Cypress-lined winding roads, great wines and Renaissance cities full of history – that´s what most people associate with Tuscany when they think of this beautiful region in Italy. But Tuscany offers so much more. From picturesque medieval hill towns to unique thermal springs to unparalleled landscapes – Tuscany has it all! In this travel guide, I´m sharing the highlights of Tuscany with you including the best things to do in this charming Italian region.
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How to get to Tuscany & how to get around
We traveled to Tuscany by car as we live in the South of Germany which is not too far from Tuscany. If you travel to Tuscany from a long distance, the easiest option is to fly to one of the two international airports (Pisa or Florence). Once you have arrived in Tuscany, the best option to get around is by car. It gives you the ideal flexibility to explore the most beautiful spots in Tuscany that you partially cannot reach by public transport. Also, driving through the scenic Tuscan countryside is a great travel experience by itself. However, if you would like to focus your Tuscany visit on the big cities, it is also possible to travel by train.
Best Time to Visit Tuscany
The best time to visit Tuscany is in shoulder season from April – May and September – October. During these months it will be much less crowded and also the temperatures are pleasant. If you are a wine lover, the best month to visit for wine tours and harvest festivals is September. We have visited Tuscany once in May and once in September. The weather was perfect and it wasn´t too crowded at major attractions on both of our visits.
Where to Stay in Tuscany
Depending on which areas of Tuscany you want to see, you have to decide whether you want to stay in one place and take day trips from there or in multiple places to be closer to specific attractions. We have tried both options. On our first Tuscany visit, we stayed at a charming agriturismo (farmhouse) located halfway between Florence and Siena which was a great base to visit not only both cities but also the Chianti wine region, San Gimignano and Volterra. On our second visit, we stayed in three different places: Florence, Montepulciano (to visit Val D’Orcia and Bagni San Filippo) and Manciano (to visit Saturnia and Pitigliano). I have linked all the hotels where we stayed at the end of the article.
Based on what you would like to see, you should decide what option might be best for you. The next part of this Tuscany travel guide will give you an overview of the highlights and the best things to do in Tuscany. These will help you to decide on where to stay depending on what places you personally don’t want to miss. At the end of the highlights, you can find a list of accommodations in Tuscany where we stayed and that I can highly recommend.
– Visit Florence, the Renaissance City
– Go wine tasting in Chianti
– Wander the streets of Siena
– Visit the small hill town of San Gimignano
– Go off the beaten path to Volterra
– Snap a photo with the Leaning Tower of Pisa
– Travel back in time in Pitigliano
– Take a dip in the thermal springs in Saturnia
– Relax at Bagni San Filippo
– Enjoy the Tuscan landscape in Val D’Orcia
What to Do in Tuscany in Detail:
Visit Florence, the Renaissance City
Florence, also known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, definitely should be on everyone´s itinerary when visiting Tuscany. This charming city boasts some of the most impressive historical buildings and magnificent arts. Make sure to visit the stunning Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore which is a masterpiece of Italian architecture. From the Piazza del Duomo, stroll through the historic streets to the Piazza della Signoria where you can find the Palazzo Vecchio, the Fountain of Neptune and the Uffizi Gallery. Cross the iconic Ponte Vecchio with its old shops spanning over the Arno River and enjoy the beautiful Boboli Gardens on the other side of the bridge. For the most beautiful sunset view overlooking Florence head to Piazzale Michelangelo. The view from up there is simply breathtaking!
Go Wine Tasting in Chianti
Tuscany is famous for its wines. The famous Chianti wine region is located in-between Florence and Siena. We took the scenic Chiantigiana road (SR 222) which guarantees panoramic views over the idyllic vineyards. Make sure to stop in some of the charming towns in the Chianti wine region such as Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti. Along the way, you can also visit some of the many different wineries for a wine tasting. Soak in the scenic views of the Tuscan landscape and simply enjoy la dolce vita with a glass of wine in your hand. Cin Cin!
Wander the Streets of Siena
Siena is located south of Florence and belongs to the most charming cities in Tuscany. Wander the beautiful, old cobblestone streets in-between historic brick buildings. The old town of Siena, in fact, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heart of the city is the unique, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. At this bustling piazza, you can also find the Palazzo Publico and the Torre del Mangia which you can climb for a panoramic view over Siena. Another must-see is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its dramatic black and white striped façade. Don´t miss visiting Siena! I truly loved this charming city.
Visit the Small Hill Town of San Gimignano
San Gimignano is one of the most beautiful hill towns in Tuscany and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The picturesque town is also known as the ‘Medieval Manhattan’ and is famous for its medieval architecture and the many iconic ancient towers that create a unique skyline in the middle of the idyllic Tuscan countryside. Stroll through the winding alleys of San Gimignano and visit the charming main square, the Piazza del Duomo. For magnificent views over San Gimignano and the surrounding Tuscan countryside, you can climb the Torre Grossa. I really loved the unparalleled charm of this medieval hill town. Tip: Head to the Piazza della Cisterna to enjoy an Italian Aperitivo including some snacks.
Go off the Beaten Path to Volterra
Volterra is a medieval hill town close to San Gimignano. When we visited Volterra it was much less crowded than San Gimignano. Volterra is surrounded by thick walls and is known for its Etruscan history and medieval buildings. I absolutely enjoyed wandering through the narrow, winding streets of this quaint town. Sights in Volterra include the Piazza dei Priori, where you can find the Palazzo dei Priori, the Palazzo Pretorio with the Tower of the Piglet, the Duomo and Baptistery, the Teatro Romano (amphitheater) and the Etruscan walls, gates and museum.
Snap a Photo with the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is by far the most iconic sight of the Tuscan city of Pisa. It´s one of Italy´s most famous landmarks. So, expect to share this place with crowds of tourists from around the world. Nevertheless, the Leaning Tower of Pisa belongs to the places that are worth visiting once in your life. Make sure to snap a funny picture with the tower as a travel memory. Right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you can find the Duomo of Pisa. Other than that, I´d recommend visiting the charming town of Lucca (close to Pisa) with its beautiful old town.
Travel Back in Time in Pitigliano
Pitigliano belongs to my favorite places in Tuscany because it´s still a hidden gem. The small hilltop village is located in the deep south of Tuscany. Walking through the medieval cobbled alleys of Pitigliano felt like traveling back in time. In the past, Pitigliano was an Etruscan settlement. Later in time it became home to a large Jewish community which led to the town´s nickname ‘Little Jerusalem’. From the main square of Pitigliano, the Piazza della Repubblica, you can enjoy a breathtaking view over the surrounding Tuscan countryside. But even more impressive for me was the view from Via San Michele (where we parked) over Pitigliano itself. This view of the steep hilltop village truly left me speechless!
Take a Dip in the Thermal Springs in Saturnia
The thermal hot springs of Saturnia, called Cascate del Mulino, are probably one of the most hyped places in Tuscany. Cascate del Mulino is like a natural spa with milky blue rock pools and waterfall terraces situated in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. The thermal water is around 37°C and very rich in minerals and sulfur which is good for your skin and well-being (you can smell the sulfur which is similar to rotten eggs but it´s not too bad). Don´t be afraid of the small red worms in the water – they are harmless – and you will forget about them anyway when relaxing in the hot water of this unbelievably beautiful place. We visited Cascate del Mulino twice because we loved these natural pools so much.
The best thing about the hot springs: they are actually FREE! Due to the popularity of this place, you should avoid visiting the springs in peak season (during the summer months) and on the weekends to beat the crowds. The best time to visit, generally, is at sunrise. Tip: Avoid wearing jewelry because it will tarnish.
Relax at Bagni San Filippo
If you are looking for a quieter and less crowded place, you should visit the thermal springs of Bagni San Filippo which are located in the middle of the woods. Compared to Saturnia, these hot springs are still a hidden gem. The water at Bagni San Filippo can reach temperatures up to 50°C and the pools and waterfalls look very picturesque. I really loved the tranquility at Bagni San Filippo and that the water here gets really hot in some spots. One really unique thing at Bagni San Filippo is the Fosso Bianco which is a calcium formation in form of a spectacular white rock. Don´t miss this place!
Enjoy the Tuscan Landscape in Val D’Orcia
The typical Tuscan landscape is what many people come for when visiting this idyllic region. Cypress-lined winding roads, green hills, endless vineyards and olive groves – this is probably what comes to your mind when picturing Tuscany. The best place to see this image of Tuscany in real life is Val D´Orcia which is the epitome of the typical Tuscan landscape. The dreamy region of Val D´Orcia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features some of the most picturesque views of Tuscany. Also, make sure to visit some of the charming towns within this area such as Pienza, Montalcino and Radicofani.
Where we Stayed:
If you are looking for a B&B to stay in Florence DIRECTLY at the Duomo, this is your place. I really loved the beautifully decorated rooms that are authentic and modern at the same time. The highlight of this B&B is undoubtedly the rooftop terrace with its breathtaking view over the red roofs of Florence and the Duomo. The view is absolutely priceless!
Tenuta Sant’Ilario, Gambassi Terme
Tenuta Sant’Ilario is nestled in-between idyllic vineyards and olive groves. The agriturismo is located in the Chianti area between Florence and Siena. I really loved the endless views and the tranquility at this place. We always enjoyed our breakfast outside while soaking in the panoramic views. The rooms are furnished in an authentic Tuscan style. Moreover, Tenuta Sant’Ilario has a pool in their idyllic garden to relax on hot days.
Agriturismo La Pievina, Montepulciano
La Pievina is a small family-run agriturismo near Montepulciano. It´s located in the middle of the Tuscan countryside and offers scenic views over the surrounding hills and vineyards. We stayed here to visit the beautiful Val D’Orcia region. We really loved the homemade breakfast, the incredible infinity pool and the unparalleled sunsets at this agriturismo. Such a dream!
Agriturismo Quercia Rossa, Manciano
Quercia Rossa is a rural farmhouse near Saturnia. We stayed here to visit the thermal hot springs nearby as well as the medieval village of Pitigliano. I truly loved the endless views of the vast and hilly Tuscan landscape around this agriturismo, and especially the view from the pool in the middle of the olive groves. The rooms have an antique charm (maybe a bit too antique for my liking) and the breakfast was really great.
(Booking not possible at the moment.)
I hope you enjoyed reading this Tuscany travel guide! If you have any other questions about our Tuscany trip just let me know in the comments below!
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