The train system in Italy might not be perfect, but it is definitely an incredible resource to leverage. Of course some trains might be delayed or dirty, but for the most part the train system in Italy is a true asset. Interrail has made major investments over the last 5 years to ensure more trains, more reliable trains, faster trains, and even an iPhone application that provides access to the European train schedule database in an offline format. You can download it here.
This has made day trips even easier and more affordable and has alleviated a ton of stress for us when traveling. When you start to add up the cost of travel, accommodation, food, and miscellaneous expenses, weekend trips can become pretty costly, so we have become quite accustomed to local day trips. Here is a list of our favorite day trip cities in Italy that are easily accessible by train or car from Florence, Rome, and Milan.
1. Cinque Terre
It is very fitting that we give the number 1 spot to Cinque Terre not only for the natural beauty of the 5 towns but also because we have made numerous day trips to Cinque and have a couple more planned over the next month. The train from Florence to Cinque Terre takes about 2.5 hours and requires a train change in either Pisa or La Spezia; and sometimes both.
Each of the 5 towns offer such a different vibe, selection of food, and outdoor activities to enjoy. The beauty of Cinque Terre is something that is difficult to put into words and with the availability of trains to and from Florence every hour, it is hard not to justify a day trip if you’re spending more than 3 days in Florence.
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Oh Lucca! This quaint walled-in city is a wonderful escape from the summer crowds of Florence, Rome, or Milan. While tourism has begun to grow in Lucca over the years, the town still fills with you a warm sense of home and culture. Our best suggestion is to rent bikes, buy a bottle of wine, and enjoy a nice ride around the town. There is a bike path that encompasses the entire town and only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to ride around.
With the addition of faster and more frequent trains, you’ll also be able to reach Lucca from Florence in just about an hour and a half.
Home to what we like to call the Italian Kentucky Derby, or more widely known as the Palio di Siena, this medieval town is popular for everything from delicious food to historic museums. You can reach Siena from Florence by train in just over an hour. After spending a couple hours in Siena, you might want to take a short drive/bus ride to our next favorite day trip town!
4. San Gimignano
This town of towers and dry white wine makes for a wonderful wine tasting day trip. Transportation between the major cities and San Gimignano is not possible by train, but it is definitely worth the short drive or bus ride. San Gimignano is accessible from both Florence and Siena by bus in just 1.5 hours.
And if a day of indulging in wine wasn’t enough, San Gimignano even has a world champion gelateria. Yes, you’re welcome.
Portofino can definitely be made into a day trip from Florence, just barely from Milan, but most likely will be too far for a day trip from Rome. From Florence you can reach Portofino in just under 4 hours via train and a short local bus. This might seem like a hefty bit of travel for a day trip, but considering how small Portofino is you might also find that you can enjoy the whole city in a day. The surrounding area is also worth exploring if you have time. Be sure to bring your bathing suit and check out Rapallo and Santa Margherita!