Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
A vacation to the extraordinary Tuscan countryside is as picture-perfect as you would imagine it. The regional capital of Florence entices visitors to see its masterpieces. Its artistic heritage is harbored in churches, museums, and piazzas where the influence of the Renaissance is beaming without even having to step into a building. Moving on to the Gothic city of Siena and then to see Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower are some of Tuscany’s highlights, though others would argue the greatest moments are wine tasting in the rolling vineyards and cycling through mountain paths in the striking countryside. This area of Central Italy is food-obsessed, as is expected. Its sensational food and wine such as Chiante and bistecca alla fiorentina are locally sourced and simply prepared. Want to visit? Our Tuscany vacations will surely astonish you.
Who should visit?
Tuscany is the birthplace of musical and literary greats like Puccini and Dante, attracting lovers of art, history, and music to explore its museums and piazzas. Wine enthusiasts visit Tuscany to taste a local glass from some of the world’s most prominent wine regions and even participate in the making. Regions like Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, San Gimignano, and most notably, Chianti are popular spots. Those who simply want to be immersed in beautiful scenery or who dream of a relaxing stay in the countryside will also enjoy their Tuscan getaway. Couples and honeymooners will find romance, while singles may visit for a quiet retreat. Learn more about the ins and outs of a vacation here with our Tuscany travel guide.
What to do
Some visitors come to Tuscany for the fine art while others come to enjoy the relaxing countryside. Florence is a must-see for any first-time visitor. The heart of the Italian Renaissance is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Visit the famous Uffizi Gallery to see works of art by Botticelli, Donatello, da Vinci, and Rembrandt or the Academy Gallery for Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. The Skip the Line: Florence Accademia and Uffizi Gallery Tour grants you skip-the-line access and a guided tour of both galleries. The stunning Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and Giotto Bell Tower make up the Piazza del Duomo. Walk the city to explore local shops and enjoy gold or lace demonstrations, while eventually crossing the Ponte Vecchio and admiring the busy city.
In Siena, best known for the Palio horse race, the narrow cobbled streets and medieval corners hide treasures of shops and outdoor cafes. You’ll get a great view of the city if you climb the 500 steps of the Palazzo Pubblico. In the province of Siena, you’ll come across small medieval towns like Pienza, Monteriggioni, and San Gimignano – where you can explore nearby vineyards and olive groves by bicycle, and hunt for the famous 13th century towers and frescoes.
Cortona, the setting for the book and film, Under the Tuscan Sun, is one of the oldest hill towns in Tuscany while 16th century Renaissance walls, the Cathedral of San Martina, and Piazza Napoleone await you in the historic city of Lucca. In Pisa, visit the Piazza Dei Miracoli, the Piazza Del Duomo, and the famous Leaning Tower. And of course, don’t miss out on wine tasting in the Chianti region.
Get a full picture of Tuscany with the Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour, great for those who don’t have a lot of time in the area. This full-day guided coach tour from Florence stops in Siena’s medieval streets, Chianti vineyards for lunch, San Gimignano to see the squares and towers, and Pisa to inspect The Leaning Tower and Cathedral. If you just want to visit Pisa, purchase entry tickets to head to up tower’s sloping staircase.
On a Tuscany vacation, you can also enjoy a day trip to the beautiful Cinque Terre from Florence.
Where to stay
Tuscany offers a range of accommodation options from hotels to bed and breakfasts to farmhouses. If you’re staying a couple of days in each city or would like to stay in the center of town, especially in Florence, a hotel would be best. If you’d like to spend more time in the countryside, experience rural life at a bed and breakfast or agriturismo (a private or shared family-run accommodation that welcomes visitors to their farm). At a farmhouse, guests can experience rustic and cultural living and dining with a host family who can help organize activities like grape or olive harvesting, horseback riding, and mountain biking. If you’d like something more luxurious, some villas feature private pools and beautiful gardens, and even have separate apartments for longer stays or larger groups.
Tuscany has two international airports: Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa and Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence.
If you land in Pisa and would like to get to Florence, take about an hour long Airport Transfer bus. If you land in the smaller Florence airport, taxis and busses connect the airport to the city center. You can also fly into the Bologna airport, located about an hour away from Tuscany border.
Visitors to Tuscany typically stay for 2-3 weeks. If you’re just visiting Florence as part of a tour, a day or two is sufficient.
Tuscany is a year-round destination, with January and February seeing cooler temperatures around 7C and below zero in the mountains while July and August average highs of 30C. Summer tends to be more expensive and crowded, and the coast tends to have hotter temperatures than the hills. Popular tourist times range from mid-April to the end of September, but spring and autumn are nice times to visit as well.
• Low Season (November to March): Some hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions closed for the season
• Shoulder Season (April, July, Aug): Nice weather and reasonable prices
• High Season (May, Jun, Sept, Oct): Higher accommodation prices, perfect weather but could be crowed
Traditionally, first-time visitors to Italy take a guided tour to visit multiple cities at once without having to plan details on their own. Second-time visitors typically return to their favourite areas. Since Tuscany is a region, it is easier to discover on your own, however regional tours such as Collette’s Tuscany and the Italian Rivera and Cosmos’ Leisurely Tuscany and Rome are available. Most visitors travel first to Florence then to Siena, Pisa, and then to a small town like Montecatini or San Gimignano.
The best way to travel Tuscany if you are not taking a tour is to rent a car. A car is not needed in Florence since everything is within walking distance, but is recommended for the countryside and hilltop towns. Buses to these cities are sparse and sometimes do not go up the winding roads.
Electricity: 220 volts
Tipping is not expected but appreciated. Tip the concierge €1-2 for good service, the housekeeper €0.75-1.50 per day, and €5-10 for a tour guide. Service charges of 10-15% are sometimes included in restaurant bills at the bottom, but if not, you may leave a small tip of 10% or round-up to the nearest euro.