1. Pisa to Florence
Michelangelo's David and the immense dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore are but two of hundreds of world-famous icons here in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Throw in the Uffizi Gallery, the rest of the Accademia Gallery's staggering collection, the jewel-laden Ponte Vecchio, and a thousand brilliant churches, and suddenly you've got a pretty full day in Florence! So, why not relax and take it easy instead? With enough to fill a lifetime, let alone a day, Florence is a place where you want to target one or two things when visiting for a day.
The journey from Pisa to Florence by Trenitalia’s fast regional train takes less than an hour, so you don't need to rush to try and fit everything in immediately. Trains arrive at Firenze Santa Maria Novella, close to most attractions in Florence. In addition to the famous art galleries, Florence's other museums are full of surprises – like Galileo's middle finger at the Science Museum – and the winding medieval streets continue further (becoming less crowded) than only those around Ponte Vecchio. When you're feeling hungry, wander towards the Sant’Ambrogio district, where you'll find more locals and visitors alike enjoying an amazing array of delicious lunch options at Sant’Ambrogio Market.
2. Pisa to Siena
James Bond fans who have seen the Quantum of Solace will recognise the beautiful central square of Siena. Piazza del Campo, with its rose-tinted tiles sloping gently up from the Gothic town hall and its iconic belfry tower, featured in the film. The legendary Palio horse race takes place in the square every July and August and watching it should be at the top of your list for day trips from Pisa during this period. Another unmissable sight is the Siena Cathedral, the best example of Siena's famous black-and-white building style and home to works of art from Michelangelo, Donatello, and other such luminaries.
However, there's a lot more to discover in Siena than meets the eye. Try something different and go out on a truffle hunt with local guides (both canine and human), see the real severed head of Saint Catherine at Basilica of San Domenico, explore the Etruscan cave routes at Vie Cave, or head up to Bagno Vignoni for a soak in some natural thermal hot pools. The regional train from Pisa to Siena, operated by Trenitalia with a change in Empoli, takes around 1h 45m and winds through some stunning hillside scenery as it cuts inland. It goes from Pisa Centrale, and the railway station in Siena is about a mile north of the historic centre.
3. Pisa to Lucca
A fortified town famous for its olive oil and wine, places don't get much more quintessentially Tuscan than Lucca. Only 30 minutes from Pisa Centrale by train, Lucca is a quaint, compact city where you can pack a lot into one day. Start by scaling and exploring the fortified city walls, built during the Renaissance and still mostly intact. Several of Lucca's imposing towers are still standing too, providing an excellent vantage point for getting your bearings over the winding alleys and cobblestone streets of Lucca's Old Town. The Old Town is also where you'll find many traditional trattorias, delis, bakeries, and shops.
Some sites to visit in Lucca include the 13th-century San Frediano Church and its golden facade, the former Roman amphitheatre, which is now a busy public square, and the ornate Duomo. To get a bit further off the beaten track, stroll around the expansive baroque gardens of Pfanner Palace, or head just outside the city to see the famous Devil's Bridge. One of the best-preserved medieval bridges in Europe and framed by wild hills covered in dense forest, this is an excellent spot for photos or just to relax and enjoy some peace. The train station is located only at the southern edge of Lucca's city walls, so it's quick and easy to get back to Pisa any time.
4. Pisa to Viareggio
Did somebody say beach? That's right, in less than 20 minutes you can go from sipping coffee in Pisa to Viareggio's brilliant beaches by train. A favourite seaside resort for centuries, Viareggio is best known in Italy for its famous Carnival celebrations, second only in size and importance to those of Venice. Speaking of Venice, Viareggio has its fair share of waterside charm too, with colourful facades lining its canals and riverside. Then, of course, there are the beaches. Public beaches like Spiaggia della Lecciona, Viareggio Free Beach, and Roma Beach offer sunbathing and swimming within a stone's throw of the town centre.
Viareggio's Carnival Museum is definitely worth a visit while you're in town, as is Villa Paolina Civic Museum, housed inside the former home of Napoleon Bonaparte's sister. Nestled between forests, the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Lake Massaciuccoli, the little village of Torre del Lago to the south of Viareggio also makes for a rewarding day trip. This is where the famous composer Giacomo Puccini spent his summers. His former house, where he is buried, has a small museum. Everything in Viareggio is within walking distance from the train station, which is located in the heart of the city just half a mile from the beach.
5. Pisa to the Cinque Terre
A network of five historic coastal villages perched high up on cliffs, Cinque Terre is nothing short of breathtaking. The entrance point is Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost of the five villages and known for its 17th-century Capuchin monastery. From there, a historic railway cuts through craggy cliffs and rocky coastlines all the way to rugged Riomaggiore, at the southern end of the National Park. Along the way, see the ruins of Doria Castle in Vernazza, swim at the secluded beach in Corniglia, or stroll along the picturesque marina in Manarola. The Cinque Terre Express train drops you off right in the middle of town in every village, making it easy to explore on foot. And the travel time from one town to another is around 10-15 minutes, so it's easy to visit every town in one day before returning to Pisa by early evening. Trenitalia runs all the routes, as well as the train between Monterosso and Pisa, which takes about 90 minutes each way.
So there you have it, five great ideas for day trips from Pisa. If you're still not convinced, have a closer look at these places online and how easy it is to get there. With so many great rail connections, there's never been a better time to travel by train!