Ask any seasoned traveler where the most beautiful place in the world is, and many will say Tuscany. There’s little wonder why when you think about the history, natural beauty and charming little towns in the countryside. You can find some of the most luxurious rental villas in Tuscany to suit any level of comfort you desire. It goes without saying that this part of northwest Italy makes a perfect place to travel. Here are the best places to visit in Tuscany.
Spend a Few Days in Florence
Tuscany’s capital, Florence, is the site of the Renaissance that pulled Europe out of the dark ages. UNESCO has listed the whole city as a World Heritage Site for the grand architecture and historic old towns. Spend the morning marvelling at the spectacular Renaissance architecture along the streets and head to the museums in the afternoon. And it’s not all about history and culture here either. The food is mouth-wateringly delicious with Italian styles mixed with Tuscan dishes all served by charismatic waiters. Fans of shopping will find endless designer shops and malls here too.
Pisa is famous for the Leaning Tower. People around the globe will recognise the tall cylindrical bell tower tilting to one side in if they see a photograph. Visiting Pisa should be on any tourist’s bucket-list when they visit Tuscany. You can walk around the grounds to get the perfect photograph and climb to the top. However, it’s a good idea to go in the morning to avoid the crowds. There’s a lot of history and exciting attractions in Pisa too including the Piazza dei Miracoli. Some people come as part of a day trip while others spend a night or two.
San Gimignano, a walled town in the Tuscan hills, is home to the magnificent Palazzo Comunale. Built in the 13th-century, the grand structure is the seat of the local authority in the middle of the town’s historical centre. The UNESCO-listed structure has stunning frescoes covering the walls of the main hall, or Sala di Dante, and an impressive tower reaching a height of 54 metres. Climbing the 218 steps to get to the top of the tower gives you fantastic views of the medieval town and rolling countryside in the distance. While you’re in San Gimignano, take the time to stroll around the cobblestone streets and enjoy a drink in one of the many cafés.
A grand cathedral in Siena houses one of the most spectacular libraries in the world. Pope Pius III commissioned the library in the late 15th-century. The interior walls have frescoes covering every available space showing the life of Pope Pius in great detail. All the significant events in his life and death are elegantly painted onto the walls. Each painting is a masterpiece in itself and art buffs can spend hours admiring the frescoes. If you have the time in Tuscany, visiting the Libreria Piccolomini is a must.
As far as beautiful historical towns go, you can’t get much prettier than Cortona in southern Tuscany. The hill town is at an elevation of almost 500 metres above sea level with medieval buildings and fantastic views. When you arrive, you’ll be walking along the steep streets in the small old town, which is worth the effort. And don’t forget to snap a few photographs over Lago Trasimeno and the Valdichiana too.
Rent a Bicycle
Imagine cycling along empty country roads with vineyards on either side. The sun glows in the clear blue sky, and the air temperature is pleasant, not too hot and not too cold. You approach a small town full of charming little buildings with people waving at you. Well, if this sounds like something for you, rent a bicycle, grab a map and head off along those country roads. Just remember to bring a hat, sunscreen and your camera.
The postcard picture of Tuscany are the endless vineyards and olive trees stretching lazily throughout the countryside. Well, if you want to see this view for yourself and capture your own postcard pictures, head to Chianti. The region is close to Florence, and as you may expect is full of the region’s world-famous wine. If you rent a bicycle, you can head along the quiet country lanes to reach the area stopping by at towns like Greve, Gaiole and Castellina. Or, if you’re not up for the long hours in the saddle, rent a car or join a tour.
Join a Wine Tour
Tuscany produces world-class wines. Different regions produce slightly different kinds with the most prominent being red. One of the best things to do on your trip is to sample some of this wine and visit the wineries. Several tour companies take tourists around the region where you can learn how it’s produced, walk around the vineyards and, more importantly, taste it.
You have two options if you want to visit. Either join a tour or rent a car and self-drive. The first has the obvious advantage of providing transport so you can actually drink the wine. Knowledgeable guides also accompany you to explain everything. Renting a car doesn’t work so well when you’re alone, and the driver can’t really taste anything. But it does give you more flexibility.
Those wanting to visit Tuscany but are unsure of where they want to go should visit Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano’s Palazzo Comunale and Siena’s Libreria Piccolomini. You should also rent a bike or car and cycle to Chianti. Wine tours are also a must.
What are your favorite things to do in Tuscany?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.