Tuscany is certainly among the most beautiful regions in Italy. it is appreciated for its cities of art, small villages, hills covered with vineyards, villas located at the end of paths lined with cypresses. Thanks to the unforgettable landscapes, excellent wine, and typical food, Tuscany is visited every year by millions of people from all over the world. There are really many things to see in this region and probably the most difficult part of planning a holiday in Tuscany is precisely the choice of places to visit.
Things to Do in Tuscany
The visit can certainly start from Florence which, rich in art and history, is often called an “open-air museum”. Here you can see and admire churches, palaces and monuments even just walking through its streets. In the central Piazza del Duomo you will see the imposing Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Cathedral) with its beautiful dome designed by Brunelleschi in the 14th century; Giotto’s Tower and the Baptistery, with an octagonal plan, dating back to the XII century. Taking the adjacent via Calzaiuoli on foot, on which many beautiful shops overlook, you will arrive in a few minutes in the splendid Piazza della Signoria, passing also the Church of Orsanmichele, adorned with works in marble and bronze by artists of the caliber of Donatello. Once in Piazza della Signoria you can visit the splendid Palazzo Vecchio with its unmistakable crenellated shape. In front, you will also see a copy of Michelangelo’s David and other wonderful statues that are instead located under the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Crossing the square and going in the direction of the river Arno you will find the famous Ponte Vecchio, one of the symbols of the city, built in the XIV century. To enjoy one of the most incredible panoramic views of the city, you can finally climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo, at the top of the hill.
Florence also houses very famous museums. If you love art and want to see some of the most important masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Sandro Botticelli, then you cannot miss the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery where the original marble statue of David by Michelangelo is kept.
Around Florence you can visit also some of the most beautiful villas built in the Renaissance. Here we list only three examples:
Villa del Trebbio is located in Mugello, near San Piero a Sieve. It dates back to the XIV century but was enlarged by Cosimo I who called the architect Michelozzo to transform it into a hunting lodge in the style of a medieval fortress complete with a crenelated tower. Within its walls, it welcomed illustrious characters, including the navigator Amerigo Vespucci, before being bought in the XVII century by a wealthy Florentine merchant.
The most iconic of the Medici residences, the Villa di Poggio a Caiano is perfectly inserted in the landscape and stands out for the harmonious facade embellished with loggias, columns, a two-armed staircase and a facade inspired by a classical temple. For the construction of the villa, Lorenzo the Magnificent called the architect Giuliano da Sangallo. Later the building was embellished with frescoes by Filippino Lippi and Pontormo, which can be admired during the visit of the historic apartments open to the public.
Currently home to the Accademia della Crusca, the Villa Reale di Castello stands on the hills towards Sesto Fiorentino. It is one of the oldest and most imposing Medici villas in the countryside, which came into possession of the family in 1477. It was the favorite residence of Cosimo I who enriched it with one of the most fascinating Renaissance gardens with citrus fruits, exotic plants, and medicinal herbs, considered the prototype of the 16th-century Italian garden.
From Florence, you can easily reach both Pisa and Lucca. In Pisa, the famous Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracles Square) and the Leaning Tower await you. Take some time also to visit the interior of the Cathedral (Duomo), the Baptistery and Camposanto (Monumental cemetery).
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Lucca is a small city enclosed within mighty Renaissance walls which today have become a beautiful park. Walking in the historic center of the city, be sure to visit the Duomo, the particular oval shape of Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and climb to the top of the Guinigi tower, which you will immediately recognize by the trees placed on its top.
Not so far from Lucca, in the immediate vicinity of Pescia it is possible to visit the hamlet of Collodi, a small medieval village made famous by the fairy tale of Pinocchio by Carlo Lorenzini (who had spent the carefree years of childhood here and who loved to such that he then chose to call himself Carlo Collodi). You will experience the thrill of entering the famous childhood fairy tale “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by visiting the Park. The path winds through nature and retraces the events told in the book, thanks to works of art such as the sculpture of Pinocchio and the Fairy, the Carabiniere (guard), or the Cat and the Fox.
Maremma is a very varied territory in southern Tuscany, characterized by beautiful towns, rolling hills and seaside resorts with dream beaches and crystal clear sea. Maremma is all this and more, such as the metalliferous hills and the archaeological parks, or the tuff cities, Amiata mountain and the Natural Reserves.
Orbetello is a very particular town in Maremma. Lying on a narrow promontory within the lagoon of the same name, it is squeezed between brackish waters and incredible nature. It brings with it the signs of Spanish domination and is the ideal place to discover the Argentario mountain with its seaside resorts and Feniglia Park.
Talamone is a small seaside town just north of the Argentario. Famous because Garibaldi stopped here during the expedition of the Thousand. It is a magical place that offers wonderful views of the sea. From here you can leave for an excursion to the nearby Maremma Regional Park.
Capalbio is another small medieval town that stands on a hill in Maremma. It hosts many cultural events, especially in the summer. Visit its tower and admire the amazing panorama from the city walls.
Saturnia is instead one of the most famous sulfurous spas in Italy. Both in summer and in winter you can immerse yourself in the warm waters that treat skin diseases. At the public spas open to all, you can enjoy the small waterfalls immersed in the countryside.
Pitigliano is one of the few Etruscan towns still inhabited in Maremma. Excavated in the tuff, it is also known as “little Jerusalem”, due to the presence of a population of Jewish origin.
Finally we have Massa Marittima, a town north of Grosseto, the main centre on the Metalliferous Hills. Visit the magnificent Cathedral of San Cerbone, the ancient source Fonte dell’Abbonanza with the fresco of the Tree of Fertility. And don’t miss the Archaeological Park of the nearby Accesa Lake and the Mine Museum.
Returning to the hinterland, the area between Florence and Siena is the beautiful Chianti region, famous all over the world for its excellent red wine. The area is characterized by hills covered with vineyards alternating with olive groves. The Tuscan viticulture is in fact practiced mostly in hilly areas, where the vine finds its ideal environment, allowing to obtain high-quality wines both white and red. Greve in Chianti is a town with a peculiar square shape. If you have time, go to the Wine Museum where you will also have the opportunity to taste over 200 wine labels from the region, as well as visit the farm equipment. Then continue towards Panzano in Chianti, stopping to stroll along the ancient streets of the town and admire its beauties. The next stop is Castellina in Chianti, another small medieval town.
Having a wine tasting in Chianti is almost a must. The hard part will be deciding where! There are indeed wine bars and wine shops in every town, but along the way, you will see many signs that indicate cellars and retailers where you can taste and buy wines from a particular estate.
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In particular way Tuscany is best known for its famous red wines: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has made Tuscany one of the symbolic regions of Italian enology. Brunello di Montalcino is perhaps the most famous Tuscan wine. It is produced with Sangiovese grapes and can be released for consumption only after 5 years from harvest (6 for the reserve), with a minimum maturation period of two years in cask.
From Castellina you reach San Gimignano, enjoying the incredible view of the countryside. San Gimignano is famous for its numerous medieval towers which are still very well preserved. This beautiful town has a somewhat magical atmosphere and makes you go back in time, in the Middle Ages.
Along the road that leads south you get to Siena: the medieval city center is located on various hills, so expect a bit of up and downs, but the main attractions are quite close to each other. Start your itinerary in Piazza del Campo, a square famous for its particular shell shape, and the Palio di Siena, a horse race among the districts of the city which takes place twice every summer, on July 2nd and August 16th. The tower of Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) and the Torre del Mangia (the tower) offers a spectacular view of the square and the city. Head to the Cathedral, a precious example of Italian Romanesque-Gothic style, with its splendid pavement, then to the Baptistery, the Crypt, and the Opera Museum which houses the wonderful polyptych of the Maestà by Duccio Buoninsegna from the 14th century.
Near Siena, there is the enchanting medieval castle of Monteriggioni. The small castle still has 15 towers along the walls (although some of them have been shortened over the centuries). You can visit the castle, but don’t forget to climb and walk along the medieval walls, from which you can admire a splendid view of the surrounding countryside.
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Another city that is definitely worth a visit is the fascinating Arezzo, the birthplace of artists such as Piero della Francesca and Giorgio Vasari. Visit the Basilica of San Francesco with the splendid frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca, the Church of San Domenico with the wooden crucifix of Cimabue, the magnificent Piazza Grande with the Vasari loggias and the Archaeological Museum.
We can conclude this quick overview of places to visit in Tuscany with the small hill town of Cortona, south of Arezzo. Its origins date back to the Etruscans and one of its main attractions is certainly the Museum of the Etruscan Academy which preserves important Etruscan and Roman finds found just outside Cortona. The heart of the city is the square Piazza della Repubblica, with its medieval Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall). The nearby Diocesan Museum also exhibits a beautiful Annunciation by Beato Angelico.
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