With vineyards as far as the eye can see, a name synonym to a rich culture and magnificent landscapes, Tuscany in Italy has earned its place on the top of the list of must-visit destinations for a vacation. Capturing the hearts of many generations over the years with its charm, Tuscany is full of fun things to do.
The Tuscany region is located in central Italy, spanning over 23,000 square kilometers. Tuscany borders the provinces of Liguria to the northwest, Emilia-Romagna to the north, Marche to the northeast, Umbria to the east, and Lazio to the southeast.
Along with the incredible scenery, the region is famous for being the cradle of the Etruscan civilization, which was one of the wealthiest civilizations in Italy and the whole Mediterranean. The Etruscan civilization had its mark on the city, leaving behind many traces and exceptional works of art across Tuscany.
When in Tuscany, it is not a matter of what to do, but rather a matter of narrowing down the things to do while there. Being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance has left Tuscany with approximately over 500+ museums and historical locations that will leave you in awe. From its wine to its jaw-dropping streets and breath-taking landscapes, here are some best things to do in Tuscany.
Take a Walk Around the Galleria dell’Accademia
Bursting with several Renaissance masterpieces, Florence is the dream destination for all art lovers. On top of the list for any art-lover is the Galleria dell’Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s famous works. The Galleria includes some spectacular sculptures that were flawlessly created by the Renaissance artist.
While the Galleria includes many marvelous works, David’s statue remains the star of the show. Located at the Tribune, a special area in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Michelangelo’s David is regarded by many as one of the best work-of-art ever created by humankind. The jaw-dropping status is a 14.0 ft marble statue depicting the Biblical hero, David. The figure is simply brilliant and will definitely blow you away with its beauty.
Although the Galleria is famous for Michelangelo’s works, it also offers its visitors other pieces by other well-known artists like Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Alessandro Allori, and Orcagna, among others.
Another thing to look up while visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia is its recent section, the Museum of Musical Instruments. The section features some unique old musical instruments by Stradivari and the inventor of the piano Bartolomeo Cristofori.
While you might have to stand in a long line to enjoy the majestic walls and sculptures of the Galleria, but we assure you, it is worth it! However, we recommend you book your ticket online if you can; that would prevent you from having to wait in line for so long.
The Florence Cathedral: Time for Some Climbing!
Another must-see destination is in Tuscany’s capital Florence, the Florence Cathedral, AKA Duomo di Firenze. Located at the Piazza del Duomo, the Florence Cathedral is an exquisite view to look at, but it is its dome (Duomo) that steals the show every time with its lantern standing out in the historic center. It is almost impossible not to be mesmerized by its sight.
After enjoying the cathedral and lighting a candle for a loved one on the inside, make sure to look up to enjoy the Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari frescoes spread across the ceiling of the dome.
To utterly enjoy the place, you have to climb the narrow flight of steps to the top of the Duomo. The cathedral is 114 meters in height, and to reach the top of the Duomo, you will have to climb 463 steep steps…. Yes, you read that right! While you may doubt your decision on the way up huffing and puffing, but once you take step number 463, you will know why this was a must.
The view from the top is simply out of this world! You will get to see the whole beautiful Florence and the entire spellbinding historic center. Entry to the cathedral is free; however, you need a ticket to climb the dome. You can buy a combo ticket that gives you the chance to enjoy the complex of buildings, including the cathedral dome, Giotto’s Campanile, the Florence Baptistery, and a couple of other places.
Florence’s Old Bridge!
The historic Ponte Vecchio, AKA Old Bridge, is probably the most recognized symbol of the city of Florence after Brunelleschi’s soaring red dome topping the Duomo. The 14th-century bridge features distinguished three lower arches that spread across the Arno River at its narrowest point.
Sited on street level, the Ponte Vecchio is lined with several shops and crowded with locals and tourists taking a stroll or snapping photos of the colorful palazzi lining the riverbank most of the time. Florence’s bridge is a must-visit while in Tuscany.
Galleria Degli Uffizi: Italy’s Most-visited Museum
Conserving within its wall a decent number of unique artworks and masterpieces, the Galleria Degli Uffizi is a must-visit while in Tuscany. Home to the work of Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raffaello, among others, the Uffizi Gallery welcomes a million visitors every year.
The museum is organized in a meander of artworks that are exhibited roughly in chronological order. The Uffizi Gallery offers you the chance to have a look at great works like Doni Tondo by Michelangelo; The Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto; Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael; and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, to name a few.
Being one of the most famous and oldest museums in the world, the wait up for entering the Uffizi Gallery could go on for a long time, so we recommend you book your tickets in advance to enjoy the Gallery without the hassle of the long wait.
Leaning Towards the Pisa’s Leaning Tower!
Although there is more to the city of Pisa than just the tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa remains one of the most iconic touristic spots in the city, and in the whole of Italy for that matter. A fun fact about the tower is that it wasn’t always leaning; it was meant to be perfectly vertical, but it started leaning during its construction thanks to the soft ground beneath it that didn’t properly support the weight of the tower.
Holding the Guinness World Records for being the most tilted building in the world, the Pisa tower is positioned in the open space known as the Campo Dei Miracoli, the field of miracles, and the Pisa Tower was a miracle of medieval engineering on its own.
Besides taking some brilliant photos while there, there are so many fun things to do while visiting the Pisa tower. You can now climb the stairs inside the tower to reach its famous tilting top, which was not allowed until recent years. Like most tourist locations in Tuscany, it is highly advised to book your ticket to visit the tower in advance.
Florence Charming Competitor!
While some consider Florence as the most charming city in Tuscany, others say it is the city of Siena. Rich with history, Siena is the home of the oldest bank in the world, Banca Monte Dei Paschi di Siena which was founded in 1472.
Encompassed by olive groves and the vineyards of Chianti, the beautiful city of Siena homes several breath-taking historical places, including the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which is one of the most beautiful churches out there. The church is an absolute piece of art inside out, and it would make a fun day trip for you while in Tuscany.
Siena may be charming in the daylight, but the city is even more charming at night! If you make it to Siena, make sure to stick around for a lovely dinner at a restaurant and stroll around in the city’s narrow streets. These are just some of the many amazing things to do in Siena.
Lucca…. A Place You Fall in Love with!
Celebrated for its perfectly-preserved defense walls and its “100 churches”, the city of Lucca is another must-visit stop in your trip to Tuscany. The city is situated at the foot of the Apuan Alps and is less than half an hour from the coast of Versilia. You will need at least 1 day to enjoy the beauty of Lucca.
Unlike many other Tuscan cities, Lucca is not a hilltop village, which makes the city an excellent place for people having mobility issues or for those who are not fond of climbing. Lucca has many historical sites of the Roman amphitheatre that can be seen in the shape of the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro to the archeological remains.
Another top thing to do in Lucca is to visit its several main attractions like the Piazza of San Michele with its beautiful Church of San Michele in Foro, the Basilica of San Frediano as well as the Clock Tower and Guinigi Tower, among others. Lucca is full of fun things to do!
The Green Valley!
You can’t make it to Tuscany without paying a visit to that sumptuous green valley of Val d’Orcia. Having the best of everything, Val d’Orcia is full of medieval castles, vast farmhouses, roads lined with cypress trees, outstanding vineyards, and olive groves, in addition to golden fields of grain and sunflowers.
Located in southern Tuscany, Val d’Orica expands between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto. The whole area is protected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO like many locations in Tuscany.
Try to have at least 2 days to spend in Val d’Orica, one where you go to visit the area’s museums, ancient abbeys and castles and the city of Pienza, AKA the “Ideal City” thanks to its phenomenal Palazzo Piccolomini. While on the second day, you can just chill in one of the region’s thermal hot springs like the ones in Bagno Vignoni or Bagni di San Filippo.
Eat, Pray, and Stay at a Tuscan Villa!
Movies like Eat, Pray, Love, and Under the Tuscan Sun have unconscionably created that dream inside many of us to go visit Tuscany and stay at a nice place to enjoy its beauty. Well, what’s a better way to do that other than staying at a Tuscan Villa!
While the region’s cities and towns are divine, there is no harm in enjoying some isolation as well. You can have that by renting a Tuscan farmhouse or villa. You can even have your perfect Tuscan gateway by staying in a villa that still has a functioning vineyard or olive farm…. How cool is that!
Fancy a Gelato?
While the rest of the world has ice cream, Italy, especially Tuscany, has gelato…and what a sweet treat that is! Many people argue that gelato was invented in Florence, Tuscany. Whether this is true or not, the gelato in there is definitely worth the try! Make sure to grab a gelato, or several for that matter, while in Tuscany and enjoy it while walking around the beautiful Tuscan streets.
To get a perfect gelato, make sure that the ingredients are in season, colors must be natural, and the gelato must be kept refrigerated. Do not trust a gelato that has been piled high!
Roll the Pottery Wheel in Tuscany!
One of the top things to do while in Tuscany is to recreate Demi Moore’s memorable scene from the film Ghost where she makes pottery. While it may not be quite as good-looking as it was in the film, but making pottery in Tuscany is a must-do. It is one of the best experiences to have while in the region.
Tuscany is full of many great artisans who are known for their exceptional craftsmanship. There are several places where you can enjoy sitting behind the pottery wheel and making something of your own. We recommend you check Artisan Anita Russo’ boutique and Officina Laboratorio Ceramica in Florence and Terrabruga Studio in Cortana.
Wine Tasting? How About Olive Oil Tasting!
If you think you know what a good olive oil tastes like, well, think again! Olive oil is one of the most iconic food in the region of Tuscany, and FYI, it tastes NOTHING like the one you buy from your grocery store.
The olive oil harvest in Tuscany is usually in late October or early November, and it continues into December. If you make it to the region around that time, make sure to go on an olive oil tasting.
For a good olive oil tasting, check out Le Baccanti tours, where you get to visit an olive oil press and then go for a tasting session with an expert guide. Finally, you can have your favorite varieties shipped to your home address to make sure you don’t forget the exquisite taste.
You can also go for the extra virgin olive produced in Lucca with a tasting at Fattoria di Fubbiano. Consistently rated among the best olive oils in the world, you can tour the farm and the XVII-century villa while learning about the making process. They also make excellent wine, so two birds with one stone!
Eat, Eat, and Eat!
A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without enjoying some of the country’s famous cuisine. Tuscany is not exceptional to the rule; the region is renowned for some mouth-watering authentic foods that will keep you going for more! The region is filled with many restaurants, cafès, and pizzerias.
Like the rest of the Italian cuisine, Tuscan cuisine is based on simple and fresh ingredients that still deliver a rich, to-die-for flavor. This is why the dishes served are based on what fresh ingredients are found in the market that week.
Be that as it may, choosing where to eat while abroad is not always easy, you could end up eating at an expensive place with bad-quality food. Our advice to avoid this is to pay attention to the number of locals eating at the place; if many locals are eating at a specific place, then grab a seat and enjoy your meal!
Between your meals while in Tuscany, you must try the region’s street food as well. After all, if you truly want to explore a city, you must eat like its locals! And what’s a better way to do that than eating the city’s street food.
Try the lampredotto in Florence, which is the fourth stomach of the cow. This food is so popular in the city that you will probably have to stand in a long line of people coming from different backgrounds and united by their love for the lampredotto.
Another food to try is the Torta di Ceci in Livorno, which is a cake made of chickpea flour; it is so yummy and simple. The locals take their torta with a glass of spuma Bionda, an aromatic fizzy old-fashioned drink that is still famous in Livorno. Make sure to eat it with a good sprinkling of black pepper.
For Tuscan people, a warm Schiacciata with olive oil is something worshiped. In local bakeries all over Tuscany, you can find the plain Schiacciata or a schiacciata with olives, tomatoes, or onions. Sometimes it is stuffed with cheese and ham, as well.
Dated back to the beginning of the popular festival, Saint Joseph’s Day, Frittelle di Riso brings the festive smell of fried food and sugar. Deliciously light and sugary, Frittelle di Riso is local street food-related to Siena.
These are just a few of the many street foods that you must have while visiting Tuscany.
Saving The Best For Last…. Wine Tasting!
Having a wine tasting in Tuscany is pretty much on the bucket list of almost everyone! Besides its picturesque medieval towns and harmonious landscapes, Tuscany is famous for being the home of great wine. Through organized wine tours, cooking lessons, wine tasting, and wine cellar tours, there are so many ways to explore the Tuscan wine on your own.
While the Chianti Classico and the whole area of Chianti stand out as the best-known wine-producing valleys and regions, many other areas in the region are known for their award-winning fragrance, colors, and, most importantly, their flavor.
To name a few, Brunello di Montalcino, which is a rich, full-bodied wine with a distinct personality. Going farther east, there is also the Vino Nobile, which is produced near Montepulciano. There is also the Orcia DOC, the newest addition to a long list of amazing flavors that are working on establishing a reputation.
It doesn’t stop here; the whole region of Tuscany doesn’t fail to provide many other fine wines like Morellino Scansano, Lucca and Montecarlo, Cortona, and even along the coast in the area of Bolgheri. Many of these areas are well organized, with itineraries mixing traditional flavors and wines with the “Strada del vino.”
Tasting wine in the city may be a unique experience on its own, but nothing beats the romance of heading out for a wine tasting at a vineyard. Whether you choose to do it in the city or at a vineyard, wine tasting is certainly one of the best things to do while in Tuscany.
While we tried to include as much as we can in this article, there are still way much more activities to do Under The Tuscan Sun. Be it the food, the scenery, or the rich history, Tuscany has always been and will always be a perfect gateway for a vacation to have a break from routine, relax and enjoy some fine wine.