Towns near Florence: A guide to the Florence countryside

Places to visit near Florence: Here is the best day trips from Florence

Are you planning your holidays in Florence and want to explore interesting places outside the city? There is no shortage of charming places to visit near Florence in Tuscany where you can discover local history, art, and breathtaking views.

If you are done with your weekend in Florence, here is a guide for you to discover the most interesting towns around Florence.

5 towns near Florence you MUST visit to discover the Florence countryside

Close to Florence you can find medieval villages, Medici villas, abbeys, and monasteries that are hidden between the vineyards of Chianti. There is no shortage of interesting places to see. You will definitely have to make some choices about where to go and what to see.

Most certainly the Medici villa in Poggio a Caiano is well worth a visit, as are the Certosa del Galluzzo, the Abbey of Passignano, Certaldo and San Gimignano.

Plan visits departing from Florence and let’s discover the history of the cities around Florence!

The Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano

What to see near Florence

One of the first places close to Florence is Poggio Caiano.

The Medici family arrived in Poggio a Caiano during the era of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who dreamed of recreating the Roman tradition of a suburban villa in his beloved Florence. The villa was designed to be a farm and the ideal place for otium, intellectual pursuits such as reading and writing.

After the Medici purchased the lands in Poggio a Caiano in 1474, Lorenzo entrusted the construction of a new suburban villa for his family to Giuliano da Sangallo. The villa was built following certain classical models of architecture, such as the huge foundation called basis villae and its pediment decorated by a glazed terracotta frieze.

Unfortunately Lorenzo never saw the completion of the work. He died in 1492 when construction was still underway. In addition, two years after his death, the Medici gained control of Florence and the villa had to wait for their return. This was made possible by the papacy of one of Lorenzo’s sons, Giovanni de’ Medici, who became pope in 1513 with the name Leo X.

He sponsored the decoration of the beautiful, monumental salon on the noble floor of the villa. The walls of the salon were decorated by frescoes by the most famous Florentine artists of the time: Pontormo, Alessandro Allori, Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio.

Over time the villa became one of the Medici’s most beloved villas, and its walls still tell the story associated with the members of this illustrious family.

Today the still life museum occupies the second floor of the villa.

Villa Medicea of Poggio a Caiano
Opening Hours:
PARK
Tuesday-Thursday 8.15 am-5 pm  (last entrance at 4.30 pm). Reservations are not necessary.
VILLA
– Monumental apartments (ground floor and first floor)
– Still life museum (second floor)
The apartments and the museum can be visited separately Tuesday-Sunday.
Guided tours last an hour and are offered hourly starting at 8.30 am until 3.30 pm.
There is no tour at 1.30 pm.
Reservations are compulsory and free at +39 055 877012.
The villa and the park are closed on: Mondays, January 1, December 25.
free entrance

The Certosa del Galluzzo

If you love peace and quiet, do not miss the chance to visit the Certosa del Galluzzo. It is a monastery founded by the Carthusian monks at the gates of Florence towards the end of the fourteenth century. Its construction was made possible thanks to a donation by a noble Florentine, Niccolò Acciaioli.

The visit to the Certosa is an exciting experience; it is a trip to a place of meditation, prayer, and contemplation. The Certosa of Florence was home to the Carthusian community for many centuries. Their life was based on prayer, meditation, isolation from the world, and distance from other monks. For this reason, when visiting the Certosa, you will discover both the common areas shared by the monks, such as the church, the refectory, the chapter house, and the conversation room, as well as the private rooms lived in by the individual monks. In fact, the tour will take you to a large cloister surrounded by the monks’ cells, which are real apartments where the monks spent most of their time.

Over the centuries the Certosa was enriched with splendid works of art. You will find frescoes and precious sixteenth-century wooden choir stalls in the church dedicated to Saint Lawrence. Visiting the chapter house you can admire the tomb of Prior Leonardo Buonafè , sculpted by Francesco di Giuliano da Sangallo in the sixteenth century. The monk is portrayed in marble with great realism. The famous painter, Pontormo, also worked at the Certosa in the early sixteenth century and decorated the monastery’s great cloister with frescoes. Today these precious artworks are exhibited in the salon that once belonged to Niccolò Acciaioli’s palace. Unfortunately over the centuries, exposure to the elements damaged the frescoes, but despite the condition of the works, it is worth seeing the fresco cycle depicting the Passion of the Christ.

Certosa del Galluzzo
Opening hours:
Tuesday-Thursday 10 am, 11 am, 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm
Sundays 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm
Closed Mondays
Tickets: 5 euro

Abbey of Passignano

Places to see near Florence

If you are looking for an enchanting place to visit near Florence in the heart of Tuscany, do not miss a visit to the Abbey of Saint Michael the Archangel in Passignano. Shortly after the year 1000, a monastery of the Vallombrosian order was founded here, which today has the appearance of a fortified building with towers. The most important artwork housed here is the fresco of the Last Supper by  Domenico Ghirlandaio painted in the fifteenth century.

The experience of visiting an abbey immersed in nature in the Chianti region will allow you to fully enjoy the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.

Badia a Passignano
Opening hours:
Weekdays and Saturdays: 10 am/12:30 pm – 3 pm/5 pm (6 pm in the summer)
Sundays and holidays: 10 am/12:30 pm – 3 pm/5 pm (6 pm in the summer)
Entrance with voluntary donation.

Certaldo

What to do near Florence

You can also plan to visit Certaldo for a day trip from Florence.

You will find the town of Certaldo south of Florence, in a valley called Valdelsa, immersed in the Tuscan countryside. It owes its fame to its most illustrious citizen, Giovanni Boccaccio, and to its most famous agricultural product, the onion of Certaldo.

The town is built as a transformation of the medieval castle called Certaldum and is strategically situated on a hill in a fortified village to control the Francigena Way. In the fifteenth century the Praetorian palace was built. I recommend that you visit Boccaccio’s house, where the thirteenth century writer lived: today there is a museum dedicated to him. You can take in a beautiful view of the entire valley from the tower of Bocaccio’s house.

Since the town’s economy has been based on agriculture since medieval days, do not leave before trying its most famous product: the onion of Certaldo. Due to its sweetness, this onion is also used to prepare delicious preserves that can be perfectly paired with the local cheeses!

San Gimignano

Towns close to Florence

A must-visit town near Florence is San Gimignano, which is a lovely town, famous all over the world for its towers. It owes its fame to the Francigena Way, which went through it for many centuries. San Gimignano, located about half way between Lucca and Siena, was one of the most important stops on the Pilgrims’ walk.

San Gimignano’s economy flourished in the thirteenth century, based on the exchange and trade of money. The important local families began building their tower-houses, buildings that, with their height, aimed to show the wealth and prestige of the owners. Florence gained control of San Gimignano in the time of general crisis during the fourteenth century. Of the around 70 medieval towers, only about 14 remain today. They can be admired by walking through the town, from its alleys and squares.

I recommend that you visit the main church of the town, the Collegiata as it is called. It was built in the twelfth century in the Romanesque style. In the church you will find works of art by important medieval and renaissance artists such as Benozzo Gozzoli, Ghirlandaio, Benedetto da Maiano and Jacopo della Quercia.

If you are looking for panoramic places near Florence and want to see the breathtaking view of the entire valley surrounding the town, climb to the top of the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico, the so-called Great Tower. The view will be worth the effort!

Florence and its surroundings: Cities close to Florence you should visit

Pistoia

Cities near Florence

Pistoia is about a half an hour train ride from Florence. It is a city with an important history that experienced significant development during the Middle Ages. Though Pistoia was an independent municipality already in the twelfth century, it came under the rule of Florence in 1267.

What to see in Pistoia?

An important moment in the history of Pistoia was the donation of the relic of Saint James to the city during the twelfth century. Thanks to this prestigious gift, Pistoia became a destination for pilgrims who started coming here from all over Europe. Thanks to these pilgrims, Pistoia grew rich and became a religious centre.

The Cathedral of San Zeno, which conserves the relic, is a gem in the Romanesque style. Inside you can enjoy seeing the precious silver altar dedicated to Saint John dating to the end of the twelfth century. In front of the cathedral you will find the Baptistry, which conserves a baptismal font from the fourteenth century, inspired by the baptistries of Florence and Lucca.

I also recommend visiting three other churches in Pistoia which have authentic artistic treasures. In San Giovanni Fuoricivitas you will find a pulpit from 1270 by Guglielmo da Pisa with stories from the New Testament, The Visitation by Luca della Robbia and Giovanni Pisano’s font.

In the church of Saint Andrew you can see a bas-relief with the Stories of the Magi on the external facade, above the main entrance, Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit from the early fourteenth century, famous for the realistic style of the sculptures which show scenes from the New Testament, and two wooden crucifixes also by Giovanni Pisano.

The center of Pistoia is quite small; it will be worth your time exploring the streets, squares, and unforgettable views this city has to offer.

Siena

Cities in the surroundings of Florence

Another idea on what to visit near Florence is Siena. The splendor of Siena is also tied to the pilgrims who traveled along the Francigena Way. The people who arrived in the city year after year allowed for the development of commercial trade. The city experienced incredible urban growth in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and today it is still a beautifully preserved medieval city.

It is surely worth taking the bus from Florence to Siena for the day. The trip is only one and a half hours. During your visit you can see the marvelous art of Siena: the Palazzo Pubblico with its famous tower from which you can enjoy a marvelous view of the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. The palace houses the most important works of art: among these the Majesty by Simone Martini,  a masterpiece of gothic painting and Amrogio Lorenzetti’s famous Allegory of Good and Bad Government.

The large square that is located in front of Palazzo Pubblico is called the Campo, the place where the Palio of Siena takes place each year, the most important event in the city.

Not far from Piazza del Campo is the cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. The facade, entirely made of white, green and red marble, is a real masterpiece of Gothic art. A large number of masterpieces are kept in the cathedral: among them Nicola Pisano’s pulpit, and the floor that is entirely made of marble decorations.

I recommend that you take a walk along the medieval streets of the city: you will find views, churches, buildings and monuments full of history and charm on every corner.

Prato

Things to see near Florence

Prato is another city very close to Florence that you can visit. Its historical center is filled with examples of the distant past. It is only 20 km from Tuscany’s capital which you can easily reach by train in 25 minutes.

If you get off the train at the Prato Porta al Serraglio station, you will find yourself immediately in the historical center. Just a few steps from the station is the cathedral square with the beautiful Cathedral of Saint Stephen. Do not miss a visit inside. The main chapel was entirely decorated with frescoes by the Florentine painter Filippo Lippi in the 1460s. The history of the cathedral is also tied to the most precious relic housed inside: the Sacred Belt, which the Madonna gave to Saint Thomas after her Assumption. Inside the cathedral you can find the Chapel of the Sacred Belt with fourteenth-century frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi, and a copy of the pulpit designed by Donatello and Michelozzo on the facade. To this day, the bishop presents the relic to the faithful each year on September 8 from the pulpit. The original pulpit can be found in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo which is adjacent to the cathedral.

The most famous monument in Prato is probably the Emperor’s Castle, built for Emperor Federico II. Construction of the castle started in 1240 under the direction of Riccardo da Lentini, Federico’s favorite architect, who coordinated the building of the Augusta Castle and the Castle Maniace in Syracuse.

Prato has many lesser known treasures as well. During your stay you can discover the economic history of medieval Tuscany by visiting Datini’s home, today a museum and archive dedicated to the mercantile and banking activities of Francesco Datini, a very wealthy merchant of Prato who lived during the fourteenth century.

In addition Prato is one of the most important centers of textile production in Italy today; so, it is not surprising to find the renowned textile museum here, where you can learn about the history and development of the textile industry in Italy.

To the hills of Florence: Two places to visit near Florence to not miss out

There are a lot of things to see near Florence with the idea for day trips from Florence.

Florence is surrounded by hills to the north and south. Lesser known and unexpected places are hidden here as well. Here is what you should see in the hills of Florence.

The Medicean Park of Pratolino

What to see in the hills of Florence

One of the best places to visit near Florence is Pratolino Park.

You can visit the Pratolino park not far from Florence, in the hills north of the city. This location was chosen by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de’ Medici. Today the villa no longer stands, but at the time it served as a private residence for the family.

Buontalenti, Giambologna and Bartolomeo Ammanati are the artists who contributed to the creation of the estate in the mid-sixteenth century. Today the only part that remains is the park, an Italian garden built in a geometric order that was once decorated by waterways, grottos and fountains.

The most important work is undoubtedly the giant sculpture by Giambologna of the Apennines: it depicts a giant that crushes a sea monster and watches over a lake from above.

Over the centuries the Medici lost interest in the Pratolino estate; the villa was destroyed in the nineteenth century and the garden was transformed into an English garden. Later a prince from the Demidoff family bought the estate.

Unfortunately little remains of the original Renaissance creation, but the park remains a great place for taking lovely walks outside the city.

The Medicean Park of Pratolino
Opening hours
From April 1 to October 28: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and public holidays in this period.
Open from 10 am to 8 pm (in October from 10 am to 6 pm).

Fiesole

Places to visit near Florence

One of the most interesting day trips from Florence is Fiesole.

Fiesole is a fifteen minute bus ride from the center of Florence. Given that it was an Etruscan settlement, it is much older than Florence.

It is a favorite destination for archaeology lovers, since here you can visit the archaeological site with remains of the Etruscan temple, a Roman theater, and baths.

If you walk up the hill to the Franciscan convent you can enjoy the splendid view over the valley of the River Arno. The chaos, the crowds, and the city noise will soon be a distant memory.

If you love nature and want to dedicate some time to exercise, you can hike in the Monte Ceceri woods. Here you will find the hills where sandstone was mined for centuries, the same sandstone that the most famous architects used to decorate the churches and palaces of Florence. Today these hills are the green lungs of the area. The easiest path will take you around the hill. You will find several abandoned quarries along the path and reach Piazzale Leonardo.  It is thought that Leonardo da Vinci tried his flying machine from here. It is likely that the first gliding in the history of Europe took place here.

Do you want to visit Florence and the surrounding area, and are you looking for a licensed guide? You are in the right place: contact me to book a tour today!