typical of the area.

Suggested tours

Group tour – Travel by coach to the Chianti region. On the way you learn about the 300 year old history of the wine variety and its links to the Medici family. There are stops at two wine estates and time to explore the pretty village of Greve – >more information

Private tour of organic and biodynamic wineries – After being picked up from your hotel, enjoy visiting the local producers who use traditional pesticide free winemaking methods. This tour takes you to San Gimignano and several boutique wineries for the ultimate Chianti experience – >more information

Brunello di Montalcino

brunello di montalcino tuscany wine tour

One of the most celebrated wines in the world, Brunello is made by around 200 producers in southern Tuscany near Montalcino.

A strict set of requirements governs Brunello wines. They are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and must be aged for 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle. This ensures the tannins naturally present in the wine mature.

Montalcino itself is a lovely medieval hilltop town worth exploring for a few hours and admiring the views from its fortress.

Suggested tours

Small group tour – this full day tour visits two producers to understand their technique and approach to making Brunello and includes a stop in Montalcino and lunch in the vineyards. Highly recommended to break up any city based trip to Italy – >more information If you are more interested in wine than towns then try this tour

Group tour – one of the best selling group tours of the region from Florence, this is a larger group covering the towns of the Val D’Orcia and Brunello wine tasting – >more information

Private tour – high up on our list for the next time we are in southern Tuscany is a visit to the important and organic wine makers of the region. This tour by wine tourism specialists Vinarium looks fabulous – >more information

Self drive

This article lays out a suggested route if you want to explore at your own pace.

Cinque Terre

cinque terre day trip from florence

If you have the colorful coastal villages of the Cinque Terre on your Italy wish list and a tight itinerary, it is possible to visit this area from Florence.

A day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is a long one as there is some distance driving or travel by train to get there. But once you are there, you are sure to fall in love with these cliff top towns with their pretty cobbled streets and incredible views over the Ligurian sea.

Depending on the time of year that you visit, you will need to travel between the villages by boat and/or local train service. Boat services operate between the villages from May and October but can be cancelled at any time due to bad weather.

Top things to do when you visit the Cinque Terre

  • Walk along Via dell’Amore – the path of love (if it is open)
  • Choose your favorite village
  • Try the local trofie pasta – served with pesto sauce – delicious!
  • Soak up the atmosphere and the fresh sea breezes

cinque terre tour from florence

Where to eat in the Cinque Terre towns

How to get to the Cinque Terre on your own

Make your way to La Spezia where you can catch the local Cinque Terre train or ferry boats (if they are operating) to the Cinque Terre villages:

  • trains depart from the Campo di Marte transport hub in Florence and if you catch the fast direct service it takes just over an hour and half to make the trip. To make the most of your day aim for the fast train that departs around 07:30am otherwise it is a 90 minute wait for the next train and they take longer to reach La Spezia (over 2hours) – fares €40 return
  • Make sure to get to the train station early so you have enough time to buy tickets (there will be lots of other tourists)
  • take note of the last return train so you are not stuck in La Spezia – the last fast train back to Florence is at around 20:00pm

By car – driving to La Spezia takes around an hour and a half from Florence via the A11 and A12. There is a 24 hour underground carpark at the station [Piazzetta Ancona, 7, 19122 La Spezia] that costs around €18 per day – you can try to reserve a space by booking online here otherwise it is first come, first serve.

cinque terre day trip from florence

Getting around the Cinque Terre

Once you are in La Spezia you need to change to the Cinque Terre Express train or the ferry boat service. As it is quite a walk from the train station to the ferry we recommend you take the train to Riomaggiore where you can pick up a boat if they are running.

There is a Cinque Terre train that departs from La Spezia at 09.25am. You will need this Cinque Terre card to ride on it – cost €7.50. Trains depart every half hour along this route.

You will need to depart on the 19:20pm train from Monterosso (at the very latest) to ensure you make the fast train back to Florence leaving around 20:00pm. In peak season these trains are very busy so factor that into your planning.

>> Click here for Cinque Terre train timetable

Recommended Cinque Terre tour from Florence

florence to cinque terre day trip by train

The best way to see the Cinque Terre from Florence is to take a private tour or small group tour. This way you can relax and let your guide transport you to this beautiful part of the world, make restaurant suggestions and even reservations and tell you all about the area

If you are traveling on a budget, this bus group tour from Florence takes you to 4 of the 5 towns and helps you move from village to village with ease.

Departing from Florence at 7am and returning at 7pm, it is a long day but one you are certain to remember forever. The cost is around €90 per person >>click for more information

>>Read our guide to the towns of the Italian Riviera here

Beach day trips from Florence

beaches near florence

If you feel like a beach day, it is easy to visit some of the coastal towns close to Florence. Here you can relax at one of the beach clubs and enjoy swimming in the Ligurian sea.

A note on beach clubs – in Italy you need to pay fee – starting at around €25 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs, it also includes towels, bathrooms and changing facilities. Other services such as sun loungers cost more. There are some free beaches “spiaggia libera” but they are not as common

Beach clubs also have a bar so you can order coffee, soft drinks, wine and beer as well as small snacks. They may even have activities for children. It is all quite civilized.

The clubs usually open mid May to mid September for the summer season.

Viareggio

beaches near florence - viareggio

One of the most popular seaside resorts for local Italians, Viareggio has 3 kilometres of white sandy beach.

The sea itself is not what you would call picturesque but the town makes up for it with a gorgeous Belle Epoque era promenade.

Best beach club in Viareggio

  • Bagno Nettuno has been an icon of the Viareggio beach scene since 1864.  Only a 20 minute walk from the train station the club has the usual beach club facilities plus a salt water pool, sports activities and a restaurant

Where to eat in Viareggio

How to get to Viareggio from Florence

Trains to Viareggio depart regularly from Florence. The journey takes an hour and a half and return fares from €10. The last train back to Florence departs around 22:00pm

You can also drive by car on the A11 toll road. The journey takes about an hour and a half and  you will find parking at Largo Risorgimento, 55049 Viareggio – this is a park and ride facility offering free bus transfers into the city.

Forte dei Marmi

forte dei marmi day trip from florence

Further along the coast, Forte dei Marmi is a considered a luxury beach resort town catering to a well to do Italian and international visitors.

Sometimes referred to as the Hamptons of Italy, Forte dei Marmi has a quiet glamour. Behind the sandy beaches the Apuan Alps, famous for their marble quarries, rise in the background.

If you are looking for Italian designer goods the town has many boutiques and a famous market held on Wednesdays where you can find some fantastic bargains.

Best beach club in Forte dei Marmi

  • Augustus Hotel is a classy establishment on the Forte dei Marmi lido. It has a heated salt water pool in case the sea water is looking a bit chilly.

Where to eat in Forte dei Marmi

  • The Fratellinis – Via della Repubblica, 2 – modern Italian and Japanese inspired dishes

How to get to Forte dei Marmi from Florence

Trains to Forte dei Marmi depart regularly from Florence. The journey takes an hour and 40 minutes and return fares from €11. The last train back to Florence departs around 20:50pm

The station is quite far (5km) from the beach so you might like to take a taxi there.

You can also drive by car on the A11 toll road. The journey takes about an hour and a half. Finding parking might be a challenge especially in August and the summer months. There is street parking but it is taken early.

Milan

day trip from florence to milan

Connections by train from Florence to Milan are fast and frequent meaning that a day trip to see the impressive Duomo and Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting are achievable if you have a strong plan.

You won’t see much else of Milan unfortunately but those are the main attractions visitors like to see when they are in Italy’s fashion capital. Other than shop, and you may just want to visit Milan to shop!

We recommend traveling by train and joining a tour of the city when you reach Milan so you can maximise your visit.

If you want to do everything yourself please make sure you book your Last Supper tickets well in advance. Only a small number of people are allowed to view the painting each day and it is managed by advance ticket sales.

You should book tickets at least 2 months in advance – >book tickets here

The Cathedral is worth exploring and visiting the rooftop for stunning views of the city and up close encounters with the Gothic architecture. You can prebook tickets for the cathedral rooftop here

Top things to do in Milan

  • Visit the impressive Duomo and walk on its rooftop
  • View the Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci
  • Shop at the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and on Via Montenapoleone

Da Vinci The Last Supper Milan

Where to eat in Milan

  • Mercato del Duomo next to the cathedral has several decent eateries. You can also access the Aperol Spritz bar that overlooks the square here.
  • For quick and tasty snack try the panzerotti (savory donuts) at Luini near the Duomo [Via Santa Radegonda, 16]

Recommended tour of Milan

This 3 hour highlights of Milan tour covers all the major sights including the Last Supper.

Your guide will help you navigate the streets and inform you of the history and stories of the city. There is also time to visit the cathedral and its rooftop before returning to Florence – >more information

How to get to Milan

The journey from Florence to Milan takes around an hour and 45 minutes by high speed train. There are several departures an hour.

You can buy tickets at the station in Florence or prebook here. Fares are around €40 return. Note it is cheaper if you book further in advance and travel in off peak times.

You arrive at Milan Centrale which is a short metro ride away from the Duomo. Metro is the best way to get around the city if you are there for a day, unless you join a tour.

The last fast train back to Florence departs at 20:50pm

We do not recommend taking the public bus or driving. Road transport times are up to 4 hours each way on toll roads.

>> Read our full guide to Da Vinci’s Milan here

Specialty tours from Florence

hot air balloon tuscany

These days tour operators are offering some very creative and unusual experiences that are sure to be among your favorite travel memories.

Here are some of our favorite tours with a twist from Florence:

  • Picnic Tour in a Vintage Fiat 500 – how marvellous would it be to take to the back roads of Tuscany in your very own vintage Fiat 500, stopping along the way for a picnic of local produce and wine. This tour is at the top of our wishlist for the next time we are in Tuscany – >more information

Recommended tours

best tuscany tours from florence

Group tours are a great way to the sights in Italy. Choose small group tours where possible then relax and enjoy the scenery while your guide and driver do all the hard work.

Book your tours at least at least 4-6 weeks in advance to secure your place. At peak times over summer you will need to book 2-3 months in advance.

We use and recommend GetYourGuide for booking tours in Italy and Europe. We like this service because you can:

  • easily compare available tours
  • book, cancel and track tours easily online and in the app
  • read full reviews

You can read our full GetYourGuide review here.

If we cannot find a suitable tour on GetYourGuide we will look in Viator – here is a link to Viator’s top tours in and from Florence.

Driving in Italy

driving tours from florence

Many people find the thought of driving in Italy quite daunting. But here’s the thing. If you are prepared and do your research you can reach some of the off the beaten path sights at your own pace.

Florence is a small city and it is relatively easy to drive into and out of the centre. There are several major car hire hubs near the airport and Santa Maria Novella station.

You can read our full guide to hiring a car and driving in Italy here but in the meantime here are some key tips for taking to the road.

Top 5 driving tips

  • Don’t forget to bring your international driving licence
  • Choose the smallest car you can – we like the Fiat 500
  • Plan your route before you get in the car and find a parking spot to navigate to
  • Learn about ZTL zones – restricted driving areas in historic centres
  • Stay calm and drive at your own pace

We use Rentalcars.com to find the best rental car deals in Italy.

Make sure you also purchase travel insurance to cover the excess charges should you damage your hire car or someone else’s car. For more information on the travel insurance you need for a trip to Italy – click here.

Quick train travel guide

Traveling by train is easy from Florence. Trains are efficient and clean and will pick you up and drop you off right in the centre of a city or town which is exactly where you want to be.

There really is no need to prebook train tickets. You can buy them easily enough at the train station. But, if you are like us and want to have everything organized before you go then Rail Europe have an easy to use online booking system.

You can also book directly on the Italian train system – this guide is an excellent source of information on how to do this.

We do NOT recommend buying a rail pass for Italy as you get much better value when you buy separate tickets.

Favorite hotels in Florence

Upscale – Hotel Lungarno

Just 100m from the Ponte Vecchio, luxury 5* Hotel Lungarno has a rooftop terrace with incredible views of the bridge

>click to view prices

Midrange – Hotel Balestri

Situated on the banks of the Arno, just a short walk from the main attractions, some of the rooms at this elegant hotel have views

>click here to view prices

Budget – Hotel Bodoni

A small friendly hotel offering rooms and apartments, a decent breakfast and rooftop terrace close to Santa Croce. Has an elevator.

>click to view prices

Family – Hotel Globus

with a great location close to the San Lorenzo market, Hotel Globus offers decent sized quadruple rooms and a varied breakfast

>click to view prices

For a list of all our recommended hotels in Florence by district click here</p


Our favorite day tour of Tuscany from Florence

Pienza Italy view from Palazzo Piccolomini

If you were to ask us to choose just one trip we would take the day tour to the Val D’Orcia stopping in Pienza and at a local winery. We did this trip recently and it was a highlight of our time in Italy.

Next time we will stay longer in this area and soak it all up because the scenery is nothing short of magical and the food and wine are delicious!


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About Untold Morsels travel blog

The creator, writer and photographer behind Untold Morsels, Katy has been travelling and tasting the world since she was a teenager.

Now the proud mum of twins, she hopes they grow up to share her passions of great food, wine and travel. Favourite destination: Italy

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3 Comments

  1. 29th July 2018 / 7:36 AM

    So many great ideas for day trips from Florence … so many more reasons for a return trip. How will I ever see the whole world? I’ve been to Florence, Pisa and Lucca (during the biggest comic festival – can’t remember the name, but it was fantastic). I so want to go to Cinque Terre, and now you have added even more ideas to my bucket list that is truly never ending! Thanks for all of the ideas – I’m sharing on Pinterest, G+ and Flipboard to help spread the word.

    • 30th July 2018 / 2:07 PM

      Thanks so much Stacy. I think my Italy list alone would consume a lifetime of trips! Hope you make it to the Cinque Terre very soon

  2. 2nd August 2018 / 11:53 PM

    Every single one of these places is one my list! I feel like I need a do-over with Cinque Terre and Florence! Siena though is HIGH on my list above all ever since I read a book about the contras there and the Palio! This guide will certainly come in handy one day!