With its rolling fields, historical heritage and a cuisine that’s a delight for all the senses, it’s no wonder taking a trip through Tuscany is one of the most popular Italian choices for holidaymakers. Yet even with its popularity, you can still kick back in one of our luxury villas in Tuscany and feel peace, tranquillity and the joy of seclusion. Chill next to your pool and fire up the barbeque or head into Tuscany’s cultural centres and nourish your mind – this is one destination that really does have a little bit of everything for everyone, whether you’re travelling with family, friends or are just looking for a romantic getaway with that special someone.
Almost all who step foot onto this earthy Italian province are hell-bent on returning. Hardly surprising, when there is so much here to entice, from the glorious Renaissance art in Florence to the locals’ infectious obsession with food. The landscapes of Tuscany are also tourist-brochure material – all vine-carpeted hills, lush forests and medieval hamlets – while the pace of life is unhurried. Whether you want to get out and explore with your family, indulge in a wine-soaked week away with friends or discover the roots of the Renaissance, Tuscany is the place to do it.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa – Take photos of this iconic wonky structure.
- The Uffizi Gallery – See works by da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael.
- Siena – Watch bareback horse racing during the Palio at Piazza del Campo.
- Florence Duomo – Climb to the top for phenomenal views over the city.
- San Gimignano – See the stone skyscrapers of this so-called ‘medieval Manhattan’.
- Accademia Gallery – Visit the home of Michelangelo’s David.
- Ponte Vecchio – Browse the jewellery shops on Florence’s oldest bridge.
When to Visit?
Peak tourist season in Tuscany lasts from July through to mid-September. This is when crowds and temperatures are at their zenith, but that definitely doesn’t make it a no-go zone. While valley-based locales such as Florence may be muggy, the cooler hilltop towns provide heat relief.
One thing to remember when planning your holiday here is that in August, the larger Tuscan cities such as Florence and Pisa experience a mass exodus as the locals head off on holiday. During this month, you’ll find many small restaurants and shops deserted while their owners are off sunning themselves on the coast. Having said that, even if you do choose to visit in August, the main attractions will still be open and you won’t find yourself stuck for somewhere to eat as long as you stay central.
April and May, as well as October and November, are good times to go: the weather is welcomingly temperate and tourist numbers are greatly reduced. Winter, though usually mild, can be plagued with drizzle and occasionally a sprinkling of snow. If you don’t mind donning a coat, the pay-off is that you’ll have Tuscany almost all to yourself.
- Airports: Travel from UK to Pisa and Florence, both airports serving international flights.
- Public transport: If the thought of driving on the right – or should that be wrong? – side of the road has you breaking out in a cold sweat, don’t despair. Tuscany is one of those rare, rural regions that is extremely well-served by public transportation. Trenitalia national trains run to and from the major towns such as Florence, Siena and Pisa, while several bus operators, the most useful of them being Busitalia, connect smaller villages and settlements to the larger cities.
- By Bike: Biking is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to navigate this province. You can travel at your own pace and see all the incredible landscapes that characterise this region as you do so. Strade bianche (unpaved back roads) criss-cross the province, and run among the olive groves and vineyards. The region’s hills can be hard on the legs, but rest assured, for every uphill, there is also a downhill.
- Hiring a car: Renting a car is one of the best ways to explore Tuscany. Driving is extremely handy, particularly if you want to strike out from the crowd and discover hidden Tuscany and some of the less well-known parts of the province. Forget those rumours you’ve heard about ‘crazy Italian drivers’; while driving etiquette in large cities like Rome, Naples and Milan may be a little questionable, Tuscany’s roads are rather less manic. Avoid driving into the historical centre of the major Tuscan cities; most of these are designated ZTLs (limited traffic zones), and non-residents who enter will face a fine. A GPS will aid with navigation.
- The Lucca Antiques Market, which takes place on the third weekend of every month and features well over 200 stalls, is a treasure trove for the curious. Among the antique furniture, prints and books for sale are all kinds of random bits and bobs you never knew you wanted – that is, until now.
- After a few days hiking or cycling the Tuscan hills, your muscles will thank you for taking a dip in the Saturnia hot springs. The sulphurous smell from the milky pools may put some people off, but the instant relaxing effect of the steaming mineral-rich water outweighs the pong.
- Artist Niki de Saint Phalle began work on the Gaudi-inspired Tarot Garden in the late 1970s and continued adding more fantastic, undulating forms and mosaics to the site up until 1996. The whimsical nature of this unusual park makes it a surprising hit among children.
- Set among open, wild-flower carpeted fields, the roofless ruins of San Galgano Abbey aren’t on most tourists’ radars, though they ought to be. It’s famously associated with an Arthurian-style sword-in-stone legend and is a sensational spot for a quiet picnic.
- Many people write off Tuscany’s coastline, bemoaning its overdeveloped, charmless resorts. But not all of Tuscany’s seaside spots live up to this bad reputation. Parco Natural della Maremma, for instance, is remarkably unspoilt. The wild, long swaths of sand that extend south from Marina di Alberese showcase beaches as nature intended them to be: au natural and free from sunloungers and umbrellas.
Families needn’t worry about the reception they’ll receive here; Tuscans are very taken with children. Your beloved bambinos won’t just be warmly welcomed wherever you go, they’ll be positively doted upon.With our lengthy portfolio of family-friendly Tuscan villas, finding a suitable abode for the kids will be – excuse the pun – child’s play. And the secret to happy families once you get here? Don’t get mired in Tuscany’s Renaissance riches. Stunning though they may be, the kids won’t thank you for marching them through an endless succession of look-but-don’t-touch museums and galleries.Why not take a different tack instead? Tear those little eyes away from the screen and introduce them to the veritable open-air adventure playground that is Tuscany.
There are castles to conquer, deserted beaches on which to run free, ancient towns to explore and towers to climb. And, when all else fails, there’s always gelato! Whether you’ve got under-fives or school-age kids, tots or older teens, you’ll never be far from a fun-filled spot that will rekindle their natural curiosity and insatiable appetite for adventure. To save you from searching them out for yourself, we’ve collated a few of the best below.
Best Family Activities in Tuscany
- Thanks to its laid-back vibe and huge variety of countryside paths and routes, walking is a great way to explore Tuscany (and maybe even get a bit of exercise while you’re at it).
- Want to make sure you’re going in the right direction and making the most of your ramble? Walkabout Tuscany can take you on a guided tour that’s suitable for any ages, and they’ll even keep the kids entertained too.
- When you’ve got all of Florence’s Renaissance art and architecture close by, it’s be a huge shame not to explore it. Who knows, the kids might just learn a thing or two at the same time!
- If you’re worried the kids might not pay attention, why not arrange for a private family Segway Tour around Florence? The whole clan will love zipping about, and you’ll take in far more of the city than if you were just on foot.
- In a similar vein, the Museo Galileo is a hands-on science museum with loads of interactive (and sometimes rather grisly!) exhibits for kids of all ages.
- As with everywhere that’s a popular holiday spot, you’ll find plenty of theme parks in and around Tuscany. Whether you’re looking for water parks, roller coasters or something a bit more daring, a day out at one is bound to go down well with everyone.
- Parco Avventura Il Gigante is something a bit different your little monkeys might enjoy. With courses suitable for kids as young as three, this climbing park set in a forest near Florence features rope bridges, swings and zip lines.
If you need more ideas, just visit our blog on the best family activities in Tuscany.
Best Kid-Friendly Events in Tuscany
- Arte ll Sole is a great way to encourage the kid’s artistic side – it’s essentially an art camp that’s run in various sites throughout Tuscany, and teaches the kids all about Italian art and culture, along with a smattering of the language too.
- The Giostra del Saracino in Abruzzo is a festival of medieval proportions! As well as fetes, stalls and a carnival atmosphere, the main event is the jousting competition that takes place between the town’s districts. It takes place on the first Sunday in September.
- Il Genio Fiorentino – translated as The Florentine Genius – is a festival that celebrates everything that’s great about Florence including food, music, art and entertainment. While it’s not specifically for kids, it’s so diverse that there’s literally something for everyone!
What could be better than jetting off with some like-minded friends and family members to enjoy all that fine food, wine and culture together? Beats us.Once you’ve assembled your cast of friends, start browsing our collection of characterful Tuscan villas, many of which come equipped with amazing amenities including tennis courts, hot tubs and swimming pools.
Sharing a stylish home-from-home with friends and family will help keep cost down, so you and your travel companions will have lots of cash left to splash, whether you want to flash the plastic in Tuscany’s open-air markets, or stock up on quality outdoor kit for memorable hiking or cycling excursions. And should you be stuck for ideas on how to spend your days in Tuscany, never fear. We’ve got a few stellar suggestions up our sleeve.
Adrenaline-Fuelled Activities in Tuscany
- Tuscany Vespa Tours – if you’re looking to see the rural sights (as well as taking in a little oil and wine tasting and a tasty meal) on a bona fide Italian design classic, this is the way to do it.
- While the Vespa tours mainly stick to the roads, you can head into the wilderness with Tuscany Adventure, which offers quad bike rides through the countryside.
- You might not think the humble bike would be the most exciting vehicle to tackle Tuscany on, but Bike in Florence beg to differ. Their routes can be pretty challenging, and you’ll definitely pick up some speed on the way down those hills.
More Laid-Back Activities
- So long as it’s not too hot out, grabbing your walking shoes and taking to Tuscany’s many beautiful paths is a great way to explore – and you might even stumble across a hidden gem of a local bar and restaurant on your travels!
- Anyone who’s visited Tuscany and not taken advantage of the huge amount of art and culture on display hasn’t really seen the true Tuscany. Make sure you head into Florence, Arezzo, Lucca and Pisa and marvel at the Renaissance treasures on display.
- Even so, taking in everything in Florence can be a bit daunting – but the folks at ArtViva offer guided tours that’ll give you a good overview or dive into your chosen area of interest.
- Biking around Tuscany is just one of those pairings that seem right, a bit like wine and cheese (both Tuscan, naturally) or gelato on a hot day. Make sure you see at least some of the region’s countryside by bike, and it’s a great way to get to some of the smaller towns and villages too.
- Tuscany Bike Tours will rent you a bike and show you the best routes and views, take you to pretty hilltop villages and even take you to a wine tasting on the way.
- And make sure you don’t just visit Florence, either. It’s well worth going, but there’s plenty to discover in many of Tuscany’s hilltop towns and cities – you might just be surprised!
- A great example is taking the time to visit Lucca – Lucca Tours offer intimate and informative tours around the city by a local, who won’t just educate you on the history and culture but also point out their favourite hidden restaurants and shops!
There are loads more suggestions over at our blog on the best group activities in Tuscany.
Tuscan food is, like most of the best food, uncomplicated. Bells, whistles and anything highfalutin is rejected in favour of supremely fresh, tasty ingredients and straightforward preparation.Some of the best Tuscan dishes may sound basic – papa al Pomodoro (tomato soup), for instance, or pappardelle alla leper (homemade egg pasta with wild hare sauce) – but the flavours are divine.Tuscany’s go-to ingredients, such as beans, olive oil, Pecorino di Pienza and truffles, are native to the province and don’t have to travel far before they end up on the plate.
Meals are a drawn-out affair and usually comprise several courses. They typically begin with an antipasto course (cured meats), before progressing to primi (often a soup or pasta). Next up is secondi (roasted meat or a fish-focused dish is common), then diners cap things off with a sweet course (typically cantucci e vin santo – almond biscuits dunked in dessert wine). Speaking of wine, that too is in abundance here. Some of the region’s best red wines, like Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano have achieved worldwide fame, but with plenty of other Chianti variations and lesser-known vine producers in the province, you’re bound to stumble across some new favourites too.
Best Restaurants in Tuscany
- IO Osteria Personale in Florence isn’t your average Italian eatery, and definitely don’t expect pasta and pizza on the menu. This is chic and minimalist dining at its best, using local, seasonal ingredients to produce some amazing dishes such as roast octopus with chick peas or veal with a tuna sauce.
- If you’re looking for true Tuscan cooking, head to Artimino and hunt down the Da Delfina. They showcase the region’s finest dishes and produce, switching their menu around to accommodate what’s freshest.
- Head to Lucca to try the fare at Buca di Sant’Antonio, which serves a range of traditional and better known Italian dishes, and they do it pretty well – the restaurant has apparently been going since 1782.
- Our final suggestion isn’t exactly a restaurant but it’s well worth dipping into – you’ll probably see several branches of Grom on your travels through Tuscany, and make sure you pop in if you see one. They serve some of the best gelato you’ve ever likely to try!
Find more tempting recommendations in our blog on the best foodie experiences in Tuscany.
Tuscan Dishes to Look Out For
- If you’re a hungry carnivore (or two) keep your eyes peeled for bistecca Fiorentina, a T-bone steak from specially reared Tuscan cows that’s cooked over hot coals. It’ll probably be the best steak you’ve ever eaten.
- It might sound a little off-putting, but Lardo di Colonnata makes for a wonderful starter – it’s local lard cured in marble and often served on bread.
- Liver crostini is also another classic Tuscan starter – chopped liver on crispy slices of bread.
- Vegetarians needn’t despair too – try a panzanella, a fresh and lively tomato and bread salad.
- When it comes to dessert, try a slice of castagnaccio. Delicious both hot and cold, it’s a type of cake made with chestnut flour to give it its characteristic taste.
The Best Foodie Experiences in Tuscany
- Select Italy in Chianti offers you the chance to pick up some true Tuscan cooking tips with a class held in writer Lorenza de Medici’s cookery school. You’ll be shown through a couple of recipes and get the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labours afterwards!
- If you’re not sure where to start on your Italian culinary odyssey, the Florence Food Tour is a great way to discover some of the top dishes and establishments in the city without the worry of ending up in an overpriced tourist trap.
- The Tuscan Truffle Academy will get you up close and personal with one of the world’s most prized (and certainly most expensive!) foods – truffles. Head out with a seasoned hunter to dig for the fabled fungi and then finish your day with a meal made from your finds.
- And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without a spot of wine tasting. Tuscany’s abundance of vineyards means you’ll never be short of great wineries to visit, and the guys at Tuscan Wine Tours can help arrange a tour that’ll take in the very best of the region.