From the Etruscans to the Renaissance, Tuscany is debatably the greatest repository of art in the world. However, whether you are an art lover, countryside enthusiast, or just looking for some picturesque Italian wonders, Tuscany offers something for everyone. I happened to visit quite a few places in the region in the last week of the year (2017) to see it all, too. Here’s a complete travel diary with the what, when, where, and how of all things to do in Tuscany.
Due to the paucity of time and budget, I’ve only covered the major areas like – Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and some country-side towns, however, I do write about the other places you could possibly go to and what to expect there.
Things to do in Tuscany:
What: “Nation Within A Nation”
Tuscany is a region in Italy known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy, and its influence on high culture. Celebrated as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, it is known for its influence on the history of art and science. It has a variety of landscape to offer and has some of the most visited beaches in Italy. It is also the home for fine Italian wineries, the historic Medici Family, Gucci, and more.
Seven Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage Sites: the historic centre of Florence (1982); the Cathedral square of Pisa (1987); historical centre of San Gimignano (1990); the historical centre of Siena (1995); the historical centre of Pienza (1996); the Val d’Orcia (2004), and the Medici Villas and Gardens (2013). Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves, making it and its regional capital ‘Florence’ popular tourist destinations that attract millions of tourists every year.
Spread over the mid-southern area, some major cities in the region are – Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, and Lucca.
The region is well connected and accessible by affordable buses, trains and has flight connections to major cities like Florence. It is fairly easy to plan and book a trip in the region and not blow your budget if you do it well in advance. The cities are small compared to many other European cities and are totally accessible by foot. If you feel fancy, you can also rent a car and go around at your convenience.
The recommended periods to visit the region are – between late September and October and between April and May. This time has the most comfortable temperatures. However, if you want to save a buck like me, travel to the region in offseasons, like December. You will have to bear the rains and skip the beaches but it will still be beautiful as ever and much cheaper. It is important to note that Italy is always crowded so even if there are many things to do in Tuscany, you will find queues everywhere irrespective of the season.
Obviously, there are many interesting things to do in Tuscany. Once your cities to visit are defined, visit the World Heritage Sites first. You can get the best of deals if you reserve for your places in advance.
Florence: Start in Piazza del Duomo, climb on the top of the Duomo to enjoy the best of the views of the city. The majestic Duomo, or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, presides with its famous cupola or dome by Brunelleschi. Watch out for the Baptistery with its bronze Gates of Paradise and Giotto’s bell tower. There are also several museums around that take you through the history of time in the most artistic and interesting way.
Other places to visit are Accademia Gallery, Uffizi Gallery, Medici Chapel, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens.
Pisa: The only thing to see here is, honestly, the Leaning Tower. You don’t need a full day for it; take a bus trip from Florence in the morning and come back in the afternoon. They do have some great street markets even in the middle of December where you can find some interesting Italian things.
Siena: You may know this city from the James Bond movie – Quantum of Solace. It is beautiful, artistic, and an absolute medieval delight. I’d say that it is a day trip at max, (if you don’t want to spend a quiet, lazy day here), which can be done from Florence on a train.
San Gimignano: Situated between Florence and Siena, it is the place to be for any wine- lover. Can easily be visited on the same evening as that of Siena. The city is a world heritage site and a wonder in itself.
Elba: You know this island as the one that saw the last days of Napoleon; only it is so much more. It is the biggest island of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest in Italy after Sardinia and Sicily. Together with eight other islands, it is part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, the largest marine park in Europe. It has the best mix of historic and beach vibes for a perfect summer getaway. While not the most traditional, it is still one of the more interesting things to do in Tuscany.
Bonus: Vinci Village
If you’re a Leonardo da Vinci enthusiast, his birthplace, Vinci village is also in the Tuscany region. It has a museum dedicated to the imitations of his scientific propositions, art, and more.
This is where I compile my Tuscany Travel Diary for now. I hope to have compiled most of the things to do in Tuscany. However, I’ll be writing more about my own travel in style adventures in the articles to come. Watch out!
Till then, keep following ERTSY, and ‘be your own desire!’