Known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence, or Firenze in Italian, is one of the most popular destinations in Italy. It is also the capital of Tuscany, one of Italy’s most visited regions known for its beautiful landscapes, expansive history, impressive art, and of course its world renowned vineyards that produce some of the world’s best wine. Florence is the perfect city to serve as a base for your explorations throughout Tuscany, as many of the region’s best spots are within day trip distance from the capital. In this post I will be writing about four cities throughout Tuscany that I visited on day trips from Florence, and that I suggest you visit as well!
Before we head out into the hills of Tuscany, lets start with some background on Florence itself. The city is home to the Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral), a beautiful church which dominates the city’s skyline; the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) (shown above), a world famous medieval bridge lined with unique shops; the Galleria dell’ Accademia (Gallery of the Academy of Florence), the home of Michelangelo’s David sculpture; and many more one of a kind attractions. Florence is located in central Italy, about an hour and a half train ride away from Rome, and about two hours away from both Venice and Milan.
Siena, first settled in the time of the Estrucans, is defined by its annual horse race, the Palio. This 90 second horse race takes place twice a year, on July 2nd and August 16th, and it is between 10 riders that represent 10/17 of Siena’s city wards. Over 40,000 people pack into the Piazza del Campo, where the race takes place, to witness this race that is overall less than two minutes long. The town is about an hour drive away or a two hour train ride away from Florence, and it is one of the most popular day trips from Florence.
The Piazza del Campo, where the Palio takes place, is the heart of the city. It is surrounded by both the Palazzo Publicco (top right) and the Torre del Mangia (left), a palace and its tower. The Torre del Mangia’s name can be directly translated to the tower of the eater, as its first bellringer, Giovanni di Balduccio, was nicknamed Mangiaguadagni, meaning someone who eats their earnings.
Siena’s other main attraction is its cathedral, the Duomo di Siena (left), a 13th century medieval church with an impressive facade. It was originally built the same height as the Torre del Mangia to signify that both of the buildings have an equal amount of power. Unfortunately, when my family visited Siena, we didn’t get the chance to tour or even really visit the cathedral. That’s why I recommend staying at least half a day or even overnight in Siena, so that you have time to visit everything, unlike us, as we only stayed in Siena for only a couple hours.
Protected by its 13th century city walls, San Gimignano is an Italian hill town an hour drive or two hour train ride away from Florence. It is famous for its medieval architecture, as it is home to many noteworthy examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. As the city is built atop a hill, and as it is defined by its skyline of many towers, San Gimignano comes off as a very powerful city.
San Gimignano’s many towers have a very interesting history. The story starts off in the 14th century, when families would build a tower to show off their wealth and power. Many towers ended up being built, by the many residents of the town, and eventually 72 towers could be found throughout the village. Throughout the years, 58 of these were sadly somehow destroyed, and now an impressive number of 14 towers remain. This may not seem like a lot, however in many other Italian cities almost all of their towers have been brought down while San Gimignano still has a considerable amount of towers still standing.
Shown above is the Piazza della Cisterna, the triangular, main square of the town. Surrounding the square are many great examples of Palazzo style architecture, while the square’s centre well was once the main source of water for the entire town. I would suggest staying in San Gimignano for at least a few hours to see all of its main attractions, though an overnight stay would be nice.
Pisa, famous for its Leaning Tower of Pisa, is an hour drive or an hour and a half train ride out of Florence. The tower’s famous tilt dates back to its construction in the 12th century, when the ground that it was built on was softer on one side. Its tilt increased until it was partially corrected in the ‘90s, from a 5° tilt to a <4° tilt. The tower is now expected to stay stable for at least another 200 years!
The leaning tower itself is actually located in the Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Piazza dei Duomo. In this square you will also find the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Bapistry, and the Camposanto Monumentale. My family and I only spent about half an hour (or even less) in Pisa, as we only got to visit this square, and we weren’t really impressed as the square is very touristy. However, I’m sure if we had more time in Pisa to actually go into the city, we would have a better impression of the city. Therefore, I would suggest at least half a day in Pisa, and to visit more in Pisa than just its leaning tower.
As Tuscany is famous for its wine, and as it is known for being the home to many of the world’s best vineyards, you can’t come to Tuscany without visiting one. We stopped by a vineyard on our way to San Gimignano from Siena, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find out its exact name. There are tons of other vineyards throughout Tuscany though, and pretty much any one you visit will be great.
Obviously, if you’re not of age, then you don’t have to sample the wine. Visiting the vineyards were more for the experience for me!
That brings us to the end of my post about some of the best day trips from Florence! I hope you enjoyed. Have you ever been to Florence, or any of these cities? If not, which seems the most interesting to you? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!