Recipe for Picarones from Peru
January 21, 2023
To whet your appetite for our newest tour, Exploring Andean Cuisine in Peru & Bolivia, we are featuring a classic Peruvian dessert: picarones. These fried…Read This Post
Florence is one of our most popular destinations for our cooking vacations and culinary tours. We offer a wonderful 5-night Florence for the Food Lover tour, but we also offer custom private ours in Florence for any amount of time.
Frequently travelers add extra days in Florence either to our Florence tour or to any of our Tuscany cooking vacations. It’s such an amazing city to explore! Small enough to be walkable, but large enough to offer some of the most world-class sites you can image.
Another great thing about Florence, though, is that there are a ton of great day trips you can do from there as well. And no, you don’t need a car to do them! Below you can see our list of the best day trips from Florence that you can do by train. There are a lot of other great destinations – including the Chianti region, the vineyards of Southern Tuscany, and more – that you can do by bus or with a car, but we’ve kept this list to places that are easily accessible by train.
We’ve also kept (for the most part) to places you can get to in 90 minutes or less. (The exception to that is the Cinque Terre.)
And our final factor for filtering out which places to include is that they have to be places you can enjoy visiting in a single day (or half day). Rome, Venice, Milan – all of these are accessible by train from Florence in about 2 hours or less (and Naples is reachable in around 3 hours), but in our opinion these other cities merit their own longer stays.
Most of the fabulous day trips from Florence will keep you in Tuscany, and number one on our list is no exception. Pisa is one of Tuscany’s top destinations. It’s a beautiful city right on the Arno river, and close enough to the sea that in its heyday the province was a leading maritime republic.
Yes, there is the Leaning Tower, but that is just the on of the things you can see in Pisa. If you head to the Piazza dei Miracoli, you’ll also find the cathedral, baptistry, and Campo Santo in addition to the famous bell tower. It’s a bit of a walk from the train station, but you can take a bus or enjoy the stroll through the center of town.
Length of train ride: from 51 minutes
Ticket cost: from €8.70
Things to see: Piazza dei Miracoli (Leaning Tower, Duomo, Battistero, Campo Santo); Piazza dei Cavalieri, the churches of Santa Maria della Spina, San Michele in Borgo, and Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri; Palazzo Blu; Orto Botanico.
See more about taking a day trip to Pisa.
Lucca is one of the most picturesque of Tuscan towns, and one of the best preserved. It is known for the Renaissance walls that circle its historic center, as well as its quaint cobblestoned streets. Its red tile roofs and winding alleys make it quintessentially Tuscan in its aesthetics.
Head to the Piazza del Mercato in the center of town. Its distinctive oval shape is due to the fact that it was built on the site of an old Roman Amphitheater. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch, a glass of wine or coffee, or a gelato!
Length of train ride: from 1 hour 20 minutes
Ticket cost: from €7.90
Things to see: Piazza del Mercato; the Cathedral; churches of San Michele in Foro and San Frediano; Museo Puccini; Guinigi Tower; Torre delle Ore.
Another of the famed Tuscan cities, Arezzo is perhaps less known than Pisa and Siena, but its unique medieval architecture make it just as beautiful. It is particularly known for the medieval art of Piero della Francesca, whose murals are found in the Basilica of San Francesco, and for being the setting of the 1997 Roberto Benigni film “La Vita è Bella” (Life is Beautiful). You will generally find it less crowded with tourists than some of the other Tuscan towns on this list.
Length of train ride: from 46 minutes
Ticket cost: from €8.70
Things to see: Piazza Grande and Palazzo delle Logge; Basilica di San Francesco and Bacci chapel; the Cathedral; the churches of Santa Maria della Pieve and San Domenico; Vasari House.
Florence’s main economic and cultural rival during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Siena, with its medieval brick buildings and “contrade” (neighborhoods), is one of the more picturesque places in all of Italy. The fan-shaped main square, known as the Campo, is the location of the city’s famed Palio Horse race, held twice a year. Branching out from there, you will find innumerable churches, palazzi, and squares to visit, not to mention plenty of amazing restaurants, wine bars, cafes, and shops.
Length of train ride: from 1 hour 27 minutes
Ticket cost: from €9.50
Things to see: the Cathedral; Piccolomini Library; Piazza del Campo, the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia; Basilica Cateriniana di San Domenico (on the edge of town)
This seaside Tuscan town is a fun break from land-locked Florence. A famous port city, it boasts wonderful promenades and canals, a modern harbor, and Renaissance-era buildings. Head to the Terrazza Mascagni to mingle with the locals and watch the sun set while enjoying an apperitivo. And don’t forget to try Livorno’s signature seafood dishes, in particular Cacciucco, the Livornese fish soup.
If you are interested in Italian art, the Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori boasts one of the best exhibit of works by the “Macchiaioli” painters (including those of Fattori himself). And last but not least: don’t forget to visit the beach!
Length of train ride: from 1 hour 11 minutes
Ticket cost: from €10.10
Things to see: Terrazza Mascagni; the Aquarium; the Port; the Nuova Venezia (“New Venice”) neighborhood; the Fortezza Vecchia; the Mercato Centrale; Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori (Villa Mimbelli); the beaches; Sanctuary of Montenero (outside of town but worth visiting).
You can head outside of Tuscany easily enough. One worthwhile destination is Perugia, the capital of the Umrbian region. A vibrant hilltop town, Perugia offers one of Italy’s most beautiful historical centers, punctuated by the main square, the Piazza IV Novembre, and its large fountain, the Fontana Maggiore. Perugia is also a university town, so it has a young vibe and lively social scene.
Perugia is also home of the famous “Baci Perugini,” the Italian version of a chocolate “kiss.”
Length of train ride: from 1 hour 25 minutes
Ticket cost: from €12.90
Things to see: Piazza IV Novembre and the Fontana Maggiore; Etruscan Arch; Giardini Carducci; Basilica San Domenico; Rocca Paolina, a series of underground streets and ruins; National Gallery of Umbria.
The original university town (the University of Bologna was the first university in Europe), Bologna is alway fun to visit. It is larger than the other destinations we’ve mentioned, so there is a lot to see, and as the capital of the Emilia Romagna region it offers plenty of great food and wine. This is where you can find stuffed pastas, cured meats (like prosciutto, mortadella, culatello), parmigiano cheese, Balsamic vinegar, Bolognese sauce… you get the picture. It is an absolute mecca for food lovers.
It is also fun to explore. Its red brick buildings and red tiled roofs give it a unique aesthetic. Head to the large Piazza Maggiore, visit the famous towers, named Asinelli and Garisenda, and the famous Fountain of Neptune. Walk through the miles of arched colonnades (and if you have the energy take the famed colonnade route all the up to to the Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca), or visit the many medieval and Renaissance buildings.
Length of train ride: from 37 minutes
Ticket cost: from €19.90 (there are cheaper regional trains, but they will take you upwards of 2 hours).
Things to see: Piazza Maggiore and the historical center; Basilica San Petronio; the Two Towers; Fontana di Nettuno; Basilica Santo Stefano; Pinacoteca Nazionale; Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna; Palazzo d’Accursio (Town Hall); Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca (edge of town).
Umbria and Emilia Romagna are not the only regions you can visit from Florence. Head over to coastal Tuscany and then north to Liguria’s famed Cinque Terre, the five linked villages – named Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso – that now form a national park. This is one of the most visited sites in Italy. Getting there takes a little longer than the other destinations we’ve mentioned, so you will want to plan an early departure from Florence and a long day exploring.
Once there you will see why it is worth the effort! Each of the five old fishing villages hugs the coastline, each is filled with colorful houses lining harbors full of fishing boats and luxury yachts.
The main activity in the Cinque Terre is hiking. The winding, steep path can be difficult for some travelers, but the views are worth it, and you can also explore the villages by taking the local train. Doing the entire hiking route can take 6 hours or more, depending on your stamina and speed. So if you are doing it as a day trip you might want to concentrate on one part of the path.
Swimming is another main activity in the summer of course, with pristine pebble beaches and rocky outcroppings offering plenty of sun and water to beachgoers.
While you are there, make sure to try some of the local seafood dishes as well as the local wine.
Length of train ride: the train from Florence to the Cinque Terre will require a change in either Pisa or La Spezia, or sometimes in both. We recommend taking the train to La Spezia, which takes just over 2 hours if you connect through Pisa, and then taking the 5 Terre Express train, which links the towns of the Cinque Terre. It is only a few. minutes by train from town to town once you are in the Cinque Terre.
Ticket cost: from €14.00 (to La Spezia, plus the cost of the 5 Terre train, €14.80-€18.20 depending on season).
Things to see: beautiful vistas, charming fishing villages, national park hiking.
In short, there are many, many places you can easily visit by train while you are staying in Florence. It does require a long enough stay, as Florence itself is worth several days of exploration.
We can organize guided walking tours in any of these destinations. Sometimes we can even organize fun bike tours. And if you don’t want to bother with the train, we can arrange a private tour with car and driver. Just contact us for a quote.
By Peg Kern
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