Florence has more than enough Renaissance art and architecture, steak and Chianti, and designer boutiques. But should you want a change of pace, the city is also well positioned for day trips to a host of smaller destinations that are worth the drive or train ride. You can take your pick from cycling around a medieval walled city, tasting incredible wines in Tuscany, people-watching in the shade of Romanesque churches, and hitting weekend markets with the locals. Start by checking out these five day trips from Florence, below.
About a one-hour train ride away from Florence, Pisa is a city in Italy's Tuscany region and you've probably heard of its famed Leaning Tower. There will be tourists and souvenir stalls to contend with near the tower -- it's one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, after all -- but there are ways around all of that. For example, consider viewing the white-marble tower, which has been tilting ever since it was completed in 1372, from the terrace of the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. Afterwards, explore the museum to learn about Pisa's naval history and view Renaissance sculpture.
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When deciding how to get to this cozy medieval city, keep in mind that Siena's bus station is closer to the historic city center than the train station is. Either way, you'll arrive in about 90 minutes to two hours from Florence. Once you arrive, you can spend the day sipping Tuscan wines from Montepulciano and Montalcino, taking in the the Piazza del Campo's dramatic cathedral, viewing enormous frescos at the Museo Civico, and gazing at Renaissance palaces in Piazza Salimbeni. Wherever you end up strolling, you'll be surrounded by iconic art and architecture.
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Just over an hour from Florence, Lucca is a pretty walled town that's a bit smaller and less crowded than Siena. Rent a bike and spend the day cycling around the 16th-century Renaissance walls encircling the town, strolling medieval streets, and people-watching in piazzas with Romanesque- and Gothic-style churches while sipping wine. Lucca is also the place to indulge in excellent food -- from tortelli lucchese (a meat-stuffed pasta served with meat sauce) to sweets such as torrone (nougat with nuts) and buccellato Lucchese (a slightly sweet bread made with anise). By car, you can visit Montecatini Terme, a Belle Époque-era favorite of Puccini for its soothing spa waters.
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If you take a bus from Florence to Siena, you'll see Chianti wine country, complete with terra-cotta-roofed buildings and rolling hillsides lined with rows of grape vines, passing by along the way. But it's worth stopping and spending some time in this iconic wine region, located just a half-hour south of the city. Plan on driving so that you can explore different wineries, most of which offer tours and tastings, and memorable places like the hilltop medieval village of Panzano and the town of Greve, which hosts a Saturday market.
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5. San Gimignano
This very small medieval walled town is known for its 14th- and 15th-century Italian art masterpieces as well as its 14 remaining towers, the tallest of which stands at 200 feet. Thousand-year-old towers encircle the main square, Piazza del Duomo, and there's a weekly market at Piazza della Cisterna, which features a well at its center. Inside the Duomo you'll find the cathedral and Museum of Sacred Art, featuring incredible frescos of biblical scenes and saints. The city is about 90 minutes to two hours away by bus; there's no train station here, but you can take a train to nearby Poggibonsi and then catch a bus from there to San Gimignano.
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