Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region in Italy. Noted for its significant Renaissance art, architecture and monuments, Florence is the home to many world-famous museums and galleries. Most notable among those are the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia which displays Michelangelo’s “David”.
Florence still exhibits a strong influence on art, politics and culture today. In fact, thousands of tourists flock to Florence each year to see the works of famous masters such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Raphael, and Titian.
If you love the stately feel of Florence and want to experience more of Central Italy, consider exploring one of these dreamy small towns in Italy near Florence. There are even some great little towns to hike through near Florence that you will want to add to your must-see list.
But before heading outside the city, be sure to add these famous features to your Florence bucket list:
- The Duomo
- Ponte Vecchio
- Uffizi Museum
- Galleria dell’Accademia
- Visit all of the Markets
- Piazzale Michelangelo
17 Dreamy Small Towns in Italy near Florence
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If you are wondering, “What are the best towns near Florence, Italy?“, I think you might have a hard time narrowing down your choice to just one. These are some of the best small towns in Italy near Florence to choose from.
Recommended by Caroline of Veggie Wayfarer
The UNESCO classified town of Assisi is located in the off-the-beaten-path province of Umbria in Italy. The region has all the beauty of Tuscany—medieval Umbrian towns, cypress-lined winding roads through bucolic landscapes, delicious food to be washed down with local wine—at a third of the prices in Tuscany.
Assisi is known to be the birthplace of the Saint, Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan order.
The Saint Francis Basilica inside of Assisi was built to herald the Saint, while it might look sober on the outside, the beautiful ornate frescoes inside the Basilica are the polar opposite.
After your visit make sure to eat a delicious Gelato on the Piazza del Comune.
Get lost in the little cobblestone streets of medieval Assisi and get transported back in time. Head to the outskirts of town to the nearby Santa Maria degli Angeli church to marvel at yet another Franciscan splendor! This huge church is less ornate than the Basilica but equally majestic.
Getting to Assisi from Florence is relatively easy. A 2h30 train ride costing €15 will get you from the Campo Marte train station in Florence directly to the Assisi train station.
Recommended by Joanna of The World in My Pocket
Certaldo is one of the prettiest off the beaten path towns in Tuscany and best towns near Florence. Located halfway between Florence and Siena, Certaldo is divided into two parts: Upper and Lower.
The Upper part is the historical area where you will find all the touristic attractions, whilst the lower, modern one, is where you will find the train station. Certaldo is one of the towns near Florence, Italy by train.
You can get to the Upper part of Certaldo by a historical funicular or by foot. The funicular makes the trip much more interesting through.
There are quite a few things to do in Certaldo, starting with visiting Giovanni Boccaccio’s house where he lived during the final part of his life. The house is now a museum displaying rare editions of Boccaccio’s writings.
Another interesting thing to do in Certaldo is to visit the Nails museum and learning about the importance of this small tool in the development of the different trades in Tuscany. Close by, you will find the historical archery headquarters of Certaldo, an underground exhibition of armor, swords, lances and shields that were used in different battles.
For drinks with a view, head over to Osteria del Vicario; their garden overlooks the rolling hills of Tuscany, covered with vineyards. You’ll quickly see why Certaldo is one of the best towns near Florence, Italy that you just need to see.
Recommended by Elena of The Carry-On Chronicles
The centermost town of the five beloved Cinque Terre villages, Corniglia is easily the most underrated. Given the unavoidable steep ascent into town and its lack of direct sea access, many people mistakenly overlook this dreamy Italian gem in favor of the other four.
However, those who do uncover this wonderful Cinque Terre town are pleasantly surprised by its beauty, if not completely blown away!
To avoid the steep climb into the center of Corniglia, you can simply hop aboard the shuttle bus that stops by the train station to pick up travelers. You can even ride free of charge by showing your Cinque Terre pass.
Alternatively, if you’re up for the hike, you can enjoy the view from atop the staircase, Scalinata Lardarina.
Once you arrive in central Corniglia, prepare to be wowed by an irresistibly charming old town that feels notably less touristy than the other four. It IS one of the best towns near Florence, Italy for you to explore.
In fact, there are only about 150 people who call Corniglia home!
Here, you can enjoy a quieter, more local feel as you wander through the storybook street that runs through the center of town. As you explore, make sure to divert off the main path for an incredible seaside panorama over the steeped terrain.
As far as accommodations go, you can typically expect charming, self-catering apartments in Corniglia and the surrounding Cinque Terre towns. Consider a stay at The Terrace on the Blue, a lovely Corniglia apartment featuring a sun terrace with beautiful sea views.
4. Greve in Chianti
Recommended by Lori of ItalyFoodies
If you’re looking for a new place to visit in Tuscany, consider the small, charming and historic town of Greve in Chianti.
Located 19 miles (31 km) south of Florence, Italy, Greve in Chianti has long been considered the gateway to Chianti, one of Italy’s most prolific wine regions with scenic rolling hills covered with vineyards.
It is one of the coolest small towns in Italy near Florence that you need to add to your travel bucket list.
Greve, although quaint, is far from sleepy. The piazza is surrounded by porticoes covering the entrances to boutique shops, restaurants, and enotecas as well as artisanal leather, ceramic, and craft shops.
Just minutes from the unique triangular Piazza Matteotti are vineyards, olive orchards, and wineries offering some of the finest wines in the world.
There is a delightful cashmere goat farm on the outskirts of town you can visit and buy hand-crafted cashmere items in the gift shop produced from the wool of resident goats.
Visit during September when the town hosts the Chianti Classico celebration in the piazza with rows of stalls offering the very best local wines.
5. La Spezia
Recommended by Ingrid of Ingrid Zen Moments
Roughly 2 hours away from Florence, on the southern edge of the Cinque Terre, you will discover the charming town of La Spezia.
While the city might not be as small as Riomaggiore, Manarola, or other villages further North, there is something unique about the all-Italian vibe La Spezia has.
Stroll through the city’s main historical pedestrian streets, shop for souvenirs at the local busy flea market, or taste some delicious fruit and vegetables from the farmer’s market in Piazza Cavour.
The seafront and the port of La Spezia are some other places you shouldn’t miss—the promenade of Costantino Morin is a charming area for a walk along with palm trees and historical buildings.
From La Spezia, you can easily take a boat to the Parco Naturale di Porto Venere, a hidden gem close to the Cinque Terre with a more laid-back vibe, delicious food, and colorful streets packed with souvenir shops.
Reaching La Spezia is easy because of its importance as a railway hub, and basically, all trains in the region pass through this city by the sea. It is easy to reach many of the small towns in Italy near Florence via the train.
Recommended by Michela of She Goes The Distance
The walled town of Lucca, Italy, in northwest Tuscany, offers quaint and quiet charm, and its unique history makes for unique places to visit.
One of your first stops should be the Torre Guinigi, a tower that stands out for one peculiarity—it has trees growing at the top! The tower was built by the rich family Guinigi and dates back to the 1300s.
The curiosities continue as you make your way to Piazza Anfiteatro, a plaza in the shape of an oval, reflecting the shape of the ancient Roman amphitheater that once stood in its place.
One of the best things to do in Lucca is walk or bike along the town’s medieval walls, the second-longest in Europe and dating back to the mid-1600s. The walls hug the entire town and provide amazing views of the rooftops, bell towers, and the surrounding Apennine mountains, a standout among the small towns in Italy near Florence.
Lucca is known as the “City of 100 Churches,” which is exemplified by the endless view of church bell towers from the walls. It is one of the best towns near Florence to visit.
One of the most famous of these churches, and a must-visit on any Lucca itinerary, is the San Michele in Foro, its exterior intricately decorated with sculptures and arcades.
Lucca is easy to reach from Florence by train and car. If arriving by car, there is convenient, inexpensive parking at Parcheggio Carducci just outside the walls.
Recommended by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
One of the best towns near Florence, Italy that you should visit is Manarola, which has a beautiful view of the Ligurian Sea. Located in the heart of Cinque Terre, Manarola offers stunning views of the sea from almost everywhere in town.
The Cinque Terre region is famous for its beautiful colorful houses right next to the sea. If you walk down the main road to the marina, you’ll be able to see these buildings and explore local shops.
Wandering the streets is one of the best things to do in Manarola. You can bring some of Italian culture home by taking a few souvenir items from Italy—you’ll find plenty of homemade items and cooking supplies.
Once you arrive at the marina, turn right to go up a small hill. This paved path brings you to a lookout for the iconic Instagram worthy view of Manarola. If you’re trying to get a sunset shot, be sure to get there an hour before as the path fills up quickly.
Seafood is a specialty of Manarola. Most of the restaurants offer the “catch of the day”, and they usually have fresh seafood every day too. Aristide, which has a location near the water, impresses by offering delicious dishes and friendly service.
Be sure to enjoy a glass of local wine. The wine in Manarola is different from the rest of Italy because it’s located in the hills, so enjoy some wine on vacation!
Recommended by Gabby of Office Escape Artist
If you’re looking for an authentic Tuscan experience without all the touristy crowds, you really cannot beat Montepulciano.
Stroll along the main artery through the town, called “Il Corso”. From here, you will find wonderful restaurants and shops to linger in. One of the best restaurants is Caffe Poliziano. Try and get a seat on the balcony to enjoy sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside.
Meander up to the Piazza Grande to see the main square in Montepulciano. If you’re a Twilight fan, this is where the Volturi scenes were filmed! This is also a great location to see even more stunning views.
Of course, no visit to Montepulciano is complete without enjoying some of the legendary wine. Don’t get confused: there is a Montepulciano grape and the Montepulciano region.
To enjoy the wines of Montepulciano, look for the “di Montepulciano” denomination. Thankfully, it’s super easy to enjoy these wines—just look for one of the many cantinas in this quaint hilltop town! Cantina Contucci and Cantina Crociani are two of the most popular cantinas.
Montepulciano is one of the small towns not too far Florence that is best explored by wandering the narrow cobblestone streets. Take an afternoon, or a few days, and really enjoy la dolce vita in Montepulciano.
9. Monterosso al Mare
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This is one of the five towns of Cinque Terre. An easy way to get from Florence to Monterosso al Mare is by train. This journey takes about 2.5 hours.
If you are looking for the best towns near Florence, Italy, then Monterosso al Mare is it. The town is located next to the Mediterranean Sea and offers a beautiful view of this sea. Moreover, the town has the only sandy beach in Cinque Terre and the beach is very beautiful and relaxing.
Also, there are beautiful colorful houses that are great to see, and some of the most photogenic places in Cinque Terre are in the town.
Another great thing about the town is that you can find many lemon trees there, which is lovely.
If you want to see other towns in Cinque Terre, it is convenient to buy a train card for Cinque Terre. With this, you can do an unlimited number of train trips between the villages and La Spezia in one day. Also, a great hotel in the town is Hotel Marina.
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One of the most beautiful small towns near Florence is Pienza. For many, this charming medieval town and the beautiful landscapes surrounding it are a highlight of any trip. The old town, known as the “perfect Renaissance city”, and the endless rolling fields of the Val d’Orcia with its gorgeous viewpoints and picturesque cypress avenues are truly breathtaking.
Pienza has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996, making it a true highlight of Tuscany. Walking through the city you will discover countless beautiful squares, historic buildings and various museums. In any case, you should not miss to visit the famous monuments such as the imposing Town Hall and the beautiful Palazzo Piccolomini, which are open to the public as museums. Another beautiful sight is the stunning Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, located in the center.
The small town of Pienza is located about 120 km from Florence and can easily be visited over a day trip. However, it is also worth staying longer. In the region you will find good accommodation, such as Agriturismo Marinello with a beautiful pool and breathtaking views of the city!
Recommended by Laura of The Historian Traveller
Located in between the crystalline waters of Forte dei Marmi and the medieval towers of San Gimignano, Pisa is universally known for its Leaning Tower. However, the city has much more to offer than its Leaning Tower.
Indeed, Pisa is one of the most famous university Italian cities and one of the lovely small towns in Italy that warrants a visit.
Walking around its city centre, it is possible to appreciate its old-fashioned bookstores and secret libraries. Among these, the library inside the former (and infamous) Conte Ugolino’s Tower in the Palazzo dell’Orologio is worth a stop.
A must-visit place is certainly the stunning Piazza dei Miracoli. Here visitors can admire the massive marble columns of the Duomo, climb the Leaning Tower and hear the voice of the angels in the unique Battistero.
A perfect itinerary will end at Ponte di Mezzo to watch the sunset, possibly with an ice cream from La Bottega del Gelato. However, a longer walk on the Arno River will lead to a real hidden gem of Pisa. This is known as the second (and still not much known) leaning tower of the city located in the courtyard of the Church of San Michele degli Scalzi.
Among the best places to eat in Pisa, there are Osteria i Santi for a traditional lunch, Le Scuderie for the best pizza in town and La Piadina for a quick and tasty lunch.
The best places to stay in Pisa are Palazzo Cini, Palazzo Feroci and Hotel Relais dell’Orologio
Recommended by Em of That Travelista
While all of Tuscany is stunning, sometimes it’s nice to switch things up. Luckily for those visiting Florence, the Ligurian fishing village of Riomaggiore is just a train ride away.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost of the five villages that make up the famed Cinque Terre. While it’s tempting to describe these villages as “all the same,” each village does offer something a little different.
For Riomaggiore, that “something different” is the fishing-village ambiance it has retained in spite of the ever-increasing tourism the Cinque Terre receives.
To get to Riomaggiore, take a regional train from Florence to Riomaggiore, with a transfer at La Spezia. It is another one of the best coastal towns near Florence.
Once in Riomaggiore, pop in and out of the different shops, watch the blue fishing boats bobbing in the harbor, and even swim in the sea at Spiaggia di Riomaggiore, a little beach nestled just behind the main town.
More adventurous types can rent kayaks and paddle north to Manarola, exploring hidden sea caves along the way. But whatever you do, be sure to stake out a spot along the wall south of the harbor for sunset.
You will quickly see why Riomaggiore earns a spot as one of the dreamy small towns in Italy near Florence that you simply must visit.
Visitors often debate over how many days to spend in Cinque Terre. If you are only visiting Riomaggiore, a day trip from Florence will suffice. But in order to appreciate all five towns, two full days is perfect.
For unmatched views of the harbor, stay at the luxury apartment La Vista di Marina. For those on a budget, you may want to stay in La Spezia just seven minutes away by train.
13. San Gimignano
Recommended by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones
Just an hour’s drive southwest of Florence you’ll find the medieval walled city of San Gimignano, one of Tuscany’s beautiful hill towns.
The entire town of San Gimignano is pedestrian-only, making it very easy and enjoyable to explore one of the best small cities in Italy.
The skyline of San Gimignano is studded with towers; back in its heyday, there were over seventy of them.
Today, the tallest remaining tower is the aptly named Torre Grossa. It’s the only tower you can climb, and you should definitely do so—the panoramic views of San Gimignano and the surrounding countryside are incredible.
If you’re looking for something a little unusual to do in San Gimignano, you can visit the Museo della Tortura—the Torture Museum. Not surprisingly, it’s a bit macabre but does provide a unique historical insight.
The Hotel Bel Soggiorno, located right inside the city walls, is a great choice for your stay in San Gimignano. Guests can choose between rooms with a view of the city or views of the countryside, and everyone can enjoy the stunning views from the hotel’s breakfast room.
The town of San Gimignano even has its own App that you can download to your phone in advance of your visit. This covers various attractions and points of interest in the city and is available in eight languages.
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If you are a photographer and a traveler, you will absolutely LOVE Siena. It is one of the most beautiful small cities in Italy near Florence that you really must visit. Unless you choose to rent a car, one of the easy ways to get to Siena from Florence for a day trip is to take a bus.
The bus ride is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes along a beautiful route skirted with wineries dotting the mountainside. Sit back, relax, and enjoy letting someone else do the driving.
Once you reach Siena, grab your backpack and start your day in the Central Square.
Unlike most European cities where you’ll find a duomo in a town’s central square, in Siena you’ll find the City Hall and a large open square where every year they host the famous Palio horse race.
It is highly recommended that you purchase the OPA SI Pass which allows you to visit all of the museums in the Cathedral Complex:
- The Cathedral (with art treasures by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Bernini and its amazing marble-inlay floor)
- The Piccolomini Library
- The Baptistry of San Giovanni
- The Crypt
- The Museo dell’Opera
- Climb up to the panoramic terrace of the Duomo Nuovo (unfinished facade of the cathedral)
- The San Bernardino Oratory
- The Santa Maria della Scala hospital and museum.
The most amazing part of the day may be the climb up to the unfinished facade of the church, navigating narrowing circular stairs until the breathtaking view of Siena in 360 degrees of glory unfolds before you.
The queue to visit the panoramic terrace may be long, but the view at the top is totally worth the wait. And Siena? Well, it is worth the trip as well.
Recommended by Giulia of Julestrails
In the southern part of Tuscany, about a 2.5 hour drive south of Florence, the small town of Sovana is one of the most picturesque in the region.
Sovana preserved its classic and charming medieval appearance over the centuries and is rich in history and cultural importance.
As soon as you approach the town, you will see the ruins of imposing the Rocca Aldobrandesca; enter through the main arch and have a stroll around the ruins.
Walk down the one main street (via del Pretorio) for two minutes and you will enter the heart of the town.
The main square is very well preserved, look down at your feet to admire the medieval herringbone terracotta flooring and look around to take in the surrounding buildings made out of tuff which gift this town with its signature hearty and warm color palette.
To visit this part of Tuscany, it’s best to hire a car for the day. The journey from Florence is an adventure in itself, as the bendy panoramic road takes you through some of the most idyllic rural landscapes outside of Florence.
Head out in the morning and aim to get to Sovana for a lunch at Taverna Etrusca, where you can taste some of the best regional specialities as well as the delicious wines this region is famous for. Walk it all off by visiting the town and ruins before you make your way back to Florence.
Recommended by Timpani of Like the Drum
Vernazza, an Italian city near Florence, is one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre, or five lands. Situated between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia, Vernazza is a small fishing village known for its picturesque view.
In order to see the insta-famous view, you’ll need to hike the Blue Trail. If you want a workout, start in Monterosso al Mare and let the view be your reward. If you want to take the easy way, start in Vernazza and just hike the short distance to the lookout. Either way, you’ll have to pay €7,50 for the Cinque Terre Hiking Card or €18,20 for the Treno Card* to access the trail as it’s an official trail.
After taking in the amazing view, head to the harbor for lunch or dinner. There are a few restaurants that have waterfront and terrace seating which makes for a stunning meal experience. Also, don’t forget to grab some gelato!
Staying the night, or a few, in Vernazza? There are plenty of beautiful villas, apartments, and other accommodations to stay in.
* The Hiking Card is only good for the walking trails while the Treno Card allows you to take either the trails or train between the towns.
Recommended by Denise of Chef Denise
Fans of Leonardo da Vinci should visit the enchanting medieval town where he was born— Vinci. Leonardo’s actual birthplace is about 5 minutes outside the walled village, and the home is open to the public.
Inside the walls of the hilltop fortress town, you’ll find the da Vinci Museum dedicated to the inventions and tools of the Renaissance genius.
Peek into the Castle of the Conti Guidi for more original works on display. And in the Piazza des Guidi, a huge wooden replica of da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man has a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
The vistas alone from another one of the beautiful small cities in Italy make it worth the 45 minute drive from Florence. Walk the full perimeter (it’s small, you can do it!) to see the picturesque Tuscan countryside—rolling hills dotted with small farms, grape vines, cypress trees, and olive groves.
Though they certainly enhance the view, the olive trees in this area are not just landscaping, they are harvested.
The olive oil from Tuscany is among the best in the world, and some of the local farms offer tours and tastings. Italian cuisine enthusiasts should stop by the Tourist Information Center just outside the city walls for the current list of participating farms.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What cities are close to Florence by train?
Florence is located in Central Italy and is the capital of the Tuscany region. With its central location, it is easy to take day trips to the surrounding small towns in Italy near Florence. The big city closest to Florence is Bologna.
Is it better to stay outside of Florence?
It is delightful to stay within the city limits of Florence and equally wonderful to find a charming place to stay in the surrounding countryside. If you are looking for a romantic place to stay in the city, check out the Sina Hotel Villa Medici, a hotel of the Marriott Autograph series.
What is the most picturesque town in Italy?
Can you only pick one? Any of the small towns in Italy near Florence would be considered picturesque. Frankly, all of Italy is photogenic.
What are the best months to visit Florence Italy?
While May through September offers warmer weather and fun festivals to attend, October is ideal as it means less tourists, lower room rates, and more temperate weather according US News & World Report. Plus, it ranks as the #2 Best Honeymoon destination in Europe!
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Final Thoughts on the Dreamy Small Towns in Italy Near Florence
If you have yet to visit Italy, you are in for a treat. And these 17 dreamy small towns in Italy near Florence will only fuel your desire to explore the entire country.
You may even begin to plan your retirement bucket list around these most beautiful small cities in Italy.