Discover the Best Towns and Villages near Florence

Are you traveling to Florence, Italy soon and you feel like it would be a shame to limit yourself to just visiting the city itself?

While there’s plenty to do and see in the Tuscan capital, you don’t actually need a lot of time to experience the best attractions (check out my guides for spending one or two days in Florence). And I’m not one to rush things when traveling!

Therefore, I put together a list of the best towns and villages that you can easily explore from Florence. While some are a bit farther away geographically than others, they can all be reached in 2 hours or less (except for Cinque Terre which receives an honorable mention), thanks to Italy’s handy public transportation.

Because at the end of the day, it’s time that’s most important when traveling, not distance.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Check my full disclaimer here.

Instagrammable spot in Florence: Piazzale Michelangelo
Michelangelo’s Square has the best view of Florence in my opinion!

01. Siena

Siena is a beautiful medieval city located just south of Florence, known for its rich history and beautiful architecture that transports visitors back in time.

The fastest way to travel there is by bus (it takes between 1 hour (with Itabus) and 1 hour and 15 minutes (with the 131R bus), but there are also direct trains if you prefer them (the journey lasts about 1.5 hours).

Start your visit in Piazza del Campo, a large square located in the city center, with bricks laid in the shape of a shell (climb up Torre del Mangia for a great view of it).

Just a few steps away, you’ll find another must-see: the majestic Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena), an extraordinary example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, adorned with intricate marble work and frescoes.

Lastly, simply wandering the city’s historic streets is the best way to discover its charm.

Pisa Cathedral and the Leaning Tower
On my second visit to Pisa

02. Pisa

While some people might find it a tad bit underwhelming, I believe Pisa is worth visiting solely for its magnificent Catherdal complex, which includes the famous Leaning Tower.

Getting to Pisa from Florence is a breeze, as there are many direct trains between the two cities daily. The journey is also quite short, lasting about an hour in total.

A half-day visit will suffice to check out the main attraction, aka Piazza dei Miracoli with its stunning cathedral and baptistery, alongside the tower. But if you want to see more of the city, you can also dedicate a full day (check out my guide on spending 24 hours in Pisa).

Good to know: The interior of the Pisa Cathedral is free to visit, but you need to pick up a ticket with a timeslot beforehand. However, if you have a paid ticket to any other landmark belonging to the religious complex, you can enter the cathedral whenever you like.

03. San Gimignano

Most famous for its 14 well-preserved medieval towers, the hilltop town of San Gimignano has quite a unique skyline that earned it an equally unique nickname: “Medieval Manhattan.”

The only tower that is open to the public is Torre Grossa (which is also the tallest one) and I recommend you climb it for magnificent views over the Tuscan countryside. I mean who can resist visiting a medieval skyscraper?!

Afterward, you can reward yourself with a well-earned gelato (preferably from the popular Gelateria Dondoli) in Piazza della Cisterna, the picturesque main square of the town.

Traveling from Florence to San Gimignano takes between one and a half hours and two hours, with a change in Poggibonsi, whether you opt for the bus or train + bus combination.

The two leaning towers of Bologna
The Leaning Towers of Bologna: Asinelli and Garisenda

04. Bologna

Most people tend to instantly think solely of Pisa when they hear the words “leaning tower”, but Bologna also has two of its own. They’re called Asinelli and Garisenda and you can find them in the heart of the city, just a few steps away from Piazza Maggiore, the main square. Here. you’ll also

Sadly, Garisenda (the shorter tower), was cordoned off recently amid increasing fears of collapse. Still, authorities are hoping to soon start its restoration process, which will probably take many years to complete.

Also located in the city center (in Piazza Maggiore to be more exact), you’ll find Basilica San Petronio with its pelicular, half-finished facade.

Ragu alla Bolognese in Bologna
I ate the best Tagliatelle al RagΓΉ at Osteria Angolo degli Orefici

But I cannot talk about Bologna, without mentioning its delicious cuisine, as it’s the hometown of tagliatelle, tortellini, and lasagne. Did you notice how I didn’t say anything about spaghetti bolognese? Well.. that’s because they don’t actually exist!

And it’s not me that’s saying this, but the city’s former mayor, Virginio Merola. So what you’re really looking for is Tagliatelle al RagΓΉ, which is made with RagΓΉ alla Bolognese, a hearty, meat-based sauce.

Despite not being as geographically close as Siena or San Gimignano, Bologna is less than 40 minutes away from Florence, thanks to high-speed trains like Frecciarossa (they’re fairly expensive, but so fast!). This makes it perfect for a short trip from the Tuscan capital.

05. Lucca

Lucca is a charming city that’s about an hour away by bus (DD line) from Florence, making it an easy and rewarding day trip. The old town is surrounded by thick fortifications (among the best-preserved Renaissance defensive walls in Europe), inviting you to explore its rich history at a leisurely pace.

During your visit, you’ve got to check out the Piazza Anfiteatro, a unique oval square that follows the outline of an ancient Roman amphitheater. Then, there’s the Torre delle Ore, an ancient clock tower where you can climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city’s red roofs and narrow streets.

Don’t miss the Torre Guinigi either, which is quite a unique sight with its rooftop garden of oak trees – yes, trees on top of a tower! Not to mention that it’s another fantastic spot to look out over Lucca.

Ponte di Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy
The beautiful Ponte di Castelvecchio in Verona

06. Verona

  • ✈️ Public transport: direct train
  • πŸ•’ Minimum travel time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Verona is a city that’s as romantic as it is historic, taking just about 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach by train from Florence. Famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” it draws crowds to Juliet’s balcony – a spot that, while not historically real, has become a symbol of love and a must-see for visitors.

But there’s so much more to Verona than just this tale of star-crossed lovers. The city is home to a remarkably preserved Roman amphitheater (Arena di Verona), which is still being used today for concerts and other performances.

Apart from exploring the picturesque streets and squares, you should also not miss seeing a few of the many bridges arching over the Adige River, in particular Ponte Pietra and Ponte di Castelvecchio.

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, climb up to Castel San Pietro and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the city.

07. Certaldo

  • ✈️ Public transport: direct train
  • πŸ•’ Minimum travel time: 1 hour

Certaldo is somewhat of a hidden gem tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, just an hour by train from Florence. This small town is split into two parts: the modern lower section where everyday life buzzes, and the upper part, Certaldo Alto, which is accessible by funicular.

Well, Certaldo Alto is where you’ll want to go! It’s like stepping back in time with its medieval streets, red-brick buildings, and the feeling that you’ve stumbled into a different era. One of the main attractions here is the home of Giovanni Boccaccio, the famous Italian writer, which has been turned into a museum.

Simple, charming, and steeped in history, Certaldo is a must-visit for those looking to explore beyond the well-trodden path.

What is Italy known for: Colosseum Rome

8. Rome

  • ✈️ Public transport: direct train
  • πŸ•’ Minimum travel time: around 1.5 hours

You didn’t expect Rome to make it on the list, did you? Well, high-speed trains have made it possible to zip from Florence to the Eternal City in as little as 1 hour and 30 minutes, making Italy’s capital a good addition to any itinerary centered around Florence.

Once you arrive, you’ll find a city teeming with history at every turn. From the Colosseum, where gladiators used to battle, to the Vatican City, with its imposing St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums (home to the Sistine Chapel), Rome is a living museum.

Don’t miss the Pantheon, a marvel of ancient architecture, and the bustling Piazza Navona, with its beautiful fountains. Rome is also one of the best places to try Italian cuisine and eat as much gelato as you can.

Lastly don’t forget to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, to guarantee your return to this magical city, and to wander the ruins of the Roman Forum, where the ancient world feels within reach.

Given the sheer scale and the density of attractions, you should really set aside at least 4 days to explore Rome properly.

vernazza, cinque terre, italy
Vernazza – one of the best views in Cinque Terre

Honorable mention: Cinque Terre

Nested along the rugged Ligurian coast, the colorful five villages of Cinque Terre – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – need no introduction as they’re one of Italy’s most popular and picturesque destinations.

Despite being closer geographically than other locations on this list, it takes between 2 hours and 40 minutes to 3 hours to travel from Florence to Cinque Terre by train and 1 or two changes, depending on the route you choose.

Still, riding the train is the best option in my opinion, unless you’re really short on time and in this case, booking a tour might be your best bet.

I know many people prefer to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip, but as always, I recommend spending at least 2 nights in either one of the villages or nearby. Especially since you’ll be coming all the way from Florence.

This will allow you to visit at a slower pace and give you a bit of flexibility regarding your itinerary. Besides, the villages show a very different face after the day trippers leave.

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