Though you may think you'll want to spend all your time in Florence (and we agree that you can), it would be a veritable travel sin not to explore some of the beautiful regions surrounding Renaissance city. Work up a sweat on the rolling Tuscan hills, or relish in the slow time of idyllic Lucca, or visit serene (and tasty!) Chianti. Or better yet, do all three!
Florence Day Trips
Hit the High Road
Tuscany is what the world would look like from behind rose-tinted glasses. Spending time in Tuscany is like stepping into a dreamy picture, only possibly better.
And what better way to see Tuscany than from a mountain bike? OK, mountain biking isn't exactly the activity people conjure up when thinking about serenely escapist Tuscany. But for adventurous Cheapos, there may not be a more beautiful place for active cycling.
The Tuscan region has five big secrets, its national parks: Parco delle Alpi Apuane (site in Italian), Parco Migliarino San Rossore, Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi, Parco della Maremma and the Parco dell' Archipelage Toscano. All can be entered with a bicycle.
Stretching north from Tuscany into Liguria, you might just find yourself getting carried away on nothing less than a 30-plus km track of raw beauty alongside blue-fingered lakes, with the verdant bubbling of hilltops flanking the wayside.
Mountain biking is quite the ride. Both day and week rentals can be easily arranged. Check out Florence by Bike for bike rental information, itinerary suggestions, general tips and bike tour information. You'll kick yourself if you don't give it a whirl. So rally up a few friends and hit the high road.
Like a quiet heartbeat, Lucca has the lifeblood of Tuscany running through it. Lying less than two hours by train from Florence, the fortified city of Lucca encapsulates Tuscany.
While the sunflower fields, olive groves and Apuan Alps command an open appreciation of Tuscan Nature, Lucca manages to punch you with the same lasting impression through its social scenery. It does this from within the confines of its city walls.
Lucca's little society holds reign over your senses the second you tunnel your way into the community. There is simply something different about the food, the drink, the people in Lucca. It is almost as if those peripheral walls helped mature the city's Italian character just that tiny bit more.
Littered with churches and narrow, serpentine, cobbled streets, Lucca bursts with history. From the almost-Byzantine mosaics in San Frediano's Church to its historical Botanical Gardens, the dainty city has a little treat around every corner. This is definitely a place to wile away the hours walking around and soaking it all up.
Lucca seems to enjoy you as much as you enjoy it. A gentle stroll can get you from one side of the city to the other, in no less than an hour and a half! It's fair to say that Lucca is a pretty neat find, and definitely a must see for those looking to complete the full Tuscan experience. Check out Lucca's official Italian-language municipal Web site.
...and WINE NOT?
A peppering of oak, a teasing hint of clove, that fruity punch of pregnant vines and a velvet afterthought of dark chocolate. Oh yes, we're talking about Chianti.
A friendly pit-stop an hour's drive outside of Florence, the Chianti Hills comfortably roll in the basin of The Arno Valley en route to Siena. You might say that the Chianti Hills are a must-taste stop! Although an oft-considered tourist hot spot, wine tasting in the Chianti Hills is regularly relegated to the only-if-we-have-time list of things to see. We think it needs to be pushed right back up top!
Why? Because of the unaltered beauty of the Tuscan landscape. With its castles, villages and seldom unearthed wine cellars, the Chianti Hills shouldn't be missed. While the Academica, Ponti Vecchio and Il Duomo are staggering sights, don't forget to shoulder your daypack and mosey on down to Verrazzano's castles and vineyards. One little village, Impruneta, produces the terracotta used for Il Duomo's actual dome. Don't miss the village of Monteriggioni, which holds an ancient fortress built during Tuscan Medieval times.
The whole Chianti wine trail is not difficult to follow. Just tail the northern bends of the Arno River. Renting a car (with a designated driver, of course!) is the best way to quietly take it all in. Check out our car rental guide to get the best deal.
If you want to feel Italian for a day, the Chianti Hills should fit the bill. Wine not, indeed!
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