Do you hate living out of a suitcase when you travel; not being able to unpack anything before you have to move on to your next hotel? Today we’re going to share with you how you can still explore other areas, but also be able to unpack and spend a week in one location.
Florence, Italy is one of our favorite cities in the world and while we highly recommend delving into it first, it is also a great base camp for a week of discovering other beautiful Italian locations. The train system in Italy, and Europe in general, offers convenient accessibility to other areas in a short amount of time.
The following five day trips are all easily accessible from Florence via train, allowing you to unpack in Florence and explore. Choose one or all, you won’t be disappointed.
Siena is most famous for the Palio, a horse race through the main piazza that is run each July and August. If you like crowds and excitement, this is definitely the time to visit; however, getting accommodations is nearly impossible. By doing a day trip from Florence, you don’t need to deal with where to stay for the big spectacle. If you’re not into huge crowds, then I suggest visiting any other time of the year. Just as with most cities in Italy, Siena will be crowded during the summer tourist season, but nothing compares to a visit during the running of the Palio.
Siena is a wonderful medieval city, with lots of narrow, twisting streets. It is also a very hilly city, so be prepared to climb and descend a few steep streets to get to the sites.
A few must-sees in a day trip are:
Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta and the stunning Piccolomini Library
Piazza del Campo, including Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, and the Fonte Gaia
Siena is 1 1/2 hour from Florence by train. When you disembark in Siena, seek out the taxi stand to get a ride to just outside Il Campo.
Lucca, famous for the preserved 16th Century Renaissance walls surrounding the historical city center, is a wonderful place to spend a sunny day. The ramparts have been transformed into a park-like setting with trees, walking/biking paths and even children’s play areas. Cycling in Lucca is prolific, so if you’re short on time, you’ll want to rent a bicycle to get around during your day. This will allow you to see more sights, but still have the option to be leisurely and stop along the way.
Besides exploring the walls, the other must-sees are:
Duomo di San Martino
Torre Guinigi and Torre delle Ore
Lucca is also about 1 1/2 hours from Florence and the train station is a 5 minute walk to the city center and its walls.
Pisa, of course, is famous for its leaning tower; however, the rest of Piazza dei Miracoli is beautiful as well. You’ll want to climb the tower and take the touristy photos of you appearing to support it, but we also recommend taking time to visit the other monuments around the tower. If you like shopping, head over to Corso Italia and Borgo Stretto. If you’re looking for a bit of excitement with your visit, attend the historic tradition of the Battle of the Bridge each June. This “battle” is similar to tug of war, but with an iron cart instead of a rope; teams, comprised of local residents, need to conquer the opponent’s side of the bridge and capture their flag to win.
In addition to the leaning tower, we recommend:
Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta, The Baptistery and Camposanto, all within the piazza walls
Pisa is one hour from Florence; from the station, you are about a 10 minute walk to the Leaning Tower.
Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region, is famous for its two towers that lean, Asinelli and Garisenda. These medieval towers were constructed in the 12th Century as defense posts, as well as a display of wealth and power for the families who built them. The city is also well-known for its cuisine, especially bolognese, typically used in “tagliatelle al ragu” and “lasagne alla bolognese” and, of course, bologna, which is actually known as mortadella with peppercorns and pistachios.
Other must-sees include:
Piazza Maggiore, Basilica di San Petronio, and the Fountain of Neptune
Palace of the Archiginnasio
Sette Chiese (seven churches)
Bologna is a 45 minute train ride from Florence and from the station is about a 15 minute walk to the center of the city.
Venice is famous for many sights, and if you’re willing to only spend one day in Venice and are up for a 12-14 hour day, minimum, then this is a very doable day trip from Florence. Your time will be limited, but you can still accomplish quite a bit, including an iconic gondola ride through the canals. In a future post, we will be sharing our itinerary for the perfect one-day trip to Venice, so be sure to check back.
Our recommended must-sees are:
Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs
St. Mark’s Basilica
The islands of Murano and Burano
We truly love Italy and anything you choose to do while visiting will be the adventure of a lifetime. So, enjoy every moment!
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