Travelling in Tuscany by train is a wonderful way to experience the region. We pick eight great Italian masterpieces to explore.
Many visitors like to create a Tuscan itinerary that includes a variety of all its magnificent heritage highlights, be they cultural or natural. For example, combine a few days in Florence with a few by the beach or explore many of the heavenly hilltop villages dotted around the region. If coach tours aren't your thing, and the idea of navigating Italy's roads in a hire car fills you with dread, then taking to the rails is a good option.
Thanks to Italy’s extensive high-speed rail network and smaller, regional networks, exploring Tuscany by train is easy. Here are some of the best places to visit in this exquisite region.
Florence by rail
Florence is a good starting point for any Tuscan holiday by train. However, hoards of visitors flock there every year so think carefully about when to visit and plan ahead, because it can be hot, expensive and busy. It may be a good contender for visiting in winter. That said, it is genuinely beautiful, so do go. In spite of the crowds, the city which kick-started the Renaissance deserves a place on any Italian itinerary.
If you're coming from the UK, travelling by train from London to Florence is surprisingly simple although it's quite a long journey. There is an overnight option, using the Thello night train from Paris to Milan in Italy and a daytime route that takes just under 14 hrs and also involves travelling through Milan. It's a long day but easily done with an early start from London. Florence is well connected by train to other parts of Italy since it's on the main high-speed axis from Milan to Rome. Direct trains head north to Bologna, Milan and Turin and south to Rome and Naples. What's more, Florence is at the heart of a dense network of local trains departing regularly for Pisa, Lucca, Siena and Poggibonsi (for San Gimignano), any of which make an excellent day trip from Florence.
Pisa by train
There is more to Pisa than its leaning tower, though as a tourist, it's mandatory for you to take an awesome picture at the tower as soon as you arrive. Catch the best views from the top of the leaning tower - at 56m tall, it provides enough height to see the city’s architecture and nearby port, as well as the Alps in the distance. Wander along the banks of the river Arno, and make time to stop at Pisa's most exciting art gallery, the Riverside art gallery. As well as a cool cafe, check out the latest exhibits housed in the 14th-century building. We've heard the best ice cream can be found at Bottega Del Gelato.
To get to Pisa, take a train from Florence to Pisa in just 49 mins. The train follows the Arno Valley downstream via Empoli, taking in the rustic Tuscan scenery along the way.
Lucca by regional rail
The medieval town of Lucca is less popular than other Tuscan destinations but it's an excellent choice for a day trip from Pisa or Florence, since it's just a short train journey away from both. The ancient fortified town was a Roman colony in 180 BC, with city walls that form a perfect ring around the city, and a great point to take in the views. From here you will see that the area has been preserved as a green belt in which you can wander, ride a bike or just relax. Ensure you save enough energy to climb the 230 steps to the top of the Guinigi Tower then enjoy a treat all the more in one of the town’s many cafes.
The train to Siena
Another walled city set into the rolling Tuscan hills, Siena is built over three peaks, each topped by towers and churches creating a dramatic effect. Its striking medieval piazza, Il Campo, makes for a perfect centrepiece to this city that has a huge range of magnificent architecture and art. Not surprisingly, Siena also boasts some sumptuous restaurants to show of Tuscany's fine fare.
Siena is easily reached by train, athough the station is 2km north-west of the town centre. Buses run from the station into town. The train from Florence to Siena takes about 90 mins on frequent direct services.
San Gimignano by rail
A short hop from Siena is the celebrated hilltop village of San Gimignano. The nearest station is Poggibonsi-S. Gimignano, just an hour from Florence by regional train, but it's some distance from the town. Buses climb up the hill from that station to San Gimignano. The village is perhaps best known for the towers that dominate the skyline, visible for miles around, which were built by competitive Tuscan families in the Middle Ages. But you're also near Chianti country, so San Gimignano is a good spot to enjoy the wines of Tuscany. Take advantage of being on the train without a designated driver and make a trip to one of many local wineries.
If taking a day trip from Florence, the train from Florence to Poggibonsi takes just over an hour.
Tuscan beach time at Viareggio
Tuscany's biggest beach town, Viareggio, is popular with Italian holidaymakers from within the province and beyond. Its long white sandy beaches and warm waters are a lovely choice for a day of sunbathing and swimming. The pretty town's many designer shops will empty your pockets, and excellent restaurants fill your stomachs after the sun has worked its magic. There are a multitude of events throughout the summer months including Viareggio street food festival in July, and, if you visit around Easter, you can experience the famous Viareggio Carnevale.
Adventures in Anghiari by rail
The incredible hill town of Anghiari sits surrounded by the Valtiberina landscape and is still relatively untouched by the masses of tourists visiting the region. With its well-preserved ancient walls, winding streets and awe-inspiring view over Tiber valley, Anghiari is a great option for a day trip from Florence. While there, take a tour of the Busatti factory to pick up some traditional woven fabrics. The town's closest train station is a short bus ride away from the west - the best approach to Anghiari - where the town will suddenly come to view around a large bend in the road. Travel from Florence to Arezzo by train in just 33 mins by regional services.
Cinque Terre by train
Although not actually in Tuscany, many visitors like to add these five villages of Liguria onto the Tuscan itinerary. However, don't expect to find fewer crowds. It's so popular that a ticketing system was introduced in 2016 to reduce the number of coach parties and cruise ships visiting in summer. But if you aren't bothered by crowds then there's no denying the stunning landscape and pleasure in hiking between the villages on rugged coastal paths. Part of the reason they're so popular is that each of the Cinque Terre towns have their own railway station. The nearest mainline station is La Spezia, where you can change onto a regional train to Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, or Riomaggiore. If you're coming from the Tuscan capital, the train from Florence to La Spezia takes just over 2 hrs.
You can also consider a trip by train to Sestri Levante, a small, sleepy town and Italian family seaside resort with a picturesque medieval centre. Or hop on a bus from La Spezia to Tellaro, a small fishing village, perched on a cliff.
Image credits: Sunset over Florence at Piazza Michelangelo by Jiuguang Wang reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 SA licence, Vernazza, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy © Chakphet Sirichumsaeng | Dreamstime.com, Lucca by Ștefan Jurcă reproduced with thanks under a https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/" target="_blank">Creative Commons 2.0 licence, Siena Cathedral, Italy © Sborisov | Dreamstime.com, San Gimignano, Siena by Andrés Nieto Porras reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 SA licence, Viareggio by WunschbrunnenEla reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication licence, Viareggio by WunschbrunnenEla reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication licence, Anghiari by Monica Arellano-Ongpin reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence. Cinque Terre by Luca Casartelli reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 SA licence, via Wikimedia Commons,
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