Tuscany is definitely worth mentioning when we talk about Italy as it is completely flooded with the treasures of beauty and aspiring places to visit it all around. There are tons of Tuscan holiday rentals to choose from for your holiday here – budget to luxury, localized to isolated. Widely known as the most popular wine region of Italy, Tuscany is filled with vineyards as far as your eyes can see and according to many people, these vineyards are the main tourist attraction of Tuscany. However, Tuscany has a lot more to offer than its famous vineyards. If you are planning to visit Tuscany for the first time, then keep reading. You will end up with a lot of useful suggestions for your trip. Here are the 10 most interesting activities in Tuscany for first-timers!
1. Wine tasting
A trip to the Tuscan region wouldn’t be complete without visiting a vineyard and tasting Italian wine straight from the producer’s wine cellar. There are organized tours that can take you to vineyard hopping, where you’ll taste some excellent wines while getting to know some wine basics and history.
2. Val d’Orcia
When I think about Tuscany, a couple of things that come to my mind after the amazing wine are the lush green fields and rolling hills. What if I told you that this idealized image of Tuscany actually exists? You’ll find it in the Val’d Orcia, extending from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata. This picturesque valley hides some charming small towns that you probably heard of but never really thought about visiting. Some of them include Pienza, Monticchiello, San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignioni, and Montalcino. Wherever you go, you will find World Heritage sites, as the whole area is protected by UNESCO.
3. The island life on Giglio
Hiding from the tourist development in the Tuscan archipelago, you will find Giglio. Giglio is one of the last relatively unspoiled (by tourists) places dotted with citadels, charming stone villages, and panoramic views. The island has a strict policy when it comes to motorbikes/cars, which just adds to its unspoiled, authentic beauty.
4. Take a pilgrimage to La Verna
St Francis’s mountaintop hides a thriving Franciscan monastery that offers some of the most amazing views of the Apennines. The La Verna sanctuary is Tuscany’s major pilgrimage site. Some people visit out of curiosity, others to pay homage, and you can even stay in the guesthouse adjoining the monks. If you’re looking for a place to experience peace away from Tuscany’s tourist hubs, LaVerna is definitely a great choice.
5. San Gimignano
Worthy of the nickname ‘Medieval Manhattan’, San Gimignano is arguably the most beautiful hill town in Tuscany. Hidden deep in the countryside, the narrow streets and typical stone towers of San Gimignano host some of the best Italian vineyards specialized for producing the famous Vernaccia. The town is also home to some of the most beautiful medieval palaces in Tuscany, like Palazzo del Popolo and Palazzo del Podestà. The whole town looks like it came out of a postcard but you will experience the most iconic view if you climb the Torre Grossa. You will get a 360 panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and hills looming over San Gimignano.
6. Get lost in Monti dell’Uccellina
The protected area of Monti dell’Uccellina is one of the last pristine stretches of coastline in Tuscany. Lying in the corner of Maremma, Tuscany’s long forgotten region, Monti dell’Uccellina managed to preserve its beautiful nature. The forest-covered hills and coastal plains have been a place of exile throughout history but is today a regional park that hides some of Tuscany’s most amazing natural treasures.
7. The Ponte Vecchio
Some say this is just an ordinary bridge with luxury shops in it. However, one cannot ignore the grand stories about the bridge that brought life to Florence. The bridge that has been destroyed and reconstructed many times, is today one of the most popular places to visit in Tuscany. For more information about this lovely city, check out this comprehensive article about things to do in Florence.
8. Relive Under the Tuscan Sun in Cortona
Cortona is an idyllic hill town in Tuscany that became famous in Francies Mayes book “Under the Tuscan sun”. This picturesque town has another layer of history added by the 3,000-year-old Etruscan walls but the city between those walls is just as impressive. Even though a small town, Cortona is home to some iconic buildings like the Abbazia Farneta, and the Chiesa San Francesco. Additionally, its perfect location offers a grandiose view of the Chiana Valley and Lake Trasimeno.
If you’re enjoying this article, also check out the article I wrote about visiting France on a budget.
9. Vie Cave
The Vie Cave is another one of Maremma’s best-kept secrets. These mysterious sunken roads carved by the Etruscans during the bronze age. However, the reason for their creation and how they were created remains unknown even today. If you want to visit these magical tight passages, you better hurry up. The Vie Cave has recently been listed as an endangered monument due to their fragility.
Finally, round up your first visit to Tuscany with a day trip to Pisa and see the famous Leaning Tower and Marina di Pisa. Standing at 60 meters tall, the Pisa tower is one of the most remarkable architectural structures from medieval Europe. This tower was planned to be perfectly vertical but it started leaning during the construction. Ever since it has been one of Italy’s most iconic tourist attractions.
I believe Tuscany, despite being really touristy, is a place that everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime. With its lyrical landscapes, fascinating history, and the superb cuisine, the Tuscan experience is something you really don’t want to miss while visiting Italy.