Read More

Five unforgettable places to go and things to do in Tuscany

Things to do in TuscanyTuscany – even the name makes us sigh. It is its landscapes that first seem to attract people to the region. Many eyes have widened with wanderlust at photos of cypress dotted hillsides, where rolling vineyards fade into burning sunsets. But beyond this earthly masterpiece there are many great things to do in Tuscany and some incredible places to go.

Tuscany brings together everything that we love about Italy. There’s the aforementioned landscape of course. But even this is worth mentioning again as mere changes in light can create dramatic views.

Then there’s the towns that hug its hilltops. Thick stone walls, fortresses and towers have evolved over centuries – they no longer defend towns, but are among the very reasons people visit them.

Then there’s the history – Roman, Phoenician, Renaissance and more shaping the region and its people, culture and food. Oh yes, the food – and for that matter the wine – Tuscany excels at both.

On a recent tour of the region with Italy experts, Citalia, I visited some of its most popular destinations, I also experienced unusual but Italian-cool activities that shouldn’t be missed. Here’s five of the best…

History, art and culture make Florence one of the best places to go in Tuscany

It’s only right to start Tuscany’s highlights with Florence. Italy’s first capital city will satisfy anyone passionately seeking culture.

The Uffizi Gallery and the Bargello and Accademia house some of the world’s finest art treasures including Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

Painting at the feet of Macchiavelli, at the Uffizi in Florence, one of Italy's many great places to go

Heading to the Uffizi in Florence, one of many great things to do in Tuscany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But being the city of the cultured, wealthy (and at times, villainous) Medici family, Florence flaunts its treasures, with all manner of statues in squares like Piazza della Signoria.

A small group tour of the city with a Citalia guide unveiled a history of merchants, bankers, philosophers and artists – Dante to Bruneschelli to Machiavelli – all left their mark on the city.

Piazza Vecchio in Florence is a great place to go to view the city's cultural life

Inside the Palzzao Vecchio, Florence's town hall, from the ground to the open roofReplica of David in Piazza Vecchio, FlorenceStatue in Florence, one of many things to see in TuscanyPersus with the head of Medusa, a statue in Florence's Piazza della Signoria, one of many great places to go in the cityStatue of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria, Florence

Then there are the buildings, of which the cathedral and baptistery are perhaps the best known. The red, white and green marble on the cathedral point to faith, hope and charity, and are also reflected in Italy’s flag.

It is without doubt the most impressive of Florence’s landmarks – perhaps Tuscany’s, from the outside, even if it doesn’t quite maintain the wow-factor inside.

View of Florence's duomo from Hotel Bruneschelli. One of many things to do in Tuscany

Things to do in Tuscany - Florence's duomoFlorence's duomo is a must visit place in TuscanyDoor at Florence's duomo, one of the best places to go in TuscanyIntricate sculpture of Florence's duomo

Similar in its marble architecture, and full of some of the city’s most famous bones including Michelangelo and Galileo, the Santa Coerce, or church of the Holy Cross, is also worth a visit.

Church of the Holy Cross in Florence, Tuscany

Then there’s the Ponte Vecchio – the oldest bridge in the city, after the others were bombed on Hitler’s orders, to scupper the Allied troops’ advance in the Second World War. The bridge wears its age very well – it dates back to 1345 – and still has shops, now mostly selling gold, along its full length.

The Ponte Vecchio, is Florence's oldest bridge

The river Arno in Florence. One of many great things to do in TuscanyOn the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, one of many things to do in TuscanyJewellery shop on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence. A must visit place in TuscanyStatue of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

For the best views in the city, stay or have lunch, at the Grand Hotel Baglioni, or alternatively head up the hill to Piazza Michelangelo for a dramatic panorama.

Places to go in Tuscany - Florence

A fine vintage – one of the coolest things to do in Tuscany

Chianti is known for its fine vintages, but less so its vintage cars. But this Fiat 500 tour of the Chianti hills, towns and vineyards, bookable through Citalia, was the best fun you can have in a tiny Italian car. See the video below to get a sense of what I’d rate as one of the most fun things to do in Tuscany.

A walk on the wall side – exploring Lucca

Things to do in Tuscany - wander Lucca

The town of Lucca was something of a revelation to me. I’d never heard of it before and when I was told we were going to walk its walls I had an entirely different idea of what that meant to Lucca’s reality.

Things to do in Tuscany - walk Lucca's walls

The walls are more than 20 feet deep and have been transformed into an extraordinary park-like landscape.

Each side has a different species of tree lining it, bringing a change in scenery at every corner and there are broad paths for walkers and cyclists to enjoy views of the old town within and the modern one outside the walls.

Cycling the walls in Lucca one of the best things to do in Tuscany

Things to do in Tuscany - Lucca cathedral viewed from its city wallsThings to do in Tuscany - apartments viewed from Lucca's city wallsScooter in LuccaEvery man, woman and dog enjoys walking Lucca's walls - one of the best things to do in Tuscany

The wall walk, or you can join the hoards hiring a bike from just €3 an hour to cycle it, also provides excellent elevated views of landmarks such as the town’s striped cathedral and Italian homes with window boxes overflowing with flowers.

But Lucca isn’t just about peace and relaxation. Head into the old town and there are boutiques and delicatessens to excite any fashionista or epicurean.

City of horses and history – trot around Siena

Things to do in Tuscany - explore Siena's history

Another of Tuscany’s great cities, Siena wears its mediaeval history and religious heritage with pride. It also maintains one of the greatest traditions in the world. Each year 30,000 people gather in the round of Il Campo – its main piazza to race the Palio.

Places to go in Tuscany - Il Campo in Siena

Things to do in Tuscany - visit Siena, one of its hilltop townsThings to do in Tuscany - visit Il CampoStable door in the horsey town of Siena, TuscanyDoor knocker on Siena's stables

One of the biggest horse races in the world, the Palio, has been running since the 12th century and has created something of an equine city.

Evidence of this can be found in the iron hitching rings found along the city’s streets, as well as the Palio Stables.

Siena is also an important centre for Italy’s Catholic religion. It was home to Saint Caterina one of Italy’s two patron saints. There are two landmarks that should be visited to learn more about her – the Basilica Cateriniana di San Domenico, where perhaps gorily, her face and a finger are on display.

Chapel at Santuario di Santa Caterina in Siena, Tuscany

Then there’s the Sanctuary of Santa Caterina which houses two chapels and is also the site of her former home.

Nun at Santuario di Santa Caterina, in Siena, Tuscany

Meanwhile Siena’s cathedral is one of the best places to go in the city. Unlike Florence’s cathedral it’s not only beautiful on the outside, but the interior is a must for its dark green and white striped marble (which admittedly looks like black and white stripes, hence its nickname as the Bettlejuice Church).

Things to do in Tuscany - get inside Siena's cathedral

Things to do in Tuscany - visit Siena's cathedralThings to do in Tuscany - get in step with history at Siena's cathedralThings to do in Tuscany - go inside Siena's cathedralThings to do in Tuscany - visit the library at Siena cathedral

Its painted library and floors depicting stories from the Bible, also beg to be seen.

Great gelato in a towering town – taste San Gimignano

Once upon a time San Gimignano had 72 towers – built by wealthy families to show their economic power – peaking into the blue Tuscan sky and making the most of its uninterrupted views of green hills. Today the city has just 13 left after a change in architectural styles in the 13th century.

But the town, set at 334m above sea level, towers above its neighbours for many other reasons. Not only is there that view – worthy of the visit to San Gimignano alone, but it has numerous museums, including one all about wine.

Things to do in Tuscany - view the countryside from San Gimignano

Dragon door knocker in San GimignanoDoor in the town of San GimiginanoThings to do in Tuscany - visit San GimignanoDoor in San Gimignano

San Gimignano has plenty of coffee shops selling delicious cakes making its main square Piazza della Cisterna, in particular, a great place to while away an afternoon.

But be sure you don’t miss out on one of San Gimignano’s major culinary attractions – it is home to world championship gelato shop, Gelateria Dondolini. The gelateria has its own herd of cows producing organic milk which it uses to create gelato with tongue-tingling flavours. Some of the the most eclectic include white chocolate, pumpkin seed oil and cookies, white wine, and my favourite – pink grapefruit and sparkling wine, which had just enough tanginess to bring a level of fizz to the gelato.

Things to do in Tuscany - sample gelato at Gelateria Dondoli

San Gimignano has plenty of historic corners to explore so it’s worth spending a day there. And for those who miss the towers, you can get a sense of how the town was in medieval times at the 1300 Museum. It has a huge model of the original town.

Things to do in Tuscany - view the model of ancient San Gimignano

See Tuscany for yourself

packagesCitalia (01293 731 753), the leading Italian specialist, has a five-night break to experience the Tuscany coast and countryside from £785 per person. The package includes three night’s accommodation at the five star Principe di Piemonte, in Viareggio, followed by 2 nights at the five star Castel Monastero, near Siena, both on a B&B basis. The offer includes one free night of accommodation in Viareggio, five days of car hire, return international flights from London Gatwick with Easyjet. Based on departures on 26 September 2015.

Places to go and things to do in Tuscany

This story is from my trip to Tuscany with Citalia in partnership with Captivate. As always, as ever, all thoughts, tips and Italian passions are entirely my own.

See more of the best places to go around the world.

About

LiveShareTravel's founder and editor Sarah, has long been passionate about luxury travel and, with a nose for a deal, has helped many friends book trips as affordable as they are stylish. As a journalist and travel magazine editor with expert knowledge of shared ownership, starting LiveShareTravel was a natural progression. She can't live without her smartphone, loves dancing (especially salsa), wine and massages; and is never happier than when she's wandering the world. She is co-author of The Luxury Traveller's Handbook.

Follow Sarah Lee

2 Responses to Five unforgettable places to go and things to do in Tuscany

    • Go! I can’t tell you how my heart wants to return and if I could live there I would.happy traveling!

Leave a reply

Don't Miss This

Luxury Travel Tips
Affordable luxury travel deals
Travel Deals
css.php

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This
Read previous post:
Vines growing in Stellenbosch, South Africa
Grow it, blend it, taste it – experiencing South African wine at Stellenbosch wineries

The process of growing grapes, harvesting them and producing wines is rather complex. It requires skill, creativity, a scientific brain,...

Close