195 Best Sights in Tuscany, Italy

Duomo

Several reconstructions have left little to admire of the once-Romanesque Duomo. Inside is the Cappella del Santo Chiodo (Chapel of the Holy Nail), built in the 15th century to hold a nail allegedly from the cross upon which Christ was crucified. (Perhaps it inspired the locals to go into the nail-making business, which became another of the town's flourishing industries.)

Duomo

Dedicated to St. Christopher, the Romanesque cathedral is made from elegant limestone (quarried from nearby caves) and saw four separate periods of construction. The first began in the 9th century; the last was finished in the 15th. Inside, the intricately carved pulpit, one of the finest examples of mid-12th-century Tuscan sculpture, commands center stage. The view from the littte piazza outside the Duomo is incredible: Tuscan mountains have never looked so good.

Via del Duomo, Barga, 55051, Italy

Eremo di Montesiepi

Behind the church of San Galgano, a short climb brings you to this charming little chapel with frescoes, by painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (documented 1319–48), and a sword in a stone. Legend has it that Galgano, a medieval warrior and bon vivant, was struck by a revelation on this spot in which an angel told him to give up his fighting and frivolous ways forever. As a token of his conversion, he plunged his sword into the rock, where it remains today.

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Etruscan Necropolis

Some of Italy's best-preserved monumental rock tombs, dating from the 2nd to the 3rd century BC, are found just outside the town at the Etruscan necropolis. Some of the tombs, such as the so-called Tomba Sirena (Siren's Tomb), preserve clear signs of their original and elaborately carved decorations. Others, like the Tomba Ildebranda (Hildebrand Tomb), are spectacular evidence of the architectural complexity sometimes achieved. Don't forget to walk along the section of an Etruscan road carved directly into the tufa stone.

Sovana, 58017, Italy
0564-488573
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €5

Fondazione Marino Marini

Lest you think that Tuscany produced only Renaissance artists, the Fondazione Marino Marini presents many works from its namesake modern native Pistoian (1901–80). Sculpture, etchings, paintings, engravings, and mixed media have all been installed in the elegantly renovated 14th-century Convento del Tau. Note that this museum has experienced temporary closures, so check on its status before visiting.

Foreste Casentinesi

A drive through the park, especially on the very winding 34-km (21-mile) road between the Monastero di Camaldoli and Santuario della Verna, passing through the lovely abbey town of Badia Prataglia, reveals one satisfying vista after another, from walls of firs to velvety pillows of pastureland where sheep or white cattle graze. In autumn, the beeches add a mass of red-brown to the palette, and, in spring, torrents of bright golden broom pour off the hillsides with an unforgettable profusion and fragrance.

Walking the forests—which also include sycamore, lime, maple, ash, elm, oak, hornbeam, and chestnut trees and abundant brooks and impressive waterfalls—is the best way to see some of the wilder creatures, from deer and mouflon (wild sheep imported from Sardinia in 1872) to eagles and many other birds, as well as 1,000 species of flora, including many rare and endangered plants and an orchid found nowhere else. The park organizes theme walks in summer and provides English-speaking guides anytime with advance notice.

Giardino Zoologico

A 20-minute drive out of town brings you to the Giardino Zoologico, a small zoo laid out to accommodate the wiles of both animals and children.

Grosseto

The largest town in southern Tuscany, Grosseto is the capital of the Maremma. First recorded in the 9th century as a castellum (small fort) built to defend a bridge and a port on the nearby River Ombrone, the town is now a thriving agricultural center. Badly damaged during World War II, it has been largely rebuilt since the 1950s, but a small centro storico, protected by defensive walls that follow a hexagonal plan, is worth a short visit on your way to the coast.

Grotta del Vento

About 14 km (9 miles) southwest of Barga, after following a winding road flanked by both sheer cliffs and fantastic views, you come to Tuscany's Cave of the Wind. As the result of a steady internal temperature of 10.7°C (about 51°F), the wind is sucked into the cave in the winter and blown out in the summer. It has a long cavern with stalactites, stalagmites, "bottomless" pits, and subterranean streams. One-, two-, and three-hour guided tours of the cave are given. (The one-hour tour is offered only from November through March.)

Horti Leonini

Against the walls of San Quirico d'Orcia, these Italian-style gardens retain merely a shimmer of their past opulence. They were planted in 1581 by Diomede Leoni—hence the name of the park. In the center there's a 17th-century statue of Cosimo III, the penultimate Medici grand duke of Tuscany.

Off Piazza della Libertà, San Quirico d'Orcia, 53027, Italy
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Il Ponte della Maddalena

Il Ponte della Maddalena is, oddly, also known as the Devil's Bridge. Commissioned in all likelihood by Matilde di Canossa (1046–1115), it was restructured by the petty despot Castruccio Castracani in the early 14th century. It's worth the climb to the middle—the bridge is narrow, steep, and pedestrians-only—to check out the view. Despite 1836 flood damage and early-20th-century alterations, it seems little changed from the Middle Ages. If you're heading north along the Serchio from Lucca to Bagni di Lucca, you will see the bridge on your left.

Isola del Giglio

This rocky, romantic isle, whose name translates to Island of the Lily, is an hour by ferry from Porto Santo Stefano but a world away from the mainland's hustle and bustle. The island's three towns—Giglio Porto, the charming harbor where the ferry arrives; Giglio Castello, a walled village at Giglio's highest point; and Giglio Campese, a modern town on the west side of the island—are connected by one long, meandering road. But to really explore Giglio you need a good pair of hiking boots. A network of rugged trails climbs up the steep hills through clusters of wild rosemary and tiny daffodils, and once you leave town, chances are your only company will be the goats who thrive on Giglio's sun-baked hills.

The island's main attraction, however, is at sea level—a sparkling array of lush coves and tiny beaches, most accessible only on foot or by boat. With the exception of Giglio Campese, where the sandy beach is as popular in summer as any mainland resort, most of the little island's coastline is untouched, leaving plenty of room for peaceful sunning for those willing to go off the beaten path.

La Certosa di Pisa

A certosa is a monastery whose monks belong to the strict Carthusian order. This vast and sprawling complex, begun in 1366, was suppressed by Napoléon in the early 1800s and then again in 1866. Most of the art and architecture you see dates from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Carthusians returned here only to leave it permanently in 1969. Also within it is the Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio. This museum of natural history contains fossils, 24 whale skeletons that serve to trace the mammal's development over the millennia, and some exhibits of local minerals. Guided tours are given every hour and a half: unfortunately, there are given only in Italian.

La Rocca

Dating from the 13th century, La Rocca (The Fortress) has a plaque commemorating writer Ludovico Ariosto's brief tenure here as commissar general for the Este. Ariosto (1474–1533) wrote the epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516), among other works. You can only see the impressive walls and great entryway of the fort from the outside.

Piazza Umberto, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, 55032, Italy

Le Balze

Walk along Via San Lino, through Porta San Francesco, and out Borgo Santo Stefano into Le Balze—a haunting, undulating landscape of yellow earth drawn into crags and gullies that's thought to be the result of rainwater wearing down the soil substructure. This area was originally part of the Etruscan town of Velathri, as evidenced by walls that extend 1 km (½ mile) toward the old Porta Menseri. Toward the end of the road, on the right, is the church of San Giusto (with terra-cotta statues of the town's patron saints) built to replace an earlier church under which the earth had eroded. The bus for Borgo San Giusto, leaving from Piazza Martiri, goes through Le Balze (about 10 runs per day).

Marble Quarries

The area around Carrara has a lot of still-active quarries—well over 100 at last count. Most of them are not open to the public for safety reasons. However, it is possible to tour specific marble caves. The Carrara tourism office, 7 km (4½ miles) away in Marina di Massa, has details about which areas you can visit.

Marina di Campo

On the south side of Elba, this small town with a long sandy beach and protected cove is a classic summer vacationer's spot. The laid-back marina is full of bars, boutiques, and restaurants.

Moby Lines

From Piombino, this company provides one-hour ferry service to Portoferraio on Elba.

Monte Capanne

The highest point on Elba, Monte Capanna is crossed by a twisting road that provides magnificent vistas at every turn; the tiny towns of Poggio and Marciana have enchanting little piazzas full of flowers and trees. You can hike to the top of the mountain, or take an unusual open-basket cable car from just above Poggio.

Montecatini Alto

The older town, Montecatini Alto, sits atop a hill nearby, and is reached by a funicular from Viale Diaz. Though there isn't much to do once you get up there, the medieval square is lined with restaurants and bars, the air is crisp, and the views of the Nievole, the valley below, are gorgeous.

Montecristo

The most famous visitor to this island, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Elba, was fictional: Alexandre Dumas's legendary count. Today, the island is a well-protected nature preserve with wild Montecristo goats and vipers, peregrine falcons, and rare Corsican seagulls who make their home amid rosemary bushes and stunted pine trees. Scientific-research teams are given priority for permission to land on the island, and an annual quota of 1,000 visitors strictly limits even their number.

Montefioralle

A tiny hilltop hamlet, about 2 km (1 mile) west of Greve in Chianti, Montefioralle is the ancestral home of Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), the mapmaker, navigator, and explorer who named America. (His cousin-in-law, Simonetta, may have been the inspiration for Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus, painted sometime in the 1480s.)

Monterchi

This sleepy town, sitting on a small knoll about 15 km (9 miles) south of Sansepolcro, would probably attract little attention if not for the fact that, in the 1450s, Piero della Francesca painted one of his greatest masterpieces—the Madonna del Parto, a rare image of a pregnant Virgin Mary—here.

Murlo

If you're heading northwest to Siena, stray 9 km (5½ miles) west of the Via Cassia to Vescovado and then follow the signs 2 km (1 mile) south to this tiny fortified medieval borgo (village) that has been completely restored.

Museo Archeologico

The 13th-century Palazzo Pretorio, on Piazza Garibaldi, is home to this fascinating museum with plenty of Etruscan artifacts. A number of displays reconstruct the nature of daily life for the Etruscans who once inhabited the hills in this area.

Piazza Garibaldi 1, Massa Marittima, 58024, Italy
0566-902289
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €4, Closed Mon.–Thurs., Jan.–Mar.; Mon. in Sept. and Oct.; and Mon.–Wed., Nov.–Dec. 20

Museo Archeologico

The Archaeological Museum in the Convento di San Bernardo, just outside the Anfiteatro Romano, exhibits a fine collection of Etruscan bronzes. The ticket allows admission to the Anfiteatro Romano.

Museo Archeologico

Exhibits at this museum reconstruct the island's ancient history through a display of Etruscan and Roman artifacts recovered from shipwrecks. The museum has experienced temporary closures, so check ahead on its status.

Museo Civico

The Palazzo del Comune, begun around 1295, houses the Museo Civico, containing works by local artists from the 13th to 19th century. The courtyard (which is free) houses an equestrian sculpture by native son Marino Marini: it takes awhile to figure it out, and it's worth taking the time to do so.

Museo Civico

Piero della Francesca is the star at this small provincial museum, where his works include the reassembled altarpiece of the Misericordia (1445–62) and frescoes depicting the Resurrection (circa 1460), Saint Julian, and the disputed Saint Louis of Toulouse, which is possibly the work of a close follower of the artist. Other works of interest are those by Santi di Tito (1536–1603), also from Sansepolcro, and Pontormo's San Quintino (1517–18).

Museo Civico

The impressive civic museum occupies what was the "new" Palazzo del Popolo; the Torre Grossa is adjacent. Dante visited San Gimignano for only one day as a Guelph ambassador from Florence to ask the locals to join the Florentines in supporting the pope—just long enough to get the main council chamber named after him.

Upstairs, paintings by famous Renaissance artists Pinturicchio (Madonna Enthroned) and Benozzo Gozzoli (Madonna and Child), and two large tondi (circular paintings) by Filippino Lippi (circa 1457–1504) attest to the importance and wealth of San Gimignano.

Piazza Duomo 2, San Gimignano, 53037, Italy
0577-286300
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €9 cumulative ticket, €13 San Gimignano Pass (museums and duomo)