Tuscany is considered to be one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. Located in the central region of the country, Tuscany is divided into 10 provinces – Florence, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato, Siena and Arezzo. The region has an estimated population of 3.7 million inhabitants and is known for its wine regions, culture and huge historical impact in Medieval Europe. Tuscany (or in particular Florence) was considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance and during this time period the country flourished and created some of the most influential and legendary scholars, artists and visionaries the world has seen including Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Sipping local wines and dipping bread into just-pressed smooth olive oils is one of the main things to do in this Italian region. Luckily, there are numerous wineries where you can to do this, such as Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona in Montalcino and Castello del Trebbio in Florence. And speaking of Tuscan towns, there are a handful of little cities worth exploring — Siena and Luccato name a couple. Lastly, if you want to get a funny photo, a trip to the little town of Pisa with its tilting torre is a must.
Florence, Tuscany’s capital city, is known for its Renaissance art and architecture. You can climb to the top of the Duomo, gaze at Botticellis at the Uffizi Gallery, tour the Galleria dell’Accademia and stroll through the Boboli Gardens for a taste of the 13th through 16th centuries.
But this city isn’t just for art and architecture connoisseurs: There are quaint shops, delicious restaurants and decadent hotels. And with its red roofs, cobble stone streets and narrow alleys, it’s also a very picturesque place to spend a few days. Be sure to hike to the top of the Piazza Michaelangelo, located across the Ponte Vecchio, for incredible city views and live music. Bring a bottle wine and watch the sunset — you won’t want to miss it. For more information on this city, visit our Best things to do in Florence guide.
Siena vies with Florence for the title of the most charming city in Tuscany. While Firenze is known for its Renaissance influence, Siena exemplifies the Gothic era, and you’ll find that near-pristine Gothic architecture fills the city. One of Siena’s main attractions is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site: The breathtaking Piazza del Campo is a city square that sits at the base of three majestic hills. While you’re there, climb to the top of Torre del Mangia (a part of the Palazzo Pubblico) for an awe-inspiring view of Siena.
Within the historic old town you can find such magnificent buildings as the opulent Cathedral of Siena, the brightly coloured Palazzo Pubblico, the immense Basilica of San Domenico and the Palazzo Salimbeni.
This small town located in close proximity to Siena is a true hidden gem and is one of the best kept secrets in Tuscany. You can find Montepulciano 600m high on an ancient limestone ridge and the views from this town of the surrounding countryside are to die for. Aside from the jaw dropping views, this town also has some fantastic medieval architecture such as the Palazzo Cervini, the Torre di Pulcinella, the Porta al Prato and the Chiesa di San Biagio.
The main square is charming, and the surrounding fields are covered with vineyards producing the famous Vino Nobile.
Located in northwest Tuscany and less than 20 miles from Pisa, this town is famous for its 16th-century walls — recent travelers recommend riding a bike atop them to get the best views. Or consider climbing to the top of the Guinigi Tower where you can overlook the entire city. There’s also a rendition of the Duomo, called the Cattedrale di San Martino.
Second only to Florence in terms of significance during the Renaissance, Pisa is another stunning city with a great deal to offer on the eastern coast of Tuscany. Pisa is known throughout the world for its iconic leaning tower – this campanille is actually part of a larger complex that contains the Duomo di Pisa, the baptistery and the monumental cemetery.
Each structure is awe inspiring in its own right; the bell tower is just the icing on the cake. Pisa also has several interesting museums, a fantastic botanical gardens and some spectacular scenery along the Arno River.
You may come for the leaning tower, but you will leave having seen so much more.
The iconic vineyards and olive trees associated with Tuscany are spread throughout the Chianti area, situated just a few kilometres south of Florence. You’ll find a series of country roads perfect for a car or bike trip, and this whole area is considered a food and wine paradise.
There are many different itineraries to choose from. One of these is the Chianti Classico route, which touches the towns of Greve in Chianti, Gaiole and Castellina. Another itinerary focuses on the Pesa Valley, including Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, San Casciano Val di Pesa, San Donato in Poggio, Badia a Passignano and other hidden gems in this undeniably beautiful area.
BONUS – San Gimignano
San Gimignano is one of the most beautiful hill towns of Tuscany. Characterized by stone towers and narrow streets, it is surrounded by an expansive countryside filled with vineyards that produce the famous Vernaccia wine.
The main square is Piazza del Duomo (home to the Cathedral) where you can also take in the sights of the Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo del Popolo, the Loggia and various medieval towers. For a postcard-perfect view of the Tuscan landscape, climb the Torre Grossa, a tower housing masterworks by Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Lippo Memmi.