When planning to visit Tuscany, most people start dreaming of Florence, the magnificent cradle of the Renaissance. And therein lies the potential problem: “most people”. Florence is beautiful, no doubt, but one thing which can decrease the beauty of the Florentine experience is sharing it with countless other tourists, most of whom are apparently ahead of you in the line-up for the Uffizi. You can look forward to rubbing shoulders, and elbows, with a hefty portion of the more than ten million annual visitors who descend on Florence each year.
But it’s not like Florence, Siena, or Pisa have a monopoly on the marvelous qualities that make Tuscany famous around the world.
Many of the best places to visit in Tuscany don’t appear in guidebooks. Whether you’re considering day tours from Florence or a full-fledged Tuscany road trip, read on.
Cività di Bagnoregio, population: 11
We’ll start with a destination that’s technically not part of Tuscany, as it’s just outside the border, but visiting La Città che Muore or the “Dying City” is an incredible experience that comes with a built-in expiry date. It draws its nickname from its rapidly declining population, and once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why. It’s a fortress town atop a steep cliff, accessible only by a 300-meter long pedestrian bridge. It boasts spectacular views of the surrounding valley, but you’ll need sturdy walking shoes, as the walkway is fairly steep in certain sections.
As Tuscany travel expert Elisa Scarton put it, it’s a “terrible place to live, incredible place to visit”.
Castiglione della Pescaia
A former winner of “Italy’s Most Beautiful Beach” award, Castiglione della Pescaia boasts amazing nightlife, affordable restaurants, and a hint of the cosmopolitan glamour that you might find, with a much higher price tag, in Monte Carlo. And those beaches, sheltered from the wind by evergreen forests and cozy coves, are among the cleanest in Italy. Need I say more?
The quickest way to describe this pocket-sized island is “medieval walled village plus tons of stunning beaches”, which explains why it’s a magnet for holiday-seekers in summer, and practically deserted the rest of the year. For an exciting and economical adventure, rent a scooter: your latest favourite beach is waiting to be discovered!
This tiny town’s slogan should be: “Stop by Suvereto, your stomach will thank you.” The food epitomises the delicious simplicity of traditional Tuscan cuisine, the olive oil is legendary, as is Doc Val di Cornia, the local red wine. Most of Suvereto is located inside the Montioni National Park, and whether you’re walking its ancient cobblestones streets or gazing up at centuries-old olive trees, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled from the 21st century back to the 12th. Last but not least, the locals are fiercely proud of their heritage, as evidenced by the numerous medieval artisan workshops and stores that make finding souvenirs a genuine pleasure.
It’s a short hop from Suvereto to Venturina, which was renamed Venturina Terme in 2015 to highlight the importance of its thermal activities, ie, hot springs. It’s been a popular destination for aquatic relaxation since Etruscan times. Later, the Romans called it Aquae Populoniae. Along with the obvious appeal of the various indoor and outdoor pools and spa facilities, notable landmarks include a two thousand year-old Roman mausoleum and the sixteenth century Oratory of Santa Lucia.
There’s an almost limitless array of points of interest in Tuscany; even a short list of the best places to visit in Tuscany outside of Florence would be much longer than this article.
And if crowds are not your thing, but you absolutely must see Michelangelo’s David, consider visiting in spring, autumn, or winter, when the most famous sculpture in the world is every bit as beautiful, but lining up to see it is a much better and shorter, experience.