What to see in Tuscany? The beauty is so vast that choosing can be difficult. Here are the 10 places you can't miss
Land of artists and poets, green valleys and soft sandy beaches, also famous for its immense food and wine heritage. A list of good reasons to visit Tuscany would be basically endless. In every corner you can breathe a centuries-old history, which took place against the backdrop of a landscape that still today enchants and amazes.
To see Tuscany is to treat yourself to a journey through a thousand wonders, from naturalistic beauties to cities of art, large or small. But where to start?
Let's find out together which are the top 10 destinations in Tuscany to see at least once in a lifetime.
Famous for its churches and its towers, Lucca also has another peculiarity, its walls are a large ring that can be entirely covered by foot. The walk is about 4 km long, and offers unforgettable views both on famous monuments and on the most hidden corners.
Not to be missed, in the city center, the Cathedral and the Church of San Michele, with their respective squares, Torre Guinigi, crowned by trees and Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, which has preserved the elliptical shape of the Roman forum that was located right here, centuries ago.
If you fancy a break in the greenery, don't miss the Botanical Garden, a beautiful public garden that also contains museums, herbaria and a library.
In addition to its museums, Lucca is also famous for being the home of what has become, over the years, one of the most important comics festivals in Italy and Europe. It is the Lucca Comics & Games, which takes place in early November and hosts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
9. Tuscan Maremma
The coastal strip, the region called Maremma, is one of the places in Tuscany not to be missed, especially if you love the sea. The landscape is actually very varied and in fact includes the southern coast of the region, but also Mount Amiata, in the hinterland, with its 1700 meters and over in height.
Nature is the most important asset here, and is guarded by several WWF parks, reserves and naturalistic oases.
Next to the beach clubs there are also small hidden bays and free beaches, often semi-deserted, perfect for those who love wild nature.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for art and history, in Maremma you will also find a rich cultural heritage, from the Etruscan necropolis, to the ancient rock settlements, from the jewels of the Renaissance, to villages, such as the wonderful Pitigliano.
Right here, in Maremma, there are also the famous Saturnia thermal baths, where you can give yourself a healthy break in a spectacular nature.
This region made of hills, small timeless villages, and expanses of sunflowers, is located between Florence and Siena.
In addition to its beauty, Chianti is also famous for its cuisine, for its cured meats, cheeses and oil in particular, but even more famous are its wines. Right here there is one of the most popular Wine Roads in Italy, created to promote the wine that bears the same name as the region.
Along the two main arteries that cross Chianti, the via Chiantigiana and the via Cassia, you will have the opportunity to visit many castles, such as that of Volpaia or Meleto, or tiny villages of medieval origin, such as Montefioraia, Vertine, Fioralle and many others.
The Chianti region is also crossed by a stretch of the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrims' road, today a very popular itinerary for cyclists and trekking lovers.
Yet at the end of my days I would like to walk againg on the road from Monte San Savino to Siena, with my sack on my shoulder, skirting that countryside of olives and grapes whose scent I can smell, then see Siena rise in the sunset with its minarets, like a Constantinople of perfection
Between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, Garfagnana is one of the most popular destinations in Tuscany for those who prefer to stay on the margins of mass tourism. Here you will find relaxation and tranquility among lush forests, rivers and very varied landscapes, as the altitude goes from 132 to over 2000 meters.
One of the major attractions of the area is the Devil's Bridge, so called because at the time of its construction it was considered an impossible work, therefore attributed to Satan indeed. The Orrido di Botri is also worth a visit: it is a spectacular natural gorge where eagles go to nest. Among the wonders of nature, an important stop is certainly the Grotta del Vento, one of the most beautiful caves in Italy.
Equally fascinating is the hermitage of Calomini, almost entirely carved into the rock.
As for the villages that populate the region, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is probably the most famous thanks to its Cathedral and the Rocca Ariostesca, which owes its name to the poet Ludovico Ariosto who ruled the province for some years. Even the small Barga, the adopted city of Giovanni Pascoli, is certainly worth a visit.
Pisa is the city of the famous Leaning Tower, the fulcrum of one of the most important monumental complexes in the world. In what the poet D'Annunzio renamed Piazza dei Miracoli, there are also the Cathedral, an extraordinary example of Romanesque art, the largest Baptistery in Italy, in Gothic style and the Camposanto, which once housed the remains of famous people.
The city of Galileo, anyway, is worth a visit for many other reasons. A walk on the walls, for example, to see the city from an unusual perspective, or on the banks of the Lungarno Mediceo, which will lead you to Palazzo Medici and to the church of Sant'Antonio Abate, where the huge mural by Keith Haring is located.
Among the many architectural beauties that make Pisa unforgettable, the awsome Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina is an absolute must see.
Also not to be missed is the suggestive Piazza dei Cavalieri and Borgo Stretto, a district famous for its buildings with colorful facades and for the cafes that animate the long arcades.
5. Tuscan Archipelago
There are seven beautiful islands that make up the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
Very popular in summer for the beaches and the spectacular backdrops to explore, they are also wonderful in spring, to visit the inhabited villages, the fortresses or to go trekking in an often uncontaminated nature.The largest islands, Elba and Giglio, have beaches and coves, shops and historical sites to visit, while Giannutri, the smallest one, is a snorkeling paradise. The same goes for Capraia, famous for its underwater archaeological finds.
Pianosa and Montecristo, on the other hand, are home to natural reserves of great value, in fact access is allowed to a limited number of people. Montecristo also owes its fame to the well reknown novel by Dumas, the Count of Montecristo, whose title refers indeed to the Tuscan island.
Finally, the small island of Gorgona is home to a prison house.
It is difficult to describe the city of Dante Alighieri in a few words, but a stop in the cradle of Italian culture absolutely has to be included in your trip to Tuscany.
You are spoiled for choice as far as art is concerned, but the best known museum in Florence is the Uffizi Gallery, near one of the most famous squares in the city, Piazza della Signoria. Here you will also find one of the iconic monuments of Florence, Palazzo Vecchio.
The symbol of the city is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with the Baptistery and Giotto's Bell Tower. Here you can enjoy many works by some of the people who have defined Western art, beside Giotto, of course, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello and also many others.
Walking along the banks of the Arno, then, you will reach Ponte Vecchio, the covered bridge famous for its goldsmith shops.
In Florence there are also a few parks, the best known is the one that belongs to Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens: a typical example of an Italian garden, full of caves, fountains, statues and so on.
Tuscany is a magic land where everything is kind all around, everything is old and new
Siena is certainly among the most beautiful cities ever that you will see in Tuscany, and also one of the most important medieval cities in Italy. Here the Palio takes place, the traditional horse race which is a fundamental part of the town's culture for many centuries. The districts in which the city is divided compete against each other every year, in front of a very wide audience.
The heart of Siena is Piazza del Campo, with its characteristic shell shape, bordered by some of the most important medieval buildings in the town. Palazzo Pubblico, for example, now home to the Civic Museum is where you will find the masterpieces of artists such as Lorenzetti and Simone Martini. Palazzo Sansedoni, the Loggia della Mercanzia and Fonte Gaia, the marble fountain created by Jacopo della Quercia, are some of the other monuments that make this square unique.
A visit to Siena, however, would not be complete without its Cathedral, an extraordinary architectural work where Romanesque and Florentine Gothic meet. Some of the treasures that this church holds are signed by artists such as Donatello, Pinturicchio, Pisano and Michelangelo. Also famous is the polychrome marble floor, unique of its kind for the richness and complexity of the decoration.
2. Val d'Orcia
It is located almost on the border with Umbria, this valley where you can admire the hills, the meadows, the long rows of cypresses and all those magnificent landscapes that have made Tuscany famous in the world.
The beauty of the Val d'Orcia often inspired Renaissance painters, and in 2004 this valley became a UNESCO heritage site thanks to its spectacular nature and its immense cultural heritage.
Castiglione d'Orcia, Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia are just some of the wonderful villages found here. Without forgetting Montalcino, another beautiful village, famous especially for being the home of one of the most well known wines in the world, Brunello di Montalcino.
In fact, throughout the Val d'Orcia, you will be able to taste an infinite number of delicacies, such as truffles, mushrooms, cured meats and an extra-virgin olive oil of the highest quality.
1. Val d'Elsa
South of Florence there is a place of immense charm, it is the valley carved by the Elsa river, one of the most beautiful and important in Tuscany.
There are several paths that crisscross the valley, for example the one that goes thorugh the Elsa River Park. Along this beautiful walk you can visit the unmissable naturalistic beauties of the area, such as the Grotta dell'Orso or the thermal springs called Caldane, already frequented by the ancient Etruscans. Or maybe you take a bath in the cool waters of the river.
As crowns on the rolling hills of the Val d'Elsa, there are some of the most beautiful villages in Italy, such as San Gimignano, the city of a hundred towers. This small borough, UNESCO heritage, is also famous for the production of saffron.
Not so far there's Volterra, with the famous Cathedral and the equally important Palazzo dei Priori. Recently it become famous as a film set, but Volterra has been well known for centuries for the skill of the craftsmen who work alabaster. You will find their beautiful works almost everywhere in the city, large like furniture or small like jewelry.
If you visit Val d'Elsa do not miss Monteriggioni. This tiny medieval walled village has remained basically intact over the centuries. Its 14 defensive towers are the same that Dante remembered in the Divine Comedy; you can still stroll along the patrol walk to admire the landscape of the surrounding valley.