Tuscany Guide: The Cradle Of Renaissence
Discover The Most Sought After Region Of Italy
Everyone in the world knows Tuscany: the amazing countryside, the food, the culture, the beaches… This unique region is one of the best-loved Italian destinations by locals and travelers alike. It blends outstanding natural beauty with cultural gems such as the art cities of Florence, Arezzo and Siena. Add in the delicious regional specialities of truffle and local wines, the unbeatable history and architecture, the beautiful coastline, and you have a paradise for lovers of Italy.
Discover the golden sands of the coast in summer, explore the pretty countryside as it flowers in spring and experience the magic of Florence in winter. Travel from vineyard to vineyard through the countryside of Chianti and Montalcino, stopping for exclusive tastings of wine and olive oil. Lose yourself in the wild landscape of the Apuan Alps and the forests of Casentinesi. Stroll through the winding streets of medieval towns and fall in love with the beauty of Tuscany.
You could spend a lifetime exploring Tuscany. Renaissance art, cathedrals and hamlets add to the varied landscape. This region has beaches, mountains, islands and forests. Make your holiday action-packed with hiking, biking, horse riding and even skiing. Tuscany is also perfect for art, wine and food lovers, or those looking for a romantic getaway. Wherever you choose to explore, the people of Tuscany are famous for their warmth, so you’ll be welcomed like a local.
Tuscany has two international airports: Amerigo Vespucci International Airport in Florence and Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa. But you can also fly to Rome or Milan and reach Tuscany by train or by car. The region is well connected and very easy to access.
Tuscany is the perfect region for those who travel by car. It is well connected to the other regions with highways and crossed by dozens of streets that gently bend across the rolling hills of the countryside. Its many art cities and ravishing villages are ideal for day trips.
Tuscany stretches from the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, to the Apennines mountains in the North. Off the coast, the Tuscan Archipelago extends with the islands of Elba, Capraia, Gorgona, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio and Giannutri. Much of the region is hilly.
Tuscany enjoys mild weather. The coast has a Mediterranean climate. Inland regions have a less temperate climate, with higher fluctuations and slightly lower temperatures. A curiosity: Tuscany is the Italian region with the greatest amount of daylight.
Top 5 Things To Do In Tuscany
There is a common place in Italy, that the Italian culture comes from Tuscany. The Italian Renaissance happened here and the Italian language comes from this land. Tuscany has among the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites among all the Italian regions (the 6 Tuscan sites are Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignan, Pienza and the Val d’Orcia). Have a look at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, discover San Gimignano, the town of towers, or watch the traditional Palio di Siena. From the antique towns of Maremma to the paintings of Piero della Francesca in Arezzo, Tuscany is a heaven for the think traveller.
Tuscany boasts one of the most beautiful countryside in the world, ideal for hiking, horse riding and cycling. The Val D’Orcia, the only naturalistic site listed by UNESCO in Tuscany, the countryside of Chianti and Montalcino, crossed by wine routes, and Maremma Toscana, with the hills that slope down to the sea, are just some of the natural destinations in the region. Tuscany offers also a very diverse coast, with stretches of sandy beach and scenic rocky bays. You can do kitesurf in Talamone, dive in the crystal clear waters of Argentario or just be lazy on an exclusive sandy beach in Forte dei Marmi.
Let’s begin with bread, typically unsalted, an ingredient that you will find in many traditional receipts – such as panzanella, ribollita, acquacotta and pappa al pomodoro. Tuscan meet is delicious. Try the cinta senese from pigs bred in the wild in the area of Siena and marked with a white band around the neck. The chianina and maremmana meets are another speciality. Among cheeses, the best known is Tuscan pecorino, especially the one from Pienza. Siena is the city of traditional sweets, as Panforte and the Soup of the Duke (better known as Tiramisu).
With its winding roads crossing endless vineyards, Tuscany is the land of the god Bacchus. Every wine lover knows the Tuscan red wines! The famous Chianti Classico, the valued Brunello di Montalcino and the Nobile di Montepulciano from the areas of Florence and Siena. In the coastal regions of Livorno and Grosseto, where climate is milder, we have the excellent Bolgheri di Sassicaia. The traditional sweet wine ideal for desserts Vin Santo comes from Prato. If you are looking for a white wine, then choose Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced in the area between Florence, Siena and Pisa.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites In Tuscany (#6)
Florence, the city of art par excellence. Visiting the “Athens of the Renaissance” is a must in every trip to Tuscany. Among the things not to be missed there are the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Uffizi Gallery, Michelangelo’s David, a walk through Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio, where you can admire the Arno river that runs through the city. Visit the Central Market, taste a “fiorentina” (the typical steak of the area) or discover the city by bike. From Palazzo Pitti to Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence will bewitch you with its brazen beauty.
Siena and Arezzo
Not to miss Siena and Arezzo, two medieval treasures. In Siena visit Piazza del Campo, where the craziest horserace in the world, the Palio di Siena, is held. Continue to the Cathedral, the Piccolomini Library and the National Art Gallery, with works of the ‘400 and’ 600 Senese. For breathtaking views of the town climb the 88 meters of the Magia Tower. In Arezzo do not miss the wonderful Piazza Grande with the Palazzo Vasari. Every weekend the square hosts an antiques market and twice a year is held here the Giostra del Saracino, an ancient race in medieval costumes.
Pisa and Lucca
North of Tuscany, Pisa and Lucca do not need any introduction. In Pisa visit Campo dei Miracoli with the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Campo Santo. The most characteristic neighborhood is the “borgo”, perfect for walking through the arcades, shops and cafe tables. The “lungarini”, streets bordering the Arno River, are an evening meeting area for university students. In Lucca, the town of 1000 churches, we recommend a walk along the sixteenth century walls, a visit to the Duomo and to Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, where you’ll find restaurants and typical shops.
The Tuff Towns
Surrounded by the Maremma countryside, the towns of southern Tuscany are perfect destinations for a day trip. Visit Pitigliano, the tuff city, known as the little Jerusalem for the historical presence of a Jewish community, or Montemerano with the beautiful Piazza del Castello. Discover the medieval and Renaissance village of Sovana, with its important Cathedral. Get lost in the narrow streets of Sorano, the Matera of Tuscany, with buildings carved into the tuff rock, or visit the lively Capalbio, near the sea. The area was an important Etruscan center and today you can visit the spectacular Vie Cave.
Known as “ideal” city of the Renaissance, Pienza is the heart of the Val D’Orcia. Among the places to visit, the Cathedral, the papal residence, the Town Hall and the lovely central square (Piazza Pio II). To the right of the Cathedral the imposing Palazzo Piccolomini has a fantastic lodge with a hanging garden from which you can admire a truly breathtaking view of the Val d’Orcia, from Montalcino to the volcanic Monte Amiata. A short distance from Pienza there are several charming villages not to be missed: San Quirico d’Orcia, Castiglione d’Orcia, Montalcino and Montepulciano are the most characteristic.
San Gimignano rises on a hill overlooking the Val d’Elsa, in the region of Siena. From the Tuscan countryside the skyline of this medieval town is unmistakable, with its 13 towers that rise over the hills. Once the towers were 72, but those that remain are enough to fill every traveler with wonder. Is San Gimignano visit Piazza del Duomo, where there are the most important historical monuments of the town, and then head for the spectacular Piazza della Cisterna, at the top of the hill. If you want you can climb the Torre Grossa, to enjoy the view of the whole town and the hilly surroundings.
The valleys of Chianti, Val d’Orcia, Crete Senesi, Val d’Elsa, Val di Merse and Val di Chiana, all in the province of Siena, are known as the Tuscan hills. This cultural landscape is known worldwide for its soft beauty of cypress trees and farmland, vineyards and valleys. Chianti is famous for its red wine, the Chianti Classico, while the Val d’Orcia is listed among UNESCO World Heritage sites for the profound influence it had on the Renaissance artists. The Crete Senesi are called the desert of Tuscany, while the other valleys boast woods and lakes. Read more about the Tuscan Hills…
In the heart of the Mediterranean, the Tuscan Archipelago National Park is the largest protected marine park in Europe. It consists of 7 beautiful islands: Elba, the largest, Capraia, the only volcanic, Montecristo, famous for the novel by Dumas, Pianosa and Gorgona, prison colonies until recently, Giglio and Giannutri, known for the quality of their waters. The latter two islands at the south of the archipelago are located in front of the peninsula of Monte Argentario, a popular beach destination. The marine park is ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. Read more about Argentario…
In northern Tuscany, the Regional Park of the Apuan Alps is a paradise for trekking. These mountains are distinguished from the nearby Apennines for the rugged and scenic morphology. In the stretch of a few kilometers from the coast plain of Versilia, the Apuan Alps rise up to almost 2,000 meters. Towering mountains, deep ravines and huge caves characterize the landscape. Among the highlights we recommend to visit the Grotta del Vento (Wind Cave), the Orrido di Botri, one of the deepest canyons in Italy, and the Antro Corchia, the largest cave in Europe, covered with stalactites and stalagmites.
Versilia is world famous for its sandy shores and VIP beaches, historic clubs that overlook the sea and the wild social life of Forte dei Marmi. Versilia is all that and more. This coastal area characterized by a sandy shoreline rises rapidly in the dizzying mountain range of the Apuan Alps. Nature lovers can explore the natural park of San Rossore, Migliarino and Massaciuccoli and the Antro della Corchia, the largest cave in Europe. Do not miss a walk in Viareggio, the pearl of the Versilia, famous for its carnival, and a visit to the ancient village of Pietrasanta, ideal for a dip in history.
In the south of Tuscany, Maremma is a world apart. Land of cowboys, Etruscan sites and nature reserves, it has a unique feature: it overlooks the sea. The hinterland is dotted with the so-called tuff towns, as Pitigliano and Sorano. Do not miss the spectacular Etruscan Vie Cave, deeply carved into the rock in idyllic natural settings. Enjoy nature in the parks of Maremma, Monte Amiata and Uccellina, that slopes down to the sea. Do not miss the fishing village or Talamone and Capalbio, delightful medieval village not far from the sea. Relax in the thermal baths of Saturnia. Read more about Maremma…
The National Park of Casentinesi Forests is one of the oldest and best preserved forests in Italy. This lush park is located on the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines, north of Florence, and is inhabited by a rich fauna (wolves, eagles, wild boar, deer, fallow deer and mouflon). The signs of a millenary presence of man are everywhere: from villages to trails, through the two beautiful sanctuaries of Camaldoli and La Verna. The heart of the park is the Nature Reserve of Sasso Fratino. The 600 km of protected area can be visited by hiking, mountain biking, horseback or, in winter, cross country skis.
A Short History of Tuscany
The history of Tuscany begins in the second millennium BC, when a primitive population lived in villages built on stilts. But the first people who made his entry into the big history is the Etruscans. The Etruscans flourished in the tenth century BC, and were finally absorbed by the Roman civilization in the first century BC. Etruscans built streets, necropolis – like Tarquinia – and cities – like Arezzo, Chiusi, Volterra, Vetulonia and Roselle. They traded with the Greeks, built ceramics and worshiped a pantheon of deities. They reclaimed wetlands and they made wars to establish their supremacy in the Italian peninsula.
Today you can visit the ruins of the Etruscans cities and necropolis especially in Maremma Toscana. The Etruscans lost power due to the arrival of the Romans. After them, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines and the Lombards dominated the area. In the Middle Ages Tuscan municipalities flourished. Magnificent squares, cathedrals and palaces were built in Pisa, Lucca, Siena and Florence. The typical villages protected by walls appeared in the countryside. New social experiments took place – people were able to participate to the power and enjoyed economic and cultural autonomy.
Extraordinary artists such as Giotto, Cimabue, Giovanni Boccaccio and Francesco Petrarca changed the rules of perspective and painting, literature and poetry, while Dante Alighieri began to use the Tuscan dialect instead of Latin in his works. The Italian language was about to born. Among the cities of the period, one took over: the city of Florence. Florence has been the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, a cultural mouvement that changed the perspective on things in Italy and later in Europe. In XV century AD, the Medici family consolidated the power over the city, inaugurating a period of splendor.
The studies of the ancient classical culture flourished and the human being substituted God as center of interest. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Botticelli and Donatello discovered and experimented new ways of doing art, while Niccolò Machiavelli elaborated his political theories. In XIX century Tuscany became an important centre of the Italian Resurgence, giving birth to one of the most relevant centers of the movement for the independence. Finally, during World War II Tuscans has been hardcore partisans against fascism. Today they are well known for their intelligence and sharp wit.