So you’ve admired Florence’s famous Renaissance art, biked along the Arno, and sipped a Negroni during aperitivo hour—now what? For a taste of Italy beyond the city crowds, consider these day trips from Florence:
If you want a quick breath of fresh air:
Why Go: Hikes and sunset views.
Travel Time: 20 minutes by bus; 60-90 minutes walking
Fiesole is a sleepy little town of 14,000 with ancient ruins, elegant villas, scenic walking routes, fabulous food, and impressive views over Florence. Wealthy Renaissance families, led by the Medici, designed luxurious summer retreats with ornate gardens, and the Franciscan convent erected in the Middle Ages still houses a community of monks. Today, Florentines spend summer evenings here, and visitors come to escape the city for a few hours.
If you want a mini version of Florence:
Why Go: City vibes without the crowds.
Travel time: 30-50 minutes by train
Just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Florence lies a city that’s often overlooked. The cities look and feel a lot alike, from the green shutters and yellow façades of the palazzi to the dishes served in local trattorias. But there is one big difference: Florence is a magnet for tourists, while the streets of Pistoia are refreshingly free of tour groups and souvenir shops.
If you want a dose of the Renaissance:
Why go: Renaissance ramparts and city cycling.
Travel Time: 1.5-2 hours by train
Lucca is perfect for pedestrians and bike riders, with lively streets, ornate churches, a tree-topped tower, and squares where locals do their socializing. It’s all built on Etruscan and Roman foundations and a silk trade that led to steady growth throughout the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The town is still very animated and there’s plenty to see, do, and taste throughout the year.
If you want that leaning tower photo for your Instagram:
Why go: The Leaning Tower and beach access.
Travel time: 1 hour by train
It’s easy to pigeonhole Pisa as a one-monument town, but there’s more to it: Pisa is an elegant, walkable city that’s neither too big nor too small. A day or two strolling along the Arno, observing the city from medieval walls, pedaling past aqueducts, and toasting with locally brewed beer will help you discover another side to Pisa.
If you want to try some vino:
Why go: Wine-tasting!
Travel time: 45 minutes by car to Greve, the region’s gateway
Imagine Tuscany, and Chianti’s vineyards and olive groves are what usually come to mind. The main attraction is the verdant landscape, tiny hill towns, and red wine. A visit to Chianti is about tasting authentic flavors in family-run trattorie and sampling great wine directly from the source. There are hundreds of wineries, and many of them welcome visitors. The agriturismo farm stay movement was born here and there are plenty of rustic and luxurious options for anyone who wants to hunker down and explore narrow hillside roads on foot, bicycle, or Vespa.
If you want to explore quintessential Tuscany:
Tuscan Hill Towns
Why go: Wineries, monasteries, and tranquility.
Travel time: 2 hours by car to Montalcino
Here, spaces are wider, medieval towns are spread farther apart, and hills resemble an undulating sea of green. Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano form an impressive trio filled with architecture inspired by Renaissance ambitions and overlooking vineyards, olive groves, and cypress-lined roads that lead to ancient abbeys and hundreds of small wineries. A glass of red is always nearby, as are tempting trattorias serving pici pasta, fortresses to climb, and trails leading into this incredible corner of Tuscany.
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