What comes to mind when you think of Tuscany?
For me, it always evokes the beautiful countryside, captured perfectly in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. I didn’t see much of it when I went there in 2012, but I’ve seen enough to say that, yes, given the chance, I, too would want to settle there someday.
Aside from rolling meadows and picturesque gardens, however, there are so many other things this region can offer. In fact, seven localities are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites: Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Pienza, the Val d’Orcia, and Medici Villas and Gardens.
Aside from these historical, artistic, and architectural wonders, here are other reasons why you should visit Tuscany.
Wealth of Art
Tuscany is big on the arts—then and now. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence alone packs masterpieces from the heavyweights, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Giotti and Botticelli.
The must-sees? Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” in the Uffizi Gallery and Michelangelo’s “David” in Accademia Gallery. If you’ve always been fascinated by Vespas, also visit the more contemporary Piaggio Museum.
But museum hopping is not the only way to get a glimpse of Tuscan art. Walk into a castle, church, monastery, palazzo, villa or tower, and chances are you’ll stumble upon a striking painting or sculpture. For a sweeping view of the region’s ancient architectural jewels, climb 400-plus steps up the Duomo and Giotto’s Tower.
Another thing Tuscans are passionate about: food. And this is apparent in the superb dishes they whip up using simple recipes and rustic ingredients. So whether you’re dining at a small, cosy sun-bathed trattoria, dropping by a gelato parlor or grabbing a quick bite at a pizza shop, you’ll be in for a tasty treat.
What’s worth trying? The bistecca fiorentina (juicy steak), pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), lepre (hare), cinghiale (wild boar), vitello arrosto (roasted veal), ribollita (soup with bread and vegetables), or anything with salami, sausage, peccorino cheese, and truffle.
For dessert, don’t miss out on panforte (thick nutty cake), ricciarelli (honey and almond cookie), and cantucci (biscotti).
Besides indulging in Tuscan cuisine, you can sign up for a cooking course or take a delicacy-tasting tour.
Tuscany’s countryside is a must-visit attraction in itself. From rolling hills with gentle slopes and vast fields of sunflowers to narrow roads flanked by cypress trees, quaint hamlets and lone houses and churches, every bit of its landscape is picturesque.
Just as stunning is the region’s coastline, with gems like Alberese, Castiglion della Pescaia, the Laguna di Orbetello, Monte Argentario, Talamone and the Uccelina National Park. Combined with its islands and urban terrain, you get a gorgeous scenery that’s especially mesmerizing during summer and spring afternoons.
For the best views, you can rent a car and drive around, join sightseeing tours, or hop aboard a slow-moving steam train.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Is having your picture taken in front of the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa on your bucket list? Then that’s enough of a reason to fly to Tuscany and join the crowd of tourists as they marvel at this fascinating landmark.
You can even experience just how odd the structure’s angle is by climbing its winding spiral staircase to the top, where a spectacular vista awaits. Be prepared to pay 10 euros for the privilege!
Tuscany also lets you step back in time at its charming and idyllic hilltop towns. Take Siena, for instance. Here you’ll find yourself surrounded by medieval architecture as you stroll leisurely along the city’s winding alleyways (which is pretty safe to do, as most of the streets are car-free).
Check out the Gothic cathedral, crypt and baptistery. Then take a relaxing break at Piazza del Campo, with a coffee cup or wine glass in hand. The Piazza is also the site of the famous Il Palio horse race, an exciting historic tradition that takes place every July and August.
You may not be able pack up and move to Tuscany a la Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun. But you can enjoy an equally enriching, if not life-changing, experience by visiting this region for a few days or weeks. Some companies offer cruises where you can also explore the beauty of Tuscany, try it out if you can.
The region has so many wonders to offer, from an impressive artistic and architectural heritage to the rich culture, culinary tradition and natural wonders that it is known for today, that it would be a shame not to see as much of it as you can while you’re there.
So if you’re going to Italy for a vacation, don’t miss visiting Tuscany. There are plenty of reasons to head out to and fall in love with this picture-perfect destination.