DAY 8: Italy, Tuscany

Tuscany (Toscana) is a region in the northwest of Italy well known for its excellent wine, art influence, romantic and alluring landscape, gently rolling hills and historic cities like its capital, Florence (Firenze). Voted the top honeymoon destination in Europe by US News Travel, Florence was the center of the Renaissance, the birthplace of the Italian language and home of the powerful Medici family as well as many acclaimed artists, including Michelangelo. 

Florence, Tuscany, Italy photo courtesy of Italy National Tourism Board

Year after year Florence attracts lots of visitors – some visit Florence as part of an itinerary including Italy’s top three or four cities, while others are wanting to escape Italy’s larger and busier cities for more leisurely enjoyment of the art, architecture, ambiance, local foods (Florentine steak and delicious gelato are just two I recommend), beautiful sunsets and extraordinary shopping found in this beautiful and easily walkable city. While many must see museums are found here, the city itself is an outdoor museum. And the picture perfect Tuscany countryside within easy reach, draped in sunshine, olive groves, stately cypress trees, vineyards and plentiful aromatic cooking are an equal draw. 

Every stop in Tuscany provides unique history and traditions seen in the churches, art works, museums, artisan workshops, foods connecting visitors to the ancient Etruscans, the Roman era, Medieval times, and the beauty of the Renaissance – all from other times, but still very much alive today.  

Within easy driving distance in all directions of Florence are many other Tuscan cities and towns well worth exploring. Siena invites you to experience Medieval Tuscany. It’s interesting to see the stark differences of these two cities, only about 40 miles apart. Siena, developed during the Middle Ages, is filled with narrow, winding passageways, Gothic era art and architecture and worth devoting a day or two. In contrast to Florence, the seat of the Renaissance, which showcases elegance with 15th- and 16th-century palazzi (palaces), beautiful monuments and statues, fresco-decorated churches, world-class art museums, and historic bridges crossing the Arno River.

San Gimignano, a small walled village located halfway between Florence and Siena, is famous for its fascinating medieval architecture and still retains its feudal atmosphere and appearance. 

Lucca attractions showcase its ancient history: from the trace of the Roman amphitheatre to the archeological remains under the city’s first church to various towers and villas (12th to 16th centuries). The tops of the walls that once surrounded the old town are now a park-like pedestrian promenade, and a main attraction. 

Pisa’s famous tower attracts crowds for the photo op, but don’t overlook a visit to the equally impressive Cathedral and Baptistery in the Piazza around the tower. Vinci, located between Florence and Pisa, was the home of Leonardo da Vinci. As you might expect, many of the things to see and do here are related to Leonardo’s life: the house where he was born, the church where he was baptised, and the Leonardo museum in the town centre inside the Guidi castle, and even a beer named for the famous local. 

storm rolling in over one of Tuscany’s lovely towns

Cortona, of “Under the Tuscan Sun” fame, is a hilltop town enclosed by stone walls dating back to Etruscan and Roman times. The views of the surrounding valley and nearby lake are spectacular from here. The town is charming and its shops offer local handmade items and gastronomical products.

Whether you choose these towns and cities or others not mentioned here, tradition, history and art are strong everywhere. One of the best ways to see the top sights is by small group guided tour(s). These can get you to top sights easily, provide historical and cultural information and help maximize your time in Tuscany. Here is just one suggested itinerary for a couple of days in Tuscany.

WHEN TO GO: April/May/June or September/early October, Allow at least 3 nights in Florence, 7 days or more to include exploring some of the countryside and nearby towns.

POPULAR TRAVEL STYLES: Small Private Groups, Independent Travel, Train Travel, Immersive Travel 

IDEAL FOR: Honeymoon/Romantic Travel, Culinary/Wine, Art, History, Shopping, City Stay, Regional Travel

Sangiovese wine, Tuscany, Italy

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Published by Cheryl Walton

Travel changes your perspective while creating special memories along the way. My goal is to always help create the vacation experience you imagine - whether it's bucket list travel, a celebration or a special interest vacation - history, WWII, heritage, wine, beer, culinary, language, art, and genealogy (just a few of my favorites). My first trip abroad was to southern Belgium as part of a town twinning program to help keep French culture alive in Louisiana. My host family provided an inside view of their country, lifestyle and culture, creating a friendship now 30+ years strong through 4 generations! That trip definitely impacted my style of travel - getting off the beaten path and engaging with locals - as well as a later career change to travel advisor. I strive to provide similar experiences tailored to your interests and comfort level.

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