10 Attractions of Beautiful Tuscany
Tuscany is one of those destinations that is so beautiful, so historic, so filled with world-class attractions that some may initially dismiss it as something of a travel cliché. Guess what! It isn’t.
Birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some of the most magnificent art and architecture on the planet, Tuscany is an obvious choice for culture fans like us. But even if Michaelangelo and Boticelli mean nothing to you, the food, the romantic country hikes, and the sheer beauty of this Italian region will make you want to book a flight to Tuscany immediately. Here is a taste of what you’ll discover when you step off the plane.
Let’s just lay it on the line: Florence is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Italy and, therefore, the planet. If you haven’t climbed the dome of the city’s magnificent Duomo or strolled across the Ponte Vecchio, you can’t say you’ve seen the world. Tuscany’s gorgeous capital literally created the Renaissance. How many other cities can say that? None.
The Wine and Cheese
We could spend a whole month just floating around Tuscany sampling wines and cheeses. In fact, the wine of Tuscany’s Chianti region has become so famous that many people don’t even realize that Chianti is the name of an actual place. As for the cheeses, we personally think it is ALL about the pecorinos. Apparently, Pienza has the best, but – honestly – we thought they were all great.
Overshadowed by is bigger sister Florence, Sienna is often overlooked by travelers in a rush. BIG MISTAKE! Simply put, the Cathedral of Sienna has one of the most kick-ass interiors on the planet. (We literally spent six hours in the church – our personal record!!!) Beyond the cathedral, the Gothic awesomeness of Sienna includes a town square in the shape of a clam shell, perfectly preserved medieval walls, and the most delicious panforte in Italy.
The Art of Tuscany
There may be no other city on earth that is more associated with the history of art than Florence. From the world-famous Uffizi to the Galleria dell’Accademia, art fans make the requisite pilgrimage to big-name pieces such as Michaelangelo’s David. But beyond the big names, there are endless, lesser known discoveries in the museums, churches and sculpture gardens throughout Tuscany’s towns and villages.
Little San Gimignano is one of the most photographed (and visited) destinations in Italy. This perfect walled village features magnificent fortified tower-houses which soar above the medieval lanes. The town has the added bonus of selling delicious PDO Tuscan Ham. Yum! Hint: A visit to San Gimignano is much more relaxed off-season.
The Markets of Tuscany
From Pisa to Florence to Sienna, Tuscany boasts a number of open-air markets, which will leave shop-o-holics and gourmands salivating in delight. (I mean, people, check out that loaf of bread in the picture!) Markets feature everything from leather goods, to antiques, to – our favorite – food, food, food. Did I mention food? The markets are a great place to sample the wines and cheeses we mentioned above and are one of THE things to do in Tuscany.
If you follow our blog, you know we can’t skip a good walled city. Naturally, that meant we had to see the tiny village of Monteriggioni. Featuring a classic circular wall with 14 fortified guard towers, Monteriggioni sits like an island surround by waves of green. No tourist sprawl here. If you are looking for something a bit off the track, don’t miss it.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Are we going to lose our traveler cred if we admit that climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa was actually one of our favorite activities in Tuscany? Walking up the sideways staircase with steps that had been oddly worn by centuries of feet was quite a kick. However, don’t just rush in to visit the tower. The neighboring cathedral is one of Italy’s most famous Romanesque masterpiece, and the larger city of Pisa is quite beautiful.
The Tuscan Landscapes
The verdant hills of Tuscany which fade into blue on the horizon have been the subject of painters (and later photographers) for millenia. The stunning landscape is ideal for short hikes as well as long-distance walks. If you really want to go for it, consider walking the Tuscan portion of the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route that leads to Rome. The route connects several of the Tuscany destinations listed on this page including Lucca, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Sienna.
The Renaissance gem of Lucca is situated along the Serchio River in northern Tuscany. The beautiful little city features 4 km of well-preserved Renaissance walls with eleven unique bastions. We walked the whole thing! Lucca also boasts the truly bizarre 14th century Guinigi Tower which is topped with living oak trees! If that’s not enough, check out the cathedral’s stunningly carved Gothic portico. Tons to see here.
For those who read to the end of our lists, we love to add a secret tip to reward you for your attention span. Challenge yourself to find the hidden Sator Square on the exterior of the Cathedral of Sienna. Apparently, they have “magical properties,” so that might make your Tuscany trip extra special. Have no idea what I am talking about? Read about the “Sator Square” here with a couple of hints on how to find it.