I am so excited to have Himadri from Atlas Traversed as a guest poster. For anyone that missed it, I posted all about why Florence is the perfect place to visit here. Himadri will show you why the surrounding area is equally as beautiful!
For any art-lover Florence is a dream come true! From the beautiful paintings at the Uffizi Galleries to Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia, Florence is home to some extraordinary art pieces. Besides its museums and galleries, the Duomo in Florence has intricate architecture, stunning interiors, and breathtaking views. While in Florence, be sure to stroll the beautiful Boboli Gardens, visit the Basilica in San Lorenzo, watch the sunset at Ponte Vecchio, enjoy spectacular city views from its Piazza Michelangelo and eat at the massive food market of Mercado!
Though Florence is the most popular destination in Tuscany, and maybe rightly so, the Tuscan region offers the most mesmerizing views and exhilarating experiences that make it worth exploring beyond Florence!
Tuscany paints the perfect picture of the Italian countryside. With its winding narrow roads that break the endless stretches of vineyards and olive groves, dotted with medieval villages and artistic villas, Tuscany exceeds every expectation that has long been portrayed through so famous Renaissance paintings and thousands of landscape postcards. Amongst the richest regions in Italy today, Tuscany still preserves its originally rural roots and its natural beauty that make it a world-famous attraction.
Unique Experiences in Tuscany:
Hot Air Balloon over Tuscany: Discover Tuscany in all its glory like never before. Experience sunrise over the undisturbed Tuscan region as you fly over it in a Hot Air Balloon. The journey over the Tuscany’s vineyards and valleys is followed by an elaborate Florentine breakfast!
Vintage Car Ride through Val d’Orcia: Val d’Orcia is a world heritage site for its unparalleled beauty. Imagine winding country roads across cultivated hills, cypress trees, stretches of never-ending vineyards and lush grasslands that are spotted with beautiful villas or pretty villages. To add to the experience, consider driving through in an authentically Italian car such as a Fiat 500 or maybe even a Ferrari!
Wine Tasting in Montepulciano or Montalcino: Visit these ancient wine towns to taste the best wines in one of the world’s best winemaking regions. For any wine enthusiast, spend the day learning about wines and the traditions of winemaking. Visit different vineyards and wine-makers to understand what makes these wines amongst the best in the world. Be sure to get a tour of their wine cellars to see the most exclusive and expensive wines. Then spend the rest of the day tasting a multitude of different wines and pairing them with your meal.
Many wine tastings also offer an option to include olive oil tastings with bread and balsamic vinegar. Bet you never imagined trying to tell the difference in taste in olives oils? – It’s definitely something!
Olive Harvesting: While many vineyards offer winemaking activities where you can crush the grapes and few olive groves allow you to actively participate in the olive oil making process that includes harvesting, collecting and pressing. Castello Del Trebbio is one such estate that offers this exotic experience!
Truffle Hunting in San Miniato: Truffles are expensive, rare and grow in the wild. Hunting truffles with trained dogs is such an exciting activity and a personal favorite! The activity involves following your dog as he sniffs and digs out the truffles through the wilderness.
San Miniato, a tiny agricultural town has many regions that are well-known to find and hunt truffles (especially the white variety).
Saffron Picking: One of the most precious spices used in gourmet foods, Saffron is grown extensively in Tuscany especially around Siena. A tour through saffron fields includes learning about its history and legends, cultivating and picking techniques and even witnessing picking the saffron flowers during its harvest season.
Vespa Drive: Originating from Tuscany, the Vespa is a must-drive while exploring the countryside and its cozy towns!
Horse Riding through Vineyards: Spend an evening watching the sunset across the endless countryside on horseback as you ride through beautiful ripe vineyards. You can literally ride past the grapes that are ready for harvest and after this romantic yet adventurous experience even taste some the wines of the vineyards!
Relax in Natural Hot Springs: The Tuscan region is filled with many natural hot springs. Saturnia, the most famous, is also one of the most picturesque springs for a relaxing spa day!
Private Cooking Class: Enjoy an Italian cooking class where you learn how to hand-make pasta from scratch or opt for tiramisu or gelato-making instead! After a fun day of cooking, sit back and enjoy your own cooked meal with some of the finest local wines!
Romantic Dinner at Renaissance Castle: Tuscany is filled with magnificent castles such as Castello di Vincigliata in Fiesole (near Florence) and Castello Banfi in Montalcino (near Siena). The region is dotted with many smaller privately owned castles that offer private dinners and unique experiences.
Explore the UNESCO Town of San Gimignano: This UNESCO World Heritage site is well-known for its splendid skyline with 14 medieval towers and enchanting brick streets. After climbing the beautifully preserved towers, be sure to try the “World’s Best Gelato” at Gelataria Dondoli.
A Day in Siena: Travel back to the middle ages as you visit Piazza del Campo in Siena. You can enjoy a laid back lunch in the town’s old square. This culturally rich town full of monuments and churches has a marvelous cathedral (Duomo) and a majestic 400 step tower (Torre del Mangia) that can be climbed.
Walking the Walled-city of Lucca: Lucca is enveloped by fortified city walls that were designed by Leonardo Da Vinci! You can walk on top of these 4km long walls to get a full view of this historic city. Take one of the exits that lead below to see how impressive these walls look from below. Wonder through its narrow alleys and admire its extravagant architecture.
Leaning Tower in Pisa: Visit the Square of Miracles and its surrounding buildings – Baptistery, Cathedral, and Cemetery. The Leaning Tower as its name suggests is the bell tower that is famed for its unintended tilt on one side. Climb the tower for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Shopping in a Designer Outlet: For all the shoppers out there, The Mall, only a short distance from Pisa, is one of the best outlet malls in all of Europe housing designer brands like Moncler, Gucci, Aquazzura, Tom Ford and more.
Best time to Visit Tuscany: September- October or March- May
The weather is pleasantly cool and perfect for exploring this region. It is also truffle hunting, saffron picking and wine harvesting season.
Recommended Days for Visit: 4-8 Days
How to Get There: The closest airports are Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa and Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence. Both airports welcome flights from major European cities and are a close drive (1-2 hours) or train ride (45 mins-1.5 hours) from the beautiful Tuscan towns. You can also reach Tuscany by bus but this is less frequent and far less comfortable than car or train. However, they are a cheap option because of their unlimited travel pass options where you can travel from most major cities like Rome and Milan to Florence and other smaller towns like Siena and Lucca in Tuscany. You can use the unlimited passes to travel not only to but also within Tuscany.
If you are travelling internationally, it may be cheaper to fly into bigger international airports in Milan or Rome.
Getting Around Tuscany:
Car: My personal recommendation is renting a car because I believe the beauty of being in Tuscany is to be spontaneous and to be laid back and driving around gives you that flexibility and convenience to visit a remote castle or a lesser-known vineyard. But make sure to have an international license to rent a car in Italy.
Trains: These are easily available, easy to use and an affordable alternative to getting around the region. I would recommend these if you plan to be based in one place (such as Florence or Siena) or if you plan to explore the region with guided tours.
While Tuscany is a dream all year round, with each season offering different scenic views and diverse activities, it is simply breathtaking to see its colours change from fall through spring which is why I recommend that Tuscany and its distinguished beauty beyond Florence should be on every traveler’s bucket list!
Himadri Karani Mehta is a travel blogger and consultant, originally from India and currently living in Belgium. Besides writing her own blog, she also writes for different travel-related pages and publications. She loves creating custom-made itineraries filled with off-beat, local and unique recommendations. Her hobbies include tennis, horse riding, and scuba diving. Himadri enjoys trying new experiences and sharing them with her readers! She is always on the look-out for new adventures (personal) and collaborations (business). You can get in touch at email@example.com. Or for more details, check out her website: www.atlastraversed.com. Or follow her journey on: