The city of Florence is very easy to fall in love with. Aesthetically, it’s an architectural marvel, with romantic character spilling from its beautiful buildings and winding cobbled streets. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, it hosts some of the world’s finest sculptures, architecture and works of art from artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli. Brimming with museums, galleries, cultural landmarks and world class restaurants, Florence is one of Europe’s foremost tourist destinations—particularly for those interested in art and culture. Offering plentiful accommodation options and with a favorable geographical location, the capital of Tuscany is the perfect base for an extended stay in the region. Many incredible day trip options are within close proximity. In this article we have chosen five that we highly recommend.
San Gimignano and Siena
Just under 40km from Florence, lies this quintessential Tuscan hill town. Its elevated location and wonderfully preserved mediaeval gothic architecture, make this walled village a picturesque portal into the past. San Gimignano is famed for its fourteen stone towers, erected as a display of wealth by the families that built them in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. One such tower is Torre Grossa, which you can climb for views of the dramatic landscape which surrounds San Gimignano. There are many activities geared towards visitors, including; Tuscan cooking classes, wine tasting tours and tours of the San Gimignano area by vespa. Simply pottering through its cobbled seats and taking in its rich and unreal architecture is also a great way to experience this historical and cultural gem.
Drive a further 45 minutes and you’ll reach Siena—an incredibly idyllic mediaeval city where you can immerse yourself in beautifully preserved world renowned art and culture. For more information on what to do in Siena, check out our recent blog article.
Next door to Tuscany lies Umbria, a stunning region of Italy which doesn’t have the same volume of tourists as Tuscany; allowing you to escape the large crowds and explore the many delights of the lesser known “Green Heart of Italy.” As its nickname suggests, this region is lush and green with expansive, unspoilt areas of natural beauty. Experiencing this wondrous landscape from above with a hot air balloon ride is guaranteed to be an unforgettable way of exploring this region of unrivalled natural beauty. Leaving from the beautiful Assisi, you can learn about the mediaeval landmarks below as you float through the air.
Assisi is an Umbrian town well worth a visit from Florence. Just two hours away, the town is packed full of spectacular architecture and beautiful scenery. Food and wine connoisseurs will certainly not be disappointed; restaurants serving traditional Umbrian cuisine are plentiful and a variety of food and wine tasting tours are available. For something different, try a traditional truffle hunt through the Umbrian countryside, where you’ll be guided by trained dogs and a local guide, in search of the region’s famed ‘black diamond’ truffles.
A slightly further but equally unmissable day trip from Florence, is Cinque Terre. Comprised of five fishing villages on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is known for its brightly coloured buildings and terraced vineyards which clutch the walls of the cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean. It is spectacular and uniquely beautiful. The region is accessible by both car and rail from Florence. The popular Blue Trail Hike is a wonderful way to take in all five of the coastline’s famous villages—Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. This is an 11km route and takes in the spectacular views above and below. You can also relax on Monterosso beach; go for a swim or sample the local wine and fresh seafood. If you’re short on time, the villages are all connected by a regular and efficient rail service, which allows you to hop quickly from one spot to the other.
Chianti is a region stretching over the provinces of Siena and Florence which is synonymous with fine Italian wine and some of Tuscany’s most beautiful vistas. A forty-minute drive from Florence will bring you to Greve in Chianti, which is a small town with a bustling triangular centre and market place. A regular first stop off on the way to Chianti’s vineyards, you can sample local food and wine in some of the many artisan stores and restaurants. Onward from Greve, there are many highlights including Radda, Castellini, Montefioralle and Panzano. One great way to take in the local wine, cuisine and culture is to attend one of the region’s many fairs or food festivals. Festa della Stagion Bona is celebrated every Spring in Panzano and combines historical re-enactments with market stalls and a carnival atmosphere fuelled by great local food, wine, music and dance.
With Florence as your base, there are more than enough options for unforgettable day trips around Tuscany and Umbria. With some planning you can take in all of these wonderful destinations and hopefully find some hidden gems as you explore this region rich in natural and cultural beauty.