Here are my picks of the best day trips from Florence by train and bus, because I firmly believe in always doing travel – especially in Italy – without a car. In a city as well connected with public transport as Florence, there’s no need to put yourself through the stress of driving in Italy both on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and amid some interesting attitudes towards the Highway Code.
There are so many things to do in Florence itself (have a look at my other blog post on that), from eating/drinking to soaking up history and culture, that you can easily just visit the city and stay there. But Florence is also a perfect base for getting out and about on day trips to see even more in the surrounding areas. Florence is the capital of Tuscany, at the very heart of Italy, which means you can branch out from all angles. Day trips from Florence to the surrounding towns and cities are very doable by regional trains and buses. But the city is also well connected with high-speed trains from its main station, Santa Maria Novella, which means you can go surprisingly far in under two hours.
If you’re planning your Florence trip, I hope this blog post is useful. Let me know in the comments below which ones you enjoy out of my recommendations for the best day trips from Florence by train or bus…
Before we get into the day trips from Florence by train or bus…
Before we begin, it’s worth grasping a bit about public transport in Italy, including in Florence.
There are usually two types of trains for major routes: fast or regional. If you get a fast train, you can book online in advance (which is usually cheaper than waiting till on the day). Regional trains have set fairs, so you don’t need to book in advance, but of course they’re slower. You need to make sure that your ticket is valid for the train type you want. It’s worth researching your trains for your Florence day trips online before your holiday so you can plan, budget and book. Then once you’re there, all you need to worry about is remembering to validate your ticket (for fear of death).
As for buses, you also need to do your research on routes in advance but mostly you don’t need to book ahead online. It’s always worth double-checking the timetable at the bus station/stop in case what’s online isn’t up to date. All the different bus companies across Italy have varying levels of online presence. Some of the websites are ‘retro’ to say the least.
Now that we’ve got a measure of the public transport and we’ve validated our tickets, let’s get into what I think are the best day trips from Florence by train (and a few by bus).
10 of the most beautiful day trips from Florence by train or bus
1. Siena: one of the best day trips from Florence for culture
Siena is the largest of the charming hill towns that are scattered around the Tuscany region, and one of the best known. It’s probably already on your list to visit if you’re staying in Florence, but if it isn’t then you need to add it, for the following reasons.
Siena is home to some stunning Gothic architecture, winding medieval streets, and a ridiculous quantity of delicious food and drink. I thought it was just the right size for a day trip too, and managed to get a good feel for the place in the time I had there. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve hardly seen anything before it’s time to get the train back.
Siena is most famous for the Piazza del Campo, its bowl-like square, the heart of the town and where all the hustle and bustle takes place. For a more elevated view of what’s what, you can climb the Porto del Cielo at the duomo. Views across the terracotta rooftops make for some gorgeous photo opportunities. And of course, the climb justifies sampling plenty of local delicacies in a traditional little restaurant or cafe.
I have a detailed blog post on how to do a day trip from Florence to Siena here, which gives you a perfect one-day itinerary in Siena so that you don’t feel rushed yet also don’t miss anything. It features some of the best things to see, eat and do there if you only have a day.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Siena
- Transport: Train or bus.
- Journey details: By train, it takes about an hour and 30 mins. It’s a regional train that goes through some beautiful countryside. The bus, surprisingly, can get you there slightly quicker (about an hour and 15 mins) if you choose the Rapida (fast bus) rather than the Ordinaria (not-so-fast bus). Line 131R goes non-stop between Florence and Siena. Check the timetable before you plan your day.
- If you want to stay longer than just a day trip: Siena is most definitely not cheap for accommodation but there are a few options that are fairly reasonable and still well located in the historical centre. Relais degli Angeli is only a 10-minute walk from the cathedral, and ticks all the Italian-charm boxes. It’s not cheap at €109 a night at the time of writing, but it’s highly rated. Hotel Palazzo di Valli is slightly less painful at €98 a night. It’s bang in the centre, too – a stone’s throw from all the good stuff.
2. Lucca: the prettiest and most magical town in Tuscany
Lucca is a walled Tuscan city, known as the ‘city of a hundred churches’. I’m not sure whether that’s factually accurate, but there are a lot of churches there. You’ll enjoy visiting if that’s your thing. But there’s plenty of other stuff to lure you in, such as being able to walk the medieval walls that encircle the city and offer gorgeous views of both the old town and the hills around it.
Lucca also has a tower with oak trees growing on top of it, which has to be seen (and climbed) to be believed. There are winding cobbled streets, leading you to the city’s beautiful duomo and to a stunning yellow piazza in a former Roman amphitheatre, where you can sit with a glass of local wine and watch the world go by. If wine isn’t your thing, Lucca also has a growing craft beer scene, which isn’t always a given in Tuscany but is a real treat when you find it. There’s definitely more to do here than some of the other day trips from Florence, so although it’s doable in a day just to get a flavour of it, you could definitely stay overnight or a couple of days in Lucca and have plenty to do.
I have a post on things to do in Lucca, so go and have a read of that for an in-depth look at the city. It’s full of restaurants, bars, accommodation, sights and walks I recommend. Oh and the mummified body of a saint. What more do you want in a day trip?!
How to do a day trip from Florence to Lucca
- Transport: Train.
- Journey details: It takes around an hour and 20 mins to get to Lucca Station from Florence (check times on Trenitalia). Trains are regional but the quicker service is not that regular. Make sure you’ve saved the train timetable and know when you’re heading back.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: Lucca is definitely somewhere you can stay longer than just a day. If you fancy that, I massively recommend booking B&B Il Duomo, which I stayed in for a few days. The location is absolute perfection, right by the duomo in the heart of the historic centre. And the rooms are incredibly opulent for the price (about €50 a night at the time of writing) so you’ll feel really swanky without breaking the bank.
3. Pisa: because we all have to get THAT cheesy shot
If you can’t be bothered doing this day trip, just PhotoShop yourself into the above. I won’t tell anyone.
Now, I’m going to start this by saying that I don’t massively recommend Pisa. But I know that so many people really want to go and see the Leaning Tower. And if that’s you, I get it. It’s without a doubt one of the most famous sights in the whole of Italy. Not to mention the fact it makes for a classic cheesy photo opportunity.
If you’re wondering whether it’s worth going to Pisa to see anything else, there’s also the Campo Santo, with its lovely grassy courtyard, the cathedral (which is right next to the tower) and some pretty views along the River Arno. An afternoon should be enough to cover everything, so this is a good day trip to plan in if you’re a bit tired (or hungover).
All in all, Pisa is hardly an action-packed ‘wow’ day trip from Florence compared with places like Siena or Lucca. But that tower isn’t going to hold itself up, is it?
How to do a day trip from Florence to Pisa
- Transport: Train.
- Journey details: It takes around an hour to get to Pisa Centrale Station from Florence (check times on Trenitalia). Trains are regional and very regular. Once you’re there, it’s a 20-minute walk to the tower as the station isn’t in the historical centre.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: I’d not recommend doing that, TBH. But if you’re really keen or you want an early morning photo opportunity to try to be the only tourist at the tower, then there are some decent, well-located options. My top pick would be the ornate Venetian-style-headboards swankiness of Rinascimento Bed & Breakfast, which is about €100 a night (at the time of writing). Il Campanile B&B is a slightly more affordable option, at 79€, but still very central.
4. San Casciano in Val di Pesa: one of the best day trips from Florence by train for escaping the crowds
This is one of the easiest day trips from Florence, easily doable in just an afternoon if you don’t want to stretch yourself. San Casciano in Val di Pesa is a quiet town on the cusp of the Chianti region, framed by vine-covered hills. It’s a local hub for both wine and olive oil, so a really nice place to buy some treats to take home with you.
Other than eat, drink and shop, there’s not masses to do in San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Well, aside from look at some churches. This is an Italian town, after all.
Perhaps the most unusual thing is the Torre del Chianti. This is a modern tower that you can go up (and for once, there’s a lift!) for panoramic views, if you manage to find it open. It seems to have very erratic working hours and no obvious opening times available online. Good luck with that. Anyway, if you strike gold and get in, on a clear day you can see for miles across the surrounding Chianti hills and perhaps even glimpse the sea.
Every Monday morning, San Casciano in Val di Pesa has a market on, so that might be a good time to plan your day trip from Florence. Avoid a Wednesday afternoon because all shops are closed. You won’t want to miss browsing some of the little foodie boutiques.
How to do a day trip from Florence to San Casciano in Val di Pesa
- Transport: Bus.
- Journey details: Get the Busitalia service from Porta Romano bus station (southwest of the city). You’ll be in San Casciano Val di Pesa in around 40 mins. Make sure you check the timetable, as ever.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: If you fall in love with the town and want to spend a quiet night there away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger towns and cities, I’d have a look at Palazzo Tempi. It’s one of the few apartments based in the town centre, rather than out in the surrounding countryside. It’s about €100 a night but that’s for a massive apartment to yourself, overlooking a pretty street.
5. Bologna: one of the best day trips from Florence for foodies
Bologna, the charming capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is a perfect foodie day trip from Florence (unless you’re on a diet). It’s only a 40-minute train journey. You use your day to get a taste (pun intended) of the city and then return at a later date for a proper stay.
Start your pre-eating explorations in Piazza Maggiore, the heart of Bologna. You’ll spot the ‘Two Towers’, Asinelli and Garisenda. Both are leaning, in case you didn’t get enough of that in Pisa. If you feel up to 498 steps with a terrifying drop at one side, Asinelli offers stunning views from the top. It’s worth booking in advance as they only let a few people up at a time. If you don’t fancy that, the Basilica of San Petronio has a view of the city from a slightly lower but just as pretty perspective. And it has a lift.
Emilia-Romagna is home to many famous Italian consumables: prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano, balsamic vinegar, tortellini, and mortadella to name a few. If these sound up your street, you’re going to love Bologna. I don’t eat meat or cheese (yes, Italy is a challenge). But I was chuffed by the amount of high-quality vegan food that showed up with a quick search on the ever-life-saving Happy Cow. The locals must take pride in less traditional food too. So there’s no need for fellow plant-based travellers to survive on only balsamic vinegar. Unless you want to. Nobody’s judging here.
As well as being foodie heaven, Bologna is also ripe for photography opportunities. It’s full of porticoes: covered walkways, flanked by buildings on one side and columns on the other, and the backdrop to many an Instagram photoshoot, I’m sure. Keep an eye out for its ‘hidden’ canals, too, especially Canale di Reno.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Bologna
- Transport: Train.
- Journey details: If you get the Frecciarossa (high-speed) train (book in advance on Trenitalia) to Bologna Centrale, you’ll be there in bang-on 40 mins.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: Bologna is definitely deserving of a longer trip. There are plenty of excellent options for accommodation, too. Have a look at the beautiful Art Hotel Novecento (anywhere called ‘art hotel’ is a good option in my experience), which is €106 a night at the time of writing. A less spendy option would be the very pretty Le Palme aparthotel for around €75 (including breakfast).
6. Milan: for the ultimate duomo
Thanks to high-speed trains, you can get to Milan in under two hours from Florence. This is still a bloody long journey for a day. But I know some people have limited holiday time and will want to see the Duomo and experience being in Italy’s fashion capital. The major sights are all close together, so once you’re there it’s easy to take in.
Milan’s Duomo is, of course, the star of the show. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of duomos across Italy. Nothing beats this bad boy. Don’t bother paying to see inside: the rooftop is your goal. The amazing views mean that the climb up is well worth it, and it isn’t too strenuous at all (but there’s a lift too).
To get some stunning photos of the Duomo in full from above, I massively recommend heading to Terrazza Aperol. In case you couldn’t guess from its name, this is a bar specialising in Aperol Spritz and it has an outdoor terrace, overlooking the Duomo. Only bother sitting down if you can nab a table on the terrace, though. Inside is pointless. The bar is expensive but worth it for the view and people-watching opportunities. You may even spot a tourist getting dive-bombed by the local pigeons…
Another must-see is Milan’s luxurious indoor shopping gallery, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s all designer and unaffordable for normal humans but it’s too beautiful not to window-shop. Look out for the bull mosaic on the floor. Legend says that if you put your heel on his nether regions and spin three times, you’ll have good luck. There’s a worn patch where countless people, including me and some friends, have had a go. We managed to bag ourselves a table on the Aperol terrace afterwards, so it works.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Milan
- Transport: Train.
- Journey details: If you get the Frecciarossa (high-speed) train (book in advance on Trenitalia) to Milano Centrale, you’ll be there in 1 hour and 55 mins.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: I’ve stayed in Milan for two-night breaks a few times over the years and always think it’s worth staying longer than a day. My favourite area, where I stayed last time, is the trendy Navigli district, with its canal-side bar scene. For around €87 a night (at the time of writing), stay in the lovely Zonatortona B&B. If you’d prefer a hotel bang in the city centre, have a look at the stylish Boutique Hotel Borgo Nuovo, which is around €98. Oh and I can’t resist adding the frankly insane option of the Bulgari Hotel Milano for a mere €1,011 a night at the time of writing. Bargain.
7. Arezzo: one of the best day trips from Florence for getting off the beaten track
The little hilltop city of Arezzo won’t be on most Tuscan itineraries, but it’s a brilliant and easy day trip from Florence. Despite it being fairly off the beaten track, it has plenty going on. There’s a Roman amphitheatre, museums, the standard array of churches that every Tuscan town has, and even a fortress.
The Medici Fortress is on the top of the hill so offers lovely panoramic views. You may well recognise some of Arezzo’s gorgeous medieval architecture if you’ve seen the old Oscar-winning film La Vita è Bella. Many of its scenes were filmed in the city’s picturesque streets. I’m useless with films and have never seen it, so this is wasted on me. But I could see how it’d make a great film set.
Wandering through Arezzo’s quiet streets, you’ll find the usual impossibly expensive Italian boutiques, but there are also some more affordable bookshops and jewellery/antique shops. On the first Sunday of every month, there’s a big antique fair on in the central square, Piazza Grande. It’s packed with paintings and vintagey bits and bobs, so you may find a bargain. There are also some lovely places to eat; I recommend the beautiful La Dispensa di Amelia, which is great if you’re plant-based or just a bit tired of all the Tuscan meat/cheese.
Aperitivo is a ritual throughout Italy, and Arezzo is no exception. If you stay till early evening, take your pick from the quaint outdoor kiosks and fancier cocktail bars for a drink and nibbles away from the crowds of Florence. Bliss.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Arezzo
- Transport: Train.
- Journey details: If you get the regional train (check the timetable and/or book on Trenitalia) to Arezzo, you can be there in 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the service you pick.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: I’d recommend staying in an apartment with exposed stone walls, and pretending you live there: Residenza Fra Le Torri. It’s around €93 at the time of writing.
8. Fiesole – one of the quickest day trips from Florence by train or bus
If you’ve not got much time to spare, Fiesole is one of the easiest day trips from Florence, at only 15 minutes away by train. It’s a cute little town clinging to the side of a hill overlooking the city and can easily be covered in only a few hours. Naturally, its setting offers some lovely views of Florence. The best photo spot is along the climb up to the monastery of San Francesco above the town.
Fiesole itself is lusciously green, full of beautiful villas and surrounded by olive groves. It was a popular retreat in the 14th century for rich Florentines to escape the city’s heat and dust in summer. It’s still the wealthiest suburb of Florence to this day, so don’t be too surprised by the prices in the boutiques lining its picture-perfect cobbled streets. Look out for the pretty little independent perfume shop, Acqua di Fiesole, if you want to treat yourself.
The town has classic Tuscan architecture and is just lovely to mooch round on a nice day, stopping for a gelato in the main square, Piazza Mino. Don’t miss the Musei di Fiesole, which is home to an impressive Etruscan-Roman archaeological site. You can see the remains of Roman baths and a well-preserved amphitheatre that still hosts plays and gigs in summer.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Fiesole
- Transport: Bus or train.
- Journey details: It takes around 25 minutes by ATAF bus. Line 7 leaves from Piazza San Marco every 20 mins, and the last stop is Piazza Mino in Fiesole. Alternatively, you can get the regional train to Fiesole-Caldine, which leaves every hour but takes less than 15 minutes.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: Although Fiesole is small, so there’s not masses to do there, I can totally see why you might want to treat yourself to pretending to be one of its wealthy residents for the night. Residence Fiesole has incredible views for around €90 a night, at the time of writing.
9. Greve: for all the wine tasting
If you want to go wine tasting, Greve in Chianti is the best of the day trips from Florence. Greve is known as the ‘gateway’ to the Chianti region, home of all things wine. At the centre of the town, you’ll find the main square, Piazza Matteotti, which isn’t square at all but more of a triangle. Like Bologna, Greve is fond of porticoes, which make it a lovely place to escape the midday sun. Spend a bit of time browsing ceramic shops in the main square and exploring the side streets before getting on the wine.
The beauty of Greve is that you don’t need to arrange to visit an out-of-town vineyard that involves faffing with unreliable buses or getting a taxi. It has plenty of wine-tasting options bang in its centre. Start off at Enoteca Falorni, a gorgeous red-brick wine cellar that has over 100 wines to try. Prices start at only €1 for a taste and you can get a pre-paid card before picking which ones you sample, topping up as you want. Let me know how many of them you manage to get through without missing your bus… If that doesn’t take up your whole day trip, go to the wine museum, Museo del Vino. You can do a free tour and even more wines to taste. Oh and it has the largest collection of corkscrews in the world, which is mildly diverting.
One thing to note: if you’re planning on having lunch in Greve and you don’t eat meat/cheese, you might struggle. Happy Cow only lists one option. It might be worth taking a picnic with you, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Or just drink all the wine and get something to eat to sober you up back in Florence later.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Greve
- Transport: Bus.
- Journey details: Get the Busitalia SITA number 365A from the bus station next to Santa Maria Station and you’ll be in Greve Piazza Trento within around 50 minutes. Make sure you check the timetable though, as ever.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day trip: If you want to go to town on all the wine and not worry about navigating trains or buses back to Florence when you’re hammered, you could stay over in Greve. Sooth your wine headache in a four-poster bed at La Terrazza sul Borgo, which also has a picture-perfect garden terrace. It’s around €100 at the time of writing.
10. Venice: doable as a day trip but not advisable unless you’re really desperate to see it
Although it’s absolutely aeons away on the map, Venice is weirdly just about doable as a day trip from Florence. It takes slightly over two hours to get there. That’s a long journey for a day trip, and I’d definitely recommend doing Venice as a trip in its own right. But I know that some people have really limited time and might just want to go to briefly see what all the Venice hype is about, so I’m including it here. Just be warned: you’ll want to stay longer.
You probably already have a strong picture of Venice in your mind’s eye. Gondoliers in stripy jumpers, the Rialto Bridge, endless turquoise canals, no cars, crumbling-but-chic buildings, and an abundance of fresh seafood. To be honest, that’s really what Venice is like. You’re not going to be let down. It may be one of the most touristy places in Italy, but it’s so enjoyable.
I don’t want to go into too much detail on Venice here because I have a whole blogpost on things to see and do in Venice, which will be useful for you. It’s aimed at a longer (two-day) trip but you can use it to pick from. Even if you don’t see any of Venice’s big sights and just spend the whole day getting lost in the quiet side streets, crossing tiny bridges over the canals and finding hidden gelato shops, that’s a day well spent. You could use your day trip to scratch the surface and plan a longer visit another time.
Bear in mind that the express trains back to Florence often stop running in the evening (before 7.15pm). So make sure you triple check what time you need to be back for and don’t get stranded there, as nice as that idea might seem.
How to do a day trip from Florence to Venice
- Transport: train
- Journey details: If you get the Frecciarossa (high-speed) train (book in advance on Trenitalia) to Venezia Santa Lucia, you’ll be there in just over 2 hours. Note that this service is not frequent. You’ll need to be very disciplined with your timetable for the day and not miss your train back to Florence.
- And if you want to stay longer than just a day: I’d 100% recommend staying longer than just a day trip in Venice if you can. It’s honestly one of the best places I’ve ever been, despite the fact it’s SO touristy. Accommodation in Venice is notoriously expensive though. Luckily for you, I’ve stayed in an absolute gem that I’ll share with you because I’m nice like that. The brilliant Ca’ San Rocco is a gorgeous old hotel in a quiet area. At just under €80 at the time of writing, it’s an absolute steal for Venice. Breakfast is served on a lovely outdoor terrace and the cute resident cat will join you. If Ca’ San Rocco is booked up, another option would be the more expensive (€133) but very stylish Excess Venice Boutique Hotel and Spa. The rooms are very Venetian-looking.
A few extra tips for doing day trips from Florence by train and bus
- ALWAYS validate your ticket before boarding. You do this in the little boxes near the platforms. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting thrown off the train, possibly literally, and being left to die in a Tuscan field. Soz.
- Wear comfy shoes. We are not here for blisters. Of course, we are also not here for ugly shoes. Comfy shoes can still be stylish. I like crisp white trainers in summer and black ankle boots in winter.
- Bring something to read. Reading on a bus is a one-way ticket to travel sickness. But reading on a train is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I take my Kindle when travelling. A load of books taking up valuable luggage space seems bonkers to me. I know some people turn their noses up at Kindles though. Either way, it’s nice to have something to read, especially if you’re travelling back in the dark so you can’t see out of the window.
- Pace yourself. I know some people hardly get any annual leave and want to cram stuff in. I sympathise. But don’t knacker yourself out. Pick a few day trips from Florence that appeal most.
- Check the weather forecast when planning. On a rainy day, it might be better to stay and explore Florence, where there are lots of indoor things to do.
- Know what time you need to be back at the bus stop or train station to return to Florence. Burn this information into your brain. Set a reminder on your phone. Services might not be frequent, depending on where you’re off to. It’s no fun being stuck somewhere overnight.
- If you’d rather not do any planning yourself, try organised tours. You can find loads on Get Your Guide, which is one of the most reputable tour operators.
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You might also like my other Italy posts:
- A city guide to Rome for first-time visitors
- Two days in Venice: an itinerary and general city guide
- How to do a day trip to beautiful Burano island from Venice
- How to do a Siena day trip from Florence, Italy: a perfect one-day itinerary
- Two days in Florence: an itinerary
- 23 things to do in Lucca, Tuscany’s beautiful walled city.
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