Florence is the capital of Tuscany, a region in central Italy. In its historic center you will find some of the most beautiful and iconic buildings of Italy. You can easily explore Florence in two days and take in all the history, art and delicious food it has to offer. If you have more than two days, there are many alternatives in the surrounding area to visit, such as Sienna and Lucca. However, did you know that iconic Cinque Terre is also only a two-hour train ride away from Florence? Hence, if you are seeking to combine city life with the seaside, then Florence and Cinque Terre is the perfect combination for a short getaway. This travel guide shows you a 4-day itinerary combining Florence with Cinque Terre, including how to get from Florence to Cinque Terre.
Day 1: Airport Pisa – Florence
Morning: train/bus to Florence
In general it is much more expensive to fly at Florence airport than other airports in the area. There are plenty of cheap flights from various European cities to Pisa or Bologna. From Pisa it’s only a one-hour train or bus journey to the central station of Florence. Try looking for a morning flight so you can still spend most of the day in Florence.
By train, you first have to take the PisaMover to Pisa Centrale (approx. 5 minutes) and from there you can take the train to Florence. You can buy a combined ticket at the airport but you can also buy them seperately. Check out Trenitalia if you want to purchase tickets beforehand. Another option is to take the bus, which are in front of Pisa’s arriving hall. A train or bus ticket from Pisa Airport to Florence costs about €15 per person one way.
Afternoon: Mercato Centrale & Duomo
Have a stroll through the city and start with a lunch at Mercato Centrale, an indoor food market with fresh Italian food. Order a sandwich (pannino con bollito) at the famous Trattoria da Nerbone or have some typical streetfood upstairs. On the first floor you will find a bar where you can order drinks whilst eating your lunch at one of the many tables.
Head outside again after lunch and check out San Lorenzo market for souvenirs and leather items. From here you can walk towards the historic center of Florence where you will find the world famous Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore. This architectural masterpiece was built in 1296 and took almost 150 years to complete!
You can enter the the cathedral for free, but there is usually a long waiting line. You can also climb the Duomo, but the price per person is €18. With this tickets you can not only climb the Dome but also the Bell Tower. Additionally, you can visit the Baptistery and the museum with this ticket.
Evening: rooftop bar & dinner
Visit an open-air rooftop bar and watch the sunset with some drinks before going out for dinner. There are many options to choose from, varying from very chique to more casual. Here are a few options to consider:
- La Terrazza at Hotel Continentale ($$$$)
- SE-STO on Arno ($$$$)
- Divina Terrazza at Grand Hotel Cavour ($$$$)
- Hotel Croce di Malta ($$$)
If you are looking for a more casual and local bar that is not a rooftop bar, then check out cosy La Boite for cheap but great drinks and delicious snacks.
Head out for dinner afterwards and make sure to try Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a typical dish originated in Florence. We tried it at L’Osteria Di Giovanni, a family-run restaurant, and had a lovely evening with great Italian food at a very reasonable price.
Day 2: Florence
Morning: breakfast, Ponte Vechhio & Piazzale Vechhio
Start your day with a small breakfast at a typical pasticceria. Here you will find cakes, pastries and croissants. In most of these shops you can have breakfast and cappuccino for just €2 per person. We loved going to Pasticceria Picciolo, right across our beautiful AirBnB.
After breakfast, make your way to the Ponte Vechhio. This bridge is the first bridge built in Florence and is finished in 1345. Originally the Ponte Vechhio was occupied with local butchers, but during the Golden Age they were replaced by jewelers. What makes this bridge so special is that the old, wooden shops have remained and are nowadays still occupied with jewelers. Crossing this bridge really makes you feel as if you are going back in time. An absolute must to visit! And: the earlier, the better as it can get very crowded.
A short 5-minute walk into the city will take you to Palazzo Vechhio, the current town hall of Florence. It is located on Piazzale della Signoria in the middle of the historic center of Florence. Again, this area looks very medieval and makes you feel like walking around in another era. Besides the Palazza there is a lot to see at this square, such as a water fountain, sculptures, and artists.
Afternoon: exploring Santa Croce & Oltrarno
Take a stroll to Santa Croce and discover loads of small cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. This area is popular among locals and students and therefore has a more relaxing and authentic vibe. The highlight in this area is the Basilica Di Santa Croce at Piazza Santa Croce.
Walk back to the historic center of Florence by passing through Via dei Neri. In this street you will find the most popular panini shop of Florence, All’antico Vinaio. This panini shop has amazingly tasty, large and cheap panini’s for only €5 each. There is always a really long waiting line, but do not let it scare you off. They have four shops next to and across from each other, so the waiting line looks much longer that it really is. I think we waited for 10 minutes and it was definitely worth it!
Another area worth exploring is Oltrarno, on the other side of the river Arno. This area is as real and authentic as Florence can be and is mostly inhabited by locals. Start your walk in the north of Oltrarno and what better way to do so is by getting the best gelato ever at La Carraia. I have never had better gelato than this, so make sure to stop by at least once! Enjoy your gelato by the riverside or by wandering through the quiet and empty streets of Oltrarno.
In the heart of Oltrarno you will find the lively Piazza Santa Spirito. This hidden square is home to Bascilia di Santo Spirito, but also has a few charming cafes and trattoria’s. The vibe at this square was great and sitting at the stairs of the Basilica enjoying the sun and people watching must have been one of my favourite moments in Florence.
Evening: sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
If you start exploring Oltrarno starting at La Carraia, you will finally end near Ponte Vechhio again. From here you can walk to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a 20-minute walk. Keep in mind that you will have to climb some stairs to get to Piazzale Michelangelo, but the view over Florence is completely worth it! The best time to visit this viewpoint is at sunset. Although it can be busy, there is enough space to have a good spot to enjoy the views.
Day 3: Florence – Cinque Terre
Morning: train to Cinque Terre
After exploring Florence for almost two full days, it’s time to head to the coast! From Florence you can take a train to Cinque in approximately 2,5-3 hours. Tickets can be purchased beforehand but it’s also possible to purchase them at the train station. You could also hire a car but since you can not take a car into Cinque Terre very easily, it’s recommended to go by train instead.
Tickets from Florence to La Spezia cost €15 per person and from there you can take a train to one of the five villages of Cinque Terre. La Spezia is the last station before Cinque Terre and is a popular place for tourists to stay as Cinque Terre can be expensive and sold out very quickly (as there relatively few hotels and AirBnB’s).
You can also purchase a ticket from Florence directly to one of the villages, which costs around €20 per person.
Afternoon: lunch in Manarola & exploring Riomaggiore
Start your day in Cinque Terre with an Italian lunch at Nessun Dorma in Manarola. This is the best spot to enjoy a delicious lunch with a view at the harbour of Manarola. Try their bruschetta with home made pesto and add some Limoncello Spritz for the ultimate experience. Keep in mind that there is a waiting line during high season. However, when we visited in October we could take a seat straight away.
After lunch take the train from Manarola to Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore is one of the bigger villages of Cinque Terre and has many hidden alleys and streets to wander around. The streets in Riomaggiore are quite steep as the village is built against rocks. However, the best part of Riomaggiore is the harbour with it’s famous colored houses looking out on the sea. Take your time to discover this cute village with its many family-run boutique shops.
Evening: sunset in Riomaggiore and dinner in Vernazza
Riomaggiore is also the perfect place to watch a beautiful sunset. You can do this on the rocks on the side of the harbour. Looking for some drinks too? Then Bar Conchiglia is the perfect place to enjoy sunset with a glass of wine.
Most of the accommodations in Cinque Terre can be found in Riomaggiore or Monterosso. However, our apartment was based in Vernazza so that is where we spent our evening. I would highly recommend staying the night in one of the villages, as it is much more quiet than during daytime. Many tourists only visit Cinque Terre for the day, so after 5PM the villages simply become much emptier. Hence, the evening and next morning are the best moments to really enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Cinque Terre.
We only visited Manarola, Riomaggiore and Vernazza and thought that Vernazza was the prettiest village. Cosy streets, secret alleys, beautiful viewpoints and a lovely square at the harbour with lots of restaurants.
Day 4: Florence – Pisa
Morning: viewpoints Vernazza & breakfast
Seize the day by heading to one of the most famous and best viewpoints in Cinque Terre, located on the hiking trail from Vernazza to Monterosso. From the center of Vernazza it is just a short walk of about 15 minutes to reach the viewpoint. Although you normally have to pay for a trail pass, you can actually go for free if you are early enough. We were there at around 08.00AM and there was no one else around. Also, the entrance to the trail was still closed so we could just walk passed it. Nevertheless, I have been told that if you tell them you just want to visit the viewpoint they often let you pass for free.
The viewpoint between Vernazza and Monterosso is one of the most popular viewpoints in Cinque Terre, but Vernazza has another beautiful spot to look out on the village. However, this viewpoint is located on the other side of Vernazza and can be found on the hiking trail from Vernazza to Corniglia. This viewpoint is not for everyone as it requires walking a lot of steep stairs in order to reach it. Be prepared to take a few breaks every now and then and do not forget to bring water. The hike to this viewpoint takes about 20-30 minutes.
After a good workout to one or both viewpoints, it’s time for breakfast. Lunchbox is the place to be for a homemade breakfast, from yoghurts and juices to sandwiches and cakes. It’s located on the main street in Vernazza near the station and it’s the perfect spot to watch the village come alive with locals and tourists.
Make sure to also make a quick stop in the harbour of Vernazza. The harbour is a little bigger compared to other villages and very tranquil to just sit and look at the boats, coloured houses and the iconic church on the left.
Excited about visiting Cinque Terre yet? Check out The Essential Cinque Terre Travel Guide for more tips and tricks!
Afternoon: exploring Cinque Terre or Pisa
Depending on the time you have left on your last day, you can decide visit another village of Cinque Terre, such as Monterosso or Corniglia. Monterosso it the biggest one and is the only one with a beach. On the other hand, Corniglia is located on a cliff and does not have any access to the sea. This also makes Corniglia the least visited village of Cinque Terre.
However, if you fly from Pisa – like we did – you can also decide to head back to Pisa earlier and check out the Tower of Pisa. It is a very busy and touristic place but there is enough space to sit down in the grass and enjoy the sun and people taking selfies. There are also many nice restaurants near the Tower of Pisa, making this the perfect ending of a 4-day itinerary to Florence and Cinque Terre.
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