What to see in Tuscany

Things to See in Tuscany - Best places to visit


La Toscana, Tuscany, is famous throughout the world; everyone should visit it and experience it at least once in their lifetime. ‘What to see in Tuscany' is a guide designed to offer a more unique and unusual insight into the region, taking the traveler away from the more crowded touristic destinations, towards a more authentic experience. This incredible region varies immensely in climate, landscape and architecture; this variety, together with the presence of a rich and fascinating history, makes it the ideal destination for any traveler. This guide aims to allow you to personalize your journey, based on your own tastes and interests. Even for those who have never heard of "Etruria".

Costa ToscanaWe will not start with the region’s famous cities (these we will discuss later here), but rather something a little more unusual: a tour of the isole della Toscana... Aeneas, fleeing from Troy, was probably disadvantaged by the fierceness of the Tyrrhenian Sea. If he had landed in Gaeta, instead of Portoferraio, as we know to be the case, he would have enjoyed a calmer retirement instead of his killing sprees! The Costa Toscana, extremely busy in the summer months, is among one of the most beautiful coasts in Italy. The Tuscan archipelago is truly spectacular: it is made up of seven main islands and many Portoferrariosmaller islands. There are mini cruises which go daily, from Castiglione della Pescaia and Porto Santo Stefano... On the largest island, Elba, an hour by ferry from Piombino (less by hydrofoil), you’ll discover the beautiful Portoferraio. Here you can admire the yachts moored in the bay and visit the Villa di Napoleone, the Palazzina dei Mulini which stands in its dominant position. From the garden and the villa you can enjoy a stunning vista, surrounded by cliffs and the sea and the opportunity to learn about Napoleon’s life on Elba. For lovers of military history, we highly recommend the camp bed that the leader always carried with him on his military campaigns and the photo of his son hanging in his study. Also worth visiting in Spiagge ToscanaPortoferraio is the medieval fortress of Forte Falcone and Forte Stella, which stands dominantly on the landscape. Next take a dip in the crystal clear waters of this protected island, between white cliffs and white sandy beaches; some argue that the nearby spiaggia delle Ghiaie is the most charming and mysterious on the island, with its expanse of white, rounded pebbles, speckled with gray-blue dots. According to locals, the spots are traces left by the sweat of the Argonauts who landed looking for the Golden Fleece. This guide does describe everything the island has to offer, but focuses on two: the tranquility of Spiaggia di Sansone and a visit to Marciana Alta, a picturesque hilltop village looking over the Marciana Marina, with its long and popular beach (ideal for families).

When you reach spiaggia di Sansone, follow the road leading from Portoferraio to Viticcio. It is a little difficult to pass but is well worth it. You will find yourself immersed in nature: octopus, mullet and sea bass will surround you as you swim in the bay of this beach. Amongst Elba’s towns, the highest village, Marciana (375 m.), is worth a visit. A simple stroll through the medieval heart of this historic village (annually there is a popular Walking Festival), a browse of its colorful shops and a climb to the sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte for the more adventurous (where the ubiquitous Napoleon Bonaparte flirted with Maria Walewska). In the chapel are frescoes dating from the 1500s, attributed to Sodoma. Back in town, take the cable car to Monte Capanne; from here you can admire the Isola d'Elba and the surrounding islands in all their beauty. Sports enthusiasts are able to hire bikes or walk through the chestnut forests and winding streets of the Poggio to reach to Marciana Marina. Here you can spend a few hours amid the streets of " Piccola Marsiglia", a well-equipped seaside town offering cafés and trendy shops. Before you leave the island (reluctantly of course), do not forget to buy a few tasty souvenirs: local honey and jams, or l'aleatico (a very sweet dessert wine), potato bread or schiaccia briaca (a flatbread sweet with alcohol ingredients, such as l’Aleatico and l'alchermes). Among the non-edible souvenirs: ceramics, minerals, L’Aqua dell’Elba, the island’s bespoke perfume (the workshop is located in Marciana Marina; it works with natural raw materials and artisan techniques).

Piazza Bovio a PiombinoBack on the mainland in Piombino (a lively town and ancient Principality), don’t miss Piazza Bovio, a "terrace" to the sea; a romantic and charming place where you can enjoy a meal of freshly caught fish. In the historic center, protected in part by a beautiful city wall, are many important monuments such as the Torrione, the Rivellino, the ancient churches, the Fonti di Marina which supplied ships and the 14th century Casa di Bifore. The tourist port of Salivoli is hidden away and here you can find the unexpectedly beautiful, Cala Moresca beach. Here you can eat al fresco with the sound of the waves crashing ashore. Nearby is the golfo di Baratti with its ancient ruins, the Etruscan necropolis of Populonia and the highly recommended Venturina spa baths set within a real thermal lake (concessions for under 18s ).


MaremmaAs you leave the town take the road heading southeast; here you will reach the Parco Naturale della Maremma, home to a wealth of Etruscan-Roman and medieval ruins. These include the incredible Abbazia di San Rabano, a Benedictine monastery hidden within the lush parkland. If you need a rest, why not stop for the night in Talamone, a kite surfing paradise. The ancient fortress town is surrounded by medieval walls and boasts a marina, beautiful sandy beaches and pine forests. The next day why not visit Tombolo della Giannella, a long strip of land 6 km long and 300 meters wide. A road links Orbetello to Argentario, surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north and the Orbetello Lagoon to the south. The sandy beach, which stretches along the peninsula, is sheltered from the southern winds, bathed in shallow waters and is popular with tourists. As you reach the Argentario peninsula, travel anticlockwise to reach Porto Santo Stefano, a beautiful and popular summer destination and a favorite with Rome’s Argentarioinhabitants. Grab a portion of Scaveccio (fried and marinated eel), avoid the VIPs who flock to the town in the summer, and take a walk along the Lungomare dei Navigatori . Here you can catch a ferry to Giannutri (50 minutes), another of Tuscany’s natural gems. An island paradise and protected area: the lack of cars adds a sound element to this mixture of Roman influence, naturally preserved landscape and sea-scape. Back on Elba, visit Porto Ercole, with its narrow streets and city walls, Fortress and the panoramic Piazza Santa Barbara.

Upon your return, admire the Tombolo of Feniglia, another strip of land that connects Monte Argentario with the Ansedonia hill to the west. Relax on spiaggia della Feniglia, perhaps even with a Fruttero e novel in your pocket ( Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini lived here). Here you can stroll along un-spoilt beaches, surrounded in natural vegetation and home to many deer. Curiously, in 1609, Michelangelo Merisi (known as Carravaggio) was found dying here. A plaque commemorates this event.

Cave EtruscheLet's head off in search of the Etruschi. These ancient people have much mystery surrounding their origin and were fiercely opposed by the Romans; they nevertheless had them to thank for many of their innovations: the Rasenna (or Rasna) as they are sometimes called, lived throughout Tuscany and have left behind traces of their existance (to find out more, visit the Museo di Chiusi (Arezzo) and the Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca a Cortona, one of Tuscany’s most important museums on the subject, alongside the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci di Volterra). Modern day evidence of Estrucan life is evident during a visit to Pitiglianothe Vie Cave or Cavoni. The exact function of these steps, which reach 20 meters in height, is still unknown today; they were most likely water channels or sacred roads connecting burial sites. From this complex and magical maze you can reach the l'Area Archeologica di Sovana, Here you can visit the Parco Archeologico del Tufo and the splendid Etruscan necropolis, with over a hundred tombs. Pitigliano, also known as 'Piccola Gerusalemme' boasts la Sinagoga, il Duomo, la Fontana delle Sette Cannelle, all set within this picturesque village perched on a rock.

Monte AmiataBack on route, we encounter Tuscany’s rougher terrain, until we reach Monte Amiata, an ancient volcano and the highest point in Tuscany, at over 1700 meters. Its slopes are dotted with small villages, dwellings, scattered amongst the forests of beech and oak, with only the sound of a church to signal the presence of the divine amidst the power of nature. Medieval villages are custodians of ancient traditions, and remain thus; a place to temporarily get away from life’s hustle and bustle and get lost between abbeys and great places to eat (Arcidosso, Castiglione D'Orcia, Mntegiovi, Roccalbegna, Santa Fiora to name but a few). During a trip 'to meata', a source of the rivers Fiora, Albegna and Paglia, you may encounter deer, fallow deer, porcupine and the howling of the wolves at dusk. In the vicinity, we recommend Abbadia San Salvatore, where you can visit the magnificent Abbazia Benedettina, founded in 743 by King Lombard Rachis; its crypt and the church are well worth the visit. For this has been the home for over 1000 years to the Codex Amiatinus, the complete manuscript copy of the oldest Bible in the world. Shortly you’ll reach the Terme di San Filippo, with natural waterfalls where you can swim free of charge, surrounded by incredible natural scenery (the beautiful waterfall of the Whale).



PienzaTo rejuvenate the body (for the spirit just look at the view!), stay a little while longer at Bagno Vignoni, well known for its hot springs and the huge spa that occupies its square. Then set off to visit the famous Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano; all ancient cities, founded over a thousand years ago and keepers of great medieval legacies. Here you can buy wine, cheese and more wine, visiting the churches and underground cellars. Here you will see how Brunello wine is stored and discover the effort needed to produce it, explaining its costly price!

Campagna ToscanaHead onto the motorway at Sinalunga towards Siena. this city is beautiful both for the architecture of its buildings and the stylistic harmony between them (a stunning medieval village has leapt seamlessly into modern times). Two thousand years of history come to life before you as you explore its university campus and the oldest bank in the world, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472, An open-air museum, is perhaps a more appropriate definition. Palio di SienaThe famous Palio di Siena, which is held twice a year during the months of July and August, comprises ten districts, chosen from a total of 17. These compete for three laps of the circuit, built in the equally famous and picturesque Piazza del Campo. To outsiders it is perhaps hard to understand the significance of this event (a few minutes of people running, proceeded by a historical parade). Yet the event is much more than that; this celebration 'runs' throughout the year, bringing together the city’s neighborhoods. Each horse is blessed in its own district church and rest assured: a horse in a 1000 year old church is a sight to be seen! See the winner’s tears of joy and the loser’s tears of sorrow; emotions run high, even for the spectators!

Palazzo Civico SienaVisit the Torre del Mangia (1348), where you will hear the great bell known as Sunto, dedicated to the Virgin Mary; this is situated next to the Palazzo Civico that contains precious frescoes by Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti; la Chiesa di Sant'Agostino, with its many Sienese masterpieces; the former hospital, now the Museo di Santa Maria della Scala, an archaeological find itself and a treasure chest of several archaeological collections; the Duomo di Siena, built in a Romanesque-Gothic style, undoubtedly worth a visit. Should you visit between the second and the third round of the Palio in August 16, you’ll get a sneak preview the Drappellone, the tapestry that the winner receives.


Certosa di Firenze al Galluzzo

For local specialties, try salumi di Cinta, ricciarelli, panforte and cavallucci (all of which are biscuits and cakes). Next take the road connecting the province with the capital city, Firenze. Along the way several places are worth a stop: Monteriggioni, protected by its city walls, has a stunning 13th century Castle, excellent restaurants in Colle Val d'Elsa and a beautiful Piazza Arnolfo di Cambio. Ascend the hills to reach Poggibonsi, with the festa di Pigio, stunning scenery and beautiful churches, before reaching San Casciano Val di Pesa. Here you can enjoy a good glass of Chianti wine, take a wander on the quest for its ancient relics and Castelli. Finally, we arrive in Firenze, but there’s no Firenzerush. Pause for a minute to meditate in the Galluzzo district, at the Certosa di Firenze, a huge walled monastery, where in the picture gallery you will find frescoes by Pontormo dipicting "Scenes of Passion". The artist fled here to escape the plague that raged the city. Returning from our meditative escape, we arrive at the end of Via Senese, the Porta Romana, where visitors can stop and stroll through the magnificent Giardino di Boboli, matched by the no less beautiful, but bigger Giardino Torrigiani and Giardino Corsi. Access to the garden is through the Palazzo Pitti e (do not miss the Galleria Palatina di Palazzo Pitti, the largest collection of works by Raphael in the world, comparable with the famous Galleria degli Uffizi). This area the Florentines name "Oltrarno", ie beyond the Arno River, and it is still one of the most authentic area of ​​the old town. Here Florence’s past comes alive, not only through its artistic and cultural heritage, but only in the everyday lives of people, in its shops and boutiques…

Piazzale Michelangelo a FirenzeClimb the path that overlooks the city, taking in the sight of historic villas dotted amongst the landscape, until you reach the scenic Piazzale Michelangelo; here you will get a taste of what to expect from your visit to the city. Here you will have two choices, leave the car and continue on foot up the Rampe de Poggi, up to the San Niccolò neighborhood, where you will find the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine, with its Cappella Brancacci and frescoes by Masaccio. Or else, aim for the avenues, to Piazza Beccaria, Santa Croce a Firenzewhere you will leave the car to walk by foot: the center of Florence, like many Tuscan towns of medieval origin, is closed to traffic.

The nearby Basilica of Santa Croce houses the "Urne dei Forti", a series of monumental tombs dedicated to great figures (such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini and Foscolo (musicians and writers) and Alfieri, Fermi and Galileo Galilei). Of particular interest are the cappelle con la Vita di San Francesco frescoed by Giotto and the Crocifisso di Cimabue in the Cappella dei Pazzi.


Immerse yourself in the narrow streets crammed full of craft shops and quaint little shops. For the cultured, an obligatory visit to the Museo del Bargello; but remember, it is no longer the era of Odoardo Spadaro or of the characters which appear in the famous italian movie Amici Miei. Nevertheless, you will be near the Piazzale della Galleria degli Uffizi, one of the most famous museums in the world. Here, within the space of a few meters, the entire history of the city and its masterpieces are enclosed. Also of note is the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, the Ponte Piazza del Duomo a FirenzeVecchio, with its many jewelry shops, Via dei Calzaiuoli, the city promenade, crowded with luxury shops, the Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore, a 150 meter high cathedral, with its magnificent Cupola del Brunelleschi; directly in front of it, the Battistero di Firenze, a sensational example of Florentine Romanesque, with its copy of Ghiberti ‘s Porta del Paradiso and then the Campanile di Giotto, which the artist, unfortunately, did not live to see completed.

Our list of things to see and do exceeds the limits of this guide, but it is now time to get back on the road; or to the S. Maria Novella train station in fact, to catch one of the frequent trains to Pisa and the West Coast. The high speed train passes through Empoli (you can get to Pisa in one hour) but you can also opt for a different route, stopping off in the beautiful medieval cities of Pistoia and Lucca. Whether by car or train, the first route offers the opportunity to visit the Villa Medicea " La Ferdinanda" or Villa dei Cento Camini, used in Artimino campaigns and today for weddings. Another stop at the Museo della Ceramica in Montelupo, with its exhibition of more than 800 years of hand-painted ceramics; onwards we can explore Empoli, with its beautiful Piazza Farinata degli Uberti, overlooked by its grand monuments and the nearby Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo Anchiano. The artist’s home is a rather shabby building, standing alone in the countryside, not exactly what you would equate with its illustrious inhabitant. This in contrast to the museum dedicated to the genius, housed in the Castello dei Conti Guidi. The museum, though small, provides a thorough recount of the great Italian genius’ life and is located in a lovely town surrounded by stunning scenery. Do not miss the truffles in San Miniato! We are already in the province of Pisa and the town merits a slow walk amongst the beautiful churches and historic buildings.

PistoiaThe second route heads to Pisa, passing through Pistoia, takes longer but it's worth it! Pistoia is a beautiful medieval town which held the title of capitale italiana della cultura 2017, Italian Cultere Capital 2017 Thus far untouched by mass tourism, it is an excellent base for sleeping, relaxing and eating in a picturesque and authentic atmosphere. Well connected by rail or by car to nearby Florence and Pisa, it is the ideal location for those who like to avoid the crowds and discover the real Tuscany. In addition to the Duomo and Battistero, la Basilica della Madonna dell'Umiltà with its dome by Vasari, the Palazzo Pretorio, the many churches, shopping in the beautiful via degli Orafi and the excellent modern art on offer at Palazzo Fabroni and the Fondazione Marino Marini (the artist was born in Pistoia and is famous all over the world). In Pistoia, you will find many affordable restaurants, where you can eat well within the fashionable setting of Piazza della Sala. An interesting fact: Pistoia is home to Tuscany’s largest library, San Giorgio; its modern interior has inspired many large libraries in northern Europe.


Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaAnother recommended route, away from commercial tourism, is Lucca; a city surrounded by high walls, 100 churches and the birthplace of the famous composer, Giacomo Puccini. The city’s landmark, the Guinigi Tower, is the tallest tower with holm oak trees planted on top. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the cityscape. A walk or bike ride along the city walls are a must for tourists and locals. Do not miss the chiesa di San Michele, the Duomo di San Martino, the chiesa di San Frediano, the rounded piazza del’Anfiteatro the amphitheater, the beautiful chiesa di San Francesco ( open only at weekends ). Equally a stroll through the elegant Via Fillungo and a pause for a coffee in the great Piazza Napoleone. In Lucca you can find great food at affordable prices. Local products include il farro della Garfagnana, il vino di Montercarlo, l'olio delle colline lucchesi, salumi, formaggi e il buccellato (a sweet bread).

PisaIn Pisa, you’ll be joined by the good company of thousands of tourists visiting Piazza del Duomo, known as the Piazza dei Miracoli (Gabriele D'Annunzio dixit), the 1100AD Romanesque Cathedral, with beautiful works by Bonanno Pisano, the Romanesque Battistero di San Giovanni Battista situated near the Campo Santo (also worth visiting), and the last, by not least, famous Torre Tramonto ToscanoPendente, an inclined bell tower, forever present in the memories of those who visit the city. An interesting fact: Pisa boasts two more inclined bell towers, that of Chiesa di San Nicola and the Chiesa di San Michele degli Scalzi. Walk down the long Via Roma, through its narrow streets, to the Piazza Vettovaglie (as depicted in the novels by Mark Malvaldi). From here along Via Borgo Stretto, the Ponte di Mezzo, where on the last Saturday of June, people play Gioco del Ponte. On other days, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the Arno river, which cuts the city in two. Along the river, precariously placed, you will find the beautiful Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina. For nature lovers, head to the west side of the city to discover the jewel of Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli, a large nature park; some areas have open access, others are limited to certain days. To experience it nineteenth-century style, it is advisable to visit on horseback or in a carriage!

Costa ToscanaWhatever your means of transport, make sure you visit the sea and the protected Secche della Meloria. Or maybe you’d prefer the liveliness of the beautiful Versilia, and cities such as Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi. Or the unusual Pietrasanta, just inland, with its magnificent central square and nearby shopping streets ( which according to the ladies is unexpectedly amazing... ) and then a little further is Volterra. Have we forgotten anything? What about Arezzo, Cortona, Livorno, Prato, San Gimignano ... Welcome to Tuscany !

Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaAltra tappa consigliata e ancora fuori dalle grandi rotte del turismo commerciale, Lucca, città completamente circondata da alte mura, città delle 100 chiese, che ha dato i natali al famoso compositore Giacomo Puccini.  Simbolo cittadino la Torre Guinigi, l'alta torre con gli alberi di leccio sulla cima, luogo ideale per godere il panorama cittadino. Una passeggiata sulle mura o un giro delle mura in bicicletta sono un must per turisti e locali. Da non perdere la chiesa di San Michele, il Duomo di San Martino, la chiesa di San Frediano, la piazza rotondeggiante dell'Anfiteatro, la meravigliosa chiesa di San Francesco (visitabile solo nel weekend) ma anche una passeggiata nell'elegante via Fillungo e una sosta per un caffé nella grande Piazza Napoleone. Anche a Lucca il cibo è ottimo e i prezzi accettabili, tra i prodotti tipici, il farro della Garfagnana, il vino di Montercarlo, l'olio delle colline lucchesi, salumi, formaggi e il buccellato (un pane dolce).

PisaA Pisa, vi faranno buona compagnia migliaia di turisti nella visita a Piazza del Duomo, detta Piazza dei Miracoli (Gabriele D'Annunzio dixit), con la Cattedrale romanica, del 1100, con belle opere di Bonanno Pisano, il Battistero di San Giovanni Battista, in stile romanico, vicino al Campo Santo (da visitare anch'esso), e la non meno celebre Torre Pendente, un campanile inclinato, ovunque presente nei ricordi di chi visita la città. Una curiosità: Pisa sfoggia altri due campanili inclinati, quello della Chiesa di San Nicola e quello della Chiesa di San Michele degli Scalzi. Sempre Tramonto Toscanoa piedi, percorrete la lunga Via Roma per arrivare, attraverso vie strette, alla Piazza delle Vettovaglie, sempre presente nei romanzi di Marco Malvaldi, e, lungo via Borgo Stretto, al Ponte di Mezzo, dove l'ultimo sabato di Giugno si svolge la sfilata del Gioco del Ponte con relativo gioco. Negli altri giorni, godrete una magnifica vista dei lungarni che tagliano in due la città. Sui lungarni, in equilibrio precario, almeno all'apparenza, troverete la bella chiesa gotica di Santa Maria della Spina. Per i più portati verso la natura, dirigetevi verso il lato occidentale della città per scoprire il gioiello di Migliarino, San Rossore e Massaciuccoli, un parco naturale di grandi dimensioni; in alcune zone a libero accesso, in altre limitato nei giorni e nelle modalità. Per sentirvi un poco in sintonia con i gentiluomini e gli artisti del diciannovesimo secolo, è consigliabile la visita a cavallo oppure in carrozza.

Costa ToscanaQuale sia il mezzo di locomozione scelto, arriverete al mare, magari potreste dare un'occhiata all'area marina protetta Secche della Meloria, e vi ritroverete a mollo nello stesso mare da cui siamo partiti per questo breve viaggio. O magari preferite la vivacità della bella Versilia, e città come Viareggio o Forte dei Marmi, oppure scoprite una Versilia insolita, come quella di Pietrasanta, poco nell'entroterra, con la magnifica piazza centrale e la vicina via dello shopping cittadino (che a detta di molte dame è inaspettatamente strepitosa...) e poi poco oltre c'è anche Volterra, e poi cosa ci siamo dimenticati? Arezzo, Cortona, Livorno, Prato, San Gimignano...  Benvenuti in Toscana!



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