If you are in Tuscany, you want to see as much as possible. In this romantic scenery you could spend a week, 14 days, a month or a year. You will never want to leave. We have the privilege to live near Italy and were able to explore Tuscan hills and genuine villages with our own car. We took two weeks for around two thousand kilometers. Nevertheless, it is possible to see the region in less time. But due to my disability, I like to take more time to explore places in my own rhythm and to rest when needed. This is my guide to Tuscany, Italy. By the way, if you’re with a car in Italy and also have disabled person’s parking card, you can park for free (I’ve learn that fact on the last day, unfortunately).
Tuscany is located in central Italy, stretching from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its landscape, artistic heritage and stand-out cities make Tuscany so eternally popular. Medieval villages, historical towns, castles, fortresses, churches, beautiful abbeys are scattered all over the region. Picturesque countryside is awe-dropping in spring, when hills are covered in green shades, you can also see wildflowers, tree blossoms and gardens in bloom. In fact, spring and Tuscany is the best duo. Spring is the best time to visit this part of Italy, since it is warm, but not too hot like in August. Not only you can beat the heat in April or May, you even avoid tourist crowds of summertime. Though in summer, Tuscany features the typical range of colors of the Italian summer: bright yellow, brown, blue and dark green. If you’re expecting to see those iconic fields of sun flowers, sun drenched yellow fields dotted with hay bales, summertime is the best to explore this romantic Italian region. My advice while traveling around Tuscany is to relax, slow down and simply enjoy the ridiculously pretty landscape, since the roads are curvy and towns are sleepy.
This capital city of Tuscany city gave birth to the Renaissance and changed the way we see the world. A walk along the Arno river offers fantastic views. Florence is a surprisingly small city, but still offers much to discover. Cradle of the Renaissance and of tourist masses that want to see the world-class art, Florence is magnetic, romantic and busy. It has hardly changed since the Renaissance. Florence is one of Europe’s greatest art cities. Giotto’s frescoes, Michelangelo’s David, canvases by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and other greats in the Uffizi Gallery. The most popular and important sites in Florence include the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Uffizi and the Bargello. Wander some of the oldest streets until you reach the Arno River and cross the Ponte Vecchio. No visit of Florence is complete without walking across this oldest bridge in Florence. Also you cannot come to Florence and not see the Florence Cathedral. This gigantic structure is standing at 114 meters tall and took 140 years to build. When in Florence, in Tuscany or rather in Italy in general do not forget to taste some delicious and famous ice-cream. However, be prepared to pay a bit more.
Well known city of the leaning tower. Pisa actually draws all the fame from an architectural project gone terribly wrong. Tower of Pisa stands at 60 meters and until 1990 was leaning at about a 10-degree angle. Pisans claim that Campo dei Miracoli is among the most beautiful urban spaces in the world. Green spacious lawns provide a gorgeous setting for the Cathedral, the cupcake-like Baptistery and the Tower. All eyes are drawn to the campanile, better known as the Leaning Tower. Hundreds of people are taking a photograph in which they pretend to support the tower. Due to the lack of time and long waiting line before the ticket office, we’ve only admired the famous tower from the outside and have skipped a tour of the Leaning Tower.
A tiny village in southern Tuscany is the “touchstone of Renaissance urbanism”. This ideal city of the Renaissance was the creation of the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini who later became Pope Pius II. The town was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. Pienza is a romantic city because of its streets with lovely names, such as Via dell’ Amore (Love street) and Via del Bacio (Kiss street). If you are in a romantic mood you should definitely visit this place. Pienza is miniscule – just a nine block long and three blocks wide – and it’s encircled by its medieval walls. It is located in the beautiful valley called Val d’Orcia amid gentle undulating hills. Pienza enjoys a strategic position, standing on top a hill and allows extraordinary views. The views of the valley are enchanting, you can fall in love with the Val d’Orcia and its small picturesque villages. Overlooking the valley, a magnificent spectacle unfolds for your eyes: green sunny hills, ancient oak trees, picturesque olive groves, scenic country roads winding through perfect vineyards and isolated cypress trees on top hills. While driving around the valley, you get this feeling, like you’ve been here before. You’ve seen this scenery on paintings and it is a canvas brought to live.
The city, enclosed by stone walls, sits at 600 meters high on a hill. It’s one of the oldest hill towns in Tuscany and is also featured in Francis Mayes book Under the Tuscan Sun. Cortona’s medieval streets are pleasant to wonder and a walk along the medieval town walls rewards you with fabulous views of the countryside.
We decided to indulge ourselves in a little Tuscan fairytale and stayed in a lovely 17th century villa bellow Cortona, called Relais Villa Baldelli. It impresses with its exquisite interior, impressive outside and offers amazing view on Cortona, situated on a hill nearby. For the luxury two of us paid 100 euros per night. Of course, there are cheaper hotels and villas available.
5., 6. and 7. Montalcino, Montepulciano and Monteriggioni
Tuscany is at its best in its small historic hilltowns. And of all the region’s small hilltowns, Montalcino, Montepulciano and Monteriggioni have to be most compelling. Others, like Siena and San Gimignano, may be better known and are slightly more touristic, but I’ve fund the real charm of Tuscany in this small delightful villages. Montepulciano is the largest of the three towns mentioned here. All three villages are a wonderful place to stroll around among the labyrinth of charming arts and craft shops, cafes, restaurants and wine bars. Above all, these villages are perfect for observing beautiful and picturesque landscape.
Montalcino is a classic fairytale hilltop town, set within medieval walls and watched over by a mighty castle. It is a town of wine and art; its historical center is dominated by the mighty fortress from 14th century. The views from the fortress over the Val d’Orcia are spectacular. Don’t miss the tall Clock Tower that graces the town hall. The stone streets of Montalcino are enchanting. The town has been made rich and famous by its Brunello wine, one of the world’s best and most appreciated Italian wines.
Montepulciano stands imperious on top of the hill and it seems as it has been positioned by a landscape painter. The narrow streets of the town are charming and Piazza Grande is the heart of Montepulciano. The best way to view Montepulciano and its beautiful landmarks is to take a walk through the town. While in the town, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside covered by vineyards. The town was also the set for the vampire saga Twilight sequel New Moon.
Monteriggioni, another medieval walled town stands safe behind the 14 towers and a circular wall, totaling a length of about 570 meters. You can walk on the ancient walls and enjoy the view on the Tuscan hills. The circular walls were mostly built in the 13th century and the facade of the wall is still original, which makes it very special. Standing on top of the historical monument takes you many centuries back and you can see why many scholars describe Monteriggioni as one of the best examples of medieval villages in all of Italy.
A well-known medieval town, Siena is most famous for its summer horse races, called the Palio. However, if you cannot visit the race, you’ll still find much to treasure. Siena is a truly beautiful city, all cobbled streets and tall, ancient buildings. Piazza del Campo is the most notable place in the town. It is the heart of Siena, home of the Palio and surrounded by historical buildings, such as remarkable Palazzo Publico and the Mangia Tower. Il Campo has been Siena’s social center since the 12th century. The Campo’s magnificent pavement acts as a carpet on which students and tourists picnic and relax; the cafes and restaurants around the Campo are the most popular spots for aperitivo or lunch. Only spending couple of hours in the town and being tired from the drive, we weren’t able to see everything, but still it’s a charmer. The architecture is wonderful, the flags decorating the streets add a nice touch to the town.
The walled Etruscan town of Volterra is one of Tuscany’s most striking hilltop towns. It stands on a rocky hill some 550 meters above sea level. This scenic town was unknown to tourists until the Twilight series, though story is set in Voltera, the scenes were actually filmed in Montepulciano, as I’ve mentioned before. In a photogenic Volterra you can find the oldest town hall in Tuscany, Palazzo dei Priori. If you have any interest in the Etruscans visit the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum and don’t miss the 2000-year-old Roman theater. Tuscan or rather Italian cuisine is delicious everywhere (my absolute favorite), it is here, in Volterra, I’ve tried the best gnocchi with sage and butter – yummy.
- San Gimignano
San Gimignano charms with cobbled streets, ceramic shops, cozy restaurants. Town is visible in the distance with its many towers, today 13 of the 72 towers of the 14th century remain in this town that feels trapped in time. Walking on the streets of San Gimignano feels like stepping back in the middle ages. The presence of ancient wells and fountains add to the charm of the town. The main attraction in the town are its architecture and atmosphere. The unique towers make it a charming destination. No surprise that the “Historic Centre of San Gimignano” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I absolutely love this post!!!!! It is so helpful and so fleshed out. I’m thankful to have found another travel blogger who cares about relaying as much information to their readers as I do!!! I found your blog because it was a “replayed post” to my most resent post about Tuscany!!!!