Dazzling day trips from the city of Florence
A city of enchanting beauty, Florence casts an enduring spell. You could spend weeks wandering its palazzos, piazzas and galleries – but equally magical worlds await just a day trip away. So escape the city for a day (or more), and head to some of our favourite spots. Then return to some of the best hotels in Florence to plan your next adventure.
An hour’s drive south of Florence you’ll find San Gimignano, its 14 medieval towers drawing you in from a distance. This hilltop town is famed for its architecture dating back to the 11th century, when noble families began competing to build the tallest towers.
Take a tour of the Collegiata cathedral, whose startling 12th century murals depict scenes from the book of Genesis such as Noah’s ark and Joseph’s coat. Then take a walk through the streets to soak up the history and grab a gelato or two.
Few cities can rival Florence for art, architecture and beauty, but neighbouring Siena certainly comes close.
Whereas Firenze buzzes around the clock, Siena feels refreshingly peaceful. Follow narrow streets that snake their way up and down steep hills, criss-crossed by medieval archways. Whichever way you go, all roads seem to lead to Piazza del Campo or the magnificent pink marble Duomo. Lunch on lashings of handmade pici pasta, then tackle the climb up Torre del Mangia. From the top, you’ll see the terracotta rooftops give way to the hills and vineyards beyond.
The higgledy-piggledy fishing villages known as the Cinque Terre come together in pastel-hued harmony. Two hours from Florence, it’s worth spending the whole day hopping from village to village to live la dolce vita. Book onto a private tour to take the hassle out of travelling. Then relax and soak up views of steeply-stacked houses that seem to cling to the cliff side.
Just north of Florence, this hilltop commune offers a peaceful refuge from the city beneath it. Small as it may be, this was originally one of the most important cities in prehistoric Etruria. Travel back in time at the bronze-age exhibits in the archaeological museum. Discover the ruins of the roman baths. And visit the staggering 1st century BCE Roman amphitheatre, where today, performers grace the stage for Italy’s longest-running open-air festival, Estate Fiesolana.
Just an hour and a half from Florence, Pietrasanta is a charming art town, often overlooked in favour of nearby Lucca. International artists have transformed this medieval town into an open-air gallery. Look out for sculptures by Fernando Botero in and around Piazza del Duomo. There are numerous art galleries, workshops and pop-up exhibitions throughout the year for artists and enthusiasts alike, not to mention plenty of cafés where you can sit, sip and wait for inspiration to strike.
A tour of the Chianti countryside is a classic Florence day trip for a reason. And a full day is most definitely needed – a leisurely drive under the Tuscan sun through vineyards and villages is not something to be rushed. Book a tour or rent a car and head down to the town of Greve. Drink in all there is to know about the region’s best wines in Museo del Vino. Then put them to the (taste) test at nearby winery Le Cantine di Greve.
On your way back to Florence, swing by super-slick wine cellar complex Antinori nel Chianti Classico. Plucked straight out of a spy film, its underground vaults house thousands of prized bottles and barrels. Uncover its secrets on an hour-long guided tour, topped-off with a tasting in a glass room suspended above the cellar.