May 02nd, 2024

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Is there anything more beautiful than the sun-soaked rolling hills of Tuscany? The jagged cliffs plunging into the sea at Cinque Terre, the tang of balsamic vinegar in Modena - these visions have probably swirled around in your mind long before finding us here. While the captivating Renaissance art and architecture of Florence are guaranteed to enthral you, you’ll soon learn in this journal that there is so much more to discover beyond the city limits! As we take you on a journey, crisscrossing through the country on day trips from Florence, each new destination will reveal fresh charms. We’ll show you hilltop villages frozen in mediaeval amber, verdant wine countries, and spirited cities with their own unique gusto. The only question you’ll be asking in 5 minutes is: where will you wander first?

Cinque Terre – Coastal Charm Awaits

Cinque Terre dazzles from afar. Yet venturing beyond the postcard views reveals its wild heart. In Manarola, pick your way through vine-laced trails to an iridescent cove shielded from the open-water. Here you can opt for a refreshing dip, and bask in the sun. You’ll see many perched on the rocks but we recommend sprawling out on the flat ramp that leads into the water. While it might not seem so serene, it’s surely a lot more comfortable.

Descend the stairs of Vernazza's castle (otherwise known as the Ruins of Doria’s Castle) to its boat-speckled harbour. Absorb the chorus of clinking masts and rolling waves. Inhale the scent of salt air mixed with frying fish wafting from restaurants. Sip wine at a tucked-away cafe along the rocky shore.

Meander through the maze-like streets of Monterosso al Mare, famous for its many lemon trees. Seek out hole-in-the-wall Da Edoardo, open since 1978, where sauce brims with basil's verdant taste. Their pesto alla genovese, ground in ancient stone mortars, celebrates the traditional techniques.

As sunset nears, clamber upwards through scrubby trails leading to remote outcrops. There, fiery hues cast their glow over man and nature entwined. In these hidden pockets, Cinque Terre feels a world away from bustling piazzas. Discover the region's wild heart - and savour its secret gifts waiting to be explored.

How to Get to Cinque Terre From Florence?

There are two ways to get to Cinque Terre from Florence. By car or by train.

While driving yourself grants flexibility, we find the train to be the most hassle-free transport if planning yourself. Trenitalia will take you from Florence to Monterosso in just 2.5 hours. Settle in to watch rolling Tuscan hills give way to rugged coastline out your window. Tickets cost around €20 each way.

Of course, driving the 120 km yourself offers independence but requires navigating Italian highways. And finding parking in Cinque Terre's compact villages can prove tricky.

For maximum scenery and minimum stress, consider a small-group day tour from Florence. Intimate tours such as ours, provide walking tours and time to explore each village at your own pace. And you can indulge in wine tastings and local specialties along the way.

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Bologna – Italy's Foodie Capital

In lively Bologna, history collides deliciously with foodie indulgence. As you wander beyond the main drags, you’ll uncover covered arcades adorned with vibrant street art.

In the heart of Bologna, modernity meets classical pretty soon, as within no time you’ll be immersed again in the city’s past among Piazza Maggiore’s Renaissance palaces. Students lounge and laughter fills the air as you explore the piazza’s sights. The Fountain of Neptune gurgles beside the imposing Basilica of San Petronio, while stalls of local handicrafts pop with colour. Take note of the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting from the local bakeries. 

For such a compact city, Bologna offers you endless opportunities to sample local specialties. Why not take a cooking class at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese? Learn to create the perfect meaty ragù alla Bolognese coated ribbons of silky tagliatelle.

Let the Mortadella’s (Italian sausage) velvety texture and pistachio slivers delight your palate at restaurant cremeria Stefino. Under the porticos, sample gelato from Cremeria Funivia with strands of aged balsamic vinegar providing the perfect sweet and tangy afternoon treat.

After getting happily lost in the maze of porticos, you’ll finally find your way to Osteria Broccaindosso. Among vaulted brick ceilings, savour tortellini in brodo, watching as the chef crafts each delicate pasta parcel by hand.

A trip to Bologna is guaranteed to feed your stomach and soul. And with a quick 40-minute train trip from Florence, relish having this foodie paradise so close at hand for when your cravings inevitably return.

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How to Get to Bologna From Florence?

Zippy trains make it a breeze to day trip from Florence to Bologna in well under an hour. Trenitalia Frecce tends to be the fastest and most frequent option, with swift trains departing Florence's Santa Maria Novella station for Bologna Centrale every 30 minutes.

Tickets will only set you back around €10-20 each way.

While you can save a few Euros opting for Italo or regional operators, we prefer Trenitalia for its speed and reliability. Let the lush Tuscan countryside pass you by in just 38 minutes before stepping out into the heart of Bologna.

If you prefer travelling on four wheels, FlixBus buses connect Florence and Bologna 3 times daily. Just be aware the bus journey takes nearly 2 hours versus the quick train ride. Still, with tickets around €10-15 each way, FlixBus provides an affordable alternative for this popular route between two of Italy's iconic cities.

However you choose to travel, Florence and Bologna pair perfectly for an easy and rewarding day trip. You can immerse yourself in Bologna's mediaeval lanes and bountiful food scene before making it back to Florence in time for a late dinner of leisurely wine sipping. Add Bologna to your Italian itinerary and arrive hungry!

Tours to Bologna From Florence

One of the easiest ways to maximise your time exploring Bologna is by booking a guided day tour from Florence. Having an expert guide (like the ones we’re proud to work with) handle the logistics allows you to simply relax and have someone else do the heavy lifting on the planning part.

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Siena – And the Chianti Hills

Siena's black and white cathedral stuns with optical illusions. Peer closer at marble stripes...do they ripple before your eyes?

It can be amazingly fun to visit during the chaotic Palio horse races that take place twice a year in the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. You'll be surprised to know that the saddle-free jockeys are paired with their horses at random only 4 days before the event.

Climb 500 steps up Torre del Mangia, then descend to hidden cafes on quiet side streets. Sip cocoa dusted cappuccinos amid locals. At Osteria Il Grattacielo, beef melts in your mouth in ribollita stew, washed down with Chianti's oak notes. Ricotta-filled pici pasta with sugo evokes the aroma of hardy Tuscan comfort food.

The hearty Chianti wine pairs perfectly with Tuscan fare thanks to the unique terroir of the surrounding Chianti hills.

These gentle slopes covered in vineyards and olive groves have produced wine since ancient Etruscan times. Crisscross the region's quiet backroads to discover tiny hilltop towns and family-run wineries. Stop to sample earthy Chianti Classicos and visit timeworn cellars. As the amber hues of sunset wash over the endless vines and cypress-dotted landscape, you'll understand why Chianti captured the imagination of history's great painters and poets.

Back in Siena, under the city lies a secret 14th century medicinal garden accessible by guided tour. Once supplying herbs to Santa Maria della Scala hospital, now rare plants and elaborate pottery designs flourish in the cave-like spaces beneath Siena's streets.

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How to Get to Siena from Florence?

Several convenient options connect Florence and Siena. Regional buses by Autolinee Toscane run hourly between Florence's main bus station and Siena, covering the 70 km journey in around 1 hour 15 minutes. One-way tickets cost €10-15.

For the most direct route, Trenitalia operates speedy train service departing Florence's Santa Maria Novella station for Siena each hour. The panoramic 90 minute ride offers views of quintessential Tuscan countryside out your window. Tickets again, range €10-20 each way.

Travelling by bus allows flexibility to stop in charming hill towns like San Gimignano along the way. But the direct train is fastest if you want to maximise time in Siena. Whichever you choose, within an hour or two you can step from the splendours of Renaissance Florence into the heart of the Mediaeval world in Siena.

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Modena – Auto Heritage and Balsamic Vinegar

In Modena, history intertwines with speed. At the Enzo Ferrari museum, marvel at vintage Formula One cars alongside classics dating back a century. Hear engines roar during test drives. Nearby, Moto Museo delle Moto delle Marche showcases Italian motorcycle ingenuity since 1921.

But Modena offers much beyond fast cars.

In vast attics at Acetaia Malpighi farm, casks harbour precious balsamic vinegar, some ageing exquisitely for 25 years. Inhale the aroma - sweet yet tart. During tasting, the 12 and 25 year old reserves entrance your palate with nuances as intricate as fine wine.

For an in-depth balsamic experience, join a private balsamic vinegar tour from Florence. An expert English-speaking guide (such as ours) will take you to local farms like Malpighi, where families have produced balsamic for generations. Learn the intricate production process from grape to barrel to bottle. Revel in the presence of rare 100-year old casks. And sample aged vinegars that showcase the incredible range of flavours.

Afterward, meander through Mercato Albinelli (food market) for tortellini and Parmesan wedges. Then treat yourself to a creamy authentic gelato at one of the Bloom gelato shops. It might sound counterintuitive but if you take out one of your balsamic vinegar bottles you’ve collected whilst on the previous tour, try putting a few drops onto your gelato of choice for a real spoonful of heaven.

Leading us to conclude by saying, Modena intertwines innovation and tradition. Linger to let this playground captivate you.

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How to Get to Modena from Florence?

Speedy trains connect Florence and Modena in as little as 1 hour 20 minutes, covering the roughly 130 km distance. Trenitalia offers direct service with tickets costing €20-€30 each way. Or opt for a guided day tour from Florence to maximise your time seeing the sites.

 

Orvieto - Umbria’s King of the Hill

Orvieto rests upon its pedestal, a noble city-state seemingly plucked from the Middle Ages. Beyond the postcard panorama, a proud spirit endures within the walls. Tracing stones smoothed by centuries of footfalls, you'll find culture and calm reign in equal measure.

This is the perfect time to slow down and stroll leisurely, as locals do on the legendary Sunday passeggiata. If you visit in Spring, you may even catch the Festa della Palombella celebrations.

Secure an outdoor table at a cafe obscured by vine-draped pergolas. Sip velvety cappuccinos as the morning sun caresses aged stone, then return for purple dusk cocktails beside glowing spires. Visit the underground labyrinth of Etruscan wells and mediaeval caves on a guided tour. Climb the Torre del Moro's 400 steps for sublime views of Orvieto unfurled below. Seek out mom-and-pop trattorias frequented by university students and residents - try wild boar ragu with thick Umbricelli pasta and smooth local olive oil.

Come evening, indulge in a leisurely meal at one of the restaurants tucked into the city's fabric. Twirling ribbons of pappardelle pair perfectly with indulgent wild boar ragù. Round out your repast with sheep's milk cheese drizzled with intense local honey. For simpler, cosier fare, angle towards Il Saltapicchio wine bar. Shelves brim with Orvieto Classico vintages to uncork beside taglierini al tartufo and other Umbrian delights. Their tasting plates offer edible tours through regional salumi, olive oils, and bruschette.

Wherever you dine or sip in Orvieto, you'll find the ingredients come fresh from the surrounding hillsides and farms. And menus crafted through generations reflect both tradition and creativity.

Belly satisfied and spirit nourished, you'll see why Orvieto has sustained body and soul for centuries atop its stony throne.

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How to Get to Orvieto from Florence?

Orvieto rests conveniently midway between Rome and Florence via train. Trenitalia runs direct train service from Florence's Santa Maria Novella station to Orvieto 6 times daily. The scenic 2 hour 10 minute journey winds through the Tuscan countryside, with tickets costing €30-50 each way.

For budget travellers, FlixBus offers bus service once daily covering the 120 km distance in around 2 hours. One-way fares are €30-45. While less picturesque, the bus allows more flexibility to stop in small towns along the way.

Or opt for a private transfer in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle, such as the one here!

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Ready to Start Planning Your Dream Italian Adventure?

As you daydream of balsamic tastings or meandering mediaeval lanes, we hope this journey stirs you to venture beyond the well-worn trails. Keep seeking out Italy's wild heart, in all its beauty untamed.

Want to skip the hassle of planning and make this trip easy? Contact us here

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