If you are planning a trip to Florence, identify the top three to five sites you wish to see and give yourself two or three days to see them. Once this is scheduled, take out a map of the region and start looking at the many incredible sites within a couple of hours of Florence. The big secondary sites include Pisa which is worth a half a day at least, Lucca which is also worth at least half a day, and Montecatini Terme, a spa town with open markets, grand parks, and an ancient hill town overlooking the town below. To the south of Florence are such well known sites as Siena which is easily worth a full day, San Gimignano, it is advised to get there early to avoid the crowds, and Volterra, which is worth at least half a day and one of the most interesting of Tuscan hill towns.
By picking day trips to one or two of these other towns between your planned excursions in Florence will allow you to experience a more intimate Italy. Enjoy a walk along the curtain wall surrounding Lucca (the wall is now a park and trail), then pop over to Pisa for a gander of the Tower, Basilica and more white marble than you have ever seen in one place. Another day you can stroll the narrow medieval streets of Siena, Then head on over to Volterra and explore the Etruscans, Romans, and the architecture and fortifications of a typical walled hill town.
Each of these towns is rich in history and tradition and will give you a better sense of rural and small town Italy. Each of the big three have dozens of great secondary sites nearby, all worth a visit, making planning trips as described above easy and fun.
Relax and get in sync with the slower pace of rural Italy, wander the myriad shops and cafés, and watch lovely sunsets or sunrises. A trip to Italy should be fun, relaxing, and truly a trip of a lifetime. The true beauty of Italy is that you can have several of these “trips of a lifetime”, never seeing the same places twice. You should rent a car rather than depending on public transport, to have a great sight-seeing experience in and around Florence. Car Rental Italy provides excellent car rental packages for tourists.