Tuscany is perhaps the best region of Italy to visit if you want an introduction to the charms of the country, with the great artistic cities such as Florence and Siena, the famous leaning tower of Pisa, beautiful scenery, lovely villages and hill towns, vineyards and olive groves, and much else...
Tuscany - an introduction
Tuscany is in the north-west part of central Italy and is one of the most popular, and most beautiful, regions of the country. The region contains the renaissance city of Florence as well as several other fascinating cities and towns such as Lucca, Arezzo, Cortona and Siena. The famous leaning tower is of course found at Pisa, to the west of the region.
But it is not just the famous cities that attract visitors to Tuscany, and you will also enjoy exploring the beautiful countryside, visiting the pretty villages and hill towns and enjoying the landscapes of vineyards and olive groves, rolling fields and mountains, and the famous cypress trees of the region.
The main challenge you face when you visit Tuscany is the number of things that you will want to see and the limited amount of time you probably have available!
Note that although Tuscany does have seaside resorts, it would not usually be first choice for a beach holiday in Italy - but the beaches are ideal if you just want to spend a day or two at the coast during your visit.
To help with your planning, below we consider the main attractions by region within Tuscany: the north and Florence; the centre and Siena; and the southern and eastern parts of Tuscany. The most 'famous' sights are generally in the northern half of Tuscany.
Northern Tuscany and Florence: places to visit
Florence itself is of course world famous as the centre of the Italian renaissance, with highlights including the Duomo and the Baptistry; the renaissance artworks in the Uffizi gallery and Michelangelo's David in the Galleria dell'Accamedia; the Medici Villas and the Palazzo Vecchio. See our Florence guide for details.
The town of Fiesole, a short distance north of Florence, is a very ancient town with several interesting monuments and is an interesting contrast to the crowded streets of Florence.
To the north of this region of Tuscany the Garfagnana valley is a lovely fertile valley perfect for hiking and cycling, with the famous quarries of Carrara that provided the marble for many of the renaissance masterpieces a little to the west. The Apuane Alps mountains here are also very popular with outdoor enthusiasts, and you can enjoy a stroll around the spa town of Bagni di Lucca.
Between Florence and the coast to the west the most famous destinations are Pisa and in particular the monuments of the Piazza di Miracoli such as the Leaning Tower; and Lucca, a lovely historic walled town best known for its impressive romanesque churches.
Other notable highlights between Florence and Pisa include the cathedral town of Empoli, the village at Artimino and the small town of San Miniato as well as the chance to visit Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci. You can also see some interesting historical buildings in the towns at Pistoia and Prato while between Pistoia and Florence the exceptional Medici Villa at Poggio a Caiano is also recommended.
Highlights on the coast in this part of Tuscany include Pietrasanta and the seaside resort at Viareggio with its art nouveau architecture is also worthy of a visit while opera lovers will want to visit Torre del Lago Puccini, once the lakeside home of the great opera composer.
In the hills to the east of Florence we suggest you spend a few days touring the quiet Casentino district. There is a lot to enjoy here including the abbey at Vallombrosa, the village of Montemignaio, the castle at the hill town of Poppi, the monastery and hermitage at Camaldoli, the village of Stia (source of the Arno river).
You can also explore the villages of Raggiolo and Bibbiena and also clusters of villages such as those at Pratovecchio, Cetica and Castel San Niccolo. Capolona and Pelago are also interesting destinations within the Casentino.
Central Tuscany and Siena: places to visit
The city of Siena is quite different in character to Florence and one of the most lovely towns in Italy, in particular in the streets around the extraordinary medieval Piazza del Campo in the heart of the old town.
The cathedral and bapistry, the Museo dell'Opera and the gothic style town hall are among the many highlights in Siena.
The renowned Chianti wine region is found between Florence and Siena.
North of Siena the highlights include San Gimignano, a lovely 13th century town well known for its medieval towers - and its crowds!
The attractive hilltop towns of Volterra and Colle di Val d'Elsa are among others to visit, and quiter than San Gimignano, and you should also explore the lovely medieval town of Certaldo while you are in the Elsa valley The stunning walled town at Monteriggioni is yet another highlight here.
The region to the east of Siena has numerous highlights, including the lively town of Arezzo with its impressive religious monuments and frescoes such as those in the Church of San Francesco. The very scenic town of Cortona is also in this region, and we also suggest a trip to explore historic Anghiari while enthusiasts of Renaissance art will want to visit Sansepolcro, birthplace of the renowned artist Piero della Francesca.
Betwen Siena and Cortona you can see the barren landscapes of the Crete Senesi region, an interesting contrast to those found elsewhere in Tuscany!
South and east Tuscany: places to visit
The southern part of Tuscany certainly contains less famous towns and sites than the northern part of the region but has its own charm and there are still a good number of interesting places to visit.
To the south of Siena the highlights include the historic centre of the quiet town of Montalcino and also San Galgano, with its impressive abbey ruins. A little further east, you should also take a detour to explore the interesting historic centre of Massa Marittima.
In the south-east of Tuscany you will enjoy visiting the historic town of Montepulciano and also the smaller villages of Pienza (a UNESCO listed town in the Val d'Orcia). The collegiale church and Museum of Sacred Art at Chianciano are just a short distance south of Montepulciano, and the ancient town at Chiusi is also interesting, with the etruscan tombs and museum to visit.
In the far south of the region, the Natural park of Maremma north of Talamone has some beautiful coastal scenery, which leads you to the nature reserve of Monte Argentario to the south or the island of Elba to the north.
Elba is a picturesque island to explore with attractive countryside, vineyards and olive groves, as well as beaches and coast scenery. The island entered into the history books when Napoleon was sent into exile here.
On the coast to the south of Talamone you can visit the ancient port town of Porto Ercole while inland from here is a lovely cluster of villages at Pitigliano, and Sovana and Sorano are also close by and a pleasure to explore. The thermal baths at Saturnia are also very popular, as they have been since the Etruscan period.
Tuscany highlights - a photo gallery
Most Beautiful Villages in Tuscany
The following Italian towns and villages in Tuscany are listed among the 'most beautiful villages in Italy': Anghiari / Barga / Buonconvento / Castelfranco di Sopra / Cetona / Coreglia Antelminelli / Cutigliano / Giglio Castello / Loro Ciuffenna / Montefioralle / Montescudaio / Pitigliano / Poppi / San Casciano dei Bagni / Scarperia / Sovana / Suvereto
Orange Flag Tourism towns in Tuscany
The following Italian towns and villages in Tuscany are listed among the 'Orange flag towns in Italy' (a national tourist award): , Anghiari / Barberino Val d'Elsa / Barga / Casale Marittimo / Casole d'Elsa / Castelnuovo Berardenga / Castiglion Fiorentino / Certaldo / Cetona / Collodi / Cutigliano / Lari / Lucignano / Massa Marittima / Montalcino / Montecarlo / Montefollonico / Montepulciano / Monteriggioni / Murlo / Peccioli / Pienza / Pitigliano / Radda in Chianti / Radicofani / San Casciano dei Bagni / San Gimignano / Sorano / Suvereto / Trequanda / Vinci / Volterra