Where to go in Tuscany


Make the most of your time

If you think Tuscany starts and finishes with Florence then you’re way off as from the coastline of Maremma to the mountainous landscapes of Garfagnana, there’s much more to the region than just tourist hot spots. Often the best way to explore is to bin the guidebook, and no sooner than you’ve set off you’ll be winding your way through the agricultural landscapes which surround the likes of Arezzo, Lucca and San Gimignano, en route to who knows where. Strolling against the sound of church bells and ascending pigeons forms an indelible soundtrack and once you've embraced the Apennines and cavorted in Chianti you’ll be planning your next trip quicker than steam dissipating from an early morning espresso.
Arezzo Cortona Florence Garfagnana Greve Lucca Panzano Pitigliano San Gimignano Siena Vinci Volterra

Arezzo

The sloping, red bricked Piazza Grande is the perfect place to sit and take stock in Arezzo with an intriguing border of dusty antique shops and Gothic style facades adding to the Sunday morning ambience. Like most Tuscan towns, Arezzo takes its heritage very seriously with numerous medieval processions making their way through the narrow cobbled streets during the course of the summer.

Cortona

Towering, terraced streets turn Cortona into a maze of honey shaded walls pinned with peeling panelled shutters, with steep gradients making excellent excuses to pause for breath and take in the Val di Chiana from the Piazza Garibaldi. Numerous churches, including the nearby Santa Maria Nuova, offer sightseeing options and the abundance of artisan food, drink and craft shops are super for souvenirs.

Florence

Many tourists hunt for Florence but are pleasantly surprised when they find Firenze. There is a difference. Florence is expensive ice creams by the Ponte Vecchio, queues for the Uffizi and selfie stick jousting in the Piazza della Signoria. Firenze is the Piazza Michelangelo after dark, picnics in the Giardino di Boboli, talking Italiano at the Mercato Centrale and lingering looks over the Arno as autumn starts to bite.

Garfagnana

This lesser-known region of northern Tuscany is quite possibly one of the most fulfilling for hikers thanks, in no small part, to the highly impressive Apennines. Following well-tramped donkey trails over alpine ridges and through dense beech forests, filled with wild mushrooms, presents a banquet for the senses alongside several challenging ascents, including Tuscany’s highest peak: Monte Prado.

Greve

No trip to Tuscany is complete without at least a glass of Chianti, and Greve’s Saturday morning market is the perfect place to pick up some accompanying bread, olives and fresh pecorino. The local butcher, Macelleria Falorni, is the toast of Tuscany and adding a hunk of his cinghiale (wild boar) to an ever burgeoning backpack gives carnivores an extra treat to unwrap in them there Chianti hills.

Lucca

Many an English schoolboy has the charms of Lucca to thank at their naming ceremony with strolls around the Passeggiata delle Mura, look out for the drop, and photo ops through archways leading to the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, still set to inspire. Lucca’s one of the few Tuscan towns that’s not on a hilltop, although the city walls and the views from the Torre delle Ore more than make up for the lack of elevation.

Panzano

Views from Panzano’s lofty perch are truly beautiful and if you find yourself on the scenic Chiantigiana highway, somewhere between Florence and Siena, this is an attractive place to stop for lunch. Although many come to Panzano to visit the famous Tuscan butcher, Mac Dario, or the Chianti Classico wine estates, sometimes exploring with a little less purpose reaps greater rewards.

Pitigliano

Looking rather like a magnificent, turreted sandcastle that’s succumbed to the incoming tide, Pitigliano rises out of tufa rock to stretch church spires and Orsini Palace ramparts towards Tuscan skies. A synagogue, cemetery and museum are all that remain of a once prominent Jewish community and stand above temple caves and Etruscan tombs, now turned into wine cellars to support surrounding vineyards.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano’s towers, piazzas and art-filled churches and cathedrals have resisted all manner of destruction which makes the town a huge draw for cultural travelers and tourists alike. Things can get very busy, but step off the main tourist street or visit either side of May or September and you’ll discover an absolute gem, especially when appreciated over a cool glass of Vernaccia.

Siena

It’s hard to imagine Siena’s world-famous horse race, the Palio, when visiting the bowl-shaped Piazza del Campo, with kissing couples and chiming church bells replacing clawing crowds and thundering hooves. The fierce rivalry between the city’s 17 contrade is hidden behind Gothic facades, Renaissance frescos and smiling sellers of medieval pageantry but it exists, and definitely not just for tourists.

Vinci

If Leonardo da Vinci were alive today he wouldn’t be unfamiliar with the rural scenes from his home town’s medieval ramparts as things haven’t changed all that much since the Renaissance. The obligatory da Vinci Museum is housed within an oval-shaped 12th century castle and is well worth a look although the 3km vineyard walk to the hamlet of Anchiano is just as memorable.

Volterra

Medieval heritage is everywhere you turn in Tuscany and the walls surrounding Volterra paint a picture of what life was like back in the Middle Ages. The city’s lifeblood stems from the Piazza dei Priori and makes for an ideal starting point to discover Volterra’s Romanesque cathedrals, Roman amphitheatre and 13th century gates as well as an assortment of traditional alabaster workshops.

Photo credits:[Map intro: Daniel Enchev] [Arezzo: Michael Cahill] [Cortona: picdrops] [Florence: Steve] [Garfagnana: NH53] [Greve: Stefano Costantini] [Lucca: Barney Moss] [Panzano: lucio musacchio] [Pitigliano: Tommasi Family] [San Gimignano: Kevin Poh] [Siena: ] [Vinci: Flavio~] [Volterra: Guillaume Baviere]

Written by: Chris Owen
Tuscany hiking vacation, Italy

Tuscany hiking vacation, Italy

Discover Tuscany hiking from town to town

From 780 8 Days ex flights
Tuscany tours, walking and wine tasting in Italy

Tuscany tours, walking and wine tasting in Italy

Walking and wine tasting in Tuscany

From US $1395 8 Days ex flights
Walking vacation in Tuscany

Walking vacation in Tuscany

A variety of daywalks in the beautiful Tuscan countryside

From US $1435 8 Days ex flights
Cycling vacation in Umbria, Italy

Cycling vacation in Umbria, Italy

The peace of Tuscany & Umbria by bicycle

From US $1460 8 Days ex flights
Tuscany organic farmstay near Florence, Italy

Tuscany organic farmstay near Florence, Italy

organic farm hills of Florence, Tuscany

From 65 per accommodation per night (sleeps 2-4)
Tuscany vacation, coast, history and nature

Tuscany vacation, coast, history and nature

Savor Maremma's archaeologic, geologic and natural wonders

From 544 5 Days ex flights
Tuscany biking vacation through Siena & Chianti, Italy

Tuscany biking vacation through Siena & Chianti, Italy

Cycle the most evocative and romantic landscapes

From US $1545 8 Days ex flights
Rural villas in Tuscany, Italy

Rural villas in Tuscany, Italy

Traditional apartments in the heart Tuscany

From 290 per accommodation per week
Chianti castles horse riding holiday in Italy

Chianti castles horse riding vacation in Italy

A riding week in the glorious Chianti hills

From 1435 8 Days ex flights
Horse riding and fresco hunting holiday in Tuscany

Horse riding and fresco hunting vacation in Tuscany

A riding vacation including visits to famous Tuscan frescoes

From 1210 8 Days ex flights
Convert currencies