Tuscany: Places to Explore
- Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore
- Abbazia di San Galgano
- Abbazia di Sant'Antimo
Abetone is one of the most-visited vacation spots in the Apennine Mountains, where Tuscans, Emilia-Romagnans, and others come to ski. Set above two valleys, the resort town is on the edge of a...
Arezzo is best known for the magnificent Piero della Francesca frescoes in the church of San Francesco. It's also the birthplace of the poet Petrarch (1304–74), the Renaissance artist and art...
Founded by the Etruscans around the 5th century BC, Asciano is now a sleepy little town surrounded by 13th-century walls. The tiny centro storico (historic center) is eminently bike-friendly; any...
Bagni di Lucca
Pretty Bagni di Lucca was a fashionable spa town in the early 19th century—in part because of its thermal waters. The Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) installed his family here...
Bagno Vignoni has been famous since Roman times for the mildly sulfurous waters that come bubbling up into the large rectangular pool that forms the town's main square, Piazza delle Sorgenti...
Barga is a lovely little city (one of Italy’s smallest under that classification) with a finely preserved medieval core. It produced textiles—mostly silk—during the Renaissance and wool in...
Buonconvento dates back to the 12th century, though it was surrounded by defensive walls in the later middle ages. Though the name means "happy place" in Latin, it was here that Holy Roman Emperor...
Carrara, from which the famous white marble takes its name, lies in a beautiful valley midway up a spectacular mountain in the Apuane Alps. The surrounding peaks are free of foliage and white as...
Castellina in Chianti
Castellina in Chianti—or simply Castellina—is on a ridge above three valleys: the Val di Pesa, Val d'Arbia, and Val d'Elsa. No matter what direction you turn, the panorama is bucolic. The...
The southernmost village in Chianti has a compact center with hilly, curving streets. A plethora of piazzas invite wandering.
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana might be the best base for exploring the Garfagnana, because it's central with respect to the other towns. During the Renaissance the town's fortunes were frequently tied...
People from around the world come to the città del fegato sano (city of the healthy liver) to experience the curative waters. The area's innumerable mineral-water springs are reputed to restore and...
Chiusi was once one of the most powerful of the ancient cities of the Etruscan League, and it's now a valuable source of information about that archaic civilization. Fifth-century BC tombs found...
"Charming" and "breathtaking" are adjectives that get a workout when you're traveling in Italy, but it's rare that both apply to a single location. The Cinque Terre is such a place, and this...
Colle di Val d'Elsa
Most people pass through on their way to and from popular tourist destinations Volterra and San Gimignano—a shame, since Colle di Val d'Elsa has a lot to offer. It's another town on the Via...
Cortona is called "Mother of Troy and Grandmother of Rome" in popular speech, and may be one of Italy's oldest towns. Tradition claims it was founded by Dardanus, the founder of Troy (after whom...
Elba is the Tuscan archipelago's largest island, but it resembles nearby verdant Corsica more than it does its rocky Italian sisters, thanks to a network of underground springs that keep it lush...
Empoli, roughly halfway between Florence and Pisa, is a small town with a long history. References to the city first appear in documents from the 800s. By the late 12th century it was under the...
Forte dei Marmi
Forte dei Marmi is a playground for wealthy Italians and equally well-heeled visitors. Its wide, sandy beaches—strands are 6 km (4 miles) long—have the Alpi Apuane as a dramatic backdrop. The...
Gaiole in Chianti
A market town since 1200, Gaiole is now a central destination for touring southern Chianti. A stream runs through its center, and flowers adorn many of its window boxes. The surrounding area is...
Greve in Chianti
If there is a capital of Chianti, it is Greve, a friendly market town with no shortage of cafés, enoteche (wine bars), and crafts shops lining its streets.
Livorno is a gritty city with a long and interesting history. In the early Middle Ages it alternately belonged to Pisa and Genoa. In 1421 Florence, seeking access to the sea, bought it. Cosimo I...
Ramparts built in the 16th and 17th centuries enclose a charming fortress town filled with churches (99 of them), terra-cotta–roofed buildings, and narrow cobblestone streets, along which locals...
Massa Marittima is a charming medieval hill town with a rich mining and industrial heritage—pyrite, iron, and copper were found in these parts. After a centuries-long slump (most of the minerals...
- Monastero di Camaldoli
Tiny Montalcino, with its commanding view from high on a hill, can claim an Etruscan past. It saw a fair number of travelers, as it was directly on the road from Siena to Rome. During the early...
- Monte Amiata
Connected to the mainland only by two thin strips of land and a causeway, Monte Argentario feels like an island. The north and south isthmuses, La Giannella and La Feniglia, have long sandy...
Immortalized in Fellini's film 8½, Montecatini Terme is the home of Italy's premier terme (spas). Known for their curative powers—and, at least once upon a time, for their great popularity among the...
This small town, which straddles the Arno, and its surrounding villages have been producing ceramics for centuries. A ceramics museum proudly displays the work of the past, but the finest tribute...
Perched on a hilltop, Montepulciano is made up of a pyramid of redbrick buildings set within a circle of cypress trees. At an altitude of almost 2,000 feet, it is cool in summer and chilled in...
Tiny Monteriggioni makes a nice stop on the way north to Colle di Val d'Elsa, San Gimignano, or Volterra. It's hard to imagine that this little town surrounded by poppy fields was ever anything...
The magnificent views of the valleys of the Pesa and Greve rivers easily make Panzano one of the prettiest stops in Chianti. The triangular Piazza Bucciarelli is the heart of the new town. A short...
- Parco dell'Orecchiella
- Parco Naturale della Maremma
- Parco Nazionale Casentino
Other than its Romanesque abbey and the few houses clustered around it, there is very little to actually see in this tiny hamlet. But the panoramic setting and the beautiful natural surroundings...
Pienza owes its appearance to Pope Pius II (1405–64), who had grand plans to transform his hometown of Corsignano—its former name—into a compact model Renaissance town. The man entrusted...
If you can get beyond the kitsch of the stalls hawking cheap souvenirs around the Leaning Tower, you'll find that Pisa has much to offer. Its treasures aren't as abundant as those of Florence, to...
Founded in the 2nd century BC as a support post for Roman troops, Pistoia grew over the centuries into an important trading center. In the Middle Ages it was troubled by civic strife and...
From a distance, the medieval stone houses of Pitigliano look as if they melt into the cliffs upon which they are perched. Etruscan tombs, which locals use to store wine, are connected by a...
The wool industry in this city, one of the world's largest producers of cloth, was famous throughout Europe as early as the 13th century. Business was further stimulated in the late 14th century...
Radda in Chianti
Radda in Chianti sits on a ridge stretching between the Val di Pesa and Val d'Arbia. It is easily reached by following the SR429 from Castellina. It's another one of those tiny villages with steep...
When you're on a hilltop surrounded by soaring medieval towers silhouetted against the sky, it's difficult not to fall under the spell of San Gimignano. Its tall walls and narrow streets are...
San Marcello Pistoiese
This small town—small, but still the largest in the area—bustles in summer and winter (when it's one of Tuscany's few ski destinations), but calms down in spring and fall. It's set amid...
San Miniato has a history dating to Etruscan and Roman times; today it's a tiny, pristine hill town of narrow streets lined with austere 13th- to 17th-century facades, some covering buildings that...
San Quirico d'Orcia
San Quirico d'Orcia, on the modern Via Cassia (SR2) south from Siena toward Rome, has almost-intact 15th-century walls topped with 14 turrets. The pleasantly crumbling appearance of the town...
Originally called Borgo San Sepolcro (City of the Holy Sepulchre), this sprawling agricultural town takes its name from relics brought here from the Holy Land by two pilgrims in the 10th century....
- Santuario della Verna
Saturnia was settled even before the Etruscan period, but nowadays it's best known not for what lies buried beneath the ground but for what comes up from it: hot, sulfurous water that supplies the...
With its narrow streets and steep alleys, a Gothic Duomo, a bounty of early Renaissance art, and the glorious Palazzo Pubblico overlooking its magnificent Campo, Siena is often described as...
This town of Etruscan origin was once the capital of the area in southern Tuscany dominated by the Aldobrandeschi family, whose reign was at its height in the 11th and first half of the 12th...
Tobias Smollett (1721–71), the English novelist, wrote in the 1760s that Viareggio was "a kind of sea-port on the Mediterranean.... The roads are indifferent and the accommodation is execrable."...
The small hill town from which Leonardo da Vinci derived his name is a short drive or bus ride north of Empoli. At the church of Santa Croce, near the town square, you can see the baptismal font...
As you approach the town through bleak, rugged terrain, you can see that not all Tuscan hill towns rise above rolling green fields. Volterra stands mightily over Le Balze, a stunning series of...
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