Let’s face it: Tuscany is rightly recognised as one of the most stunning regions in the world. This area in central Italy is famous for historic cities, art-filled museums and churches, and landscapes with rolling hills. Renaissance cathedrals rising from iconic hotspots like Florence or Pisa, palaces testifying to the region’s wealth, and remote corners attract millions of visitors. We have chosen 13 places to visit in Tuscany that have caught our attention.
If there is one thing Tuscany never is, it is boring.
Beautiful places to visit in Tuscany
Tuscany remains one of the most famous vacation destinations in Italy. We highlighted 13 of our favourite places that justify that claim. We have divided this region into 2 parts: the north and the south. This way, you get a better understanding of where these places are.
Top places to visit in Northern Tuscany
If you’re planning to explore Northern Tuscany, here are some places you should include in your itinerary.
The best place where to start is, of course, Florence. The capital of Tuscany lies in the heart of the region. Florence needs no introduction – this gorgeous city is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Therefore, it has to be on the top of your list of the best places to visit in Tuscany.
Why visit this famous city? Florence is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany because this city is the birthplace of the Renaissance. The powerful Medici family ruled the city for three centuries. They turned it into the greatest artistic capital.
Nowadays, the Medici palaces in Florence are symbols of this powerful family and are one of the top attractions in the city. Follow the footsteps of the Medici and visit the Uffizi Gallery. It is the best art gallery in the country and one of the most visited museums in Europe. Millions of visitors flock to see the Uffizi Gallery artworks by famous artists such as Botticelli, da Vinci, and others.
Climb 414 steps to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower to see the beautiful cathedral views.
Make sure you also visit Galleria dell’ Accademia, where you can find the famous Michelangelo statue of David. Don’t miss the third largest church in the world – the Florence Cathedral. It is world-famous for its gorgeous dome and a baptistery.
You cannot take a trip to Tuscany without seeing Pisa. This town, with 98 thousand people, was once one of the four most successful Maritime city-states during the 11th and 12th centuries. The main reason why tourists flock here is its iconic Leaning Tower. However, it should not be the only reason to visit this pretty city.
Did you know that Pisa has the oldest city walls in the country that remain almost entirely intact? It also has the largest baptistery in Italy and one of the finest Pisan-Romanesque buildings in the region. Maybe you do not know, but the paintings at Pisa’s Sistine Chapel once covered more square meters than those in the Sistine Chapel.
The walls of Pisa defended the city for many years. Today, they offer gorgeous views of the Square of Miracles. This grass square is home to famous attractions – the Pisa Cathedral and the Pisa Baptistery.
But Pisa also has many churches, palaces, and the National Museum of San Matteo. This museum houses valuable artefacts and paintings of the Pisan and Florentine art.
Pisa is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany because this city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many architectural wonders. Moreover, Pisa is one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany because it has one of the finest architectural complexes in the world.
Chances are that you have never heard of this place
Only a short train ride away from Pisa is another pretty town. The locals call this city, with peaceful narrow streets on the Serchio River, Lucca. If you don’t know, Lucca is famous for its legendary walls from the 16th and 17th centuries, which are today an elevated garden boulevard. The locals built them as protection from nearby rivals (Florence and Pisa). They were a declaration of the importance of the then city-state.
Luca is also famous for the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro because its colourful buildings from the Middle Ages mark the outline of Lucca’s old Roman amphitheatre. Don’t miss the Basilica of San Frediano – it has striking 13th-century mosaics on the façade. Another highlight is Casa di Puccini. The birthplace of the famous opera composer is now a museum.
Did you know many call Lucca the “city of 100 churches”? They are perfect examples of many significant eras. Lucca even has many towers – the Guinigi Tower, with the oak trees growing out of its top, is one of the most iconic landmarks.
Lucca is also one of the best places to visit in Tuscany because its 11th-century Duomo di San Martino is probably the most outstanding work of the Pisan style outside Pisa itself. It is also famous for its regular street plan in its centre. It follows the pattern of the Roman colony founded in 180 BC.
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Beautiful places to visit in Southern Tuscany
Travel the south of Florence and discover remote hilltop towns, iconic hotspots and beautiful countryside.
It is easy to see why Siena is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany. This beautiful UNESCO-listed city was once the capital to rival Florence. Today, it is one of the prettiest medieval towns. Siena is also world-famous because it is rich in history and art.
Siena has beautiful squares, a maze of narrow streets with cafes. It is home to one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares: the Piazza del Campo. This Tuscan city has all the ingredients you need for a relaxing break.
Did you know Siena has 1,000-year-old city walls and the third-tallest ancient tower in the country? The historic Palio horse race in the Piazza del Campo attracts thousands of visitors for hundreds of years twice yearly.
Maybe you don’t know, but Siena has one of the greatest cathedrals in Italy. Siena’s Duomo is one of the most important Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals in Italy. It has gorgeous mosaics on the floor and houses works of famous artists, such as Donatello, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio.
Siena’s Piccolomini Library has some of the most impressive frescoes in Tuscany.
We also recommend you to visit the Palazzo Pubblico and Siena National Gallery because they house an outstanding collection of the Sienese school of paintings.
If you would rather experience something quieter away from the typical tourist spots, consider visiting Arezzo. It lies about 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Florence and is one of Tuscany’s wealthiest cities.
Arezzo is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany because this vibrant city is rich in art and architecture. According to Wikipedia, this hilltop city has been “one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities“. Arezzo is also famous because it was once home to the world-famous artist Giorgio Vasari (the same Vasari who planned the Uffizi in Florence). Arezzo is less touristy than other famous cities in the area.
Once here, see the 13th-century Church of San Francesco, which houses one of Italy’s greatest fresco cycles. The Legend of the True Cross is Piero della Francesca’s masterpiece. Nearby stands the Pieve di Santa Maria, which has one of the most ornate Romanesque facades in the region. Don’t miss the Piazza Grande, which has the elegant loggia (also designed by Vasari).
If you want to see more works by Vasari, visit the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art and Casa di Vasari. Other highlights are the Basilica di San Domenico and its 13th-century Crucifix, the Medicean Fortress and the Duomo di Arezzo.
6. Saturnia Hot Springs
If natural attractions are what you are after, consider visiting Saturnia Thermal Springs. Saturnia Thermal Springs is one of those undiscovered attractions hidden 2 hours drive away from Siena (116 km). You can also visit it from Florence, but it takes about 3 hours to get there (200 km). This unusual place lies near a small town called Saturnia, which stands close to an Etruscan necropolis.
Saturnia Hot Springs are one of the unique places to visit in Tuscany because these famous thermal springs are rich in mineral deposits. The warm water, heated by the nearby volcano, cascades into travertine stone pools. The water has a temperature of 37 degrees, and you can relax in several natural pools.
Saturnia Thermal Springs are free to visit (if you find them) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although they are not the best-kept secret of Tuscany anymore, they are definitely worth a visit if you are nearby.
7. San Gimignano
San Gimignano, located between countryside filled with vineyards that produce the famous Vernaccia wine.
If you can squeeze one more town into your itinerary, make sure it is San Gimignano. This beautiful hill town lies less than an hour’s drive from Siena. You can also visit it from Pisa – it takes about 80 minutes to get there.
San Gimignano is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany because this UNESCO-inscribed town serves as a time capsule of urban medieval life. In fact, it is one of the best-preserved Italian towns from the Middle Ages. San Gimignano is famous for its skyline of towers. That’s why it has the nickname the Manhattan of the Middle Ages.
San Gimignano doesn’t have a modern city skyline. The locals built their 75 towers in the 12th and 13th centuries. This is when the wealthiest families fortified their palaces as protection and also as the symbol of their power. Even though only 14 towers remain, you can climb one of them – the Torre Grossa.
San Gimignano, encircled with well-preserved walls, has beautiful churches and museums rich in art. It also has narrow stone streets full of good shops and restaurants. You can even sample gelato in the award-winning Gelateria Dondoli.
8. Val d’Orcia
The landscape of Val d’Orcia most likely appears on a list of the best places to visit in Tuscany more than any other town. It’s because this countryside in southern Tuscany is one of the prettiest parts of Tuscany. You are right to think that the most beautiful photos you see of Tuscany come from this place. In fact, the whole area with rolling hills, vineyards and small towns and villages is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Val d’Orcia is also famous because its beautiful landscape aesthetics inspired many artists, especially painters from the Sienese School. Also, according to UNESCO World Heritage Site, images of the Val d’Orcia have “influenced the development of landscape thinking”.
But that is not the only reason to visit this region – the Val d’Orcia offers wine tastings and cooking classes. The area is rich in high-quality food items, such as Pecorino cheese of Pienza or extra virgin olive oil. Visit Montalcino – it’s a wine lover’s paradise (Sangiovese wine is the jewel in the crown). Don’t miss the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta set among cypress trees and the truffle fair weekends in San Giovanni d’Asso during November.
9. Abbey of San Galgano
To step off the beaten track, visit the Abbey of San Galgano. You can find this roofless monastery from the 14th century near the tiny town of Chiusdino. It was a popular stop for pilgrims on the 1,200-mile Via Francigena Road from Canterbury to Rome for many years. Today, the Abbey of San Galgano is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany. It’s because this building is one of the best examples of Italian Gothic-Cistercian architecture. The Abbey of San Galgano is also the most visited Middle Ages monument in Tuscany.
Even though it is in ruins, this monastery in the shape of a massive Latin cross is still a place of pilgrimage for the faithful. Tourists also visit it because it could hold the secret to the origins of the Arthurian Legend. While the sword King Arthur pulled from the stone is a legend, you can find here the sword that Saint Galgano plunged into a rock. You can see the sword in the stone in Montesiepi Chapel.
10. Chianti region
Tuscany is not only famous for its beautiful scenery but also for its fine wines. The Chianti region has some of the best conditions for growing wine. Its vineyards between Florence and Siena produce the world-famous Chianti Classico variety.
When in the area, join a wine-tasting tour or visit one of the wineries where you try delicious wines. The independent winemakers even give you a tour of their vineyards, show their cellars and tell about their traditional methods. And, of course, you will have an opportunity to try other Tuscan specialities.
If you love red wine, Montepulciano should be your next stop on your itinerary. This small town is one of Tuscany’s highest hill towns. The walls and fortifications of this place offer breathtaking views of Umbria and southern Tuscany.
Montepulciano is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany because it is famous for its Vino Nobile red wine, delicious food and beautiful views. Also, Montepulciano is one of the less visited places in the region and offers a more relaxing experience.
When not sipping the wine with the same name, explore the streets. Montepulciano is home to Renaissance palaces, which are very photogenic. Its Duomo was the setting for one of the masterpieces of the Sienese School – the Assumption by Taddeo di Bartolo. Don’t miss the tower of the Palazzo Comunale of the Piazza Grande, which offers gorgeous views.
If you love beaches, put Elba on your list of things to see in Tuscany. Italy’s third largest island (after Sicily and Sardinia) is a trendy under-the-radar destination. Did you know this pretty island with stunning beaches and numerous historical sites is perfect for a relaxing beach holiday? The largest of the Tuscan islands lies only 10 km of the mainland from Piombino’s port.
If you don’t know, Elba was a place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent 9 months here after his forced abdication. This French military leader made Portoferrairo the island’s capital and also named it. Spend 48 hours in the capital – it is a perfect introduction to the island. Visit its popular historic sites with the Cosmopoli Card. Also, do not forget to visit Napoleon’s residence (Villa San Martino) and find the Fortress of Volterraio.
Not many would place Cortona high on their list of places to visit in Tuscany, but it would be a mistake. Even though it is small, it is one of the most scenic places in the area. Not only that, Cortona is one of the oldest hill towns in Tuscany – it was a major hub of Etruscan civilization. This traditional town with 3,000-year-old Etruscan walls lies 25 minutes away from Arezzo.
While here, learn more about Cortona’s early history in the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca. This museum contains Etruscan artefacts and a variety of Egyptian and Roman remains. Visit the Diocesan Museum with fine paintings, Cortona Cathedral and the church of San Francesco.
Now you know what are the best places to visit in Tuscany!
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