Tuscany is considered to be one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. Located in the central region of the country, Tuscany is divided into 10 provinces – Florence, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato, Siena and Arezzo. The region has an estimated population of 3.7 million inhabitants and is known for its wine regions, culture and huge historical impact in Medieval Europe. Tuscany (or in particular Florence) was considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance and during this time period the country flourished and created some of the most influential and legendary scholars, artists and visionaries the world has seen including Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Throughout history, Tuscany has been a place of importance – this region has been settled since the Etruscan period and has been inhabited by the Romans, and other notable civilizations. Today it remains one of the most popular regions of Italy and draws a huge amount of tourists annually. Firstly, Tuscany boasts some of the finest cultural cities in Italy such as Florence, Pisa and Lucca – these cities boasts some magnificent historical buildings and world class museums. Furthermore, the Tuscan countryside is absolutely stunning and is a fantastic place to explore – you can visit the island of Elba and see where Napoleon was exiled, or travel through Tuscan wine country. When visiting Tuscany, you are sure to find cultural enlightenment and learn a great deal about the history of Italy and Europe.
Let’s have a look at the best places to visit in Tuscany:
Today Florence is a thriving city with a dazzling amount of attractions. The Duomo and Baptistery are simply magnificent with their polychrome faces. The Ponte Vecchio spanning the Arno River is intriguing with its array of shops and stalls. The Piazza della Signoria contains the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, the Galleria dell’Accademia and the opulent fountain of Neptune.
Every corner of this city is packed full of interesting sites of historical significance.
Second only to Florence in terms of significance during the Renaissance, Pisa is another stunning city with a great deal to offer on the eastern coast of Tuscany. Pisa is known throughout the world for its iconic leaning tower – this campanille is actually part of a larger complex that contains the Duomo di Pisa, the baptistery and the monumental cemetery.
Each structure is awe inspiring in its own right; the bell tower is just the icing on the cake. Pisa also has several interesting museums, a fantastic botanical gardens and some spectacular scenery along the Arno River. You may come for the leaning tower, but you will leave having seen so much more.
Many people overlook this smaller Tuscan city, but Lucca played an important role in Italy during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This city lies in close proximity to Pisa and contains a myriad of beautiful buildings. A main feature of Lucca is the complete city wall complex that encircles the whole historic old town – these walls are truly magnificent and the parkland that is maintained around them is a pleasure to explore.
Lucca also features the glorious Duomo that features an immense bell tower and has a highly decorated façade. Other attractions of note include the Torre delle Ore, Guinigi Tower, San Michele in Foro and the Museum of Villa Mansi. This variety of historical sites make Lucca an attractive destination within the Tuscany region.
Arezzo is one of the most central cities in Tuscany and lies in-between the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts equally. The city is situated on a hillside and the upper section contains the historic old town, whilst the lower section is modern and concerned with industry and trade. The old town is the main area of interest and contains some beautiful structures such as the Fortezza Medicea, the Duomo San Donato and the Teatro Petrarca.
If you are interested in museums and history, Arezzo also has several high quality establishments including the Museo Archeologico Mecenate and the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art. Finally, Arezzo has some amazing parks and places of natural beauty for those who love the outdoors.
Aside from the port and the canals, Livorno also has some impressive attractions such as the Mercato Centrale, the Piazza della Repubblica and the Terrazza Mascagni.
Pistoia is located in close proximity to both Florence and Pisa but it ha a great deal to offer as a standalone tourist destination. This city has the distinction of being the birthplace of the pistol firearm and was an important location during the Middle Ages. Some of the most popular and documented sites include the Cathedral of St.
Zeno and its Baptistery, the complex of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, the Museo Capitolare and Pistoia Zoo. Furthermore, Pistoia is surrounded by some amazing mountain towns such as the spa town Montecatini Terme and the beautiful town of Montecatini Alto. Finally, for those who seek adventure, there is always the immense Monte Cimone mountain range waiting to be conquered.
Prato has been an influential city for many hundreds of years and was once one of the largest textile manufacturers in the country. Today it is a fine tourist destination and has a great deal to offer in central Tuscany. The Duomo di Prato and Emperors Castle are two significant structures that are definitely worth a visit.
Additionally to take a look at the cities manufacturing past, the Textile Museum offers keen insight and is an interesting museum. Whilst in Prato, you must try the famous Biscotti biscuit and the cured Mortadella Salumi – these two delicacies are simply divine and two of Prato’s finest creations. For the adventurous, Prato has many cycling routes and some gorgeous surrounding countryside.
This small town located in close proximity to Siena is a true hidden gem and is one of the best kept secrets in Tuscany. You can find Montepulciano 600m high on an ancient limestone ridge and the views from this town of the surrounding countryside are to die for. Aside from the jaw dropping views, this town also has some fantastic medieval architecture such as the Palazzo Cervini, the Torre di Pulcinella, the Porta al Prato and the Chiesa di San Biagio.
The main square is charming, and the surrounding fields are covered with vineyards producing the famous Vino Nobile.
9. Val d’Orcia
This region of Tuscany can be found in the eastern stretch of the countryside and features some absolutely gorgeous landscapes and idyllic scenery. The whole region is a protected area and contains a historic heritage railway, a huge array if expansive vineyards and some peaceful towns such as Pienza, Radicofani and Montalcino. Pienza in particular is worth a visit and has been dubbed as one of the most impressive Renaissance settlements due to its beauty, stunning surroundings and picture perfect architecture.
This whole region is waiting to be explored and offers much in terms of sight-seeing and outdoor pursuits.
10. Island of Elba
Elba is possibly best known for being the island to which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled after his forced abdication in 1814. This Tuscan island is located in-between Corsica and Mainland Italy and has a population of 32,000. As a tourist destination Elba has a great variety of things to offer. Firstly the island has a wave of fantastic beaches with golden sands that are perfect for sunbathing and relaxing on.
Secondly, the island has some amazing sites such as the Heritage Iron Mine and the Villa San Martino which was Napoleons second residence. Finally, the island is home to a wave of top quality restaurants offering sublime Italian cuisine and home grown Elban wine.