Tuscany (Italian: Toscana) is a region in central Italy with an area of about 8,900 sq mi (23,000 square kilometers) and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence (Firenze). Its landscape, artistic heritage and stand-out cities make Tuscany an unquestioned protagonist of international tourism.
It is regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance and has been home to many figures influential in the history of art and science.
Many towns and cities in Tuscany have great natural and architectural beauty. Also the region is a boon for the history buffs, being the center of where the medieval Renaissance movement started.
Tuscan countryside gave birth to the so-called “Agritourism” (any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch – in Italy is also known as “farm stays”). Wine is a famous and common produce of Tuscany. Chianti is arguably the most well-known internationally (others are Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino).
Visitors to Tuscany come for many reasons some of which are in searching of fine art, others to explore the extraordinary countryside. Gourmets and wine buffs descend on Tuscany to enjoy the simple yet wonderful cuisine and wine. Walkers enjoy the mountain paths, cyclists the rolling hills, summer vacationers the sea coast and islands. Students come to learn the beautiful Italian language and culture.
Having said all this about Tuscany, let’s see what are the top destinations to go there.
Obviously this is in the top of the list, being also the capital of the region and well-known center of the Renaissance movement from the middle ages. During the Medici Dynasty and in particular during the Lordship of Lorenzo il Magnifico and Cosimo I, the town became one of the most important cultural poles of attraction in Europe. The most popular and important sites in Florence include the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Uffizi, the Bargello, and the Accademia. The churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are veritable art galleries, and the library of San Lorenzo is a magnificent exhibition of Michelangelo’s architectural genius.
The charm of Florence is also evident along the Arno River, on the picturesque Ponte Vecchio, and in the workshops of artisans that liven up the lanes of the old town.
From April to October, tourists (in the millions) outnumber local population.
Pisa, in northern Tuscany, is famous for its leaning tower (in Piazza dei Miracoli) but Pisa has much more to offer the traveler, including its medieval center, beautiful Duomo and Baptistery, parks, statues, the homes of Lord Byron and Shelley, and a walk along the river.
Around the Piazza dei Miracoli perimeter you’ll also find the Camposanto, Opera del Duomo museum and Museum of the Sinopie which we also highly recommend visiting. A few blocks away, the Piazza dei Cavalieri once was the heart of power in the city and later the headquarters of the Knights of St. Stephen.
Greve in Chianti
You can’t visit Tuscany without visiting the Chianti country. This wine is the hallmark of winemaking here in this region.Greve is friendly market town with no shortage of cafés, shops, and wine bars, it’s a good base from which to explore the countryside.
Greve in Chianti is located about 19 mi (31 kilometres) south of Florence on A1 highway, and 26 mi (42 kilometres) north of Siena. Some of Chianti’s best wines come from vineyards belonging to centuries-old castles, palaces, and abbeys. Castello di Brolio, Badia a Coltibuono, and Villa Vignamaggio are among the potential highlights of a wine-tasting tour.
The Chianti landscapes are so beautiful and particular that they inspire many photographs which then become postcards and calendars distributed across the globe.
Montepulciano, not far from Siena, is a walled city in Tuscany, built on a sloping and narrow limestone ridge. The town is known for wine the called “Vino Nobile” and has one of the most impressive main squares in Tuscany. From here, you can reach the charming Pienza, the thermal village of Bagno Vignoni, the famous Montalcino and a lot of other enchanting villages in a very short time.
Lucca is a walled town with one of the best-preserved Renaissance-era walls in Italy. It’s situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plain near the Tyrrhenian Sea and is the capital city of the province of Lucca.
Lucca has several well-preserved towers from where you can get fabulous views of the city by climbing to the top. The town is a good city for food shopping and restaurants. Lucca is very easy to reach both by car as well as train from both Pisa and Florence, making it perfect for anyone getting around solely on public transportation and it’s ideal for anyone with mobility issues as well.
Siena is a classic medieval hill town in Tuscany famous for its large fan-shaped piazza or main square. It’s situated 37 mi (60km) south of Florence near the center of the Tuscany region. Siena is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a horse race held twice a year.
Pienza and Val d’Orcia
Medieval castles, sunny rolling hills, isolated hilltop towns, charming farmhouses and isolated rural homes, avenues of cypresses, rows of vineyards, olive groves, and golden wheat fields are just some of the elements of the fantastic and harmonious landscapes of Val d’Orcia. This wonderful region in southern Tuscany stretches alongthe provinces of Siena and Grosseto.
Pienza is a beautiful Renaissance town in the Orcia Valley of southern Tuscany. It is also for its pecorino cheese and spectacular views of the Val D’Orcia.
San Gimignano is a classic medieval walled hill town in Tuscany, famous for its 14 surviving medieval towers creating a beautiful skyline visible from the surrounding countryside. Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches. San Gimignano is 34 mi (56km) southwest of Florence in the Siena Province of Tuscany.
Cortona is one of the oldest hill towns in Tuscany and is featured in Francis Mayes book “Under the Tuscan Sun”, later made into a movie. Cortona is in the eastern part of Tuscany, very near the border of the Umbria region and Lake Trasimeno. The closest towns is Arezzo so you can visit both.
The prevailing character of Cortona’s architecture is medieval with steep narrow streets situated on a hillside at an elevation of 2,000 ft (600m) that embraces a view of the whole of the Valdichiana. From the Piazza Garibaldi (still referred to by the local population by its older name, Piazza Carbonaia) is a fine prospect of Lake Trasimeno, scene of Hannibal’s ambush of the Roman army in 217 BC (Battle of Lake Trasimene). Parts of the Etruscan city wall can still be seen today as the basis of the present wall. The main street, via Nazionale, is the only street in the town with no gradient, and is still usually referred to by locals by its older name of Ruga Piana.
Cortona is reachable by train from Rome, Florence, or Arezzo.
To the south of Siena is a classic fairytale hilltop town, set within a full circle of fortified walls and watched over by a mighty castle of medieval perfection: Montalcino.
The town has scarcely changed in appearance since the 16th century. Once you get up to the town, a magnificent spectacle unfolds for your eyes: rolling sunny hills dotted with yellow and red flowers, ancient oak trees, picturesque olive groves, scenic country roads winding through perfect vineyards and isolated cypress trees atop hills.
The historical center is dominated by the mighty and imposing Rocca or fortress built in 1361 to mark the passage of Montalcino under the domination of Siena. Another landmark of Montalcino is the clock tower that graces the Palazzo dei Priori, the city’s town hall, while below lies the main square known as Piazza del Popolo with its characteristic Gothic loggia. The Palazzo Vescovile, the churches of Sant’ Agostino, Sant’ Egidio and San Francesco are worth visiting too.
It is also famous for its Brunello di Montalcino wine which made the town rich.
Next time you plan a vacation think about Tuscany, Italy. But try not to go alone, take your friends with you.