italy travel

travel thursdays: day trips from Florence

If you’ve booked a wine-tasting tour from Florence, then you’re doing it right. There’s plenty of travel-guide fodder and veteran advice out there on the best Tuscan wine regions. But if you’re looking to get away from the tour buses, here are some alternative day trips from Florence (all easily accessible by train!) that provide the quintessential Italian adventure.

Siena

On our most recent Italian adventure, in summer 2014, we made a day trip from Florence to Siena, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Siena is what you think of when you think of Tuscany.

Sweeping views of the Tuscan hillside: check.

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Jaw-dropping medieval cathedral: check.

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Best chocolate cake of your lifecheck.

The whole town of Siena is divided into fiercely competitive “contrade” (roughly, neighborhoods) and they face off in an annual horse race in the main square. If you don’t happen to visit Siena during the Palio, there’s still plenty of people-watching and photo opps in the main square.

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Bologna

Don’t hate on this city just because of its association with lunch meat. Bologna is a pretty amazing, off-the-beaten-path gem nestled in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy’s gastronomic treasure. Think aged Parmesan and balsamic, tortellini and prosciutto, in a city with the world’s oldest university (founded in 1088!).

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The botanical gardens are also something to write home about – they’re full of lush spaces, fountains, and oddities like a greenhouse dedicated to carnivorous plants.

All Italian cities have a lot of commonalities – lots of archways, crumbling old churches, and social life organized around piazzas. But Bologna is most recognizable for the salmon- and rust-colored buildings. The city’s just begging for a photographer far more skilled than myself to come snap some shots of the colorful alleys.

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Parma

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Genoa

 

Cinque Terre

Recognize this?

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Rick Steves single-handedly inspired countless tourists from all over the world to make the pilgrimage to these 5 cliff-side towns on the Mediterranean coastline. The views of the emerald water as you hike from town to town are stunning.

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Each of the five towns has its own charm, and there are charming little beaches to dip your toes in if you break a sweat during the hike.

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I was pretty blown away by the entire experience – breathing in the salty air, hiking along jagged coastlines and alongside family vineyards, and trying to soak in the colorful views of each town.

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I don’t think anyone goes to Cinque Terre and regrets it. It’s truly one of those magical, bucket-list places that you’ll never forget.

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