Tuscany is a region incredibly rich in history and culture, as well as fascinating landscapes. It boasts endless entertainment options for all kinds of tourist, whether you like history (have you heard of the old steam train tours in Mugello, Val D’Orcia and Garfagnana?), outdoor activities (trekking, hiking, sailing or cycling? So much to do!), fashion (high-fashion outlets and Florence’s shops will please you), nightlife (the clubs and discos of Versilia are waiting for you!) or food (check the Wine Routes and the local wineries and agriturismo restaurants to delight your taste buds). It is a real must-visit place, all in one package.
How to get to Tuscany
Tuscany has two main airports, Pisa International Airport and Florence International Airport. They both have connections to and from many European cities and both are close to the city centre of their respective city (Pisa and Florence).
You can easily reach Pisa by taking the Pisa Mover shuttle that connects the airport to Pisa Centrale railway station. From Pisa Airport you can use buses to reach both Florence and Lucca as well.
From Florence International Airport, you can reach Florence and its Santa Maria Novella railway station by the T2 tramway line and by bus (VolainBus).
The special FlyBus service can also take you to Prato, Montecatini Terme and Pisa Airport. In case you have a car with you, you can leave it at the airport in a specially assigned parking lot, or follow the motorway directions (clear and many along the way) that will take you to the city of choice (if possible though, do use public transport: you will sightsee a lot more!).
Things to do in Tuscany
Siena has always been big on banks and commerce, and is home to the oldest bank in the world, founded in 1472. Its historic centre is part of the UNESCO World Heritage program, and it offers many delights, among which are of course food, art, museums, medieval architecture and the Palio, a horse race held twice a year and one of the most famous events in Italy.
During such race, the wards (contrada) in which Siena has been divided into since the Middle Ages, battle each other for victory and promise lots of fun for the onlooking people, given that there are 17 of them!
Galileo Galilei’s birth town is best known for its leaning Tower (the bell tower of the city’s cathedral), but it actually has more than 20 other historic churches, several Medieval palaces, and various bridges across the Arno river.
Much of its architecture is the fruit of its greatness as one of the Italian maritime republics of the past. While enjoying the leaning Tower, explore the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), to the north of the old town centre.
Piazza del Duomo, with the Duomo (the Cathedral), the Baptistry and the Campo Santo (the monumental cemetery) is part of a Medieval complex framed by Medieval walls.
Lucca seats in a fertile plain near the Ligurian Sea and is famous, first and foremost, for its intact and beautiful Renaissance city walls, but also for its musical event Lucca Summer Festival (which at some point featured Eric Clapton, Placebo and Santana, to name a few), and for Europe’s largest festival for comics, movies, games and related subjects called Lucca Comics and Games.
Lucca’s name derives from Luk, meaning marsh, and was founded by the Etruscans. While here, be sure to check Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, the Basilica of San Frediano and Palazzo Pfanner (which is both a palace/museum and a garden) while strolling through this peaceful, green city.
Elba is a beautiful island that is part of the Tuscan archipelago (which includes untouchable Montecristo island, present in the famous novel by Dumas), and the third biggest of Italy after Sicily and Sardinia. Its clear water, perfect sunsets and relaxing hikes will make you wonder if Napoleon’s exile here was maybe actually a holiday in disguise.
To make sure, try checking Villa San Martino, where he lived, and also the Fortress of Volterraio, the most ancient building on the island. You can do snorkelling (at Pomonte beach you will see a wrecked ship!), sunbathe languidly or hike the Capanne Mount. Your visit to this island will become one of your favourite memories.
How to get there:
You can travel to Elba Island by a ferry from Piombino, a town in the province of Livorno. From Firenze, you can use the Regional train to get to Livorno Centrale station, then hop on the Regional train to Piombino. Once there, a ferry will take you to Piombino’s Portoferraio. It is important to book the ferry in advance, and you can choose between four different shipping companies: Toremar, Blu Navy, Corsica Sardinia Ferries, Moby.
Check their official websites for all the information you need:
If you would rather travel by plane to Elba, you can fly there from Pisa or Florence’s airports. There is a small airport on the island that is active only in summer. Plan beforehand, because there are not many flights and seats available.
You can find more information on Elba’s airport official site:
The Val d’Orcia is a gentle assemble of cultivated hills, occasionally broken by gullies and by picturesque towns and villages such as Pienza, Radicofani (home to the notorious brigand-hero Ghino di Tacco) and Montalcino (if you enjoy wine, get a taste of the renowed Brunello di Montalcino).
Its landscape has inspired many Renaissance painters and is part of the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. There are many, many things to see: Medieval castles and ancient villages, graceful gills, striking farmhouses, roads lined with cypress trees, marvellous vineyards
and olive groves, and golden fields of grain and sunflowers. Be sure to take pictures and enjoy this dreamy part of Tuscany.
Fabrizio Lunardi, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons