The long, winding country roads, fields and fields of grapes separated only by cypresses and the nearly deserted hill towns in Tuscany lend themselves perfectly to a classic road trip. But it’s not the only way to see the Tuscan hills. Though the smallest towns are difficult to reach by public transportation, some of Tuscany’s most famous destinations are just a short train ride from Florence.
When I lived in Florence I took day trips by train to all the Tuscan hot-spots and it couldn’t have been any easier.
I always suggest allotting time during a Florence visit for at least one day trip into Tuscany – and train is definitely the best way to do it! Florence’s train station is centrally located. It’s easy to get to from most parts of the city and trains run frequently. For 6 – 20 euro tickets you can get to most destinations in Tuscany.
Here are some of the best Tuscan day trips you can take with a direct train from Florence. No changes and no hassles! When getting your tickets, ask the clerk for a direct train or be sure that there is no change when choosing at the automatic machines. Then, enjoy the ride!
Top day trips in Tuscany by train:
Spelled with two C’s, Lucca is most famous for its wide, well-preserved Renaissance walls that encircle the entire city center. Often overlooked for more well-known Siena, Lucca has beautiful Romanesque marble churches, an amphitheater-turned-piazza with perfect acoustics and just the everyday charm that you’d hope to experience in a Tuscan town. The small center is pleasant, clean and easy to explore in just a couple hours, but consider dedicating time after lunch to stroll or bike along the previously mentioned walls. Wide, tree-lined paths top the walls and make for a great way to explore the city.
Transit time: 1 hr and 20 minutes
You can’t come all this way and not see the Leaning Tower of Pisa! One of the most iconic sites of Italy, it’s just a quick train ride away from Florence. After touring the Renaissance wonders of Florence, dedicate a half day to tour the ins and outs of the gorgeous Campo dei Miracoli. Called the “Field of Miracles,” it’s here that you’ll find the Leaning Tower as well as a Cathedral, Baptistery and cemetery. If you have a bit more time, give the rest of Pisa a chance. Explore its churches and the Lungoarno, a romantic walk along the Arno River framed by the rich houses of Pisa’s nobility, Piazza dei Cavalieri designed by Vasari and the Pisa University where Galileo once taught.
Transit time: 1 hr
Viareggio is likely the easiest stretch of Tuscan sand that to get to by train. A popular beach destination, Viareggio is a classic seaside town with great seaside infrastructure for visitors. Punctuate a few days in Florence with a day at the sea – you can rent a chair, towel and even changing room at most of the private beaches. There’s more to Viareggio than just sand and sun. On your way from the train to the beach look around: the entire town is built in stunning Art Nouveau Liberty-style buildings.
Transit time: 1 hr and 30 minutes
Though large parts of Arezzo were destroyed by WWII bombings, there’s still plenty to see. Bigger than most Tuscan hill towns, its city center is large and lovely. There you can visit Piazza Grande where La Vita E’ Bella (Life is Beautiful) by Roberto Benigni was set. One of the 12 Etruscan capitals, Arezzo has always been an important city and produced some of Tuscany’s most well-known names such as Giorgio Vasari, Piero della Francesca and Petrarch.
Transit time: 1 hr or 1 hr and 36 minutes
Famous as the setting for Under The Tuscan Sun, this charming hilltop town is exactly what you’d expect in a Tuscan village. Small, picturesque and with an ancient Etruscan past, it’s the perfect place to get a taste of Tuscan country life. Right on the border with Umbria, from here you can look out over the rolling countryside of Tuscany clear to Umbria’s Lake Trasimeno. Though there are plenty of things to visit, like the town’s church and the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca with the area’s finest Etruscan pieces, it’s also just the perfect place to bask in the sun, wallow in the beauty and take it slow over a plate of Tuscan pasta. If you want to visit, note that the train station is called Camucia-Cortona and not just Cortona.
Transit time: 1 hr and 20 minutes
One of the smallest of the Tuscan towns with a train station, Chiusi is where to go when you want a tranquil and relaxing country holiday. A perfect place to rent that beautiful Tuscan villa, it makes for a lovely day trip as well. Right on the border with Umbria, it was one of the first and most important Etruscan cities. Today the original nucleus of the city is around the Duomo. There there’s a museum that descends into the “Porsenna labyrinth,” a series of tunnels that leads to a large cistern.
Note: the train station is called Chiusi-Chianciano Terme
Transit time: 1 hr and 45 minutes
A historical rival of Florence, Siena’s past wealth is easily seen in its orderly stone streets, massive cathedral and my tower-is-bigger-than-yours piazzas. Any regular reader knows that I’m absolutely in love with Siena and my first date was on a day-trip from Florence when I studied abroad. Climb the Torre del Mangia if you have the time, but first go to see the Duomo and its beautiful Gates of Heaven tour. With the Opa Si all-inclusive pass you can see the Duomo and all its related sights: the museum with a panoramic walk, the baptistry, crypt, cathedral, Piccolomini Library inside the cathedral and a new tour up into the eaves of the cathedral called the Gates of Heaven tour. This isn’t sponsored, it was just an amazing experience.
Transit time: 1 hr and 30 minutes
La Spezia is the jump-off point for the Cinque Terre – the five tiny infamous villages that line the southern part of Liguria’s coast. Though I don’t recommend visiting La Spezia just for a day-trip, it could be the perfect way to add on a new part of Italy to your Tuscan tour. Traveling by train from Florence to La Spezia is easy, and from there it’s just a couple minutes by train to Riomaggiore, the first town of the Cinque Terre from the south.
Transit time: 2 hrs and 30 minutes
Perugia isn’t actually in Tuscany – it’s in Umbria, Tuscany’s central Italian sister – but it’s just as worth a visit as any major Tuscan town! If Umbria is the green-heart of Italy, Perugia is the bullseye at the heart of Umbria and the perfect introduction to the region. An ancient Etruscan settlement, the fortified city center sits atop a hill with a spiderweb of streets, an inviting central piazza and sweeping views across the valley. Go for the town’s famed Perugina chocolate, for delicious Umbrian food and to enjoy the atmosphere of this lively university town.
Here’s what to see when you go!
Transit time: 2 hrs and 9 minutes
Bonus: Two incredible cities to visit by rail and bus:
San Gimignano’s city center is so tiny, you can see it all in less than 15 minutes. And yet this village of 7,000 residents gets roughly 3 million visitors per year. For that reason alone I’d suggest to go only if you happen to be in Italy in the off season, if only to avoid the worst of the crowds. The town is a sight to see! Known as the city of towers (it once had 72 towers, now there are “only” 15) it’s also one of the best preserved medieval towns in central Italy.
Take the train to Poggibonsi-S. Gimignagno and the bus from there into San Gimignano or you can take the 130 bus directly from Florence.
Transit Time: train and bus is roughly 1 hr and 50 minutes ; just the bus is 1 hr and 36 minutes
Price: €7.80 for the train. Bus tickets are usually about €2
About two hours southeast of Florence, the town is a bit isolated and a bit difficult to reach, leaving it much more trampled than other Tuscan hill towns. built entirely out of the yellow-grey stone panchino stone. Volterra was an important Etruscan town nearly 25 centuries ago and is filled with relics from its Etruscan heyday – most of which can be found in the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci. After, it was mostly built up in the 12 and 13 century, and the Medieval architecture and ramparts are still visible today.
Tiny Tuscany: The Ancient Etruscan Town of Volterra
This is perhaps the most difficult destination to get to from Florence without a car, but it’s possible!
From Florence’s bus station outside of Santa Maria Novella train station you take the “Siena Ordinaria” bus to Colle di Val d’Elsa (line 131) and once at the train station in Colle, change bus to continue to Volterra.
Or take the train from Florence to Poggibonsi then catch the 780 bus to Volterra.
Transit time: 1 hr and 4 minutes by train plus 20 minutes by bus
Price: €7.80 for train. Bus tickets are usually about €2
Read more about Tuscany: