The top 5 places to visit in Tuscany

Incredible Italian gourmet cuisine, world-class art, history and culture, scenic panoramas - this is only a small portion of what beautiful Tuscany can offer.

This region is the perfect place to rest and relax, the perfect place to spend the most amazing holiday ever: Tuscany blends perfectly the need for a city escape and the urge to explore uninterrupted stretches of countryside and beautiful panoramas.

Any holiday, however, has its time constraints and unfortunately any tourist travelling to Tuscany has to make their choice when it comes to the itinerary and what exactly to visit. A weekend in Elba island, cooking classes, a wine tasting tour in Montalcino or a day at the spa.

What are, then, the never-to-miss places to visit in Tuscany? Here is a list of 5!

1. Siena

Siena, the capital of the province of Siena. Its historic centre has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of Italy’s most visited tourist attractions, as the town is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a horse race held twice a year.

Stretching across a Tuscan hilltop, Siena is Italy’s most picturesque medieval city. Leave the chaos of cars behind — these streets were made for strolling or maybe cycling. Get lost in tumbling brick lanes and wind up at the cathedral: an over-the-top marvel of Gothic architecture lavished with mosaics and busts of 172 popes. A place frozen in time, Siena is the perfect refuge for travelers looking to escape the modern world for a day. Explore the city by foot on a walking tour or sample fine local wines. Between its looks and its famous grapes, Siena is an experience to savour.

Moreover, it is not just about the city. The whole province of Siena and the famous Val d’Orcia are definitely a sight to behold.

2. Florence

The home of the Renaissance, Florence is the birthplace of the modern world and houses some of Europe’s finest pieces of art including masterful oil paintings, stunning marble statues, and meticulous mosaics. In a single afternoon, you could experience the pensive stare of Michelangelo’s David, get a feel for the first day of spring with Botticelli’s Primavera, and refresh yourself next to the fountain of Neptune.

Florence's museums, palaces, and churches house some of the greatest artistic treasures of the Italian Renaissance. The most popular and important sites in Florence include the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Uffizi, the Bargello, and the Accademia. The churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce basically are in themselves art galleries, and the library of San Lorenzo is a magnificent exhibition of Michelangelo's architectural genius. Wander some of the oldest streets in the city until you reach the Arno River, cross the Ponte Vecchio, and experience the "newest" area of Florence, the Oltrarno. Be sure to set aside time to see the vast and varied art collection housed in the Pitti Palace. When you grow weary of museums and monuments, head outdoors. Spend a day at the Boboli Gardens or climb the hill to the church of San Miniato al Monte to experience an enchanting view of Florence, Italy.

3. Volterra & San Gimignano, Montepulciano and Pienza

Four of the most charming villages in the province of Siena: Volterra, San Gimignano, Montepulciano and Pienza.

Famous for its peculiar urban layout, Volterra is a Tuscan town with deep roots, dating all the way to the 5th-century BC. Take a step back in time as soon as you stroll through the city gates, Porta dell’Arco and Porta Diana, and experience the ancient acropolis which houses the foundations of two ancient temples. And if you are looking for ancient Roman ruins, look no further: Volterra is home to an amphitheater from the first century AD and features many workshops which maintain the tradition of alabaster handicrafts. Watch as this ancient town comes alive during a medieval reenactment in the summer months — the perfect occasion to enjoy Italian food and wine while the present transforms into the past.

Not far from Volterra, another little gem is located in the astonishing countryside of the Siena province.

A picturesque medieval town, San Gimignano is considered a UNESCO world heritage site famous for the Hundred Towers built in the middle ages by Italy’s most influential families. Rife with splendid squares, palaces, churches, and the magnificent towers, San Gimignano calls Chianti its home. This breathtaking landscape is rich with green rolling hills, wide vineyards, and olive groves.

Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany. Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Renowned for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta, lentils, and honey, it is known worldwide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile, which should not be confused with varietal wine merely made from the Montepulciano grape, among Italy's best.

Pienza, a town and comune in the province of Siena, in the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany is the “touchstone of Renaissance urbanism”. UNESCO has declared the whole town a World Heritage Site in 1996.

If you still have time, another little town worth visiting is that of Cortona, in the province of Arezzo, not too far from Montepulciano. Or else, why not relaxing for a day or two in the staggeringly beautiful Terme di Chianciano, located close by. The Terme di Chianciano are the ideal place to discover the tradition of spas in Italy. Immersed in the heart of Tuscany, between natural and artistic beauties it is possible to regenerate thanks to the healing and relaxing power of the thermal waters.

4. Pisa

The Leaning Tower has made Pisa famous all over the world, and in addition to the tower, the city offers many other interesting things to see worth at least an entire day.

When you first arrive at the beautiful Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli), your sight will be captivated by the magnificent Tower. Don’t just admire it from below: the climb up the tower is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we highly encourage you to experience.

Once you have admired the Tower of Pisa from all angles (including the classic picture in which you pretend to support it to keep as a memento), continue your visit to the other monuments in the Piazza: the Cathedral and the Baptistery. Along the perimeter of the square, there is also the Cemetery, the Cathedral Museum and the Museum of the Synopses. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the Arno river and on your way, pass by Clock Palace to enter into Piazza dei Cavalieri, which was once the heart of power in the city and later the headquarters of the Knights of St. Stephen. In the Palazzo della Carovana overlooking the square, the prestigious Scuola Normale of Pisa has its base.

5. Lucca

Lucca is one of the cities most loved in all of Tuscany, a stop that can not really miss in a classic itinerary to the discovery of the region.

Most of the attractions in Lucca today show its ancient history: from the trace of the Roman amphitheater that can be seen in the shape of the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro to the archeological remains under the 12th century church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata, to the various towers and villas from the 12th to 16th centuries.

Extraordinarily, as the city grew and modernized, the walls that surrounded the old town were maintained and became a pedestrian promenade, one of Lucca's main attractions. The area around the walls is well taken care of, with green grass and trees everywhere along the walls. They have in essence become a park that surrounds the city and blocks out more modern life. Here you can enjoy a bike ride around the entire perimeter, a stroll as you enjoy a gelato or simply a period of rest from sightseeing on one of the many shaded benches that line the main walkway.

Other top attractions include the Piazza of San Michele with its beautiful Church of San Michele in Foro, the Basilica of San Frediano as well as the Clock Tower and Guinigi Tower, to name just a few.

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