7 Best Small Towns Near Florence, Italy

Florence is an incredible city in the heart of Italy, but sometimes it’s nice to get away from the hustle of a city. The small size of Florence makes it a great place to explore the Tuscany region. If you’re done seeing the best things to do in Florence, then it’s time to get out and explore the area. Here are seven of the best small towns near Florence worth a visit!

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Assisi

Visited by Caroline of Veggie Wayfarer

Assisi is a small town located in the underrated province of Umbria in Italy. Like it’s much more famous big brother – Tuscany – Umbria offers its visitors beautiful unspoilt towns, scrumptious food to be washed down with locally produced wine and tops it off with a generous sprinkling of Italian hospitality. All this at a fraction of the prices you will find in Tuscany.

The town is known to be the birthplace of Saint Francis (of Assisi), the founder of the Franciscan religion. The little town is therefore unsurprisingly the site of many pilgrimages. The Basilica di San Francesco looks rather unassuming from the outside, but if there is one site you absolutely need to visit it is this Basilica. The interior will have you scrambling to pick up your mouth off the floor and leave you speechless. After your visit head over to Piazza del Comune for a refreshing gelato and indulge in some people watching.

Umbria is one of the best small towns near Florence
Umbria, Italy. Photo by Veggie Wayferer.

Getting to Assisi is very easy, making it one of the best small towns near Florence. There is a direct train between Firenze (station Campo Marte) and Assisi. Services depart every four hours and run every day. The journey takes between 2h 30 and 3h30, depending on the type of train you choose. One-way ticket will set you back around 15€.

Manarola

Explored by Me of The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Manarola is one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre region, located about 100 miles (161 km) west of Florence. While it sounds far away, it is really easy to reach by train. This small town is nestled on rocky cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The colorful houses are breathtaking up against the blue waters.

One of the best things to do in Cinque Terre is to go hiking. There are beautiful views all around Cinque Terre. Be sure to visit Nessun Dorna for delicious local wine and this incredible view of the town. We enjoyed wandering through the small roads of the town – many of which are unlabeled (which the directionally challenged in me *loves*). Get food at a focacceria – which specializes in pizza.

If you’re able to stay overnight, staying at this AirBnB will guarentee a view of the coastline. Manarola is known for it’s fresh seafood, so be sure to try some during your stay!

Pontedera

Explored by Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Situated between Florence and Pisa, Pontedera is a quiet destination. It is a bit off the highway and is an easy trip from Florence, Vinci, Lucca, Livorno, and Viareggio. There is easy access to Pontedera from Florence. Take fast trains from Florence to Pontedera that run frequently and take you only 42 minutes to reach there. Also, there are various rail routes to take.

Visiting Pontedera can offer a lot of fun things to do including visiting the Mediterranean beaches that are only ten minutes from here. There are reasons why travelers are starting to love Pontedera. Some of the top things that they love and visitors can do include visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, enjoying private cooking classes at a local’s home, attending Pisa Walking tour and more. Travelers can spot the oldest building in town, the Church of the Santissimo Crocifisso that was built in 1272. Some of the other heritages include the clock tower, Elegant Villa Crastan and Piazza Garibaldi.

Aerial view of Pontedera. Photo by Paulina on the Road.

One of the most famous attractions in the Pontedera is the Piaggio Museum that displays numerous Vespas from its start to the present. There’s, even more, to witness in the small town that tells a lot about its history and culture. Apart from the civic sculptures, the town also offers great hemp clothing brands and delicious food that make a vacation complete. Along with shopping, travelers can enjoy great food at one of the popular restaurants in town like La Polveriera.

Portovenere

Recommended by Linn of Brainy Backpackers

Portovenere is one of the most beautiful coastal towns along the Ligurian coast, yet in the shadow of Cinque Terre. Though some say it is the sixth town of Cinque Terre, it hardly gets as much attention as it deserves. The easiest way to get there from Florence is by car. By public transport, you need to first get to Pisa, which is 1-1,5 hours by train, and then you can take a bus or train to La Spezzia which is another 1 hour 20 minutes. From Spezia you can take a boat or a local bus the last hour. Driving only takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. There are plenty of things to do in Portovenere with the iconic Church of Saint Peter being the most noteworthy attraction. The church sits on top of a rock on a small peninsula diving into the deep turquoise sea. Other landmarks worth visiting are Doria castle and San Lorenzo Church which contains the painting of Madonna Bianca which is celebrated every 17th of August when the villager’s carry her through the town. The colorful Palazzata is also part of history. The slim houses are built in front of the rock to protect the town from enemy attacks, which is why they do not have balconies and big windows. Splurge at Grand Hotel Portovenere for a memorable vacation.

Portovenere, a small town near Florence worth visiting.
Palazzata in Portovenere. Photo by the Brainy Backpackers

San Gimignano

Explored by Corina of Packed Again

Using Florence as a base when visiting Tuscany is perfect as you can branch out and visit the most beautiful small towns around the city on a day trip. One of these towns is San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990 and honestly probably one of the most gorgeous towns in Tuscany

San Gimignano is famous for its fascinating medieval architecture and the 14 towers that can be seen from far.

But the Village has more to offer then just towers. When visiting San Gimignano you have the chance to step back in time whilst enjoying local products, like saffron and its white wine, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Find yourself a place in one of the small restaurants with views overlooking the Tuscan hillsides and feel in paradise. Oh, and not to forget, in the middle of the town is a gourmet and world class ice cream shop. You will find it easily as there is always a queue of people waiting to savour this treat.

San Gimignano, a Small town near Florence worth visiting.
San Gimignano. Photo by Packed Again.

The road distance from Florence to San Gimignano by car is 56.7 km. There are several car parks around the walled town and it is better to check online in which car parking place there is space. This place gets busy during peak season. You can also travel from Florence to San Gimignano by bus, you will need to change at Poggibonsi. The journey will take you about 2h.

Vernazza

Recommended by Val of Voyages with Val

Vernazza is one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre, a series of small coastal towns well known for their bright colors and quaint nature. Cinque Terre can be experienced over the course of several days or the highlights can be seen in a one-day traveling from Florence or another nearby town. To visit Vernazza and the other towns it is a two-hour drive to La Spezia where you can travel by train to all five towns.

Vernazza is best experienced by wandering the narrow streets and popping into the cute shops and cafés that dart the streets or watching the ships come into the harbor. Cars are not allowed in Vernazza, so feel free to linger and explore among the pastel buildings on foot.

Vernazza, one of the best small towns to visit near Florence
Vernazza coastline. Photo by Voyages with Val.

While in Vernazza, you must visit the Belforte Tower, where you can catch a view of the town and sea. There is even a restaurant located in the tower for an unforgettable meal! Another viewpoint can be hiked to at the other end of town that looks over the entire town. If you are just looking to relax, Vernazza is perfect for that as well and has several beaches to visit for a swim.

Volterra

Visited by Jürgen & Martina of Places of Juma

A really beautiful small town near Florence is Volterra in Tuscany. This medieval town is located about 80 kilometers from the Tuscan capital and a day trip there is absolutely worthwhile. Somewhat off the typical tourist paths, one experiences a unique flair here and sometimes even feels transported back in time.

Particularly beautiful is the medieval old town of Volterra, which towers over 500 meters above the beautiful Tuscan hills. During a walk through the town you will discover really beautiful places und countless photospots.

The town is also known as the Etruscan city, because the history of Volterra goes back to the 4th century BC, when this people settled the region. Even today you can visit archeological sites and remains of Etruscan art in various museums. Later, the Romans settled this historic town, whose Teatro Romano has become an important attraction of Volterra.

Volterra, one of the best small towns to visit near Florence
Volterra. Photo by Places of Juma.

But not only the town is beautiful, also the food is very tasty in this region. As an insider tip we can tell you the L`Incontro. In this café you get really delicious dolci (desserts) and mega good coffee at a reasonable price!

In Volterra, but also around the city in the beautiful vineyards, you will find a fabulous selection of beautiful accommodations. Highly recommended is the Agriturismo Podere Marcampo – a family-run farm with pool, amazing views, and delicious wine tastings. Volterra’s variety of things to do makes it one of the best small towns near Florence!

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