Rolling hills carpeted with vineyards, ancient olive groves, picturesque and historic hilltop villages frozen in time, tantalizing Tyrrhenian Sea beaches, Renaissance art and architecture can all be found in Italy’s fabled Tuscany region. From its cosmopolitan capital Florence and the city’s world-famous art galleries and masterpiece Duomo to San Gimignano’s medieval towers and the Mediterranean island paradise on Elba, Tuscany has something to entice every type of traveler.
Featured Tuscany Hotel
Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, is the art, fashion, culture, and culinary capital of Tuscany. It is home to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most acclaimed art museums on Earth; the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, which takes you on a journey through the life of the master shoemaker; and the world-famous Duomo di Firenze and its Brunelleschi Dome, the symbol of the city and the largest masonry dome ever built. Siena, the jewel of Tuscany, is well-known for the Piazza del Campo, widely regarded as one of the best medieval squares in Europe, which hosts the Palio di Siena, Italy’s most famous horse race. San Gimignano is a small hill town known for its skyline, particularly its 14 medieval towers. The island of Elba is best known as a place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte, whose residence still stands and can be visited, but also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Tuscany. Pisa, which straddles the Arno River, is home to one of Italy’s most-visited attractions, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
What to see
Florence – Tuscany’s capital and most populated city is the birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence is widely considered one of the most beautiful cities on Earth and is also one of the world’s top fashion capitals. Climb Brunelleschi’s Dome, the symbol of Florence in the spiritual heart of the city, Piazza del Duomo. This architectural masterpiece covers the Florence Cathedral, or Duomo di Firenze, and after ascending its 463 steps you are rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the city. For those who prefer to stay closer to the ground, marvel at the Duomo, Baptistery and Giotto’s Bell Tower, which together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The renowned Uffizi Gallery, located next to Piazza della Signoria, home to a replica of Michelangelo’s David, exhibits one of the world’s most impressive collections of ancient sculptures and paintings. It is home to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus as well as art created by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Titian. After perusing the Uffizi take a stroll across the nearby Ponte Vecchio. This iconic bridge spans the Arno and is the only bridge on the river that escaped destruction during World War II because, as rumor has it, it was too beautiful and significant to destroy. The Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, is lined with shops, many of which sell jewelry.
Siena – Siena’s iconic shell-shaped square is the beating heart of the city. Piazza del Campo, aka Il Campo, is home to the Palazzo Pubblico, a 14th-century palace; Torre del Mangia, a Siena landmark and one of the tallest medieval towers in Italy; and a cornucopia of cafés and restaurants.
Pisa – Pisa’s Campo dei Miracoli is indeed miraculous. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains not only the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, but the Duomo, or Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and the Battistero di San Giovanni, considered the largest baptistery in Italy. Campo dei Miracoli, aka Piazza del Duomo, is also home to the Camposanto Monumentale, a cemetery that, according to legend, can reduce bodies to skeletons within 24 hours of burial.
Volterra – Walk in the footsteps of the Romans at the well-preserved Teatro Romano, or Roman Theatre, and get a glimpse of ancient Etruscan life at Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, one of the oldest public museums in Europe.
San Gimignano – This medieval mini-Manhattan is renowned for the lofty towers that dot its skyline. Torre Grossa, completed in 1311, is the tallest in town at approximately 175 feet and the only tower in San Gimignano that visitors can climb.
Elba – Italy’s third-largest island boasts one of the country’s most famous homes, Villa dei Mulini, one of the residences of Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile in 1814. Perched high above Portoferraio, the island’s capital and main port, Villa dei Mulini today is part of the National Museum of Napoleonic Residences and exhibits antiques, furniture and books Napoleon brought with him to Elba. Elba is also blessed with some of the region’s best beaches, including Cavoli, Sansone, Fetovaia, Lacona and Biodola.