Any trip to Italy should start with Rome, but once you’ve seen the sights, venture out into Italy’s countryside for an unforgettable trip to Tuscany and beyond…
Tuscany is far more than just Florence.
Yes, you should definitely explore Florence during your stay in Tuscany; however, it’s not the only city to see. Ever heard of Pisa, home of a certain “Leaning Tower?” It’s in Tuscany!
Or how about the Chianti wine region? Yes, you can sample the famous wine here.
But don’t miss out on the other villages in Tuscany, like Siena. This medieval town on a hill is known for its Piazza del Campo and its bell tower. You may even visit during the annual summer horse race, Il Palio, where the jockeys ride bareback and the horses run through the cobblestone streets, a long tradition.
Another must-see in Tuscany is Lucca’s grand wall, which surrounds the city. As you walk atop the renaissance-era barrier, you’ll come across gardens and fantastic views of the village below.
Anyone who has read or seen Under the Tuscan Sun will want to visit Cortona, the book and film’s setting. But even if you haven’t, you’ll appreciate the town’s millenia old history and architecture, like the 3,000-year-old Etruscan walls, surrounding Cortona.
Oenophiles rejoice! The wines are unforgettable.
Can’t imagine life without wine? Tuscany is the place for you! Wander through the famous wine region, where vineyard after vineyard paint the tranquil countryside, providing the perfect place for a wine tour.
Between Siena and Florence lies Chianti, one of Italy’s oldest wine regions. And did you know the region actually has two sections of vineyards—Chianti and Chianti Classico? The latter represents a tiny area where the wine originated. This dry and ruby red wine pairs well with a Florentine steak.
Production of Brunello di Montalcino, one of the world’s most important wines, began around the early 1800s, but its popularity has only grown. It’s a major commodity for wine collectors—the grape is so high quality, it can’t be combined with any other varieties.
Everything you’ve ever heard about Tuscan cuisine is true.
Who diets on vacation? Forget counting calories and load up on carbs during your stay in Tuscany.
Begin dinner with fettunta, the Florentine version of bruschetta. Your crispy bread arrives seasoned with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and lightly salted. Follow up with pappa al pomodoro, a hearty tomato soup that differs depending on which town you are in.
If you want to eat pasta, try potato tortelli, a ravioli filled with–you guessed it–potato then covered in a meat sauce. This dish originates from Mugello, a mountain town near Florence.
But, of course, the can’t-miss meal in Tuscany is bistecca alla fiorentina—Florentine steak. The tender and tasty meat is cut from the loin, about three inches thick. Then it’s seared to perfection over white hot coals… absolutely mouthwatering!
Take a cooking class to bring a taste of Tuscany home with you.
One of the best part about trips to a different country is diving into the culture. There’s no better way to do so in Italy than by taking a cooking class. When you return home, you’ll be able to bring a little bit your trip back with you (and maybe impress your friends and family, too!). Dishes like bruschetta, bistecca alla fiorentina, and pappa al pomodoro are sure to be crowd favorites.
Classes can range from simple introductory courses to specialized ones, like a class all about olive oil. Or maybe baking is more your passion. Try your hand at a Tuscan dessert, such as panforte, which is made with honey, fruits, and nuts. You’ll never forget making authentic Italian cuisine while in Italy.
Try hunting Tuscan-style—for truffles!
Did you know that a well-trained truffle-hunting dog costs upwards of $4,000, plus another $5,000 to be trained? Each fall, hunters and their elite hunting dogs pursue the ever elusive Italian white truffle.
This truffle is the most expensive in the world—worth almost $4,500 a kilo. But the hunt isn’t all about the profit. Searching for and eating truffles can be an emotional experience as well as run in the family.
Many truffle hunters have received the job from their parents, who received it from their parents, and so on. The mild Tuscan climate provides the perfect atmosphere for the type of soil and minerals needed to produce top-quality truffles.
You, too, can go on the hunt for truffles. And while you may not find any for your own, you can certainly taste them in many Tuscan dishes.
If truffles aren’t your jam, hunt for castles instead.
Who says European castles are limited to Bavaria, France, and the United Kingdom? In fact, the mighty mansions are dotted throughout Tuscany. These Italian castles are far more interesting than those further north—many are still lived in or have been converted into luxury hotels. Can you imagine staying in your very own castle?
The Tuscan castles are smaller in size than others in Europe, but what they lack in size, they make up for greatly in warmth and charm. In Montalcino, visit Poggio alle Mura, a modest castle surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and pristine lakes. The landscape alone is reason enough to visit.
Or if you’re looking for a fairy-tale feel, head to Ripa D’Orcia, which is as romantic as it can get. The castle is set within fortified walls and even has its own vineyard. And anyone who appreciates architecture will love seeing this stunning example.
Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path.
What would a vacation be without a little adventure? Move away from the tourist traps, and experience the real Italy. Start with a journey to Pitigliano, also known as Little Jerusalem because of its ancient Jewish quarter. The town is perched high on a tufa ridge, giving a dramatic effect. Caves and tunnels run under the city, which add an element of mystery.
Pitigliano isn’t the only Tuscan town with a nickname. Art lovers should visit Pistoia, or “Little Florence.” There is a high volume of art and architecture in a small amount of space just waiting to be explored by onlookers. The main square features a grand bell tower at the Cathedral of San Zeno. Stop by its medieval marketplace, which is still in use today.
Ever wondered where Michelangelo got the marble to create David? He and many other sculptors visited the marble quarries in Carrara to acquire the pearly white stone. You’ll love seeing the original form of rock before it becomes the next masterpiece.
Make the most of your time in Florence.
It wouldn’t be Tuscany without Florence. After all, the city is the capital of the region and the birthplace of the Renaissance. The abounding history, art, architecture, culture, etc., make it a destination of a lifetime.
Begin your morning with a visit to a local bakery for some of the best pastries you’ve ever had. Follow breakfast up with a stroll around the city to take in the sights. Churches, cathedrals, monuments, and more are throughout the Tuscan capital.
If you’re more of a museum person, you can’t miss the Accademia Galleria, which houses Michelangelo’s David. Or see Italian Renaissance art at the Uffizi Galleries.
Finish your day with a traditional Tuscan meal accompanied by a smooth glass of wine for a truly decadent day.
Don’t stop there—Venice is just a short train ride away.
If you’ve traveled all the way to Italy, don't leave without a stop in Venice, even if only for 36 hours or so. You’ll still have plenty of time to see and do a good amount before departing Italia.
Of course you can’t visit Venice without a gondola ride. And it’s a great way to initially see the city. Hop off near St. Mark’s Basilica for morning mass or just to see it. After, grab a cafe and continue on to the Rialto Mercato, which has recently become the nightlife spot of Venice. Hit a local bar for a drink that evening.
No matter how you spend your time here, you really can’t go wrong in Venice.
Is Tuscany tempting you?
Think you’re ready for your own Tuscan adventure? Get in touch to start planning your ultimate Italian vacation today. Or if you’d like more information about how to plan the perfect trip to Italy, sign up to our free email course.