Florence as a base to visit Tuscany
Tuscany is a vast territory and because of its peculiar conformation made of hills, verdant countryside, narrow winding roads and hill top towns, we must admit that the best way to explore it is actually by having your own car. We recommend using the car, in any case that’s possible!
With the car you have a lot more freedom and don’t need to be in a hurry to take a train or a bus, not to mention the possibility to see wonderful and off the beaten track sights along the way.
Obviously, many of you are not willing to rent a car for a quantity of reasons, so I’d like to give some tips and suggestions in case you’re going to use only public transportation to visit Tuscany. Don’t worry! Your holiday in Tuscany will be fantastic even this way!
Touring Tuscany using public transport
When visiting Tuscany without a car, then make Florence your home base. Thanks to its central location in Tuscany and the possibility to take advantage of all types of public transportation right in town, Florence is a very convenient base and a perfect starting point to visit the main and most beautiful sights in Tuscany.
Florence itself is a wonderful Renaissance art town, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, incredibly full of art treasures, ancient palaces, fashionable shops, good restaurants, spectacular events, and much more. Florence really offers a lot to do and see; have a look at this mini-guide to Florence amazing sights and attractions.
Your home base to explore Tuscany
Florence is the best base to visit Tuscany when using only public transport to move around. Florence is well served by transports, Santa Maria Novella train station, called Firenze SMN, is right in the center, few minutes walk from the Duomo and the very heart of the city. The train station is your landmark; all rail and bus connections, including the ones arriving from Tuscany’s airports, get here at Florence’s station.
SITA buses (local buses taking you to Chianti, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, Mugello, San Gimignano etc) leave directly from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station. The FIRENZE Autostazione Busitalia or bus station is opposite the train station, in Via Santa Caterina da Siena.
Which are the best Tuscan sights to visit starting from Florence?
I’ve dedicated a full blog post to the best day trips to make from Florence and the best way to reach each destination using only public transportation
To have an idea, amongst the main and best known sights you may decide to explore from Florence, I recommend:
- Fiesole, charming little hill town offering a stunning view all over Florence
- Chianti, the best known area of Tuscany for its verdant countryside and great wines
- San Gimignano, beautiful medieval town atop a hill renowned for its many towers
- Siena, fabulous medieval town, so famous for its Palio horse race
- Pisa, the city of the Leaning Towers and many other art treasures
- Lucca, lovely town enclosed by impressive medieval walls
- Certaldo, a small hill village by the unique medieval atmosphere
- Arezzo, major art town in Tuscany with a wonderful Piazza Grande
- Cortona, very charming Etruscan town atop a hill with a breathtaking never ending panorama
Each of these fantastic Tuscan destinations can be reached using public transportation, bus or train, from Florence.
Using the train, for instance, you can reach the wonderful art towns of Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo. The famous hill town of San Gimignano, the city of the beautiful medieval towers is best reached by bus. The lovely villages of Chianti, so famous for its fine wines and the scenic landscape can also be reached by bus (SITA company); in this case check the line 365 from Florence to Greve in Chianti for timetables, it is only in Italian though.
Getting around Florence’s historic center
The old town center of Florence is relatively small and can be explored on foot, all the main sights are walking distance. Now, many areas of the historic center are forbidden to the traffic (ZTL zones), like around the Duomo and in Via dè Tornabuoni, famous for its fashionable shops.
Strolling about Florence lovely streets is a real delight! Walking is indeed the best way of getting around Florence, but you may well use ATAF (the public bus company in Florence) orange buses that run continuously to cross the town from one side to the other, useful to reach some of the peripheral attractions. You can find ATAF bus tickets at the train station and at any kiosk and coffee shop. Remember to validate the ticket in the proper machine once on the bus.
Finally, when in need of a taxi here is the number: 055.4242.
Accommodation in Florence’s center
Coming to where to stay in Florence’s downtown, you’ll be spoilt for choices. I particularly love Hotel Brunelleschi, luxury Hotel and museum with top view located two steps away from the Duomo and the Cupola del Brunelleschi. I speak about it and other chic hotels and apartments in Florence here.