Florence is the Tuscany region’s capital city and is located in central Italy. The populous city has over 1.5 million people living in the metropolitan area and is a top-rated tourist destination due to the city’s historical significance as the birthplace of the Renaissance. The Historic Centre of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; however, the entire town still embraces an air of Medieval times with dozens of museums, preserved architecture, monuments, and statutes.
The fashion industry also calls Florence one of its fashion capitals of the world. There are also many modern sites to see shopping malls, theaters, adventure parks, and fantastic dining. There is no shortage of accommodations in Florence either from five-star hotels to hostels; anyone who wants to stay overnight in Florence can take day trips to many surrounding places.
Arezzo is a hilltop town in southeastern Tuscany that sits at the juncture of four valleys and is known for its ancient archaeological importance. The man of the elm, an early human ancestor that dates to the Paleolithic era, was discovered here, and many early stone tools have also been unearthed in the region. The modern city dates back to the 9th century BC, however, and there are many historic sites to see from centuries past, including fortresses, churches, museums, monuments, and the remains of a Roman amphitheater.
Arezzo is just over an hour from Florence and is not included in most tourist itineraries for the Tuscany region, which makes it the perfect city to visit for a relaxing day trip from the capital city.
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The University of Bologna is the oldest university in Europe and named after its home city of Bologna. This city is also the home of a well-known Romeo and Juliet type love affair between two teens who fell in love, although their families forbade it. The story is a sad and fatal one, much like the Shakespearean play, but visitors who love a good love story come from all over the world to visit Bologna. There are also many historic archaeological sites such as the first century Teatro Romano, and the ancient town of Marzabotto, among others.
Most visitors travel the hour and a half from Florence to Bologna to visit the museums and architecture of the city. Bologna is home to more than 50 museums, including the National Gallery, The Civic Archaeology Museum, The Medieval Museum, and the Municipal Art Collections, to name a few.
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Most people recognize the name Chianti as a wine; however, it is a region that extends from Florence to Siena and is full of vineyards and olive tree groves. Chianti is a vast wine region of Tuscany and also provides a rural, countryside atmosphere with small villages with stone homes, parishes, and rolling green hills.
Most visitors to Chianti travel the region on a wine tasting tour; however, there are other great attractions such as roaming the Medieval walled villages, visiting the ancient castles, and the Chianti Sculpture Park. There are also food tours available for Chianti that offer private tasting at numerous restaurants.
Five towns—Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso, and Vernazza, make up the Cinque Terre region on the north end of the Italian Riviera. These cliffside towns overlook the sea Mediterranean Sea, and were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997.
Monterosso Mare is known for its beautiful beaches, while Vernazza has the only natural harbor in Cinque Terre. Corniglia and Manarola are both known for their colorful, pastel houses that cascade up the cliffside, and Riomaggiore is home to the Sanctuary of Madonna di Montenero and the Cinque Terre National Park. Cinque Terre is also surrounded by vineyards and is where the Doc Cinque Terre White Wine is made.
Visitors to Italy who want to experience an iconic hillside Tuscan town can visit Cortona, where the only way to travel through the town is uphill or downhill, and only one single road runs horizontally. Cortona is the perfect place to spend a day away from Florence for visitors wanting to learn about the Italian Renaissance.
Some of the best attractions to see in Cortona include the Cortona Etruscan Museum, where art from all over the world is displayed or the Cortona Diocesan Museum where visitors can see Renaissance art. The Piazza Della Repubblica is the center of town and a lively area for tourists, and from the Medicean fort on the top of the hill the whole Val di Chiana can be seen.
People who are looking for a reprieve from the summer heat and Mediterranean humidity of Florence can venture up to Fiesole, an often-overlooked village full of charm and easily accessible from the valley below. Fiesole dated back to the 9th century BC and was conquered by the Romans. Historically, the wealthy in Florence had properties in Fiesole, and many of these still stand today.
A few of the most popular attractions to see in Fiesole include Badia, an ancient cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace where St. Andrew Corsini lived for a time, and died, as well as the Church of Primerana where St. Andrews’s death was prophesized. A Medici Villa can also be toured as well as many other historic homes.
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The gateway to the Chianti region is Greve, a tranquil town surrounded by vineyards, and where the local commune headquarters are located. Greve is a defining landmark between Siena and Florence and offers magnificent villas, bed & breakfasts, and other accommodations for visitors wanting to explore Tuscan wine country.
Greve offers covered sidewalks that lead visitors past restaurants, boutiques, shops, and galleries. The town can be traveled by foot with great attractions, including Santa Croce Church where the original 14th-century fresco Virgin Mary with Child by Lorenzo di Bicci is found. Next door is the Museum of Sacred Art, and the Wine Museum is nearby as well.
Serving as a port on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Tuscan coast, Livorno is a popular stop on cruise ship itineraries and as a ferry port to the nearby islands. Livorno is a newer city by Italian standards, being built for the port in the 16th century.
Visitors to Livorno can explore the New Venice district that is surrounded by 17th-century canals and merchant homes and warehouses that have been turned into shops, restaurants, and bars that have boat docks instead of parking lots. There are also fortresses from the 16th century and historic churches that can be seen in Livorno.
Lucca is one of the most beloved cities in Tuscany and an easy day trip from Florence. The town sits at the base of the Apuan Alps just thirty minutes from the western coast. Lucca is a great town for people with mobility issues to spend the day because it is not built in the hills like so many other historic Tuscan towns.
Some of the most popular ancient attractions to visit in Lucca include the Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro, 12th-16th-century villas, the pedestrian promenade made from the ancient city walls, and the Basilica of San Frediano. There are many other historic churches including the Church of Saints Giovanni, from the 12th century.
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Located within the rolling hills of Val d’Orcia is a 14th-century Medieval town and UNESCO World Heritage Site called Montalcino. The military layout, narrow streets, and preserved architecture welcome visitors from all over the world to a city that has been caught in time.
Some of the most popular places to visit in Montalcino are the historic religious sites such as the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, the Neoclassical Cathedral, Sanctuary of Madonna del Soccorso, and Church of Sant’ Agostino. The town hall also dates to the late 1200s and many surrounding buildings that are centuries old. Montalcino is also known for the production of Brunello wine, honey, extra-virgin olive oil, and cheeses, so culinary tours are a significant draw for visitors.
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The Medieval hilltop town of Montepulciano in the south of Tuscany is part of the Province of Siena and home to ancient cathedrals, beautiful Renaissance palaces, and other historic architecture. The town is most well known in today’s pop culture as the filming location of the vampire saga movie New Moon and sites such as the Piazza Grande can be busy with tourists.
One of the best times to visit Montepulciano is during the annual barrel-racing competition in August. Montepulciano is less than two hours from Florence and a top center for wine tasting, culinary tours, and visiting the south of Tuscany.
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Pope Pius II was born in Pienza, and the town, located in Val d’Orcia, was named after him. Pienza was originally a village called Corsignano; however, to honor the Pope, a famous architect was hired in 1459 to transform the village into the ideal Renaissance town. The town was completed after four years and has remained mostly unchanged since. Pienza is a World Heritage Site with all of Val d’ Orcia being added to the list in 2004.
Today, visitors come to Pienza to see the remarkable 15th-century architecture at Piazza Pio II, Palazzo Piccolomini, and Palazzo Borgio as well as many other buildings. Annually in September a cheese festival is held, and visitors come from all over the Mediterranean and Europe to enjoy pecorino cheese.
Known best for the Leaning Tower, Pisa is a world-famous city and commune in central Italy and is the capital city of the province of Pisa. The Leaning Tower is the bell tower of the city’s cathedral; however, there are more than 50 historic churches in Pisa, as well as several ancient palaces and bridges that visitors come from around the world to see.
Some of the best places to visit during a day trip to Pisa include the University of Pisa, Knights Square, Medici Palace, The Royal Palace, many museums, and Italian Villas. Pisa is also famous for Cecina, a gluten-free bread that is found at restaurants and vendors. Only an hour and a half from Florence, Pisa is perfect for day trips towards the coast.
Pistoia is located midway between Florence and Lucca and is best known for its plant and garden cultivation and horticulture. Pistoia is also home to high-quality furniture manufacturers, thermal baths, and outdoor recreation in the Pistoia Mountains. The region is popular year-round with hiking and water sports in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Families can spend the day at Pistoia at the Zoo of Pistoia, Pinocchio Park, Garzoni Botanical Garden, and the Fattoria di Celle outdoor sculpture garden. Many annual festivals and events that are significant tourist attractions in Pistoia including the Blues Festival, an equestrian tournament called Giostra dell’ Orso, and the Dialogues on Man, which celebrates contemporary anthropology.
Found near Cinque Terre, the Porto Venere is a waterside town in Liguria known as the gulf of poets and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most visitors to Porto Venere come by boat where they arrive at the sight of tall, colorful buildings lining the harbor. There are many shops, cafes, and restaurants in the port where visitors can watch the boats on the Le Bocche Channel.
Visitors can also visit some of the popular historic sites in Porto Venere, including the gate to the city and adjacent Capitolare Tower, which were constructed in the 12th-century, Doria Castle on the hilltop, and Church of San Lorenzo. The streets in Porto Venere are narrow and wind through the town where there are many galleries, boutiques, artisan shops, and other great places for visitors to see.
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Just over thirty minutes by bus from Florence, Prato is perfect for a quiet getaway from the capital city and home to avant-garde art spaces, artisan shops, Renaissance heritage, and a vibrant summer entertainment scene.
Some of the best attractions in Prato include the Pasticceria Nuovo Mondo, a historic pastry shop that serves the famous Pratese peach that is a pastry, not a fruit, that has a decadent custard filling. The Piazza Duomo, where the Cathedral of Santo Stefano is located, is another popular tourist spot where Pope Francis has orated from and also where ancient Frescoes and relics are housed. Pratos Civic Museum, Castello dell’Imperatore, and the many restaurants and bakeries are also notable stops for a day in Prato.
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Just a few miles from the Adriatic Coast, Ravenna is a small town located in the Emilia-Romagna region that is known for the early Christian and Byzantine mosaics that have earned Ravenna World Heritage Site status. The town is not a typical tourist attraction, so the streets are more walkable and less crowded.
When spending a day in Ravenna, visitors will find most of the popular attractions at the Piazza del Popolo, where there are historic buildings such as the 15th-century town hall, columns, and many cafes with outdoor patios. To see the mosaics Ravenna is famous for, visitors can go inside the Basilica di San Vitale, and Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, among others. The museums in Ravenna, as well as the Rocca Brancaleone fortress and the tomb of Dante Alighieri, are found in Ravenna.
Italy may be best known for the city of Rome, which is just a three-hour drive from Florence. The eternal city is one of the longest surviving ancient metropolitan places n the world dating back to 753 BC, according to Roman mythology. Visitors from around the world flock to Rome to see the historic monuments and landmarks.
Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome include the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica, and The Vatican City. Visitors can spend an entire day at the Vatican City alone where there are many museums, the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo’s most celebrated masterpiece can be seen.
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Two brothers are said to have founded San Gimignano in 63 B.C. when they escaped from Rome, on the run for conspiracy. The brothers constructed two castles which would go on to develop into the town of San Gimignano. The first mention of the town was in documents dated in 929 AD and was most likely founded in homage to the bishop of Modena. The town was declared a free commune in 1199.
Some of the best things visitors can see in San Gimignano include the Civic Museums, Porta San Giovanni, the former Podesta Palace, Medieval Fountains, the Public Library, Piazza Sant’Agostino, Piazza Duomo, and Rocca of Montestaffoli. Sacred art dating back centuries is on display at several churches in San Gimignano.
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Known to be one of the greatest Medieval cities in Italy, Siena is just over an hour from Florence and is known around the worse for the horse race run in the summer. Quantum of Solace, a James Bond movie, was also filmed in Siena, and the piazza del Campo, where the Roman forum used to be, is located in Siena.
Siena has many historic landmarks that are popular tourist attractions, including the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia, The Civic Palace, which dates back to the 13th-century, and the Civic Museum. The museum houses Sienese paintings, frescoes, and secular paintings from the Middle Ages.
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People who are looking for the pastoral countryside of rolling hills in the southern part of Tuscany can visit Val d’Orcia, where they’ll be surrounded by fields of grain and sunflowers, as well as vineyards. The province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and known for it’s “Ideal Renaissance City,” Pienza.
Some of the other great places to visit in Val d’Orcia include Palazzo Piccolomini, Castiglion d’Orcia fortress, Radicofani, which is a hillside city with a castle tower, and the walled medieval town of Montalcino. Most people traveling through Val d’Orcia also stop at Abbey of Sant’ Antimo, which is one of the most impressive examples of medieval monastic building design.
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Venice is a floating masterpiece found on the northeast coast of Italy on the Adriatic Sea three hours from Florence in the Veneto Region. Venice is the capital of this region and features more than 100 small islands that are part of a lagoon where access is only available via canals. The Grand Canal is lined with palaces from the Renaissance and Gothic eras, while Piazza San Marco, the central square, is home to St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile Bell Tower.
The top attractions in Venice include Palazzo Ducale, The Ghetto, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute, Museo Correr, the Guggenheim, and many historic cathedrals and churches.
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Known as the city of Alabaster, Volterra is found in the province of Pisa and was one of the main towns of the Etruscan Federation during the 4th century BC. The fortification wall remains still surrounds the medieval city that is renowned for its urban layout and near-perfectly preserved city gates.
Many important historic sites that can be visited in Volterra including the Acropolis, Roman Theater that dates to the first century AD, and the historical town center where there are shops, cafes, and gift shops that offer alabaster souvenirs. The Palazzo dei Priori is also the oldest town hall in all of Tuscany and a popular tourist attraction for history lovers. One of the best times to visit is during the August Medieval fair that happens annually.
23 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Florence, Italy
- Arezzo, Photo: thauwald-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Bologna, Photo: J. Ossorio Castillo/stock.adobe.com
- Chianti, Photo: Patrick Daxenbichler/stock.adobe.com
- Cinque Terre, Photo: smallredgirl/stock.adobe.com
- Cortona, Photo: aphonua/stock.adobe.com
- Fiesole, Photo: iza_miszczak/stock.adobe.com
- Greve, Photo: ombre spagla/stock.adobe.com
- Livorno, Photo: giumas/stock.adobe.com
- Lucca, Photo: Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Montalcino, Photo: Fabio Lotti/stock.adobe.com
- Montepulciano, Photo: Shchipkova Elena/stock.adobe.com
- Pienza, Photo: Cezary Wojtkowski/stock.adobe.com
- Pisa, Photo: PixAchi/stock.adobe.com
- Pistoia, Photo: brasilnaitalia/stock.adobe.com
- Porto Venere, Photo: Gabriel/stock.adobe.com
- Prato, Photo: Radim Štrobl/stock.adobe.com
- Ravenna, Photo: cancer741/stock.adobe.com
- Rome, Photo: fabiomax/stock.adobe.com
- San Gimignano, Photo: ValerioMei/stock.adobe.com
- Siena, Photo: robertdering/stock.adobe.com
- Val d'Orcia, Photo: lpictures/stock.adobe.com
- Venice, Photo: Iakov Kalinin/stock.adobe.com
- Volterra, Photo: Fabio Nodari/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Luca Lorenzelli/stock.adobe.com