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Your guide to Tuscany
All About Tuscany
Home to one of the world’s most famous renaissance sculptures, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and legendary wines, Tuscany is a picturesque region in central Italy bordered by the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas and scattered with terracotta rooftops and lush vineyards. South of Cinque Terre and north of Rome, Tuscany is home to diverse, awe-inspiring landscapes, from ancient walled cities to the sugary sands of Cala Violina. You can ski in the northern Apennine Mountain villages, soak in southern Santurnia’s hot springs, swim in eastern Arezzo’s wooded Arno River, or sunbathe on the western beaches of Elba and the Tuscan Isles. Between these borders, there are medieval hill towns to explore, sunflower and poppy fields to cycle alongside, and scenic spots in the verdant countryside for picnics made up of local olives, figs, and cheeses.
Tuscany’s 10 provinces include the cities of Pisa, Siena, and Florence — all World Heritage sites — along with hilltop San Gimignano, which blends ancient towers with contemporary art installations. Visitors are drawn to the region to explore over 100 protected nature reserves, the renowned cultural treasures at the Uffizi gallery, and spectacular churches and cathedrals including the ancient Basilica of San Frediano with its 13th-century Romanesque mosaic exterior. Unforgettable local cuisine includes hearty ribollita soup and cantucci — crunchy almond biscuits — and Florence in particular is a big draw for steak, which is traditionally cooked over embers.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Tuscany?
Ideal times to book a Tuscany vacation rental are April through June or September and October when temperatures are moderate. The hills and mountains are typically cooler and temperatures drop at night.
Bear in mind that the summer heat can be uncomfortable in the region’s cities. Many buildings don’t have air conditioning, and this is when a lot of businesses close to take their own summer holidays.
December through February is usually cold enough in the north to snow.
Summer festivals include Pisa’s June regatta along the Arno River and Montepulciano’s Bravio delle Botti in late August, a barrel-rolling race between the city’s eight divisions with a street banquet and costumes. On January 6, Epiphany celebrations happen throughout Tuscany.
Before Easter, some of the best known carnival celebrations in Italy happen in Viareggio, a small northern village on the Tuscan Riviera.
What are the top things to do in Tuscany?
Centrally located Siena draws visitors to the Italian Gothic Palazzo Pubblico, seat of Siena’s government, while its 13th-century Torre del Mangia — one of the largest secular towers in Italy — is as impressive as the frescoes inside. Restaurants and bars radiate with live music from Piazza del Campo, and you can hop on an electric bike or stroll along the river to join the locals in a sunset passeggiata.
In bucolic Val d’Orcia you can sip world-famous Brunello di Montalcino and sample traditional country cooking while peering down from pretty villages at hills dotted with vineyards and cypress trees. The towers of San Gimignano, the city of Pienza, and Abbazia di Sant'antimo — a Romanesque church where you can still hear Gregorian chants by resident monks — are just some of this area’s treasures.
Pitigliano and Saturnia
Built on hills of volcanic tuff, the ancient town of Pitigliano is home to exposed caves and historic tombs. At certain times of day, the interior of the Pitigliano Cathedral is tinted gold and purple as the sun’s rays reach through colored glass windows, while the narrow streets are lined with shops and restaurants. A half-hour drive will take you to Saturnia, a spa town where you can slide into warm sulphurous waters that pool around cascading waterfalls.