The most beautiful cities of Tuscany
Tuscany is a historical region in Central Italy. This place is one of the most attractive for tourists. The azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, rocky mountains, hills planted with vineyards create picturesque pictures that are hard to take your eyes off. Tuscany is considered the heart of the Renaissance, this region is a unique combination of historical monuments and the beauty of nature. Tuscany is a favorite tourist destination in Italy. Here are the most beautiful cities, which must visit every traveler.
Florence – the tourist center of Tuscany
Florence is the pride of Italy, concentrating many sights of different eras. The city lies in the middle of the picturesque Arno Valley. To the northeast, it is surrounded by the Apennine Mountains, which set the stage for the splendor of Florence’s churches and palaces. Gothic buildings and Renaissance sculptures fill the city, transporting travelers into the atmosphere of the Middle Ages. Famous masters such as:
- Leonardo da Vinci;
- Michelangelo Buonarroti;
- Raphael Santi.
You can begin your acquaintance with the wonderful architecture of Florence in the Cathedral Square. There is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is a monumental construction of colored marble, topped with a huge dome. It is deservedly called a marble flower – the beauty of the cathedral shocks the imagination.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Not far from it is the Giotto Bell Tower, from the height of which you can see the whole city as if in the palm of your hand. On Via Calzaioli is the church of Orsanmichele with sculptures standing in the walls. The most prominent is the figure of St. George. It is the work of the famous sculptor Donatello. In the Piazza della Signoria you can see the Palazzo Vecchio. It is the government residence of the Florentine Republic, built in the 14th century. The square is decorated with a sculptural composition, the elements of which are:
- Statue of Hercules by Bandinelli.
- The equestrian monument of Cosimo.
- The sculpture of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini.
- The fountain with the figure of Neptune.
Another monumental structure in Florence is the Palazzo Pitti. The palace was the residence of the Medici family, then the Habsburgs, King Victor Emmanuel II. Now it is a huge museum complex. Masterpieces by Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, Tintoretto are on display here. Going beyond Pitti, tourists find themselves in the Boboli Gardens. This is a giant park with fountains, sculptures, geometric flowerbeds, created in the 16th century. On the territory of Florence, you can see other beautiful buildings: the exquisite Cathedral of Santa Croce, the Buonachroti house, the Church of San Lorenzo, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, the Monastery of San Marco.
Siena is a medieval Italian city
Siena is a concentration of artistic masterpieces of the Trecento period. The historical sites of high cultural value are under the protection of the world organization UNESCO. What is surprising is that the medieval city center is well preserved. There are almost no restored buildings, the architecture has its original look. Siena stands on three hills connected by a labyrinth of curved city streets. It is surrounded on the outside by olive groves and vineyards. The city’s sights are close to each other, within walking distance. The sightseeing can start in Piazza del Campo, which has 9 sectors. There are Palio horse races, popular not only in Italy, but also beyond. The square is surrounded by ancient buildings, one of which is the City Hall, the political center of Siena. On the 1st floor of the building is a museum with murals. They were created by the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (14th century).
An interesting attraction is the tall 88-meter tower with a clock. It is called the “Tower of the Food Lover”. It got its unusual name because of the medieval keeper who spent all his free time in the taverns. From the observation deck of the tower offers a magnificent view over the entire city. Nearby, in Piazza del Duomo, is Siena Cathedral. This 13th-century building is a fine example of the Gothic style. On the ground floor of the cathedral is a museum with frescoes and sculptures by artists of the Middle Ages. There is also a baptistery where all the Sienese nobility were baptized. The fortress of Cosimo de’ Medici, a fortification strengthened by pentagonal bastions, deserves special attention. Since the 16th century it served for the defense of the city. Nowadays there are exhibitions, a library, and the cellar is equipped for tasting Italian wines.
Pisa – the city with a unique tower
It is impossible to visit Tuscany and not to visit Pisa. It deservedly ranks among the top cities that are a must-see. Its famous falling tower, the unofficial symbol of the city, is a world heritage site. Pisa is located 10 km from the coast of the Ligurian Sea. The city once had an important strategic importance because it was a port. It attracts lovers of interesting architecture from all over the world. The main attraction is the Leaning Tower of Pisa – a sloping structure 55 meters high. It is believed that the unusual structure of the tower is a consequence of an error in construction calculations. Tourists around the world just love to make original photos against its background.
Many are mistaken, thinking that except for the falling tower, there is nothing else to see in Pisa. It is full of beautiful cathedrals, palaces, museums and other attractions. At the city’s university there is a botanical garden, where nature lovers will find it interesting to wander. The variety of plants, located there, is amazing. Medieval monastery houses the National Museum, where the masterpieces of Italian sculptors and artists of the Middle Ages are collected. Not far from the Tower of Pisa is the cathedral, dating back to the 11th century. It is a multicultural structure, whose architecture has elements of Byzantine, Romanesque, Norman, Arabic cultures. Other structures of interest are:
Lucca – center of ancient palaces
Lucca is a small town of less than 90,000 inhabitants. However, it is considered one of the most interesting settlements in Tuscany. This is due to the special color of the architecture, which creates a mystical atmosphere of antiquity. Throughout the entire area it is surrounded by a majestic fortress wall. The total length of the preserved walls is 4.5 km. The fortification was built of huge stone blocks. Walking around Lucca it is impossible to pass by the cathedral of San Martino. Its construction date – 11 century. The facade of the building is very unusual. It is surrounded by columns, reflecting different architectural styles. There is a legend that they were made by different masters, who competed for the best decoration of the facade.
Tourists can rest and relax in the Piazza Amphitheatro. Around it there are ancient houses lined up in a circle. Formerly this place was a Roman theater. Now there are cozy cafes, souvenir stores. Located in the center of Lucca, Palazzo Mansi is a unique palace-museum. Its construction dates from the 16th century. Representatives of the Mansi merchant family bought it a century later and restored it. Therefore, the interior Baroque style does not match the austere exterior appearance of the building. Inside you can see a luxurious interior, complemented by beautiful frescoes, tapestries, paintings. Lucca has many more historical sites of interest to visit. High on the list of popular attractions are:
Montepulciano – a magnificent example of ancient architecture
The architecture of this amazing city links antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Montepulciano is located in the south of Tuscany, amongst beautiful valleys. The city is famous not only for architectural masterpieces, but also for its thermal springs and wine cellars. The tour of the city opens with the Colonna del Marzocco, topped with figures of lions. Next is the Pulcinella tower palace. The city clock strikes the hour. On the main street of the city, going to the top of the hill, you can see the palaces-mansions that belonged to the Italian aristocrats. Piazza Grande is home to the exquisite Palazzo Contucci and Palazzo Taruggi. Fans of the Twilight trilogy will be interested to know that some scenes of the 2nd film were filmed in Montepulciano. Undoubtedly, the gothic look of the buildings brings to mind vampires.
The fortress, located on top of a hill, offers a stunning view of the city and its surroundings. This defensive structure dates back to the 8-9 centuries. Huge walls with towers erected of stone make a strong impression. Montepulciano’s wineries rival its architectural structures in popularity. The wine produced here has been famous for its quality since the Middle Ages. It was even served at the papal table. The cellars with wine barrels stretch underground for several kilometers. When you go down there you can taste excellent Tuscan wines for free. From there you can also get into the cave, where there is an ancient burial place of the Etruscans.
San Gimignano – center of medieval culture
San Gimignano is called the “city of beautiful towers”. There are as many as 14 ancient structures of this type concentrated here. The towers, towering above the houses, give a unique flavor to the Italian settlement. The towers have preserved their original appearance, thanks to the law of the 13th century. The city authorities proclaimed that the old house can be demolished only if an even more beautiful building is erected in its place. Interestingly, the population of the town is only 7,000 people. This figure far exceeds the number of tourists who want to admire the medieval complex. Especially popular is the Devil’s Tower, located on the edge of the central square of the city. Through it you can go to the Golden Street, where there were craft shops.
The buildings are so well preserved that the entire town is a museum of ancient architecture. This is especially true of the old center. The buildings date back to the 11th-13th centuries. The center is separated from the rest of San Gimignano by dilapidated fortress walls. The foundations of the houses and a large part of the walls are made of travertine. It is a rock of gray-white, yellowish color. Because of this, the structures have a pleasant warm tone with different variations in shades. San Gimignano will delight lovers of ancient artifacts with many exhibitions. There is a city museum, consisting of 10 galleries. There are museums of religion, archaeology. The premises of the Gamucci and Ficarelli palaces have a medieval exhibition of the city. Thrill seekers can visit the museum of torture, at the entrance of which stands the executioner.
Cortona is the oldest city in Tuscany
The city was founded by the Etruscans a few centuries before Christ. Here you can find the remains of an ancient civilization that created an advanced culture. Later it was taken over by the Romans and the Goths. They adopted the elements of architecture and engineering from the Etruscans. The most interesting buildings can be called:
The Museum of Etruscan Culture is also worth a visit. It is one of the most important archaeological repositories of Italy. Valuable exhibits from the period of the 4th and 5th centuries BC occupy 2,000 square meters of the Casali Palace. There are also bronzes from the Roman period. The center of the city is surrounded by ancient walls made of massive stones. They form a rectangle 4 meters high. The structure dates back to the 6th century. Historians speculate that this is how the city looked during the Etruscan period.
20 villages and towns in Tuscany worth visiting
The charm of rural Tuscany is in the small picturesque towns and villages scattered in the valleys and hills. In Italy they are called Borgo and are valued no less than the large cultural centers.
They do everything to ensure that life does not completely stand still in them: every year they choose the most beautiful Borgos by region, make guidebooks, attract tourists by local festivals and holidays.
We have compiled our list of towns and villages in Tuscany worth visiting. For easy and fast travel, use a rental car, then you can see many more places.
Many of the smaller towns are accessible by train, tickets can be purchased here.
Yes, yes, this is the town near Florence where Leonardo da Vinci was born! So the main attractions of Vinci are the artist’s museum and the house where he was born.
The museum in Guidi Castle is dedicated to Leonardo’s inventions, and travelers can also climb the tower and explore the surroundings.
And nearby, in the suburb of Anchiano, there is a modest one-story 15th-century house, or rather a late reconstruction. This is almost exactly the same house where the world-famous genius was born.
Everywhere in this tiny town near Florence you come across the name of the famous Boccaccio – here his house, here a monument, and here a trattoria.
The upper Certaldo, where the funicular leads, is much more interesting and ancient than the lower one. All the walls here are red brick, and there’s a museum at the highest point – Palazzo Pretorio.
Certaldo is also famous for its exotic dishes made of onions – apparently, the prototype of Cipollino lived here. They put onions everywhere in unimaginable quantities, make jam from them and sell them to tourists.
Greve in Chianti
This town is famous not for its architectural delights but for the most famous red wine of Tuscany – the famous Chianti.
But the triangular Piazza Matteoti is also pretty: it has houses with arcades, the Duomo, the town hall and the black rooster, the symbol of the Chianti Valley. Try to plan a visit to Greve in Chianti on Saturday morning, when a food market opens in the main square.
There are several wineries and oenoteca with tasting rooms, where you’re sure to find a wine to your liking.
Taste the famous red wine in the Tuscan castle and admire the beautiful hills, you can together with a Russian-speaking guide on a fascinating tour, more information at this link.
Many people call San Gimignano the medieval Manhattan. It is a very atmospheric little town in Tuscany.
Have you heard about the towers that every noble family built there to show off their wealth to their neighbors? Now there are only 13 such towers left, and they are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Stay overnight at Hotel Bel Soggiorno*** for 90€ and enjoy a view of the Tuscan valley, visit the local Duomo and the triangular Piazza della Cisterna. Also here you can make a great cheese!
This small town is surprising in that it is completely surrounded by a fortress wall, preserved since the Middle Ages. Even Dante mentions the 14 towers of Monteriggioni, so they amazed him.
A walk along the walls of the fortress is popular with tourists. We advise you to take a walk on them too. And after it, go to one of the trattorias in the square and try the legendary Tuscan steak Fiorentina.
The main square of the city is Piazza Roma, which has a typical medieval look. In July there are fairs of handicrafts, where you see crockery, weapons, fabrics and shoes being born.
Among the towns of Tuscany, Volterra is probably the darkest. Apparently this was felt by the creators of the Twilight saga, because some scenes of the movie were shot here.
The city has seen a lot: from the times of the Etruscans there are the ruins of buildings in the Archaeological Park, from the Romans – the remnants of the Teatro romano, Palazzo del Priori times of Florentine domination and the Medici fortress, where there is a prison.
And Volterra is also the center of alabaster stone processing, and in the local markets tourists are sold interesting things made of alabaster.
Montecarlo is the Karlova Mountain and another wine center of Tuscany. Local blended wines Montecarlo Bianco and Montecarlo Rosso are protected by the mark of geographical origin, bought and tasted in wine shops or in the wine museum.
Since the war, the town is surrounded by a fortress with three towers and three gates, which the inhabitants of the tiny town are so proud of.
Another thing to be proud of is the 180-seat miniature theater, completely restored and adapted for modern productions.
Borgo a Mozzano
The picturesque town of Borgo a Mozzano is famous for its unusual humpbacked bridge. Officially it bears the name of Mary Magdalene, but much more often you can hear a more sinister name – Bridge of the Devil.
The thing is that at its highest point the structure abruptly curves, and the bend is not in the middle, but closer to the shore. All this makes the bridge look like a donkey’s back. Anyway it looks beautiful, especially when the river is calm – stone arcs under the structure merge with reflections and form almost perfect circles.
Montalcino is certainly known for its Brunello di Montalcino wine. It is here, on the green hills among the groves of stone oak grows sangiovese grapes.
The wine is excellent, but the really great cocktail you get if you mix it with music at the July festival “Jazz and Wine in Montalcino”.
And the spirit of the old medieval town is maintained by the fortress with towers, the town hall and the clock tower with a single hand in Piazza del Popolo.
The village of Bagno Vignoni has an unusual central square with a stone pool filled with water from volcanic hot springs.
There are not many inhabitants in the village, but it is not empty thanks to the tourists who come to warm their feet in the thermal springs even in winter.
For this purpose, it is forbidden to use the main pool, but you can use the canals. Once thermal water through them reached the mills and millstones were turning even in times of drought. Now the ruins of this complex are called the Park of the Mills.
Pienza is a small town in Val d’Orcia valley, which is famous for the famous Renaissance landscapes of Tuscany. The recipe for such a landscape is green hills, cypresses and a winding ribbon of roads.
And Pienza itself is famous for being home to the first urbanist of the 15th century, Pope Pius II. He decided to design an ideal Renaissance city in his native village, built according to a clear plan around the main square.
Whether he succeeded or not is for you to judge when you come to Pienza. You can also try pasta Pici with truffles and visit the palazzo from the movie Romeo and Juliet.
Montepulciano is a city of flamboyant mannerism and Etruscan culture. It surprises with its palazzo, the clock tower, where the Italian Petrushka bangs the bell, the town hall and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Here the wine “Nobile de Montepulciano” is produced and you are invited to get acquainted with its production.
In this city it is worth to stay at least a couple of days – stay in any hotel in the central part or in the suburbs. From entertainment, in addition to wineries, we advise a thermal complex.
These small towns are better to visit as part of a comprehensive tour of the region, such as this.
Cortona is a town founded on Monte Edigeo even before the new era.
The narrow medieval streets and neat houses form the face of the town. There are many churches here, the most notable of which is the Cathedral of St. Francis, marked by the works of Signorelli and Fra Angelico.
Incidentally, the architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari, author of the Life Descriptions, also came from this area.
At the top of the mountain rises the Medici fortress. Tourists flock here for festivals of music, photography, literature and especially the feast of Florentine beefsteak.
The town of Anguari, nestled on a high hill, is encircled by the walls of a well-preserved fortress.
Here, in the valley of the Tiber, 600 years ago there was a battle, thanks to which the Florentines retained their dominance in Tuscany. It is commemorated by a museum and, in June, by a costume procession called the Battle of Angiari.
Otherwise, it is an ordinary Italian town with festivals of crafts and music, harvest festival and hearty cuisine. However, very cozy – its low houses are decorated with wooden shutters and lots of flowers.
The town of Sansepolcro is world famous as the birthplace of Piero della Francesca, an early Renaissance artist. In the town’s museum you can see his fresco “Resurrection of Christ”, called by the English writer Huxley “the greatest painting on earth”.
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is adorned by Perugino’s fresco “Ascension” and a wooden crucifix from the 10th century.
And every year in September, Sansepolcro hosts the traditional Palio della Balestra, a crossbow competition.
Ancient Chiusi is at the junction of eras and peoples: the Romans, the barbarians and the first Christians all left their marks here. The city is called the treasure of the Etruscans: the era of the domination of this people is dedicated in the exhibitions of the city archaeological museum, and in the picturesque valleys there are Etruscan burial grounds.
There are many unusual temples and buildings: the Byzantine Cathedral of St. Secondian, the Church of Santa Maria Novella with its bell tower, the Church of St. Leopold, two systems of catacombs and an underground passage.
Radicofani is steeped in a harsh Medieval age, you have to visit it. Through the labyrinth of narrow streets rise the gray walls of houses, as always enlivened by strokes of bright greenery and flowers.
There’s also the humble church of San Pietro and the ancient fountain. The best way to look at the city is from the hill where the fortress walls rise.
The name of Ginodi Tacco, a kind of Robin Hood in Italian, is closely associated with this fortress. The fame of this man lives on for centuries, he is even devoted to one of the novels of the Decameron and a monument is erected.
Pitigliano captivates travelers at once – it’s one of the most picturesque places in Tuscany. The town looks like it’s growing out of a tuff cliff in the middle of green valleys, and at night it gets beautifully illuminated.
The town was carved into the rock by the Etruscans and has a lot of stairs, bridges, and viewpoints.
Pitigliano is called the Tuscan Jerusalem – for 5 centuries there has been a large Jewish community here. The Christian Duomo and synagogue peacefully coexist side by side.
Local boar dishes have earned tourists’ love and you can also try sfratto, a Jewish delicacy in the form of a stick.
The tiny village is compactly nestled on a cliff in the middle of the Tuscan island of Giglio. The small but proud village is walled and has its own castle and the Cathedral of San Pietro.
Giglio Castello boasts beautiful views of the Tyrrhenian Sea with the islands of Elba, Corsica and Montecristo, boat rides and mountain biking.
Here you will be fed with original dishes of wild rabbit or sea shellfish.