Tuscany is an easy region to fall in love with, songs could be written about its beauty, poetry to its cuisine, odes to its fashion… you get the idea. The best thing of all is that everyone loves something entirely different about it. We got chatting with some of our blogger friends and asked them to share their own favourite secret spots in Tuscany. Once you’re done getting inspired, head on over and check out our villas in Tuscany to find your ideal place to stay.
1. Sharon from Where’s Sharon: Pinocchio Park
If you are travelling with kids then a super fun place to visit is Pinocchio Park in Collodi, the town where the author of Pinocchio grew up. There are playgrounds, mazes, obstacle courses, old fashioned rides and Pinocchio puppet shows as well as a museum. The park itself is in a beautiful setting in a beautiful town and it’s a great place to visit. (P.S. Read more about Sharon’s adventures in Tuscany here)
2. Paul from A Luxury Travel Blog: Parco Naturale de Maremma
Head for the protected area that is Parco Naturale de Maremma, and take an organised, seasonal trek to the cove of Cala di Forno (available from the park between mid-June and mid-September), which is arguably the most secluded beach not just in Tuscany but in the whole of Italy.
3. Natalie from An American in Rome: Saturnia Hot Springs
Lounging around the Saturnia Hot Springs is the perfect way to top off a day of indulging in amazing Tuscan food and exploring the best of Italy’s wine country. While there are luxury spas aplenty just upstream, you can also join the locals for a free dip in Saturnia’s natural thermal pools. The small valley offers a picturesque setting to sink in and relax all’aperto (outside). As the water cascades down the tiered pools, you can take in the countryside through the steam. Simply follow the signs to the terme, and slip right in.
4. Susan from Tuscany Villages: Le Dieci Castella
The Valleriana, Pescia is a stunning area of Tuscany comprising of ten hill villages, which were once castles in Medieval times. Aramo, Stiappa, Castelvecchio, Pontito, Pietrabuona, San Quirico, Sorana, Fibbialla, Medicina, Vellano, known as Le Dieci Castella – The Ten Castles. Off the beaten path and surrounded by chestnut forests and olive trees, these ancient settlements offer peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of modern daily life.
Meander your way through their cobbled streets as terracotta pots decorate your path. Embrace their magnificent landscapes and admire centuries-old architecture; Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Eat traditional Tuscan dishes in family run restaurants and relax with a cappuccino or vino in one of the friendly cafes. It’s simply effortless to lose oneself in this magical corner of Tuscany.
5. Giulia from Juls Kitchen: Bizzarri
Bizzarri is a century old charming and mysterious shop in the heart of Florence, with wooden shelves and big glass jars which preserve ancient apothecary wisdom. You will find spices, essences and tinctures as well as everything you might need for restoring, painting and photography.
6. Sophee from Sophee Smiles: San Miniato
If you’re travelling between Pisa and Florence, make sure you enjoy a pit stop at the medieval hill town of San Miniato. This enchanting destination is like a backdrop from a Renaissance painting or a time capsule for the Middle Ages. With its historic architecture, cobblestone streets and old-world charm, it transports visitors to a beautiful memory of the past. Overlooking the Arno River Valley, San Miniato also lies at the heart of Italy’s premier truffle country.
When in town, it’s customary to sample this sensuously aromatic ingredient at one of the local restaurants. I enjoyed the best meal of my life in this humble Tuscan village; a plate of homemade pasta tossed in truffle oil and generously peppered with fresh truffle shavings (two simple elements – how brilliantly Italian). After tucking into a truffle feast, I recommend making your way to the Torre di Federico II, a beautiful tower which sits proudly on the hill’s summit (192m) and has prime views of the townscape below.
Other popular sites which are worth their notoriety, include: the Palazzo dei Vicari, Diocese Museum of Sacred Art, S. Domenico (church) and the town Cathedral. Then again, if you’re truffle-mad like me, you can always sign yourself up for a truffle-hunting expedition in the woodlands (Spring or Autumn) or a local cooking class, so you can work your own master chef magic on these gastronomic treasures.
7. Katarina from Grapevine Adventures: Montefioralle Winery
As I am a sommelier and wine enthusiast, of course, my pick here will be about wine. One fun activity is the Sommelier Challenge. This wine “quiz” is organized by Fisar Firenze in September, at the small Montefioralle winery belonging to the family of the President of Fisar Firenze. Basically, sommeliers gather in teams for a quiz on wine knowledge, as a sort of team building event. After the challenge, we all have lunch together outdoors under the pergola with a stunning view of the small hamlet Montefioralle and the surrounding vineyards. The hills and vineyards around Montefioralle, close to Greve in Chianti, offer a fantastic panorama. It is a true gem of a place. If it’s your first time in the area, a wine tour is a must.
8. Valery from Experienced Traveller: Pistoia
Pistoia is my Tuscan treasure. It has many beautiful and interesting buildings. The black and white striped exterior of the Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, originally built outside the city, is reminiscent of the cathedral in Siena. The Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by some architectural gems such as the 12th century Duomo di San Zeno and its enormous bell tower, and the elegant Battistero di San Giovanni in Conte. The exquisite octagonal gothic exterior has alternating bands of white and green marble.
For me, the real gem in Pistoia is the Ospedale del Ceppo. The hospital, with its famous glazed terracotta frieze, is the start of an underground tour of Pistoia. The hospital was built over the River Brata and subterranean tunnels run alongside the diverted river course. It is a fascinating journey through time beginning with some brickwork from the original Roman bridge, passing the old hospital laundry and the sites of two mills that once operated down there. Pistoia also hosts a large weekly market which is worth investigating. And at the end of a day exploring you can relax in its beautiful public park and watch the antics of the grey herons that nest in the trees there.