The rolling hills of Tuscany are often viewed as the ideal holiday destination but nestled in those hills are some incredible towns that are more than picture-perfect.
In this article, we’re going to look at the 10 best places to visit in Tuscany & why even some of the more popular places are still perfect for your next trip… even if you’re just looking for some relaxation.
You’re most likely familiar with the picturesque images of the Tuscan landscapes captured by many painters, photographers & videographers.
The wine hills seem to never end with beautiful Tuscan villages & architecture perched atop what would seem is every hill.
It does indeed seem like each hill has a beautiful village to capture your mind & imagination, and a drive out into the countryside can never be a wrong decision when it comes to a trip through Tuscany.
There are so many places to see, we couldn’t possibly list them all… So we’re going to try & capture a little bit of everything.
Florence – Best places to visit in Tuscany
Home of the Renaissance or cradle of the Renaissance.
Florence is a city that lives & breathes the Tuscan lifestyle with the typical Italian hustle & bustle.
It’s actually one of the few cities in Italy I was comfortable driving in.
Maybe that was the relative calmness you could sense from the locals or the relaxed atmosphere in all of the chaos… Or maybe I’d just been driving through some chaotic situations the day before & I was hardened for this adventure. 😜
Whatever the cause was, we knew this was a city that cannot be missed on a trip through Tuscany. Whilst many cities can be a rather big letdown when you get there (looking at you Frankfurt…), Florence far surpassed our expectations.
It shouldn’t be a surprise though, considering Dresden is one of our favorite cities overall. Known as the Florence of the Elbe, the actual Florence showed why it’s held in such a high regard.
There is so much to see & do. Whilst it can be quite crowded & busy in the touristy center if you purchase your tickets ahead of time & dine in the quieter areas as you move away from the center, you’ll find a relaxing & calm adventure.
I’d recommend the Firenze Card if you want to visit the museums, you’ll save money in the long run whilst not having to queue for tickets (you may still have to queue to validate if you’re visiting during the busy season or off the shoulder… but the queues won’t be as long as having to queue for purchasing).
Mercato di San Lorenzo, the Piazza & neighborhood surrounding it has some great places to catch something to eat & often at a fair price.
If you’re looking for long views over this incredible city, head to the Piazzale Michelangelo where you’ll have a clear view of the Duomo & Ponte Vecchio. Another great viewing platform is the Forte di Belvedere, but you’ll need to be prepared for a steep walk if you’re heading in from the river.
P.s. If you’re looking for parking, try the Parcheggio Oltrarno. Just make sure you don’t enter theLimited Traffic Zone without a permit, I hear the police will hunt you down. 😉
The leaning tower of Pisa.
Sometimes you’ve just got to have some fun & there’s nothing quite as fun as heading to Pisa & either participating in virtual straightening of the tower or doing some people watching & enjoying yourself.
I like clichés & when it comes to the leaning tower of Pisa, pretty much everything is a cliché at this point.
Don’t take yourself too seriously & just take a wide walk around the selfie stick sellers that will surely greet you multiple times, in whichever language they think you’ll understand… Someone spoke Swahili to us, which I’m still frankly confused about… He didn’t seem to understand when we replied in Afrikaans. 😉
Whilst the tower takes the cake, the rest of the architecture found in the Piazza dei Miracoli is quite astounding & worth a look around.
Head into the old town & you’ll discover on your way down to the river that Pisa is more than just a tower.
This medieval hill town is known as the Town of Fine Towers. Once you spot it from a distance, from whichever direction you approach, you’ll know exactly why.
There are approximately 14 towers that make up the skyline of this small town atop the hill. With its prime position, you get amazing views of the town from afar, as well as views afar from within the town walls.
Barga – One of the best places to visit in Tuscany
Found slightly east of the Apuan Alps, Barga is a town full of greenery dominated by the vegetation of the nearby mountain range.
The town has a strange Scottish feel and is appropriately named the most Scottish town in Italy. In the 19th century many residents relocated to Scotland, but in the years after many returned to Barga…I now just can’t seem to shake the pronunciation. I always seem to attach a horrible attempt at a Scottish accent to it. 😐
With beautiful architecture, long views, great food, & what would seem like a completely different climate, Barga is definitely one of the best places to visit in Tuscany.
The nearby countryside also has a lot to offer, with the Apuan Alps home to some impressive landscapes & the nearby Ponte della Maddalena,a.k.a. Devils Bridge.
If you do find yourself driving from Barga through the Apuan Alps, head towards Carrara.
Found in the northern parts of Tuscany, Carrara is known for the white & blueish marble quarried in the mountains above the town.
Head into town & you’ll find romantic streets, littered with buildings proudly showcasing the region’s fine marble.
Carrara is also a great place to stay over. Especially if you’re heading further north to Cinque Terre, Genoa, or Parma. On your way, you’ll be treated to some spectacular nature.
How to best describe Lucca… hmm, let me have a go.
This Tuscan gem has some of the most pristine renaissance walls surrounding the city, with walkways & parks to relax out in the sun with, you guessed it, a stereotypical gelato in hand.
Head into town & you’ll find medieval cobblestone streets with large squares & plenty of cafés & restaurants to appease your appetite.
Peer into the often-blue skies & you’ll see towers, of both red & white brick… stare closely & you’ll even see a few holm-oak trees resting atop of one…
Yes, you read that correctly, trees on top of a tower. Namely, the Guinigi Tower, which you can even climb & take in the view from up there.
Another walled mountaintop town was found in the hills of Tuscany.
Volterra may be the most famous of these towns thanks to its well-preserved facades, impressive Palazzo dei Priori, wide piazza’s & more recently its prominence as a key town in a certain range of Vampire books.
If we’re going to talk about wide piazza’s then the Piazza del Campo in Siena cannot be forgotten. It’s not just impressive on a Tuscan scale, but on a global scale. Regarded as one of the greatest squares in all of Europe.
The Piazza del Campo & the Siena Cathedral are obvious places to visit but don’t forget to get lost in the beautiful narrow passageways that lead you up & down this hilltop city.
Once you’ve filled your stomach with some of the delicious local pici (a pasta that I would describe as spaghetti on steroids), you may feel capable of tackling the 400stairs that will lead you to the top of the Torre del Mangia… Change of mind, maybe it’ll be better to take in that view before munching down.
Greve in Chianti
Chianti should sound familiar to any of you that enjoy a bottle of red like me. The Chianti region is after all home to some of the best red wine producers throughout the world.
It’s also home to Greve in Chianti, the gateway to Chianti from Florence.
When you get here, you’ll be greeted with a quaint atmosphere perfect for relaxing & unwinding. The main square houses many boutique & artisan shops, with covered walkways to escape the sun & plenty of dining spaces.
This beautiful little town is ideal for those looking for the Tuscan lifestyle without having to walk to find it. 😉
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Monteriggioni is a really unique town perched on yet another Tuscan hilltop. The town is completely walled off, separating the inner chambers from the wine fields reaching far out from its walls. The watchtowers are also quite well preserved with many forming an illusion-like view when approaching the town.
The castle & church found within the walls are worth a walkthrough, but the history & impressive 570m long wall that seems to teleport you into another time is what really captures my imagination.
Now, there are many other beautiful places to visit in Tuscany, like Montepulciano, Livorno, etc. but these are 10 places we feel really capture the Tuscan atmosphere whilst showcasing the diversity of the region.