One of Italy’s most-visited regions, Tuscany enchants its visitors with historic towns and cities, excellent food and wine and simply stunning countryside. But with such a vast array of attractions, it can be hard to decide where to spend your time. So to help you plan your itinerary, here’s our pick of the must-see destinations in Tuscany.
The capital of the Tuscany region, Florence is brimming with art, culture and history. The entire city centre is UNESCO World Heritage-listed, with architectural wonders including the famous duomo, Florence’s cathedral and the Uffizi Gallery, with its outstanding collections of ancient sculptures and statues.
Add to this, Florence’s boutique shops, excellent restaurants and gelaterias, and you could easily spend days indulging in this beautiful Renaissance city. It’s also the perfect base from which to organise day trips to explore more of Tuscany.
‘Florence is a city with high expectations for everyone visiting it for the first time. Apart from the numerous art galeries, stunning views from the cathedral and a walk on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence offers so much more, including lively night life and good street food. But for me, the number one thing to do when in Florence, is waiting for the sunset from the Piazzele Michelangelo.’
– Nina, Nina Travels
‘My must do for Florence is to visit the Piazzale Michelangelo for sunset. This is just about a twenty-minute walk from the city, and offers an incredible view across the old town, including the Duomo and Uffizi.’
– Laurence, Finding the Universe
‘For anyone coming to visit I would advise to go beyond the “must-see” surface of photo-ops and crowded museums. Instead, dive into the city’s philanthropic past at Innocenti Museum or the quirky La Specola, otherwise known as the Museum of Zoology and Natural History. Grab a gourmet panino at Semel before browsing Sant’Ambrogio’s busy market and don’t forget a heaping plate of ribollita at my favorite rustic Trattoria, Sergio Gozzi in the San Lorenzo neighborhood.’
– Georgette, Girl in Florence
Around one hour’s drive south of Florence, you’ll find the Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano. Famed for its 14 medieval towers, which have been amazingly well-preserved, the town offers a unique skyline visible from the surrounding countryside.
Dating from 1298, the tallest of these towers is Torre Grossa. Standing at 54 metres high, this is the only tower open to visitors. And the climb to the top offers wonderful views over the Tuscan landscape.
Other top highlights include the artwork of the Palazzo Comunale, the Duomo di San Gimignano and the Piazza della Cisterna with its shops and restaurants. And of course, being in the heart of the Chianti wine region, your visit wouldn’t be complete without a wine tasting at a local vineyard.
An easy day-trip from Florence, Lucca is an enchanting Tuscan town surrounded by its original Renaissance walls. Stretching for 4 kilometres, the walls offers fabulous views, with the city’s skyline on one side and the Apuan Alps on the horizon.
Alongside shady promenades and delightful squares, Lucca is home to close to 100 churches, ranging from Roman and Renaissance to gothic and medieval. And when you need a break from sightseeing, there’s a host of open-air cafes and historic restaurants for you to enjoy a glass of Lucchesi wine in.
‘There are so many beautiful towns in Tuscany, but if you’re looking for a place that isn’t overrun by tourists and has a truly Italian feel, consider visiting Lucca. Tucked away in the shadow of its famous neighbours Florence and Pisa, Lucca has such a unique atmosphere that is often lacking in big Italian cities. Lucca, aka the City of Hundred Churches, has a big variety of churches in all kinds of styles. If you visit just one, make it Il Duomo – the Cathedral! I also recommend climbing at least one of the two city towers – the Guinigi tower or the Delle Ore tower. The views are phenomenal! And the place to be in the old town is the oval-shaped Amphitheatre Square, where you’ll find many cafes, restaurants and local boutique shops.’
– Jurga, Full Suitcase
Famous for its thermal waters, Montecatini is one of the top spa towns in Tuscany. And of its numerous thermal centres, Terme Tettuccio is the most popular. Set in a lavish, Liberty-style building, it’s worth visiting for its interior alone.
As well as its spas, the town is famous for its fountains. Found not only in the spas, but in the main squares and streets, theses fountains are true masterpieces.
Be sure to visit the Fountain Mazzoni, the Guidotti Fountain and the Fountain of Shingdu. The town’s squares are also bustling in the evenings, so take a stroll after dinner to soak up the atmosphere.
Although famous around the world for its leaning tower, Pisa has much more to offer its visitors. Other monuments in the piazza alone include the Cathedral and the Baptistery – an outstanding example of Pisan-Gothic architecture.
Running through the city centre is the picturesque River Arno, lined with beautiful architecture that offers plenty of photo opportunities. It’s also spanned by several pretty bridges, with the beautiful Church of Santa Maria della Spina found opposite the National Museum of Pisa.
Piazza delle Vettovaglie is one of Pisa’s oldest squares and also well-worth exploring. In the morning, browse the market shops, then come back in the evening to check out the city’s bustling nightlife.
Thinking of exploring Tuscany? We visit these destinations and more Italian highlights on our group tours.