Visitors to Tuscany come for many reasons. Many come in search of fine art and medieval history, others to explore the extraordinary countryside and its rolling hills. Food lovers visit Tuscany to enjoy the wonderful cuisine and famous wines. Summer vacationers the beautiful beaches and islands. Students come to learn the Italian language and culture. Whatever the reason, the best places to visit in Tuscany offer something for everyone.
Map of Tuscany
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Once an important Etruscan trading post, Arezzo sits atop a hill at the crossroads of four valleys. Even though the medieval center was destroyed during the World War II, Arezzo has plenty of monuments, churches and museums remaining that offer visitors a chance to step back into history. Arezzo is also home to an annual medieval festival called the Joust of the Saracens. During the festival virtually all the town’s people dress-up in medieval costume and enthusiastically cheer on the competitors.
Situated on a 600 meter (2,00 feet) high limestone ridge, Montepulciano is a medieval town in southern Tuscany. The city, full of elegant Renaissance palaces, ancient churches, charming squares and hidden corners, boasts vast panoramas all over the wonderful Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana valleys that surround it. The city is also famous for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy’s best.
Val d’Orcia is a picturesque region that includes several amazing villages, castles, hamlets, and farmhouses. The entire area is protected as a natural park. The medieval castles are not to be missed, nor is the village of Pienza, called the “Ideal City”. Other famous villages include Radicofani and Montalcino, which has a 14th-century fortress offering stunning views of the valley and some of the region’s finest wine.
Part of the Tuscan Archipelago off Italy’s western coast, Elba is best known as a place of exile for Napoleon, and most people include a visit to his summer and winter homes while visiting the island. Italy’s third largest island boasts more than 150 beaches too, from wide stretches of sand to sheltered coves. The most popular beach destinations include the resort of Marina di Campo, the ultra-fine sand of Procchio and the dreamy blue waters of Fetovia.
San Gimignano delle Belle Torri is a small medieval town dating back to the eighth century. It is perhaps the most famous of Tuscany’s small towns. San Gimignano boasts 14 medieval towers of the 72 that once existed and overlooks picturesque olive groves and vineyards. Travelers who want to know what Tuscany was like in medieval times must visit San Gimignano and stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets.
One of the best places to visit in Tuscany, Lucca is probably best known for its imposing Renaissance walls and the medieval center that its encloses. Inside the city are many beautiful churches and gardens. The Duomo San Martino houses many historical treasures, such as Tintoretto’s Last Supper and the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto. The Pallazzo Pfanner has beautiful baroque gardens and the San Michele church has a cute museum.
Arguably the most stunning area of Tuscany. The Chianti region includes Florence and Siena and all the area between, but it also includes the area to the west through Val d’Elsa and to the east through Valdarno. Within Chianti, travelers can drive past vineyards, charming parishes and country homes, olive groves, and rolling green hills. In addition to the adorable villages and breathtaking countryside, Chianti also offers wine tasting to die for.
Located along the Arno River in the northwestern region of Tuscany, the city of Pisa still bears the striking remnants of its former golden days as a commercial empire during the Middle Ages. While Pisa is best known for its famous Leaning Tower, there a lot more attractions in this city worth a visit.
Established upon three hills in the heart of Tuscany, Siena offers tourists a step back into the Middle Ages with its well-preserved historic center and medieval horse racing tradition, known as Il Palio. The historic center of Siena is one of the most popular places to visit in Tuscany as it still retains many of its stunning works of art and architecture from that time period.
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The capital of Tuscany, Florence is often described as a colossal outdoor museum because of its mass of art and architectural treasures. Florence’s hoard of art masterpieces are found all over the city, contained within the large numbers of museums, stunning churches, like the domed Santa Maria del Fiore, and internationally esteemed art galleries like the Ufizzi and Pitti Palace.
⇒ related: Florence Attractions