Day trips from Florence, Italy can take to the best places in Italy within a few hours. Just hop on a train and in no time you can be riding in a gondola through Venice or sipping wine in Chianti or eating your way through Bologna or taking hilarious selfies with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
And I should know — I’m an expert on traveling in northern Italy. I lived in Florence for four months and have since returned to Italy more than a dozen times. I’ve traveled all over Italy, from the Veneto to Sicily, but my expertise is concentrated in central northern Italy: Tuscany, Umbria, and Emilia-Romagna.
The great thing about these three regions is that they’re all within a stone’s throw of Florence. And thanks to new high-speed trains that have been built in the last decade, it’s never been easier (or faster) to travel across northern Italy!
For this reason, you could base yourselves in Florence for a good chunk of your Italy trip and still see a wide range of Italy. For a first-timer’s two-week trip to Italy, I’d recommend a full week in Florence bookended with a few days each in Rome and Venice. The older I get, the less I like changing accommodation often, and this is a nice way to have a long-term base (and less unpacking and repacking!) while still getting to see a ton of varied destinations in Italy.
I’ve chosen the best day trips from Florence: day trips in Tuscany, but also the surrounding regions. Famous spots like Rome and Cinque Terre are on my list, but so are lesser-known spots like Pienza (oh, I love Pienza SO much!) and Volterra. If you’re a devoted Catholic, I’ve got the perfect destination for you; if you’re a Shakespeare superfan, I’ve got a trip for you, too.
Here are my picks for the best day trips from Florence!
Most Iconic Day Trip from Florence: Pisa and Lucca
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, without a doubt, is one of the most famous sights in all of Italy. Not to mention the fact that it was made for Instagram! And since it’s so close to Florence — only an hour’s journey — it’s a very easy day trip.
However…while Pisa is nice, I don’t think it has enough attractions to justify a full day. Luckily, there is a gorgeous walled Tuscan town nearby that makes a perfect pairing: Lucca! Lucca is like a mini-Florence, brimming with beauty and art and charm. It does get its tourists, but it’s not quite as overwhelming as Siena or San Gimignano.
Best Things to Do in Pisa:
- Take all the selfies in front of the Leaning Tower. Go ahead and be cheesy — everyone else will be!
- Climb the Leaning Tower. Tickets are restricted and strictly timed to keep the tower safe, and I recommend buying advance tickets as the lines can be long.
- Don’t forget the other buildings! The Duomo, Baptistery, and other buildings by the tower are just as worthy of your exploration.
- Explore the city of Pisa. Take a stroll along the Arno, visit Santa Maria della Spina church, check out Piazza Dei Cavalieri.
Best Things to Do in Lucca:
- Lucca is a city suited to aimless wandering. Some of the best times you’ll have will be from what you discover with no destination in mind.
- Walk the city walls. Lucca is a walled city and walking the walls will give you beautiful views all over the region.
You could do a day trip to Pisa on its own, and you could do a day trip to Lucca on its own — but I think it’s best to do both in a single day. Ideally, Pisa in the morning and Lucca in the afternoon.
Best Nearby Day Trip from Florence: Siena and San Gimignano
If you’re spending time in Florence, you should take the time to explore some smaller towns in the Tuscan countryside. Siena and San Gimignano are two of the best and easiest towns to visit from Florence. They’re close to Florence and close to each other, so it’s easy to maximize your time and visit both in a single day.
Siena has long been the rival of Florence. In Renaissance times, they vied for the most brilliant creative minds in the region. Today, much of the rivalry extends to football! For that reason, Siena provides a lovely contrast to Florence. And you can’t beat the tower-strewn skyline of San Gimignano.
Best Things to Do in Siena:
- See the Piazza del Campo. This is one of the more expansive and immense piazzas in Tuscany — anything that’s worth happening happens in this piazza. And if you’re feeling adventures, climb the Torre del Mangia for city views.
- Admire the iconic cathedral. The Duomo of Siena is famous for its black-and-white-striped exterior, its Bernini-designed dome, and its mosaic floor. This is one of the most memorable churches in Tuscany.
- Try Sienese dishes. Siena has its own iconic eats, like truffles and panzanella. Join a food tour to taste the best of Siena.
- See the Palio! Siena’s most famous festival, its iconic horse race, takes place on July 2 or August 16. If you’re interested in this, know that it’s crowded and expensive. I recommend booking way ahead and staying a few days to enjoy the festivities that take place for three days leading up to the race. Check rates on Siena hotels here.
Best Things to Do in San Gimignano:
- Admire the towers. San Gimignano is often referred to as the “Manhattan of Tuscany” due to its many towers! Spend time walking through the streets and browsing the shops as well.
- Climb to the top of Torre Grossa. You’ll find the best views of San Gimignano from here, the tallest tower in town. You’ll also have access to the Palazzo Communale, which is home to beautiful frescoes.
- Eat cinghiale. Cinghiale, or wild boar, can be found throughout Tuscany, but it’s especially good in San Gimignano. It’s a rich meat similar to pork. My favorite way to have it is over pappardelle pasta. Or you could buy some cinghiale salami to take with you!
While I recommend visiting Siena and San Gimignano in a single day, you can also visit each on its own for a full day trip if you felt so inclined. This is your trip — do what you want!
Best Florence Day Trip for Romantics: Venice
It may look far away on the map, but Venice is a very doable day trip from Florence! Thanks to the high-speed trains, you can get from Florence to Venice in about two hours. That wasn’t an option even ten years ago.
What can be said about Venice? You already have a clear image of Venice in your mind: canals, crumbling buildings, gondoliers in striped shirts singing romantic songs. Venice is also filled with art, culture, and delicious food. There is no other place in the world quite like Venice, and if you’re planning a trip of any length to Italy, it’s a fabulous choice.
Best Things to Do in Venice:
- Take a ride in a gondola. It’s the iconic experience of Venice! Gondola rides can be expensive — it’s much cheaper to take a shared ride with others, though far more romantic to book a private ride with a loved one. Book a shared gondola here or book a private ride here.
- Feed the pigeons in Piazza San Marco. Personally, this would be the LAST thing my bird-phobic self would do in Venice, but hey, people enjoy it. Anything for the ‘gram.
- Go to the top of the Campanile. Venice’s bell tower will give you some of the best views above the city.
- Learn about glass in Murano. The island of Murano is home to the best glass artisans on the planet. You can catch a demonstration at a studio or go on a glass tour and learn to make something.
- Eat cichetti. Cichetti are Venice’s version of bar snacks, similar to Spanish tapas. Grab a glass of local wine and enjoy olives, sandwiches, or tiny fried concoctions while standing up at the bar.
- Get lost. I find that my favorite moments in Venice tend to be when I wander on my own away from touristy areas.
Do keep in mind that the express trains back to Florence often don’t run past 7:15 PM. If you’re booking trains independently, be sure to check the schedule before booking your trip. You could end up having to take a string of slow trains back to Florence, which will eat up your trip when you don’t need to.
If you’re looking to experience Venice at night, you might going to Venice for a few days instead of a day trip. Check prices on Venice hotels here.
Best Florence Day Trip for Instagram Addicts: Cinque Terre
While possible, do note that Cinque Terre is an ambitious day trip — ideally, I’d recommend visiting for two days or even three. But we don’t always have as much time to spare as we’d like, so if you have only one day free, a group tour is pretty much the best way to experience Cinque Terre in an efficient time manner.
If you’re an active traveler, consider booking a hiking day tour of Cinque Terre from Florence. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful hiking you can do in Italy.
Best Things to Do in Cinque Terre
- Enjoy the beauty and take lots of photos. This is what Cinque Terre is all about. Enjoy the colors, the views, and get all the Instagram shots you can. The most beautiful route is arguably between Monterosso and Vernazza. The photo above is Vernazza.
- See Cinque Terre from the water. For a different photographic point of view, take a boat tour from La Spezia.
- Eat pesto alla genovese. If any dish symbolizes the Liguria region, it’s pesto, made with the finest local basil. Make sure you eat at least one pasta dish with pesto!
If you want to experience Cinque Terre at night — and especially if you’re a photographer looking for those iconic shots — I recommend visiting Cinque Terre for a few days rather than just a day trip. Check out rates on Cinque Terre hotels here.
Best Florence Day Trip for Foodies: Bologna
Believe it or not, Bologna is actually my favorite city in Italy! It’s also well known for being the best foodie destination in all of Italy. Bologna is a city of many nicknames — la rossa (the red, for its many red buildings), la dotta (the learned, for its university), but most importantly, la grossa — the fat, which you will be if you enjoy Bologna to the fullest!
I love Bologna for its food culture, but also because it has a different feel from Florence. It receives far less tourists and thus feels more like a regular city catering to locals. There is art, though not as much as Florence; I’d argue that it has a more intellectual feel. Overall, when in Bologna I feel like I’m part of authentic Italian life, not a tourist visiting from America.
Best Things to Do in Bologna:
- Go on a food tour. More than anything, you go to Bologna to explore the cuisine. Be sure to try local specialties like tortellini, mortadella, squacquerone cheese, parmigiano reggiano cheese, prosciutto di Parma, tradizionale balsamic vinegar, piadine, and tagliatelle ragú, or what pasta bolognese should actually taste like.
- Climb the Torre Asinelli. The best views of Bologna are from the top of this tower, one of a pair overlooking the city.
- Explore the porticoes. Bologna is famous for its 40 kilometers of porticoes. They’re beautiful to look at, perfect shielding from the sun and rain, and they make great photos as well.
- Take a cooking class. An authentic recipe is the ultimate Emilia-Romagna souvenir to bring home to your loved ones!
- Experience aperitivo. Every evening, bars put out buffets of food before dinner. Order a glass of wine or cocktail and help yourself to the selection!
If you aren’t set on spending your entire trip in Florence, consider spending extensive time in Bologna and exploring the Emilia-Romagna region instead. I hold this region close to my heart and it’s an excellent choice for offbeat or foodie travelers, or travelers who have been to Italy before. From Bologna you can visit fabulous cities like Parma, Modena, Ferrara, Ravenna, Rimini, Brisighella, and even the landlocked nation of San Marino! For more, see my 25 Best Food Experiences in Bologna and Emilia-Romagna.
For a day trip, I recommend booking a food tour in Bologna and buying your own train tickets from Florence to Bologna.
Best Florence Day Trip for Wine Lovers: Chianti
Chianti is not only a type of wine — the wine is named after a region in Tuscany. The Chianti region stretches from just south of Florence to just north of Siena. To experience this region to the fullest, go on a day trip covering several wineries — this way, you don’t have to worry about driving! Chianti is a lot more diverse than you may think, and you can taste several varieties like Chianti Classico, Chianti Ruffino, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, and more. This region is filled with rolling green hills and tiny villages that are perfect for photos.
And yes, be prepared for someone to ask for some fava beans. It comes with the territory.
Best Things to Do in Chianti:
- Drink wine.
- Enjoy the countryside.
- That is it.
If you’d rather experience wine without leaving the city, consider a wine tasting class in Florence. That way you can learn about the wines while leaving extra time to explore Florence itself. And if you’re looking to bring wine home, make sure it has a DOC or DOCG label around the neck. This means you’ve brought home the most authentic wine.
Best Florence Day Trip for Catholics: Assisi
The Umbrian town of Assisi is one of the most iconic stops for Catholic travelers visiting Italy. If you’re taking a trip to Italy sponsored by a Catholic organization, you will undoubtedly stop here. (Yes, I went on two trips to Italy with my Catholic university, and both trips visited here.) St. Francis of Assisi, or Francesco, as he is known in Italy, is one of the most beloved figures of Catholicism, and even non-Catholics can appreciate his simple life, care for the poor, appreciation of nature, and attempt to build bridges with people of different faiths.
And Assisi itself is a beautiful Umbrian town. You’ve got your iconic beautiful cathedral, shops selling every souvenir you can imagine, and rolling green hills of the countryside. And wherever you go, locals are named Francesco and Chiara after the saint and his nun protegee.
Best Things to Do in Assisi:
- Visit the Basilica di San Francesco. The interior of the cathedral is filled with 28 frescoes by Giotto depicting the life of St. Francis. While it may seem at odds with St. Francis’s ascetic lifestyle, head to the basement for a simple, nature-inspired setting.
- Climb to the top of Rocca Maggiore. You’ll be rewarded with 360-degrees views of the countryside. A bit unnerving for those afraid of heights!
- Some Assisi day trips include a stop in Cortona. This is a beautiful Tuscan hill town and the setting of Under the Tuscan Sun!
Most Naturally Beautiful Trip from Florence: Pienza and the Val d’Orcia
You may never have heard of the Val d’Orcia (val DOR-cha) before, but I guarantee you’ll recognize it when you see it. The Val d’Orcia is a region in Tuscany that has been immortalized in countless Renaissance paintings — rolling hills, tall Cypress trees, tiny stone churches. In fact, it was purposely designed to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. On a typical tour of the region, you’ll visit the towns of Pienza, Montalcino, and/or Montepulciano.
Pienza is easily my favorite town in Tuscany — in fact, it’s one of my favorite towns in Italy! The town is so incredibly romantic and photogenic, and there are lots of food and cheese shops. It’s hard to explain what makes it such a lovely place — it’s pretty and romantic, but I think there’s something in the atmosphere that’s hard to define!
Best Things to Do in the Val d’Orcia:
- Enjoy Pienza’s romantic streets. It’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful town. Streets have names like Via dell’Amore (Love), Via de Baci (Kisses) and Via Della Fortuna (Luck)!
- Climb to the top of Montalcino’s fortress. From here you’ll have beautiful views of the town.
- Try the world-famous local wines. Some of Italy’s finest wines come from the Val d’Orcia: Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile from Montepulciano.
This is one day trip that I recommend doing as an organized tour. This region is tough to explore by public transportation, plus you’ll be able to stop and take photos of the beautiful countryside. If you want to do it solo, I recommend renting a car.
Quickest and Easiest Florence Day Trip: Fiesole
If you don’t want to go far, one of the quickest day trips from Florence takes less than an hour’s journey. The town of Fiesole is on a mountain overlooking Florence. It actually predates Florence — it was settled by the Etruscans in the 8th-9th century BC. While it’s a tiny place today with a population of just 14,000, you see the legacy of its history in its attractions. Plus, that panoramic view of Florence isn’t half bad!
Best Things to Do in Fiesole:
- Climb to the Church of San Francesco. This is the highest point in town and you’ll have the best panorama of Florence from here. Beyond that, the church itself is worth a visit.
- Visit the Bandini Museum. You’ll find early Renaissance works by a selection of local painters here.
- See the Roman amphitheater. The best Roman ruins close to Florence are in Fiesole! Explore this amphitheater and enjoy the acoustic perfection. They even put on performances here during the summer.
Fiesole doesn’t require a full day — I think just a half day, maximum, is all you need. You can easily combine this with a fun-filled day in Florence.
Best Florence Day Trip for City Lovers: Rome
Ideally, Rome should be given a minimum of three days — there are just so many treasures. But if you’re limited to just one day in Rome, it can be done if you plan your day carefully. Take the 90-minute high-speed train, leave early and come back late, and buy skip-the-line tickets for the attractions you want to see (the lines at the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums are particularly brutal).
Rome is the alpha and the omega. You’ll find history dating back thousands of years here (hello, Roman Forum!) as well as modern hipster haunts. While Florence is the epicenter of Renaissance art, Rome is strongest in the Baroque art, categorized by its realism and drama to the Renaissance’s placidity and idealism. The food is spectacular and varied. Whatever you are looking for in Rome, you can craft your experience to your own personal tastes.
Best Things to Do in Rome:
- See priceless art at the Vatican Museums. These museums are full of priceless art by artist like Raphael, Leonardo, and Giotto, but the best prize is the last hall you see: the Sistine Chapel, painstakingly painted by Michelangelo. It is nothing short of spectacular. Buy skip-the-line tickets or you’ll be waiting for hours.
- Visit St. Peter’s Basilica. The largest church in the world is not for the faint-hearted. It’s an overwhelming piece of Baroque architecture, stuffed with more priceless art than you can imagine.
- Explore the Colosseum. Easily one of the symbols of Rome (and Italy? Europe? The world?!), it’s an incredible place to visit. You can almost see the gladiators fighting and Rome’s elite cheering them on. Get skip-the-line tickets and a Forum tour here.
- Check out the Roman Forum. Rome is a city where the ancient stands tall amongst the modern. But the Forum is where you get to see the greatest concentration of ancient monuments, including Via Sacre and the House of Vestal Virgins.
- See the sunset from Castel Sant’Angelo. Of all the sunset spots in Rome, this one is my favorite. You get incredible views over St. Peter’s Basilica.
- Wander Trastevere. This neighborhood is full of winding streets and hidden alleys — while it’s not quite the secret it once was, it’s still a lovely contrast to the bigger, louder neighborhoods of Rome.
- Dive into Roman cuisine. I’m a fan of Roman Jewish cuisine (the Roman Ghetto is full of restaurants) and the quintessential Roman pasta dish, bucatini all’amatriciana. And you can always go on a food tour of Roman specialties!
- Explore the Villa Borghese. While it doesn’t top most travelers’ wish lists in Rome, the Villa Borghese is a treasure trove of Baroque art, especially paintings by Caravaggio and sculptures by Bernini. Be sure to buy skip-the-line tickets.
- See the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. Yes, they’re all extremely crowded, particularly the Trevi Fountain, but they’re worth visiting, especially on your first trip. Don’t forget to throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain!
I think all visitors to Italy should visit Rome — but the amount of time you should spend in Rome depends on who you are as a traveler. If you hate big cities or get nevous in urban environments, a day trip from Florence might be best for you. But if you want to explore the art, food, and culture of this inimitable city, you’re probably best off spending several days here. Check rates on Rome hotels here.
Book your day trip from Florence to Rome including high-speed train and skip-the-line Vatican Museums tickets here.
Best Umbria Day Trip from Florence: Orvieto
Orvieto is one of the loveliest towns in the region of Umbria, southeast of Tuscany. It was built on a hill made of volcanic ash to keep enemies from being able to invade. It’s got one of Umbria’s most notable cathedrals, plenty of gelato, and a tradition of handmade pottery. And not only that, but it’s easily connected by train.
Best Things to Do in Orvieto
- Go underground and taste wine. Orvieto is built on a network of caves and traveling underground is a way to see how people lived in this town for centuries!
- Visit the Duomo di Orvieto. Orvieto’s famed cathedral is striking enough on the exterior — it’s got black and white stripes and brightly painted scenes made with every color in the rainbow. Inside, though, it has scenes from the Last Judgment painted by Luca Signorelli that inspired Michelangelo when he was called to paint the Sistine Chapel.
- Shop for ceramics. Orvieto has a pottery tradition dating back centuries, and you’ll find all kinds of masterpieces here today. This is a good town for souvenir shopping.
Orvieto is also conveniently located between Florence and Rome. If you’re traveling between the two cities, this is a good place to stop for an excursion. (Just don’t do it if you’re visiting Rome for the day only, as Rome deserves as much time as you can give it.)
I recommend booking a city tour of Orvieto and buying your own train tickets from Florence to Orvieto.
Best Florence Day Trip for Shakespeare Fans: Verona
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…yes, the Verona where Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet is a very real place. While it’s a bit of a longer journey from Florence — three hours — you will be rewarded with an absolutely beautiful small city.
If it was inspiring enough for Shakespeare — not to mention Mozart and Goethe — Verona will be just as inspiring for you.
Best Things to Do in Verona
- See Juliet’s balcony. There is an actual balcony that commemorates Shakespeare’s play, and you can even pose in it! (Though be sure to have your travel companion stay on the ground to get the perfect shot of you from below!) Your entrance fee to the Casa di Giulietta museum includes a stop on the balcony.
- Visit the Roman ruins. Verona is home to several pieces of ruins, including an enormous arena (where you can see opera performed in the summer!), an amphitheater, and the Castelvecchio fortress.
- Visit the Giardino Giusti. This garden is a perfect example of superb Italian design — carefully carved bushes, tall Cypress trees, immaculate statues, and perfect fountains.
- Sample the wines of the Veneto. Tuscany may have its Chianti and Rosso di Montalcino, but the Veneto counters with prosecco and Amarone. Learn about the wines and sample them on a Verona wine tasting tour.
Verona is a bit of a hike from Florence — the train journey is close to three hours, making it just about the maximum transportation time you would want for a day trip. Many tours add in a visit to nearby Lake Garda, on the edge of the Dolomites, to make this journey even more worth it.
Best Beach Day Trip from Florence: Viareggio
Viareggio in its heyday was the iconic beach town of Tuscany. These days, it’s a totally doable day trip from Florence. If the heat is getting to you on a summer trip to Italy, leave the sweltering city behind and head straight for the beach.
Viareggio is awesome when you need a beach, but nobody will mistake it for the best beaches in Italy. (For those, you’ll need to head to Sardinia or Sicily.) Even so, sometimes you just need to get the job done, and Viareggio more than gets it done.
Best Things to Do in Viareggio:
- Enjoy the beach, Italian-style. Italians tend to book a chair and umbrella from a seller on the beach; this is far more common than bringing your own chairs and umbrellas. These clubs often have changing facilities and bathroom facilities for their paying members.
- Celebrate Carnevale. Venice may get all the Carnevale fame, but Viareggio puts on a rollicking celebration of its own. If you’re here prior to Ash Wednesday, stop by for the parades and costumes!
I recommend booking your train tickets from Florence to Viareggio at the station.
Best Florence Day Trip for Fashion Lovers: Milan
Some people consider Milan to be the least Italian of Italy’s major cities. It’s modern, sleek, and decently organized. Is this the influence of nearby Switzerland? You decide. Even so, you’ll have no doubt that you’re still in Italy while walking the streets amongst the impossibly stylish Milanos.
Thanks for the high-speed Frecciarosa trains, Milan is now one hour and 45 minutes from Florence, making it a perfect distance for a day trip. Be sure to book a high-speed train because the local trains could take hours longer.
Best Things to Do in Milan:
- Visit Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The painting is in rough shape (blame Leonardo for making his own paint), but you can’t deny it’s one of the most recognizable paintings in the world. This almost always has a long line, so I urge you to buy skip-the-line tickets.
- Visit the Duomo of Milan. This cathedral took nearly 600 years to complete (it wasn’t finished until 1965!) and you can see why — it has one of the more intricate facades in all of Italy.
- Shop in Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This is one of the more visually stunning shopping centers you’ll ever see, intricately painted and sculpted and covered with glass windows on top. This is where to go to shop at Prada, Gucci, and other high-end brands, both Italian and international.
- Visit Teatro La Scala. This sumptuously decorated opera house is one of the most famous theaters in Europe! Catch a performance if you can; if you can’t, you can always tour the theater.
- Try some Milanese specialties. A food tour will treat you to several at once; if not, the city’s most famous dish is the cotoletta Milanese, a thin breaded veal cutlet.
I recommend booking a Milan city tour with skip-the-line tickets for The Last Supper, and booking your high speed train tickets from Florence at the station.
Best Island Day Trip from Florence: Elba
Elba is the largest island in Tuscany, and it’s most famous for being where Napoleon was exiled. (Though for what it’s worth, he did escape to France after 300 days.) Elba, like Cinque Terre, is a very ambitious day trip from Florence. Of all the trips on this list, Elba is the longest and most complicated one to do independently and it can take a long time to do via public transportation, so I recommend you do it with a tour.
A tour from Florence will bring you to the coast, then on a ferry to the island. You’ll visit several sites on the island, then take the ferry back and return to Florence late in the evening.
Best Things to Do in Elba:
- Visit Portoferraio. This is the most beautiful and historic town on the island, painted a variety of bright colors. It’s perfect for photography.
- Visit San Martino, Napoleon’s villa. And just as you’d expect, the architecture is ornate, outlandish, and over-the-top. Don’t miss the Egyptian Room, filled with Egyptian motifs and trompe l’oeuil murals.
- Relax on Ghiaia Beach. Looking across this beach, you might mistake Elba for the Caribbean. Here you’ll find a blindingly white stone beach leading to crystal clear turquoise water.
If your Italy trip includes time on the Amalfi Coast, I don’t think it’s quite necessary to do Elba as well, unless you’re a history buff. Generally, I think the Amalfi Coast and Capri in particular have more to offer. But if this is likely to be the only island of your trip, Elba is a fantastic choice.
Best Florence Day Trip for Twilight Fans: Volterra
I have to admit that I’m not the biggest Twilight fan around, though I did read all the books and see all the movies. (I had to see what happened. And it was rewarding. A werewolf falls in love with a baby!) If you’re a fan, you remember in New Moon when Bella and Edward went to Volterra, Italy, to meet the Volturi, the powerful ancient vampires. (And if you saw the movie, you might recall the appearance of Michael Sheen as the first person in the series who could actually act.)
Author Stephanie Meyer originally set the book in a fictitious Tuscan town, but she realized that the medieval town of Volterra had everything she wanted — a clock tower. Do note that New Moon was actually filmed in Montepulciano, not Volterra itself.
Best Things to Do in Volterra:
- Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. This stunning Duomo is a mix of Romanesque and Renaissance styles. Don’t miss the frescoes in the chapels.
- Walk around and enjoy the medieval atmosphere. Volterra is yet another town that lends itself well to wandering.
- See the Roman Amphitheater. Another city, another amphitheater! These ruins aren’t quite as well preserved as other cities like Verona, but they’re still very much worth visiting if you’re spending time in Volterra.
- Visit for Volterra AD 1398. If you’re visiting Italy on the third or fourth Sundays of August, come to Volterra and you’ll be swept up in a medieval festival. Costumes are encouraged and if you don’t have one, you can buy one!
Note that Volterra is close to San Gimignano, and most day trips from Florence will bring you to San Gimignano as well. If that is the case and you also want to visit Siena, visit Siena as a standalone destination so you don’t retrace your steps.
Unusual Day Trips from Florence
Looking for a fun and unusual day trip from Florence? There are plenty of options!
Go hunting for truffles with dogs! Join a truffle hunter and his faithful dog on a walk through the woods as the dog sniffs out the pricey delicacy, almost impossible for humans to find on their own. Finish with a truffle lunch and some wine.
Head underground to tour subterranean Florence. Go underground — way underground, beneath the Palazzo Vecchio, and you’ll see the ancient city on which modern Florence rests today.
Test-drive a Ferrari through the Tuscan countryside. Ever dreamed of driving a Ferrari? This is your chance. Head out with a guide and cruise up and down the hills.
Take a class and learn how to paint a fresco. Where else would you learn this but Florence?!
Go horseback riding in the Tuscan countryside. What a fun way to enjoy the beautiful hills!
The Best Things to Do in Florence
There are so many beautiful places to visit outside Florence — but don’t get carried away and spend all your time on day trips! Florence is a sensational city and I recommend spending a minimum of three full days to experience it to the fullest.
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Florence:
See Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Accademia. Seeing it in real life is better than any image you’ve ever seen. Don’t ignore Michelangelo’s Slaves statues leading to David; they’re profound works of art on their own. The line at the Accademia can often take hours, and for that reason, I urge you to buy skip-the-line tickets.
Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo. This is one of the iconic views of Florence’s skyline and you will get fantastic photos from here.
Try an authentic Italian hot chocolate at Caffe Rivoire. Located on Piazza della Signorina, this is a great place to sit down and enjoy your ciccoloto caldo. It’s basically a dark melted chocolate bar topped with unsweetened whipped cream. This is the one Florence activity I suggest to all my friends.
See Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and other priceless works of art at the Uffizi. Like the Accademia, the lines at the Uffizi can often take hours and I urge you to buy skip-the-line tickets.
Take a Tuscan cooking class with ingredients from Mercato Centrale. Florence’s central market isn’t a tourist attraction — it’s where locals go to buy their meat, fish, and vegetables. While it’s fun to browse on its own, it’s even better to browse for ingredients to make a meal of your own. This cooking class will have you making a three-course lunch.
Explore the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. Located in the Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the other side of the river, this palace is filled with even more artistic Florentine treasures — but the true gem is the garden complex.
Eat all the gelato. Florence is the birthplace of gelato and plenty of different shops vie to create the best product in the city. The original gelateria in Florence is Vivoli; I’m a big fan of Gelateria dei Neri for quality and Festival del Gelato for unusual flavors. Only go to places with metal tins; don’t eat any gelato that comes out of plastic. If it’s a good place, the banana flavor will be gray, not yellow.
Go shopping for jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio. This bridge has been home to jewelry shops for centuries. When I lived in Florence, I was sure to buy a necklace in here. Florentines take the quality of jewelry very seriously and gold must be at least 18k to be sold as gold in Florence.
Learn about Tuscan wines. It’s one thing to order whatever looks good in a bar (or whatever homemade vino rosso della casa the restaurant owner made in his backyard), but if you’d like to learn more, consider a wine tasting class. You’ll enjoy learning the proclivities of Tuscan wines and what makes them so delicious!
Try the best Tuscan specialties. Some of my favorites are ribollita (a hearty peasant stew made with vegetables, beans, and stale bread), pappa al pomodoro (a thick tomato, white bean, and bread soup). Go for a bistecca fiorentina and don’t tell them how you like your steak done — they will choose for you, thank you very much. If you’re brave, try lampredotto — a tripe sandwich. Finish your meal with cantuccini, bright yellow cookies that you dip in vinsanto wine.
Tips for Day Trips from Florence
If you’re taking a train, ALWAYS remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train. There are little boxes near the platforms in Italian train stations, including Florence’s Santa Maria Novella. To validate your ticket, stick it in the box and it will stamp it.
This is not optional. If you don’t validate your ticket, you run the risk of getting thrown off the train. Not kidding.
Wear comfortable but stylish shoes. Italians highly value style, and wearing flip-flops or athletic sneakers is a way to brand yourself a tourist. I strongly recommend black ABEO flats, which have fantastic arch support. You might also like a pair of black boots. I can comfortably wear them all day, and they are absolutely stylish enough for Italy. The Walking Company is my go-to for comfortable yet attractive shoes for travel.
Don’t use an ugly purse or “travel” bag — bring an attractive crossbody purse that zips. Here is my guide to purses to bring while traveling, with affordable options for every budget.
Use a portable safe when on your day trips. You don’t need to take your passport or laptop on a day trip to Pisa. Leave your valuables locked in the safe and lock it to something sturdy in your room. I consider my portable safe the most important item I pack.
Bring reading material for the train journeys. I highly recommend a Kindle Paperwhite — you get to bring nearly unlimited books without taking up tons of space; plus, unlike the basic Kindle, it’s backlit and you can read it in the dark or in low light.
I also recommend reading books set in Italy while you’re actually in Italy! Some of my favorites are The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante (start with My Brilliant Friend), The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante, The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World by my friend Torre DeRoche.
Bring a guidebook. Guidebooks definitely aren’t dead! I always buy a PDF form of the local Lonely Planet guide and keep it on my phone. Day trips from Florence cover so many different regions in Italy that I recommend the Lonely Planet Italy guidebook. You can buy chapters individually, which saves you money!
Pace yourself. If you did every single day trip on this list, you would return home exhausted! Be sure to mix longer trips, like Rome or Venice, with shorter day trips like Siena or Orvieto.
Don’t forget to buy travel insurance. It is vital — if you get injured or robbed, travel insurance will save you in your time of need. In fact, my friend recently broke her foot while on a trip to Florence. Not only did her travel insurance help her with her medical treatment, they paid for a business class ticket home so she could keep her foot elevated. I use and recommend World Nomads for travel insurance for trips to Italy.
Where to Stay in Florence
Florence is a small city and I highly recommend staying in the Centro Storico, the city center. This will give you easy access to all the sites within central Florence, as well as a short walk to Santa Maria Novella station for your day trips. All of the following hotels are located in the Centro Storico.
Best Luxury Accommodation in Florence:
The St. Regis Florence. Half-Renaissance, half-modern, with complete and total luxury in the center of Florence with views of the Arno River. St. Regis hotels always excel on luxury, but their Florentine property ups the ante with gold decor everywhere and a glassed-in courtyard.
Portrait Firenze. If you want a luxury hotel with a view, this hotel has the best view of all, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. This boutique hotel has a more subtle design than other luxury Florence properties, and each room comes with its own mini iPad and Bluetooth system.
Velona’s Jungle Luxury Suites. For something both hip and high-end, these four luxurious suites on the edge of the city center are decorated in a wild style with palm fronts, leopard print, and modern artwork. It’s begging to be Instagrammed — and you won’t find a hotel like this anywhere else in Florence.
Best Mid-Range Accommodation in Florence:
Hotel Torre Guelfa Palazzo Acciaiuoli. The rooms can be a bit on the small side, though colorful, and the location is in the center of the city. But what makes this hotel exceptional is the private rooftop lounge for hotel guests that overlooks the whole city.
Rodo Hotel Fashion Delight. Close to Piazza della Signorina in the center of Florence, this hotel has a shabby chic, bohemian feel and would make a great Instagram backdrop, all for far less than what you’d pay for a luxury hotel.
Relais Uffizi. Small and simple rooms, and to be honest — a bit dated decor. But the common areas are nice, the staff are welcoming, and it’s located right by the Uffizi, the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Signorina, making it one of the best located hotels on this list.
Best Budget Accommodation in Florence:
Plus Florence. This hostel has amenities that most hostels would never dream of: a Turkish bath, a fitness center, a rooftop terrace with Duomo views, and even a swimming pool! Both private rooms and dorm rooms available.
B&B Emozioni Fiorentine. This B&B is close to the absolute center of Florence and has immaculately decorated rooms with flat-screens and coffee- and tea-making facilities, all for a low price.
San Giuliano Inn. From your room you could have a view of the Duomo at eye level! Rooms are small but romantically designed, and with only six rooms, it feels like you’re a special guest.
Have you been to Florence? What were your favorite day trips?