When we name Tuscany, those immense meadows come to mind, with lavender, green and yellow colours, vineyards and small villages where you can lose yourself, in short, a place to disconnect. Would you like to visit the Tuscany?
But Tuscany is much more than that. This region of Italy, one of the 20 that conform this republic, is located in the center of Italy and its capital is Florence, in it we will be able to enjoy the art, the history, the gastronomy and its peculiar geography from the beginning to the end of the trip.
For this reason, and because there is so much to see, we propose a tour of 12 places that we can not fail to see if we travel to Tuscany. A walk that will take us from Florence to the Island of Elba, passing through Pisa, Siena or San Gimignano.
How to get to Tuscany?
Tuscany’s privileged location means that we can reach our destination by road, plane, train or boat. Obviously, the easiest thing is to fly by plane and rent a car because, if we really want to get lost in Tuscany and explore its corners, the car will be our best ally.
By plane we will land in the Amerigo Vespucci of Florence or in the Galileo Galilei of Pisa. There are many airlines that have direct flights here and from many places in our geography, in addition Madrid and Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga or Seville also offer this possibility.
By car we will take from Madrid, for example, about 22 hours taking turns, so this idea is almost discarded if we do not have many days to take advantage of the visit to Tuscany, not in vain are more than 1,600 kilometers from the capital and just over 1,000 from Barcelona.
What we recommend
What is highly recommended is to rent a car at the airport, or bring it already rented from Spain, and take one of the three motorways (A-1 Milan-Napoli; A-11 Florence-Mar; and A-12 Genoa-Livorno) that will take us along the route we have planned.
If we choose the train or the bus, we have to know that there is no possibility to travel directly from Spain. What we can do is inform ourselves here of the different trains and buses that will take us to the places we choose on our route.
The last options are to arrive by sea, by ferry to the port of Livorno which connects with some of the most important Spanish ports such as Barcelona or Valencia, or by cruise, whose departures are from Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga. Here is a link to find the ferry or cruise that best suits your planning.
The 10 must-see places on the Tuscany Route
This open-air museum is the capital of Tuscany. Florence is a city that envelops you from the minute one, you breathe history, art, mystery… in each of its corners.
It is essential to visit the Piazza del Duomo, where the Florentine Cathedral, the Giotto Bell Tower and the San Giovanni Battistero give us the first of the photographs of our trip. Another visit is to Piazza della Signoria where the Palazzo Vecchio and the museum of the Logia dei Lanzi await us.
Of course, we will not miss the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest standing bridge in Europe, which is crossed by the river Arno. There we will take the opportunity to leave a lock as a symbol of eternal love.
The Santa Croce, the church of Santa Maria Novella, the Piazza of Michelangelo, the Chapels of the Medici built by Brunelleschi, or the gardens of Boboli, behind the Palazzo Pitti are other places not to be missed. In this garden we can rest and admire marble sculptures, an Egyptian obelisk or the fountain of Neptune. It can be visited from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 to 16:30 from February to November, from 8:15 to 19:30 in June, July and August, in March from 8:15 to 17:30 and in April, May and September until 18:30. It closes on the first and last Monday of each month and the entrance for adults costs 7 euros, for young people between 18 and 25 years 3.50 euros and those under 17 years free access.
In the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which was originally a workshop for the artists of the time, you will find works by Brunelleschi, Donatello (Maria Magdalena) or Michelangelo (La Piedad de Bandini), who made here his famous ‘David’ which, however, is exhibited in the Gallery of the Academy, another place of obligatory visit.
To make sure you don’t miss a thing, here’s a detailed map of the most emblematic places in wonderful Florence.
It is inevitable that when we name Pisa, the first thing that comes to mind is its famous leaning tower. Obviously, it will be the first thing we see but this city has a lot more to offer.
In the Piazza dei Miracoli, we will find three exceptional monuments, the Tower of Pisa, let’s not forget that this is the bell tower of our second stop, the Cathedral, to close with the visit to the Baptistery.
Let’s start by talking about the Tower of Pisa, a 12th century monument which, thanks to the limited expertise of its architects, became one of the most visited monuments in the world. We can not help but take the typical photo with the tower and visit its interior. The ticket costs 18 euros, we recommend you to book them in advance because in long weekends, summer and other holidays, it can take up to three hours to access. Visiting hours are June, July and August from 8.30 am to 10 pm; in April, May and September from 9 am to 8 pm; in March from 9 am to 6 pm; October from 9 am to 7 pm; in November and February from 9.40 am to 5.40 pm; and in December and January from 10 am to 5 pm.
The Battistero di Pisa
The Duomo di Pisa, or in other words, the Cathedral, started its construction in 1064 and it was in 118 when it was consecrated. It houses the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo where we will see paintings, liturgical objects and sculptures.
The Battistero di Pisa or Baptistery is the largest in Italy, 55 meters high and 34 meters in diameter. Built in marble, its rise began in 1.152 and ended in 1.363 and being built on the same land as the Tower, it is also inclined. The octagonal baptismal font inside is well worth a visit.
In addition to these three jewels, we can visit the church of Santa Maria della Spina; the Ponte di Mezzo or Puente del Medio; the Museo delle Sinopie, where we will see sinopie, some drawings of the Middle Ages made in parchment or paper that have survived to this day; Piazza dei Cavalieri, the second largest in the city, has as its main building the Palazzo della Corovana; and the Museum of San Mateo, in which we will see works from the twelfth to seventeenth centuries and archaeological remains that make it one of the most representative museums of European medieval art.
We finish the visit visiting the Palazzo Blu or Blue Palace, in the center of the city, and the neighborhood of Santa Maria, where we can get lost in its streets and discover more of the architecture of this beautiful city, once maritime power and now a source of culture.
This beautiful medieval village leaves us one of the most beautiful postcards in Tuscany. The vineyards that surround the wall with two of the thirteen towers that are still preserved. Rising above everything else, make the visit to San Gimignano move us to another era, more than 900 years ago, when the city was at its peak.
San Gimignano, whose visit should be made outside the ‘high’ season (summer and bridges) to avoid overcrowding, is directly linked to its wines, so tasting the great whites of Vernaccia in the area is something we should not miss in addition to visiting the museum dedicated to this wine.
Piazza della Cisterna
We start the visit at Porta San Giovanni to follow the street to the Piazza della Cisterna where the most important buildings of the town, which today has about 8,000 inhabitants. Here you will find several Palazzos, Tortoli, del Podestà, Ridolfi or Lupi, with the Devil’s Tower, and the Arco dei Becci. Here we must stop at Gelateria Dondoli, the best ice cream parlour in the world, as it has been awarded on numerous occasions.
Very close is the collegiate church of Santa Maria Assunta whose frescoes will surprise us. We can’t forget their towers. At its peak it had more than 70, today there are 13, and they are the ones that give it a unique profile more characteristic of a city of the 21st century than of the Middle Ages. The Torre Grossa, the highest with 54 meters, from where we will give ourselves a spectacular view, and the Torre Rognosa, the oldest, are two of those that we will be able to see.
The Palio of Siena is the best known tourist attraction of this beautiful and surprising city of Tuscany. This horse race that faces different districts of Siena, is held on July 2 and August 16 in honor of the Virgin of Provence and the Assumption of the Virgin, respectively. But Siena is much more.
Born in the Etruscan period around 900 B.C., it reached its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries thanks to the Romans. Siena is a city that catches from the first moment. Our visit starts in the church of San Domenico, in a surprisingly sober Gothic style. We will enter via Bianchi di Sopra and via della Citta, the two main streets of Siena, where tourism, trade and architecture come together.
One of the first squares we will see is Salimbeni, where the palace with the same name is located, although the most important one is Piazza del Campo. Here you will be overwhelmed by its architecture, it is monumental, unique, one of the most beautiful you will see in the world. It is also the place where the Palio festival takes place and we can imagine the horses making the ground rumble, a great spectacle.
We find here the Tower of Mangia, with 102 meters of height, of the Public Palace, seat of the city council. If you dare, climb the 505 steps of the tower to enjoy the panoramic view of Siena.
In the Duomo square you can visit the Baptistery of St. John where the richness and details of the baptismal font or the Feast of Herod of Donatello leave the visitor speechless for its beauty. In the Duomo, don’t forget to visit the Opera Museum and go up to the Panorama, a viewpoint that will give you another unforgettable view of Siena.
Wine lovers should not miss this set of towns where castles and wineries, with the brand Gallo Nero, symbol of authentic Chianti, give us dream landscapes.
This valley, where the vines will accompany us all the way, is replete with endless forests of holm oaks, oaks or chestnut trees, with multicoloured flowers and precious and unique medieval villages.
Greve in Chianti, with a peculiar triangular square; Radda in Chianti where we can see the Palazzo del Podestà and the old castle; Castellina in Chianti which is crossed by via delle Volte; Gaiole in Chianti where we will find the castles of Fonterutoli and San Leonino; or Montefiorale where, very close by, we will see the abbey of Passignano, are just some examples of what we will find in this beautiful area.
Colle di Val d’Elsa
This small town, divided into two areas, Colle Alta and Colle Baja, is known as the ‘Bohemia of Italy’, as it is where the large producers of the glass industry are concentrated.
In this beautiful city we can visit the Duomo, with the impressive clock of the bell tower, the main Piazza, called Arnolfo, where on Fridays we can visit a market, the Palazzo dei Priori in which we will visit the Sacred Museum and Civic Art, the former conservatory of San Pietro del Vasario, the museum Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli and, of course, the Museum of Crystal.
This Orcia Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With this letter of introduction we can imagine the beauty involved in this area in which the landscape, modeled by the years, and the buildings, form a perfectly integrated whole. It is the typical picture of Tuscany, is the essence of our trip.
Some of the villages we can visit are Montalcino, Pienza, San Quirico, Castiglione d’Orcia or Radicofani. Although the ideal is to look at a map of the area and make our own route. And in all of them, wines and gastronomy, with organic cheeses, mushrooms, truffles, pastas, sausages or olive oil as the absolute protagonists.
Olive trees, vineyards, cypresses and chestnut trees. They are our travelling companions giving us the peace and calm that have made Val d’Orcia a landscape reference in Renaissance times. Harmony is what defines this tour that, we recommend, do it by car to stop in every corner and get lost in these special ecosystems.
Terma Libere di San Filippo and Terma de Saturnia
In Val d’Orcia these thermal baths are very close to each other. The first, Dan Filippo is one of the most curious in Tuscany for its calcareous formations, fruit of the warm sulphurous thermal waters that have given relief to many visitors since the Middle Ages.
It is advisable not to go on weekends or at times such as summer or bridges, as we will find many people. In them we can treat skin, lung and joint problems… as well as enjoying a therapeutic mud wrap and the warmth of the therma.
La Terma de Satunia, with water at 37 degrees all year round, originates in Gorello Creek, in Monte Amiata. There we will find the Gorello Waterfall and the Molino Waterfall as part of a unique landscape that the waters have been modelling over the years. Two options to relax, very to be taken into account in this trip through Tuscany.
Pitigliano, Soranoand Sovana
These three villages, Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana, located very close to each other, are in the area of Maremma. And are a very interesting visit of one of the least explored areas of Tuscany.
The best known, Pitigliano, se le llama la ‘Pequeña Jerusalem’, due to the large number of Jews who inhabited it in the nineteenth century. Here we can admire the Piazza Petruccioli, entrance to the historical centre, where we find the Palazzo Orsini which houses the Archaeological Museum, the diocesan archive and the library, as well as having a courtyard and a hexagonal well which are very curious.
The 11th century Medieval aqueduct with 15 arches points the way to the Orsini Fortress. We follow the route until we reach the Duomo de San Pietro e Pablo located in Gregorio VII Square, with a bell tower that stands out from the rest.
In the Jewish quarter we will contemplate the Synagogue and enter the caves of Vie Cave di Pitigliano. There we will go through the history of the caves excavated by the Etruscans.
Sorano is our next stop, a peculiar village of Etruscan origin on the banks of the river Lente. Military architecture in its purest state, we enter through Porta di Sopra to meet the 14th century Cathedral. We must not forget to live the archaeological park, with cave architecture to admire and tombs that we find fascinating.
Sovana is the third stop of the so-called Cities of Volcanic Toba or Città del Tufo. In it we will find the necropolis, in which the spectacular tombs, serve as an example the Tomba Ildebranda. The largest found to date, that the Etruscans excavated in the rocks will leave us speechless; the cave settlement of Vitozza and the cave complex of San Rocco, are two must-see for their incalculable historical value; and the Museum of the Castle Orsini, with a unique collection of ceramics from the area of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
A city of reference in Tuscany, Volterra, es un espacio único where we will recreate Etruscan, Roman and medieval architecture. It is fantastic to get lost in its streets and enjoy every corner where history is breathed.
To enter this village we will have to climb a steep hill because. As a curiosity, it is located more than 500 meters above sea level and immediately we will have before our eyes the Palazzo dei Priori. The oldest in Tuscany and which served as inspiration in the construction of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
The gates to the city, San Francesco or Florentina. They are perfectly preserved, as is the 12th century wall, which retains the charm of those days when it protected Volterra.
In Piazza San Giovanni we find the Cathedral of the Assumption and the Baptistery, octagonal shape and XII century. Here is a viewpoint from which you can see much of the landscape surrounding this emblematic city.
In the archaeological park Enrico Fiumi, located in Piazza Martiri della Livertà, we will see the remains of the Etruscan acropolis and the Roman remains. In the background is the fortification, one of many that the Medici built to safeguard their properties and territories.
We can not fail to visit the Roman Theatre located outside the walls and finish the visit entering Volterra to delight us with the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, the Civic Museum and the Alabaster Museum.
Recommendations to visit Tuscany
Inform yourself about timetables and ticket sales or reservations for the most popular monuments. Especially if you are travelling at times of maximum influx of visitors.
Take time in each city to discover every corner, talk to the locals and learn about the ‘other’ stories they may know.
There are many restaurants where you can eat well and for little money. You’ll find them walking the streets of towns and cities.
Plan your route in advance to see each place perfectly and not go to the race.
If you have time, visit the island of Elba, is a cultural and biological paradise that is part of Tuscany and worth knowing.
If you are going to rent a car, which is highly recommended, compare prices and do it from Spain in advance to avoid surprises.
Look for rustic accommodations, they have a lot of charm and many of them are great price.
Wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear because many cities have steep or stone streets and it is better to be well prepared.
Mid spring is when the vine begins its flowering, it may be a good time to visit the areas of Tuscany that are surrounded by vineyards and enjoy the scenery.
Be patient, enjoy and soak up history, culture, landscapes, gastronomy, winemaking … this trip is for the senses, do not be in a hurry.