Located in central Italy, Tuscany is a region with an area of around 23,000 square kilometres (8,900 square miles) and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants. The well known city of Florence is Tuscany’s regional capital.
Tuscany Italy is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, history, artistic legacy, and its influence on high culture. Considered to be the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany has been home to a number of influential characters in the evolution of European science and art. Tuscany attractions include well-known museums such as the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. It also produces celebrated wines, such as Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino. Having a strong linguistic and cultural identity, it is sometimes considered “a nation within a nation”.
Tuscany is also a dream destination for many people – and going there for the first time can be quite overwhelming. How many days to stay? Which places to visit in Tuscany? Where to stay? This Italian region has rich cultural and historical heritage and it offers amazing cities with a lot of museums, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes with cypresses and wine-yards, tiny medieval villages, where time has stopped. So let’s take a journey to the must-see places in Tuscany (Italy) if you are visiting for the first time.
How many days to stay in Tuscany?
There is no simple answer to this question, but the longer you stay in Tuscany, more places you will see and the better you will know the region. If you enjoy more to travel slowly and savour the place, I would recommend somewhere between a week and two weeks. Thus, you will be able to visit the big cities and some of the villages and perhaps take a tour to the wine yards. Of course, you can always take a city break to Florence, for example, of let’s say 3-4 days, with a day trip or two in the region.
When to go to Tuscany?
Each season has its own beauty. So, whenever you go there, you won’t regret it. The summer (July and August) tends to be busy and hot. If you can’t stand hot weather and you want to escape the crowds, then you should probably visit off-season.
Tuscany is a dream destination for many people and going there for the first time can be quite overwhelming. How many days to stay? Which places to visit in Tuscany? Where to stay? This Italian region has rich cultural and historical heritage and it offers amazing cities with a lot of museums, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes with cypresses and wine-yards, tiny medieval villages, where time has stopped. Find out which are the must-see places in Tuscany (Italy) if you are visiting for the first time.
Which places to visit in Tuscany?
We went to Tuscany for our summer holidays and spent there 8 days. We loved the hot weather, and although some places were quite touristy, we found others that were less crowded. Here are my suggestions for the best places to visit in Tuscany for first-timers.
San Gimignano – the city of beautiful towers
I’ve chosen San Gimignano as a base for our Tuscan holiday. We stayed outside of the city walls, thus we were able to escape the crowds and still enjoy the place.
San Gimignano is an absolute must-see in Tuscany and you will notice from quite a distance why – the skyline with medieval towers is second to none. From the 72 towers that were built until the 14th century, there are only 14 left today. Some of them were used as houses, which was quite popular in the Middle Ages. The centre of San Gimignano is a UNSECO World Heritage Site. For one of the most amazing views in Tuscany, climb Torre Grossa. Take a walk around the city walls for more beautiful views and visit the Collegiate Church (Il Duomo) to admire the frescoes of Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Volterra – the city of alabaster
Volterra is one of Tuscany’s hidden gems. If you are a history geek, or just curious about the past, Voterra won’t disappoint you. To learn who the Etruscan were, visit the famous Guarnacci Museum or the Etruscan tombs. To find out why Volterra is called “city of alabaster”, visit the Ecomuseum of Alabaster. Volterra is quiet and less touristy compared to other places in Tuscany. Take your time to walk around and enjoy its medieval charm. Do not miss the remains of the ancient Roman Theatre, as well.
Florence – the cradle of Renaissance
When in Tuscany, you can’t skip Florence. This Italian city is practically an open-air museum of the Italian Renaissance and it deserves more than a one-day visit. However, if you are going to Tuscany for the first time, you can’t see everything, but a glimpse of Florence will make you fall in love with it, so that you come back and explore each corner of this amazing place. The Uffizi Museum is the must-see place for all art lovers. Botticelli, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian – are only a few of the names of famous Renaissance artists whose works can be admired in the oldest art gallery in the world.
Another eye-catcher in Florence is without doubt the Cathedral (Il Duomo) with the Baptistery and the Bell Tower. The dome is designed by Brunelleschi and the bell tower by Giotto. It’s no surprise why the historic centre of Florence belongs to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you want to see the original David of Michelangelo, then head to the Gallery of the Academy (Galleria dell’ Accademia). Take a walk on the famous Ponte Vecchio and if you want to learn more about the greatest poet of Italy, follow the Dante route and visit his house. If you are into beautiful gardens (just the way we are), then you should not miss the Boboli Gardens with the Pitti Palace.
And then come back to Florence on another occasion. Why not even do a city trip for a couple of days?
Siena – the medieval icon
Siena is another place where time has stopped somewhere in the 14th century. Everything in Siena revolves around Piazza del Campo and all streets lead there. The famous fan-shaped square hosts twice a year the popular horse racing event – the Palio of Siena. The square is proudly dominated by the Town Hall (Palazzo Pubblico) and its Torre del Mangia. With its 102 m it’s the second highest bell tower in Italy after the one in Cremona.
Siena has its very own amazingly beautiful cathedral (Il Duomo) of black and white marble with a stunning façade – a fine example of eclectic architecture with Gothic, Romanesque and Classical features. For the most beautiful views of Siena and the surroundings, go up to the Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea). Siena’s medieval centre is also among the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Other places to visit in Tuscany
If you are staying longer in Tuscany (for example 2 weeks), then you can add to your itinerary Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo or some of the smaller places: Grosseto, Pistoia, Monteriggioni, Montepulciano, Cortona. But remember Tuscany is a no-rush destination and you should enjoy it properly. Check out the Google Map above for those extra places.
Where to stay in Tuscany?
To get an idea of the life in Tuscany, my suggestion would be to stay either in an agriturismo or a fattoria (small farms with B&B). You should avoid the busy city centres, otherwise you will be in the middle of the tourist crowd, especially in cities like Florence or Siena.
Villa Alba – San Gimignano
If you’re in Tuscany for summer holidays, you might want to consider this lovely villa with a swimming pool just outside of the city walls of San Gimignano. It’s a quiet place and in less than 10 minutes you can pop up in the historical part, thus exploring San Gimigniano as much as you want – day and night. Villa Alba is one of the loveliest accommodations in the region. The hosts are amazing and each morning you’ll wake up with this unforgettable smell of warm croissants.
Have you been to Tuscany? Which places have you visited there and how long did you stay? Are you going back one day there? Share with us your experiences! Which are the best places to visit in Tuscany according to you?