15 unforgettable things to do in Tuscany

updated 8/12/2022
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The list of things to do Tuscany Italy offers is almost endless and you won't cover everything in one trip. However, our rundown of Tuscany highlights is a great place to start. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Italy your essential guide for visiting Italy.

1. Truffle tasting is one of the top things to do Tuscany offers

Tuscany is well known for truffles and truffle hunting. But if you want to hunt down the biggest variety of the much prized fungi, head for San Miniato. You'll find this famous truffle town strategically placed on top of three small hills overlooking the lower Arno Valley, between Pisa and Florence.

Where to stay in San Miniato

  • For family stays: lofty Agriturismo Bellavista sits just outside San Miniato, the views are stunning and guests can enjoy the garden which includes a swimming pool and children's playground.
  • For boutique stays: Hotel San Miniato is in the medieval town centre, all rooms are individually designed and the hotel features a 24-hour spa and hydromassage pool.
  • For central stays: Four star Hotel Miravalle faces San Miniato Cathedral in the heart of the town. Decorated in traditional Tuscan style, all rooms are en-suite.

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What to do in San Miniato

San Miniato might be most famous for truffles but there's a lot more history here that's worth exploring. Get to know the town beyond truffles on an English-speaking guided walk round its streets.

Tasting truffes in San Miniato is one of the best things to do Tuscany © StevanZZ/Shutterstock

2. Explore the ancient hill town of Cortona

Many people visit Cortona for its unforgettable views over Lago Trasimeno. But this charming hill town on the Valdichiana Plain also attracts attention for other reasons, particularly since it shot to fame in 2003 as the film location for 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. As a result it can get crowded, especially in summer.

Where to stay in Cortona

  • For budget stays: an inexpensive three-star in a renovated 15th century house near Piazza della Repubblica, Hotel Italia Cortona offers 26 rooms and a breakfast terrace with terrific views.
  • For luxury stays: handsome four-star Hotel San Michele has been converted from a medieval townhouse. The rooms are spacious and suites have terraces overlooking the countryside.
  • For boutique stays: Piccolo Hotel is in the heart of Cortona and offers traditionally decorated rooms with wood-beamed ceilings and antique furniture. All rooms are en-suite.

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What to do in Cortona

Whether you're interested in Cortona as a film location or just want to discover its secrets, a two hour private guided tour is a great way to get to know the town.

Exploring hill towns like Cortona is one of many unique things to do in Tuscany - shutterstock

3. Go wild about unspoiled Monti dell’Uccellina

Tuscany's coast is where to find the best beach holidays in Italy and also the forest-covered Monti dell’Uccellina - Uccellina Mountains. They're part of the Maremma Regional Park in southern Tuscany which is also known for coastal plains, marshes and a stunning, untamed interior.

Where to stay near Monti dell'Uccellina

  • For budget stays: Tenuta di Alberese is a short drive to Maremma Regional Park. Rooms are fairly basic but all feature a small kitchen and fridge, as well as en-suite bathrooms.
  • For family stays: Terre Regionali Toscane in Alberese offers a range of two bedroom apartments, close to Maremma Regional Park and surrounded by extensive estate grounds.
  • For unique stays; La Pulledraia del Podere Montegrappa is an organic, family farm in the heart of the countryside which offers guests the opportunity to stay in a real Tuscan home.

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Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Italy or Italy Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Italy expert.

4. Make a pilgrimage to mountain top La Verna

La Verna is the 13th century mountain retreat of St. Francis of Assisi, and now one of Tuscany's major pilgrimage sites. It's still a thriving Franciscan monastery today, although as many visitors come to explore and admire the views of the Apennines as come to pay homage.

Lesser known than Assisi and usually quieter, La Verna also doesn't feel as touristy or commercialised as its more famous counterpart.

Where to stay in La Verna

  • For family stays: Camping Village la Verna is located in Chiusi della Verna. Surrounded by pretty grounds it offers a 24-hour reception, bar, garden, outdoor pool and children's playground.
  • For independent stays: a short walk from Chiusi della Verna, Agriturismo Vezzano offers a choice of apartments and villas surrounded by the Casentino Forests.
  • For town stays:Hotel Da Giovanna is in the centre of Chiusi della Verna. Family-run, it features a good restaurant serving traditional Tuscan cooking.

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What to do in La Verna

Assisi may be more crowded than La Verna but it is still unmissable, plus you can make it easier with a private guided walking tour of the town and the basilica.

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5. Get lost in The Uffizi in Florence

Set aside at least half a day to explore the Uffizi in Florence. Considered to be the finest art collection in Italy, the three-floor gallery also contains the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art, which is appropriate as Florence is one of the most beautiful places in Italy.

Where to stay in Florence

  • For luxury stays: a superb five-star hotel, Helvetia & Bristol rooms mix antique furnishings and modern facilities. The superior rooms and suites are worth the splurge.
  • For budget stays: family-run Hotel Merlini features 10 rooms with marble bathrooms – an unexpected bonus for the price – and six of them have views of the Duomo.
  • For unique stays: Hotel Torre Guelfa offers 20 tasteful rooms designed into an ancient tower - the tallest private building in the city. It also features a roof terrace with marvellous views.

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What to do in Florence

The queues for the Uffizi are almost as legendary as the gallery itself and the best way to avoid them is to book a skip the line small group tour of the entire collection.

The Uffizi is one of the major attractions in Tuscany Italy - shutterstock

6. Go walking on Alpi Apuane well marked trails

The Alpi Apuane are a botanical wonderland in northern Tuscany where you can walk the clearly marked paths networking the area, as well as longer routes which let you hike through the Alpi Apuane valleys.

Home to over 300 bird species, the Alpi are also known for their vast beech and chestnut forests and series of dramatic marble quarries. However, if you want colour visit in spring to see the area's spectacular wildflower displays.

Where to stay in Alpi Apuane

  • For convenient stays: Rifugio Alpi Apuane is situated in Careggine close to Camporgiano. All rooms have private bathrooms and some offer views of the mountains or city.
  • For relaxing stays: surrounded by mountain scenery, Borgo delle Panie features rooms with private balconies, sensational views, an outdoor pool and its own restaurant.
  • For scenic stays: Albergo Genzianella sits in the heart of the Apuan Alps National Park. A charming, mountain-style hotel it offers cosy rooms, a restaurant and free bikes.

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7. Gaze at Piero della Francesca masterpieces in Arezzo

Although Tuscany is awash with art, there are a few must-sees and the Piero della Francesca fresco cycle in Arezzo is one of them. You'll find it in the San Francesco Basilica, but plan ahead as no more than 10 visitors can view the frescoes at one time.

Once you've gazed at the art make time to wander around historic Arezzo. If this handsome city seems familiar, you may recognise it as one of the locations in the n its own right, you may also recognise it as a location from the award-winning 1997 film, 'Life Is Beautiful'.

Where to stay in Arezzo

  • For relaxed stays: Antiche Mura is a cosy B&B a short walk from the Duomo. Wood-beamed ceilings give it a rustic charm and rooms overlooking the internal courtyard are quieter.
  • For boutique stays: a small and welcoming four-star, Graziella Patio Hotel is almost next door to San Francesco. Rooms here are colourful with decor inspired by the work of Bruce Chatwin.
  • For central stays: Hotel Continentale offers luxurious rooms and suites with air conditioning and wood floors. The hotel also has a furnished roof terrace overlooking Arezzo old town.

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What to do in Arezzo

Arezzo is fascinating and not just for its world famous frescoes, so if you want to learn more, take a three hour private walking tour with local guides.

8. Wander the streets of San Gimignano

Remarkable San Gimignano is one of Tuscany's iconic hill towns. Also known as Delle Belle Torri, its skyline is dominated by 15 impressive medieval towers. The town attracts hordes of tourists in summer but it's still a delight to explore and possibly one of the reasons Italy is second only to New Zealand in the most beautiful countries in the world – voted by you in 2022.

Where to stay in San Gimignano

  • For budget stays: Hotel Bel Soggiorno offers basic rooms in a converted 13th century townhouse. Rooms with views are available and the restaurant also features a panoramic terrace.
  • For central stays: Hotel Leon Bianci sits on the main square. A tasteful three-star, it offers rooms with views and breakfast is served on a lovely roof terrace overlooking San Gimignano.
  • For family stays: Agriturismo Poggiacolle is an 18th century farmhouse set amid olive groves and vineyards. It offers apartments for up to 10 people, as well as free bikes to tour the estate.

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What to do in San Gimignano

Avoid overcrowded summer and visit in autumn when it's truffle season in San Gimignano and if you want rare fungi guaranteed, go truffle hunting and have lunch with a local expert.

The many medieval towers of San Gimignano, Tuscany Italy © Vaflya/Shutterstock

9. Give in and be a tourist in Pisa

Visiting Pisa is one of the best things to do in Tuscany at any time of year. Of course the main attraction is Campo dei Miracoli which is centred around the legendary Leaning Tower of Pisa, undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark.

However, you can't possibly miss the Campo's vast Romanesque cathedral and Camposanto is where to see some of Italy's most extraordinary tombs and frescoes. Unsurprisingly, Pisa is always very busy in summer. In fact all big sites are busy in summer, so it's a good time to look at 6 best alternatives to Italy's famous landmarks.

Where to stay in Pisa

  • For central stays: Hotel Novecento is a residenza d’epoca in a handsome old townhouse. Rooms are immaculately modern in style and it also offers a pleasant garden.
  • For budget stays: Pensione Rinascente offers cheap, clean rooms with private or shared bathrooms, in the centre of Pisa not far from Piazza dei Cavalieri.
  • For authentic stays: Good value Royal Victoria is the most characterful of central Pisa’s hotels. But if you’re uncharmed by wobbly door handles and patched ceilings, it’s not the place for you.

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What to do in Pisa

The best way to see Pisa without missing a thing is to cheat a bit, avoid all the queues and take an all-inclusive tour of the monuments and sites with local guides.

Visit the Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa, Tuscany - shutterstock

10. Walk round the ancient city walls in Lucca

Lucca has some of Europe's finest Romanesque buildings and it's an easy city to explore, you can even take a walk or cycle round the ancient city walls. The entire circuit is four kilometres round and lined with trees, if you want to avoid crowds, visit in the mid-afternoon.

Where to stay in Lucca

  • For cosy stays: Albergo San Martino is a cosy little hotel with exceptionally helpful staff. It's close to the Duomo and features a choice of spacious, wood-beamed rooms.
  • For central stays: Lucca in Villa Lucrezia sits near the historic centre of the old town and makes a good base for hiking the Alpi Apuane.
  • For boutique stays: Ravishing and very central little boutique hotel, A Palazzo Busdraghi Residenza D'Epoca offers seven antique-furnished rooms and it's worth paying extra for a 'deluxe'.

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What to do in Lucca

Tuscany is stunning at ground level but positively astounding from the air, see for yourself on a one hour hot air balloon tour from Lucca.

11. Discover the wine and vineyards of Chianti

Drinking local wine is one of the 24 best things to do in Italy, and the vineyards between Siena and Florence produce some of the country's finest wines thanks to a mild climate year round. Chianti scenery is stunning too so it's also the perfect place to gaze at typically romantic Tuscan views.

Where to stay in Siena

  • For budget stays: Albergo Bernini features a roof terrace with a fantastic view over Siena. Rooms are quite basic but it's friendly, well situated and good value.
  • For boutique stays: Antica Residenza Cicogna is a charming B&B in a medieval palazzo close to the Campo. All seven rooms here are individually decorated and quite beautiful.
  • For luxury stays: five-star Grand Hotel Continental is set in a former palace. The frescoed public spaces are astounding and the best rooms are vast with stunning views of the Duomo.

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What to do in Siena

Many local estates welcome visitors and you can book wine tastings at most before you go. Alternatively, let someone else do the driving and take a full day Chianti wine tour from Florence.

Romantic Chianti wine country between Florence and Siena © Dmytro Balkhovitin/Shutterstock

12. Embrace open air art at Il Giardino dei Tarocchi

Tuscany is where to find Il Giardino dei Tarocchi, home to one of Italy's oddest modern art collections. Il Giardino dei Tarocchi translates as The Tarot Garden, and it's just five kilometres from Capalbio. All artworks are by Niki de Saint Phalle and the garden took 17 years to complete.

Where to stay in Capalbio

  • For family stays: close to the medieval centre of Capalbio, Valle Del Buttero is set in a large Mediterranean garden with an outdoor pool and offers a range of family rooms and apartments.
  • For spa stays: Locanda Rossa is set among olive groves in the Maremma Toscana hills, close to Capalbio. It features a spa, a Tuscan restaurant, and 2 swimming pools.
  • For country stays: Il casale degli olivi in ​​Capalbio offers a range of rooms and suites as well as a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, bar, garden and terrace with countryside views.

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What to do in Capalbio

Il Giardino dei Tarocchi is a fun day out for children and adults. But if you want a deeper insight into the art, take a tour of the gardens and Capalbio from Civitavecchia.

13. Sample island life on Giglio

Take to the coast of Tuscany and discover the island of Giglio. Less travelled than its famous neighbour Elba, which is home to one of the 20 best beaches in Italy, Giglio is still relatively undeveloped. Known for pretty stone villages and views, it's also good for beaches, water sports and mountain hiking.

Where to stay in Giglio

  • For beach stays: La Guardia Hotel sits on the beach and as well as a choice of rooms it offers free bikes. The hotel also has a garden with an oceanfront terrace.
  • For budget stays: Hotel Giardino delle Palme is in Campese village a minute's walk from Giglio Campese beach, so it has spectacular views from its garden and large sun terrace.
  • For town stays: Hotel Bahamas overlooks Porto Giglio and is only a short walk from the pretty harbour. Beaches are nearby too and the hotel also features a terrace and large garden.

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The island of Giglio, Tuscany Italy © jackbolla/Shutterstock

14. Hit the hot springs at Bagno Vignoni

Tuscany isn't short on spa towns, but only Bagno Vignoni lets you spa for free. This tiny village an hour south of Siena has its own natural hot springs, and doesn't charge visitors to use its outdoor sulphur pools.

Don't miss the Medici-era pool in main square, although not open for bathing it looks marvellous and if that intrigues you might also like 25 fun facts about Italy you didn't know.

Where to stay in Bagno Vignoni

  • For luxury stays: to fully immerse in the spirit of Bagno Vignoni think about booking a stay at Albergo Le Terme which has a wonderful location overlooking the springs.
  • For spa stays: Adler thermae spa hotel offers thermal pools overlooking rolling hills. Treatments ranges from saunas with Tuscan herbs, to steam baths in natural caves.
  • For budget stays: Albergo Posta Marcucci is a friendly hotel with indoor and outdoor thermal pools, as well as a sauna, Turkish bath and a range of classic spa treatments.

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What do do in Bagno Vignoni

If you just want to dip into Bagno Vignoni and see more of Tuscany too, think about taking a wine tasting and Tuscan villages full-day trip which includes the famous spa town.

15. Stay local in the romantic hill towns of Tuscany

Hotels in rural Tuscany don't appear on the list of the world's strangest hotels, however, they're often very good for more leisurely sightseeing and can often be truly outstanding.

Castello di Velona south of Montalcino, is a perfect example. This former 12th century castle sits in open countryside only 30 minutes drive from Siena. Each bedroom is individually designed, there's a spa and the Tuscan restaurant showcases Castello di Velona wines.

Where to stay in Montalcino

  • For luxury stays: elegant Castello di Velona sits in lovely open countryside, as well as a fine restaurant it also features an opulent spa. Book off-season for lower rates.
  • For good value stays: Albergo Il Giglio is a stylish hotel in a central, 16th century townhouse, where rooms come with travertine walls, cast-iron beds and great views.
  • For central stays: Hotel Vecchia Oliviera is a three-star hotel where 13 fine rooms form part of a well restored former olive-mill close to Porta Cerbaia and the walls.

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Ready for a trip to Italy? Check out the Rough Guide to Italy. If you travel further in Italy read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit. For inspiration use our Italy itineraries or speak to our local experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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updated 8/12/2022
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