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Tuscany

  • What to See
  • What to Do
  • What to Taste
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Tuscany is a wealth of historic treasures considered one-of-a-kind worldwide: the region is full of art cities and little picturesque villages with a huge cultural heritage, but is also extraordinary because of its fascinating landscape, with its bucolic countryside and rolling hills. Not to mention its amazing islands and coastal areas, its protected parks and, last but not least, its food, simple with authentic flavors, and its wines, ranked among the best in the world: to put it simply, there are really many reasons to visit Tuscany.

 

Florence

Florence

 

What shouldn’t you miss when visiting Tuscany? To begin with, these 10 spots:

 

1. Florence: cradle of the Renaissance and the Italian language, a real outdoor museum full of invaluable works

 

2. Siena: one of Italy’s most charming medieval cities, renowned all over the world for its historic “Palio”

 

3. Pisa: with its treasures of Romanesque and Gothic art, an unmissable stop-over for those who want to tour Tuscany’s art cities

 

4. San Gimignano: with its tall towers and evocative alleys, a small jewel that preserves the medieval atmosphere intact

 

5. Val d’Orcia: large and characterized by winding slopes dotted with cypresses and vineyards, the ideal place where to immerse yourself into beauty

 

6. Chianti: among small villages and solitary abbeys, the hills of Chianti are an invitation to relax and enjoy good food and good wine

 

7. Maremma: a mix of wild countryside, thermal baths, beaches and relics of the Etruscan age, the Maremma area offers many interesting spots

 

8. Garfagnana: just before the Apuan Alps, set amongst medieval fortresses and characteristic villages, the greenest and purest area in Tuscany

 

9. Baratti Gulf: on the coastal area between Livorno and Grosseto, immersed in a pristine pine grove, and home to many beautiful beaches

 

10. Elba Island: with its amazing beaches and clear water, Elba, and the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, are a must-see spot for those who love the sea

 

A trip to Tuscany allows to see with your own eyes invaluable landmarks and attractions, like Florence’s most symbolic places - Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto's Campanile, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio -, the famous Leaning Tower, in Pisa, and the scenic Piazza del Campo, in downtown Siena, where the well-known Palio di Siena event is staged every year, attracting tourists from all over the world. A short distance from Siena, you can find some of the region’s most characteristic locations, like the ancient village of Monteriggioni, on top of a hill, entirely surrounded by medieval walls and, in Chiusdino, the Abbey of San Galgano, an abandoned retreat that preserves a mysterious sword in the stone.

Tuscany offers endless entertainment options, to meet all tastes and needs: it caters for those seeking a relaxing holiday, but also for those who want to enjoy a stay devoted to sports and outdoor activities, or those looking for food & wine tours.

 

Palio di Siena

Palio di Siena

 

The area offers many activities set in natural surroundings: from the Apuan Alps to the Maremma Park, from Garfagnana to Casentino, it is possible to go trekking along many different trails for both experts and beginners. Those who love hiking can retrace the journey of the pilgrims on their way to Rome along the Via Francigena, with its fair share of monasteries, panoramic views and picturesque hamlets. If you want to experience something different, you can go along the geological trails of the Parco Archeo-Minerario di San Silvestro or follow the footprints of quarry workers on the Sentiero del Marmo (Marble Trail), in the Apuan Alps.

 

Those who love cycling will be spoilt for choice: here there are many itineraries suitable for racing bikes and mountain-bikes on roads with little traffic, twisting and turning in magnificent landscapes. Those seeking an out of the ordinary experience can opt for a hot air balloon flight above Val D’Orcia, discover Tuscany slowly, aboard old steam trains with tours in Mugello, Val D’Orcia and Garfagnana or take a tour on a Vespa motorbike or an exclusive Ferrari.

 

By the sea, there are plenty of opportunities for water sports: along the Tuscan coast it’s possible to go sailing, diving or surfing; you can also enjoy rafting along the Arno and along the Serchia river, in the province of Lucca; those with a more adventurous spirit can launch themselves into exciting hydro-speed tours along the Lima river, on the Pistoia Apennines and in Bagni di Lucca, in Garfagnana. Tuscany is also a favorite destination for golfers: here, golfing enthusiasts can play on exciting golf courses in the countryside, close to Florence, Prato, Pisa and Montecatini, as well as along the coast, in Punta Ala, Maremma, Argentario and Versilia.

 

Those who favor relaxation and well-being can choose one of the many thermal resorts in Tuscany: like Saturnia, in the Maremma area, which hosts a well-known thermal park and the Cascate del Mulino, outdoor, naturally warm thermal waters flowing in a wonderful setting; Montecatini, a memorable holiday resort for thermal tourism, but also Rapolano, Sorano, Chianciano, San Casciano dei Bagni and the natural hot springs of Bagni San Filippo.

 

Tuscany is the perfect destination for all foodies and wine lovers: you can follow the food and wine itineraries of the many “Wine Routes”, which meander throughout in the region, from the hills surrounding Florence to the Chianti area, passing through the Etruscan Coast. Along the Wine Routes, you can stop in a local winery or agriturismo to taste the local food and wine. And in Tuscany, you can discover the local tasty cuisine and its traditional recipes by taking part in one of the cooking classes held throughout the region.

 

Want to enjoy some nightlife? Opt for the famous clubs and discos of Versilia, from Forte dei Marmi to Viareggio, but also those in resorts like Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano, in the municipality of Monte Argentario. An essential stop for shopping fans are the high-fashion boutiques of Florence and Siena, and Tuscany’s many fashion shopping outlets - like The Mall Luxury Outlet, Barberino Designer Outlet and Valdichiana Outlet Village - and the region’s countless craft shops, where you can buy a range of handicrafts: leather from Florence, alabaster objects from Volterra, wool from Casentino, pottery from Montelupo Fiorentino and glass items from Colle Val d'Elsa.

 

As for the calendar of events that take place throughout the year, don’t miss the famous historical reenactment of the Palio di Siena (every year on 2 July and 16 August), the Carnival of Viareggio with its well-known papier-mâché floats, the Eroica, a non-competitive cycling event with vintage racing bicycles staged in Chianti on the first Sunday of October, the Explosion of the Cart, a folk tradition reenacted every year on Easter Sunday in Florence. Between October and November, the town of Lucca hosts Lucca Comics & Games, an international comic book and gaming convention; twice a year (in June and September) the Saracen Joust, an equestrian tournament of medieval origin, takes place in in Arezzo, while on every first weekend of the month Piazza Grande and the streets of the historic town host the Antique Fair of Arezzo, the oldest and biggest in Italy.

Tuscany boasts a strong culinary tradition featuring simple recipes and authentic flavors with many specialties that differ from one area to the next: in fact every corner of Tuscany is full of surprises when it comes to food!

 

Bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style)

Bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style)

 

A typical Tuscan meal starts with an antipasto with crostini neri, that is Tuscan bread, made with no salt, topped by a paté made of chicken livers, anchovies and capers, a tagliere with local cold cuts, like finocchiona, a typical salami from Siena flavored with wild fennel, lardo di colonnata, a type of pork lard that is a specialty of the Apuan Alps, Tuscan salami and ham, or with some Pecorino di Pienza cheese, perhaps served with pear and walnuts or fig jam.

 

Tuscany offers a very large choice of first courses: pici (thick handmade spaghetti typical of southern Tuscany) are, of course, one of the favorites, to be savored with cacio cheese and pepper or all’aglione, with Aglione garlic from Val di Chiana, as well as pappardelle with wild boar sauce, a strong, tasty dish typical of the Maremma area. Instead ribollita, a savory soup made with stale bread, vegetables and legumes, is a typical dish from the area of Florence, and pappa al pomodoro is a humble dish prepared with stale Tuscan bread, tomatoes and herbs.

 

The range of second courses on offer is just as rich: a quintessential symbol of Tuscan cooking is the bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style), an appetizing steak veal or heifer steak barbecued or grilled, if possibly of the Chianina bovine breed from Val di Chiana. Instead, peposo dell'Impruneta is another characteristically Florentine dish, a beef stew cooked for a long time with Chianti wine and seasoned with pepper. On the other hand, fish fans will appreciate cacciucco, a traditional dish from the coast between Livorno and Viareggio: this is a soup made with different varieties of fish, crustaceans and mollusks, prepared with tomato sauce and served over slices of toasted bread. Be careful not to be fooled by tonno del Chianti (Chianti tuna): notwithstanding its name, this is actually an ancient Tuscan recipe made with pork meat, aromatic herbs and olive oil (it may not be fish but it is just as delicious).

 

The perfect ending to a typically Tuscan meal with one of the region’s many desserts: for example, the classic cantucci, almond biscuits dipped in Vin Santo, a local fortified wine; castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour flavored with walnuts, pine nuts, raisins and rosemary; or panforte, a dessert from Siena, with almonds and candied fruit, or its spicy variant, enriched with cocoa powder, candied melon and pepper: pan pepato.

 

If you only have time for a quick lunch or a snack, Tuscany offers plenty of street food specialties: the most famous Tuscan street food dish is lampredotto, or bovine entrails, the main ingredient of the traditional Florentine sandwich. Another favorite is the Porchetta sandwich, to be enjoyed with bread, focaccia or schiacciata; and anywhere you go in Tuscany you’ll be sure to find  scagliozzi (pieces of fried polenta), torta di ceci (chickpea pie), which has a different name in each different area (it is called “cecina” in Pisa, but simply “torta” in Livorno) and brigidini, anise puff pastry cookies originating from the Pistoia area but commonly found all over the region.

BY AIR

 

You can reach Tuscany by air using the airports of Florence and Pisa.

 

The region’s main airport is Pisa International Airport, with connections to and from all major European cities. The airport is only a few kilometers away from the city center, which you can easily reach by taking the Pisa Mover, the shuttle that connects the airport to Pisa Centrale railway station. From Pisa Airport you can catch connections by bus to Florence (via Montecatini - Pistoia – Prato), and to Lucca and Viareggio/Pietrasanta with Vaibus.

 

Florence International Airport offers connections to and from many European cities. From here, you can reach downtown Florence in a few minutes using the T2 tramway line and by bus with Vola in Bus. The FlyBus service connects the airport to Prato, Montecatini Terme, and to Pisa Airport  (via Prato-Pistoia-Montecatini).

 

TRAIN

 

Trenitalia and Italo Treno chigh-speed trains connect the Firenze-Santa Maria Novella railway station (Florence’s main station) to Milan, Turin, Rome, Verona, Bologna, Naples, Venice, Salerno. From Florence, with Trenitalia direct regional trains, you can reach Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Arezzo, Livorno, Viareggio, Montecatini Terme. The company Trasporto Ferroviario Toscano operates rail connections in the province of Arezzo.

 

BUS

 

There are many bus companies operating across Tuscany. Most companies operates from the “Firenze Santa Maria Novella” railway station and the airports of Florence and Pisa:

 

BusItalia: operates the Vola in bus connections between Florence airport and the city center, as well as local public transport services in the Florence, Arezzo, Siena, Mugello, Valdisieve, Casentino and Valdarno areas.


ACV Bus: connects 20 districts of the province of Florence (Bagno a Ripoli, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Calenzano, Campi Bisenzio, Certaldo, Fiesole, Figline e Incisa Valdarno, Firenze, Greve in Chianti, Impruneta, Lastra a Signa, Montespertoli, Pelago, Pontassieve, Reggello, Rignano sull’Arno, S. Casciano Val di Pesa, Scandicci, Sesto Fiorentino, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa), Poggibonsi (in the province of Siena), and five districts in the province of Arezzo (Montevarchi, S. Giovanni Valdarno, Terranuova Bracciolini, Bucine, Pian di Scò).

 

FlyBus: operates connections between Florence Airport and Prato, Montecatini Terme and Pisa Airport (via Prato-Pistoia-Montecatini) and five districts in the province of Siena (Montevarchi, S. Giovanni Valdarno, Terranuova Bracciolini, Bucine, Pian di Scò).

 

AMV: operates connections in the Mugello and Valdisieve areas, serving Florence, Prato and Barberino del Mugello.

 

CAP: operates connections between Prato, Mugello, Siena and Chianti.

 

COPIT/BluBus: operates connections between Pistoia, Pescia and Collodi.

 

CPT Bus: operates connections between Pisa, Pontedera and Volterra.

 

Vai Bus: operates connections between Lucca and Versilia.

 

PiùBus: operates connections serving Empoli, Montespertoli, Fucecchio, Certaldo, Castelfiorentino, Montaione, Vinci, Cerreto Guidi

 

Tiemme: operates connections between Siena, San Gimignano, Grosseto, Arezzo

 

ATL: manages the transport system in Livorno, Rosignano, Cecina and on the Elba Island

 

Etruria: operates connections serving Arezzo, some districts of Casentino and  Val di Chiana