What are the best day trips from Florence? While it is hard to find a corner of Tuscany that is anything less than stunning, not all day trips from Florence are created equal. After many visits to this gorgeous region, here are the ones to take and the ones to avoid!
There is only one reason why I would recommend visitors to leave the amazing city of Florence and that is the opportunity to go on a day trip to Tuscan towns nearby.
Tuscany is one of the most visited areas of the whole of Italy and it is easy to see why. The land is dotted by historic picture perfect towns and restaurants serving some of the best fare in the world tempt you from every corner (think Chianti wine, cheese boards and steak!).
If this wasn’t enough, the distances are so reasonable you can start your morning in Florence, have lunch in the country, aperitivo on the sea and be back to your hotel by evening – not a bad day at all!
Because of this convenient location, the choice of day trips from Florence is wide, especially if you have a car, and when we spent our summer in the city I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which among the many would be suitable for families with young kids.
Eventually, I made my choice and after some mistakes and many good calls, I now have a selection of place I love and I feel like recommending to anyone in the area.
Best day trips from Florence: less than 2 hours by car
Perfect for: outdoor enthusiasts, families with kids, foodies
One of the easiest day trips from Florence by car is an excursion to Mugello, the area of Tuscany between Florence and the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Being an area, rather than a city, the best way to visit is to create a short itinerary and make some of its main landmarks reasons to stop for lunch, a drink or a walk in its beautiful Borghi (villages).
Mugello is hilly and green and the perfect destination if you want to go hiking and enjoy the outdoors. Just be careful if you are visiting in summer and temperatures are high: bring appropriate clothing and plenty of water.
With kids, a place we particularly enjoyed in this area is Villa Demidoff in Pratolino. Located few Kilometres North of Florence, this is an estate dating back to the time of the Medici with something very special: a colossal statue of a giant!
Mugello is also well known for shopping: In the town of Barberino del Mugello there is a very popular outlet when your find an impressive selection of brands selling at discounted prices. The place is a shoppers heaven and well equipped for families, with restaurants and even playgrounds with slides and tunnels.
Perfect for: culture lovers, foodies, families
Fiesole is so close to Florence city centre calling this a ‘day trip’ may seem misleading. However, it is such a gorgeous town that devoting to Fiesole any less than a full day is a real shame. Fiesole sits on top of a hill overlooking the city and can be easily reached by car, taxi or bus and then discovered on foot.
The main landmarks not to miss here are the spectacular view over the Tuscan countryside, Fiesole cathedral and the beautiful roman amphitheatre, all within easy reach one from the other.
To make the most of your day, I recommend to break up exploration with lunch at the wonderful Maiano farm and indulge in their elegant offerings.
Maiano is a historical but still active farm now open to the public: they have a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the valley, produce the most delicious oil and for kids, there are several activities to get them acquainted with life on a farm.
It fantastic place for a multigenerational meal and the perfect hideout to stop while visiting Fiesole.
If you go, make sure you peek into the cloister: it is restored to its original splendour and truly gorgeous.
Perfect for: culture enthusiasts, music enthusiasts, families
Lucca is easily one of the most pleasant and charming cities in Tuscany and one of the best day trips from Florence for all ages. We spent a full day there is summer and since I heard that they have an outdoor skating ring in the winter I have been obsessed with the idea of going back!
Lucca is Roman in origin and during medieval times acquired impressive walls, still now framing the city. The top of the walls is accessible by bike and local shops rent bicycles for pretty much all ages: it is a great way to stretch your legs and it gives a fantastic vantage point over the city.
After the exercise, you can have lunch in some of Lucca’s many restaurants and wander along its many medieval alleys: make sure you seek out piazza dell’anfiteatro, once a Roman amphitheatre and now a bustling square with terraces and restaurant.
Perfect for: history lovers, foodies, shopping (few but high-quality handmade bags and pottery stores)
Monteriggioni is a tiny village perched on the top of a hill in the province of Siena, less than 50 km from Florence. It is the quintessential Tuscan town, surrounded by imposing turreted walls and olive trees and what makes it particularly pleasant with kids is its compact size and the fact that is (mostly) closed to traffic.
The town can be visited in a short time but kids will love the walk on top of the walls and the whole family is sure to enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants on the main square. If you can, try and visit the city in early July when the Monteriggioni medieval festival takes place (bring water and a sun hat as Monteriggioni is hot in summer!). On this occasion, the town fills up with knights, craftsmen and live performances.
Perfect for: history and art lovers, families, fans of ‘Under the Tuscan sun’
Cortona is the backdrop for the famous Under the Tuscan Sun and it is easy to see why. Perched on a wonderful Tuscan hill, Cortona is beautiful and despite being well known now, it feels very much like a real place, one where people live, work and rear children.
We visited Cortona in the summer, following the advice of my aunt, who has been spending here innumerable summers, and had such a lovely day that we decided to spend the night. We choose the excellent hotel Dolce Maria, friendly, beautiful, clean and in the perfect central location.
If you go, take the time to get lost in its beautiful streets (it is small, you won’t get very lost here!) and do sample the local specialties: for a light bite, ask for ‘ciaccia’, the local interpretation of focaccia – have it with cured meats, vegetable tartines or local cheese for an explosion of taste.
Day trips from Florence 2 to 3 hours by car
Perfect for: slow travellers, families, art lovers
Very close to Cortona and an easy extra stop on this day trip is the wonderful city of Arezzo.
Often forgotten by mainstream Tuscany itineraries, Arezzo is a great stop if you want to experience a more local feel and a treat for art lovers. Its medieval centre got destroyed during the second world war, but many important landmarks and masterpieces are still here and are worth a visit. Not to be missed are the Church of San Francesco with an important Piero della Francesca and the Church of San Domenico.
Perfect for: culture and history lovers, shopping enthusiasts
Siena is one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany and one that kids are bound to love: the centre and in particular the famous piazza del Campo is impressive and closed to traffic (perfect to run around) and the city is decorated with an incredible amount of colourful flags that are sure to catch children’s attention!
The flags are far from being just a splash of coulour and have a history that is strongly rooted into the one of the city.
Siena is historically divided into many ‘contrade’ or areas, each of them with their own symbol and flag: they truly come into their own at the time of the palio, but adorn the city at all times of the year and make great props for a scavenger hunt (and for introducing the kids to the rich history of the city that you can read here)
Best beaches near Florence
Perfect for: families with young children, beach lovers
Florence is surprisingly close to the sea.
The closest coastal area to Florence is the famous Tuscan Riviera but my favourite area is a little farther south, in the province of Livorno, in the localities of Quercianella, Follonica and Donoratico.
Unlike the posh riviera, famous for its nightlife, this area of Tuscany is pristine and family friendly, with sandy beaches and waters that go from shallow to rocky and perfect for snorkeling!
Day trips from Florence you should avoid
I know you think I am crazy telling you not to go to Cinque Terre, but there is a reason to my madness and the reason is Cinque Terre needs more than one day or at least a very long one!
Cinque Terre is the name given to an area of outstanding natural beauty in Liguria (the region to the North West of Tuscany): the 5 towns making up this area are nestled into small coves overlooking the sea and protected by beautiful cliffs.
They originated as fishing villages, a history that explains their charm.
The towns are connected by beautiful hiking trails (some open to tourist some closed) and it is from these trails that you get the picture perfect photos that grace the web and so many tourist magazines.
If you go for the day and need to factor in journey time from and to Florence, you are likely to be stuck in the main square area of the town, sharing the small space with the many others following the same path as you, which is an awful shame.
If you can, spend at least one night here: even if you don’t get to hike, you can have a gorgeous breakfast before the crowds arrive and get a glimpse of how the towns still are, when truly alive.
If traveling with children, for one day or more, make sure you check our guide to Cinque Terre with kids: this area of Italy is not child friendly (for the terrain, not the people) and extra tips are useful.
I have heard in many time: ‘Pisa is overrated’, ‘I shouldn’t have bothered’, ‘you can take it or leave it’. I disagree. I believe Pisa is one of the most beautiful, incredible, magical cities in the world and one that deserves its fame if not more. However, there is no faster way to ruin a trip to Pisa that just going for the day.
Pisa sees an incredible amount of tourists every day and they all flock to the same area of town to see the tower (and they should, it’s beautiful).
This inevitably creates an annoying atmosphere, makes the roads dirty and leaves the visitor with a sense that there is very little authentic charming in the place. So if you don’t want to see Pisa full of day trippers, don’t be one yourself!
The best way to visit Pisa is to schedule a full night there and arrive late in the afternoon: pick a nice hotel, take a stroll to the tower and take a look at it when the day trippers have gone. Take the time to marvel at the whole square (the tower is just part of it and not even the most impressive) and then walk back along the river and see the rest of the town.
Have a great meal and, if you are an early riser, go back to Piazza dei Miracoli in the morning: with the sun just up I have no doubts you will see why it’s named that way!
San Gimignano is a wonderful medieval town famous for its numerous towers and churches. Like the two locations I mentioned above, San Gimignano should be visited but it gets easily overwhelmed with day trippers and may leave you to feel unsatisfied and possibly a bit claustrophobic: it is a walled town after all!
If you can, stay the night and make time for dinner here.
To truly enjoy it, spend the night in a hotel (La Collegiata, and L’antico Pozzo just to name two good ones), pick any place and sample the local Vernaccia (wine) the quintessential, tourist-free, Tuscan experience.
These are the best day trips from Florence in my experience. Do you have anything to add?
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