Is it possible to do a day trip from Rome to Tuscany?

Want to travel from Rome to Tuscany on a day trip? Lonely Planet writer, Paula Hardy, tells you how to make that happen.

Lonely Planet writer Paula Hardy has been traveling, researching and commissioning guides to Italy for 25 years, and she has contributed to guidebooks covering every Italian region. Last year she was back in Rome and Florence researching for new pocket guidebooks. Here, she answers a reader’s question about how to take a day trip from Rome to Tuscany.

Question: On my upcoming trip I’ll be visiting Rome for the first time, but would love to see a bit more of Italy as well. Is it possible to take a day trip to Tuscany from Rome? 

Answer: Yes, you can do a day trip from Rome to Tuscany, but be warned it will be a whistle-stop tour. After all, Tuscany is one of Italy’s blockbuster regions, stuffed with medieval towns, Renaissances art cities, historic country castles, world-class vineyards, gorgeous walking trails and unforgettable restaurants. It’s hard to experience all that in day. But if you’ve only got a day and want a little taste of Tuscany’s bella vita (good life), it can be done.

First things first, it’s good to get an understanding of what’s where and consider exactly what kind of experience you’d like. Is seeing Florence non-negotiable or do you want to get out into the countryside and sample some Tuscan wines? Or, would you rather visit unique medieval towns like San Gimignano and then linger over a long lunch instead? Or, do you want to see as many sights as possible and are happy with a picnic lunch en route? These preferences all dictate quite different trips.

The first step is deciding what you want from your time in Tuscany © PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / Shutterstock

Rome to Tuscany by car

You can easily hire a car for a day in Rome and work out a self-drive tour, but bear in mind as a first-time visitor navigating will take you more time and as a driver you won’t get to enjoy the views out the window in the same way. Then there’s the eternal problem of parking in Tuscany’s tiny (and often pedestrianized) historic centers. Alternatively, you can book one of RomeCabs varied itineraries. It offers a car and driver, but you’ll need to sort out and book your own lunch and you won’t have a tour guide – although an LP guidebook can help you there!  

If you book onto a tour, you’ll be in a small group and will be riding in a minibus. When assessing itineraries bear in mind distances and traveling time. Pisa, with its famous Leaning Tower, and medieval Lucca with its historic walled center, are 4 hours and 370km (230 miles) away from Rome; Volterra, Italy’s oldest city, and lovely Renaissance Florence are 3.5 hours (280km/174 miles) away, as is San Gimignano with its sky-scraping towers. Terracotta-colored Siena is a smidge closer at 2 hours and 45 minutes (235km/146 miles), while the closest place of interest is the vineyard-clad hills of the Val d’Orcia with its famous wine towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino. They are 2.5 hours from Rome as is UNESCO-heritage site, Pienza, a perfectly preserved 15th-century Tuscan town that features heavily on most day trip tours.

If you’re envisioning lunch in a picturesque setting as a key part of your Tuscan dream, then opt for an itinerary around Pienza and the Val d’Orcia as this will give you enough time for a little cultural exploration in the morning, a leisurely lunch and then some afternoon wine tasting before returning to Rome. Walks of Italy has a great itinerary that includes lunch at a family-run winery in Montepulciano.

Young woman swirling wine around her glass while standing in vineyards
Day-long tours run from Rome to Tuscany that include wine tasting in Chianti © Fani Kurti / Getty Images

Rome to Florence by train

If Florence is a must-see on your Tuscan tour, then look out for a mixed train-and-car trip. The high-speed frecciarossa service from Rome to Florence takes just 1.5 hours, meaning you can be in the city by 9am, in time for coffee and croissant in art nouveau Caffè Gilli. You’ll then head out into the countryside by car to visit either Siena, San Gimignano or the wine country of Chianti. Italy on a Budget has a very well-priced tour that manages to cover all of them and includes lunch and a wine tasting.

If you can possibly spare another day for Tuscany, Florence with reward you amply. You’ll then have time to visit the spectacular Duomo, Michelangelo’s David and the Medici’s marble tombs. There’s also nothing better than toasting the sunset over the Arno River in rooftop bars like SE.STO on Arno. While the evening can be spent sampling wine at the Antinori palazzo or dining at exciting contemporary restaurants like Gurdulù. Then you can head into the countryside the next day with Ariana at KM Zero Tours. A Chianti native, she creates fantastic small group tours to local farms, cheesemakers and vineyards. If the years I’ve spent researching in Italy for Lonely Planet have taught me anything, it’s that taking more time always pays off.

A hilltop crowned with a medieval town. Two people walk down the narrow path that leads down from the hill
Instead of rushing a visit to Tuscany, consider lingering at places nearer Rome © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

An alternative day trip from Rome

Finally, I’d like to consider whether the main motivation behind your question is that you’d just like to venture outside Rome and see some of the fabled Italian countryside and perhaps you’re not wedded to Tuscany as the destination? If that’s the case, then perhaps you should consider a day tour to the borderlands between Umbria and Lazio (Rome’s wider region). The area has many of the same lovely features – rolling hills, ancient hilltop towns, and miles and miles of vineyards. It’s also much closer to Rome and within an easy 1.5-hour drive. Here you’ll find gorgeous Renaissance Orvieto, medieval Todi and Viterbo, stunning Civita Bagnoregio perched on its volcanic outcrop, and even the sunny shores of Lake Bolsena. Happy planning!

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