Tuscany holidays

Experience Tuscany

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

The magnificent, historic city of Florence is the star attraction of the region. The birthplace of the Renaissance in Italy, the city was the cultural, political and economic hub of Europe between 1250 and 1500 AD. Glorious buildings, museums and great artworks are its highlights, and its famous sons include Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

The city of Pisa holds one of the world's best-known landmarks, the Leaning Tower, set in the great square of Campo del Miracoli along with the Duomo cathedral and the Baptistry. The ancient heart of this lively city is small and easily explored on foot, and the Museo du San Matteo is a treasure trove of Renaissance art gathered from all the city's historic churches.

The medieval city of Siena has been popular with visitors since the 19th century. It is immersed in tradition and pride, with its famous Palio horse races held in July and August unique to the city. Its central square, Piazza del Campo, holds the 800-year old city hall and the spectacular Romanesque Duomo cathedral gleams in the centre of its colonnaded square.

Lucca's long history goes back to Roman times, with its greatest era the period before the Renaissance. The old town holds iconic Gothic architecture enclosed within its ancient city walls and the town's main highlights are its many churches, with the 14th century Duomo di San Martino the loveliest. Giacomo Puccini, the 19th century composer of much-loved operas such as La Boheme was born here.

For glimpses of breath-taking mountain scenery, Tuscan-Emilian Apennines National Park is a must-visit. Set along the high valleys with their rushing rivers, the park runs as high as the Corfino Pass and takes in the Succiso Alps, the isolated Pietra di Bismantova Range and the deep valley of the River Secchia. Hiking and walking trails here give magnificent views.

The town of Montepulciano is famed for its wines as well as its Piazza Grande, home to three medieval palaces, the Palazzos Comunale Nobili Tarugi and Contucci. San Biago Church has a soaring Renaissance nave and dome. Chiusi's Labyrinth is a fascinating network of extensive Etruscan tunnels running under the city, and can be seen with a guided tour, and Arezzo's Piazza Grande is its historical heart, home to the Casa del Petrarcha once the residence of medieval poet Petrarch.

Top Landmarks

Tuscany is a living testimony to the flowering of art, architecture, science and literature during the Italian Renaissance period. Florence was the engine of this remarkable development, but all the Tuscan towns had their own competing schools of painting and sculpture. Florence's unique Uffizi Gallery is a tribute to the genius of Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo and many more great artists of the Florentine, Sienaese and Lucchese schools.

Florence's Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its Basilica di Santa Maria del Flore 's magnificent dome its main landmark. Built between 1296 and 1436, the basilica boasts a glorious interior, which is a tribute to the great artists who worked on it and to the wealth and power of the city and its Medici rulers. The Campanile di Giotto bell tower, the romantic Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River and Casa Buonarotti the home of Michelangelo, are all must-sees.

Home to the famous Leaning Tower, Pisa retains much of its medieval beauty. The 12th century Templar Church of Santo Sepulchro has a rare octagonal design resembling Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock and the classic mansions along the banks of the river are reminiscent of Venice. The Battistero (Baptistry) boasts a huge dome with a mysterious echo effect and the Campo Santo Monimentale is a huge cemetery building holding Roman sarcophagi and glorious medieval frescoes.

Entertainment

Entertainment options in Tuscany range from Italy's much-loved operatic sagas through classical music concerts, ballet performances and drama, to pop and rock concerts, jazz and modern music festivals, pubs, bars and dance-the-night-away clubs. There's literally something for all tastes, styles and pockets as regards nightlife. Florence is the hub and Pisa comes a close second.

Florence's Teatro Comunale's curtain regularly rises on classical concerts, opera and ballet, and is the venue for the city's famous Maggio Musicale Fiorentino music festival, held over two months from May. Pisa's Teatro Verdi presents similar, high-quality programmes throughout the year. Lucca's Estate Musicale Lucchese holds rock, pop and jazz concerts all summer and hosts an open-air opera, theatre and music festival each June and July.

Florence is a great place for lively bars, with its La Dolce Vita the see-and-be-seen haunt of the young and cool. In this city, bars and cafés are more or less indistinguishable, with cafés serving alcohol and bars serving food. Neighbourhood daytime hangouts for locals become hot spots for the city's fashion-obsessed youth by night, with the crowds moving on at midnight to the latest dance clubs. Oibo on Via di Benci is the best example of this transformation.

Florence's largest disco is Central Park, a slice of Ibiza with outdoor and indoor dance floors and an eclectic selection of music styles from disco kitsch to electronica. Twice starts the evening as a wine bar with buffet, with DJs arriving late and turning up the hip-hop and dance hits to top volume.

Pisa is a student city, with the streets around Piazza Garibaldi and in the Lungami district the liveliest. Pubs in the city become mini-dance clubs late at night, with Thursday the hottest night as students often go home at weekends.

Dining Out

Tuscany is famed for its fine, robust wines and its rich culinary traditions. Cuisine is simple and delicious, involving local produce, legumes, fresh meats, cheeses and fruit. A signature dish of the region is the peasant soup ribollita, made with cannellini beans, vegetables, bread, onions and olive oil.

Local trattorias are favourites for traditional Tuscan food, and the meal starts with an appetiser such as liver crostini (thin slices of toast spread with liver pate) or antipasto (a selection of hams and salamis). First courses of pasta are served with boar sauce, porcini mushrooms or a variety of other toppings, and the favourite main course is Florentine steak, cut thick and served rare with a salad or roast potatoes. Dessert is fresh fruit, ice cream or cantucci, little almond biscuits dipped in liqueur.

Wild game is popular here, from game birds to boar, and tripe dishes served with various sauces are peculiar to the region and tastier than they sound. All Tuscan dishes make use of herbs, with sage, rosemary and thyme all essential for flavouring. The rich Tuscan olive oil is used generously and the delicious pecorino goat's milk cheese is a favourite ingredient. Seasonal is the keyword for Tuscan gastronomy, ensuring the freshest ingredients and the true taste of the region.

Beach

Often overlooked by visitors due to the region's spectacular history, Tuscan beaches cover 250 miles of coastline, with the area around Viareggio especially known for its package tourist industry. If crowded beaches and English breakfasts aren't on your holiday agenda, there's a huge choice of smaller resorts and little-known strands running southwards from the purpose-built resort areas. Castiliglione della Pescala, once a fishing port, is now an attractive small resort with good beaches, and starting from Marina di Alberese, a long, sandy almost deserted beach forms part of the Monti dell'Uccellina Nature Reserve.

Romance

Tuscany is one of the most romantic destinations in Europe, with Florence's Ponte Vecchio a magnet for star-crossed lovers. An evening dinner cruise along the Arno River, past subtly-illuminated ancient mansions and under the famous bridge, is a delight, and wandering the winding alleyways of the Old City, breathing in the atmosphere of centuries-old life and love in the glorious city, is an unforgettable experience. Florence has a good selection of boutique hotels set in ancient buildings for a truly romantic break.

Family

The family-oriented Italians love kids and make them welcome, and there are many options in Tuscany for the perfect family holiday. The beach resorts are the first, but not the only, choice, with small hotels and farmhouses in the countryside offering pools as well as children's menus. Eating out en famille is the norm here in almost all restaurants and trattorias, and kids love the chance to stay up late with the adults. A small dose of the stunning cultural sights here is usually appreciated by all except the very young.

Adventure

The hidden treasures of Tuscany are best explored on foot or horseback, or by bicycle. The Garfagnana region is a well-kept secret for its Apennine mountain ranges, deep valleys, chestnut forests and hilltop villages where time stands still. Walking, hiking and trekking far off the beaten tourist track gets you the real Tuscany and can be challenging in the mountainous region. Climbing, horseback riding and gorge walking can also be had in Garfagnana. 

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

Italian is the official language in Tuscany, but English is well-spoken and understood in all the region's well-known tourist destinations. The Tuscan dialect is distinct from standard Italian, yet Italian speakers will have no trouble understanding the locals.

Currency

Italy is a European Union member state, with the euro its official currency. Across the region, in all its cities and major towns, there are banks, currency exchange outlets and ATMs, although in villages and remote towns there may be less choice. All major credit and debit cards are accepted at most outlets, except at street and covered markets. A mix of cash for small purchases and card for hotel stays and large purchases is the best idea.

Visas

Travellers from other EU countries, including the UK, can enter Italy visa-free and stay indefinitely on production of an identity card or current passport. Visitors from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are allowed to enter visa-free for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, as are nationals of many other countries on a list viewable at Italy's immigration website. Nationals of countries not on the list should apply to their nearest Italian embassy for further details.

Climate

Tuscany's position in the northern region of Italy, between the sea and several major mountain chains, gives it a variety of climates dependent largely on altitude. Along the coastline and in the plains, the weather is mild during the shoulder seasons and hot in summer, with highs of around 3°C in July and August, and lows of 7°C in December and January. Cooler temperatures predominate in the mountains, with freezing winters and high snowfalls in winter around the ski resorts. November is the wettest month across the region, and the shoulder seasons see frequent showers. During the winter months, mild sunny days occur, with steep falls in temperatures at night.

Main Airports

Tuscany's capital, Florence, is home to Peretola Airport (Amerigo Vespucci Airport). But the city of Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport is the busiest airport in the region, with the most flights connecting to major European cities, including London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris. Ryanair is the major carrier operating out of Galileo Galilei Airport, serving a number of Mediterranean and North African holiday resorts.

Flight Options

UK travellers can fly to Pisa from London-Heathrow or London-Gatwick with British Airways, or with EasyJet and Ryanair from London-Gatwick, London-Luton or London-Stansted. Both carriers also offer flights from a number of UK regional airports, including Liverpool, East Midlands, Edinburgh and Bristol. Jet2 flies from Manchester, Belfast and Newcastle, and Delta Air Lines flies from New York. The smaller Peretola Airport offers flights from London-City and London-Gatwick. Typical flight time from London is 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Travel Advice

If you can avoid the high summer season of July and August and the Easter holiday break, you'll stand a good chance of bagging a bargain and avoiding hordes of tourists at popular attractions. Accommodation is cheaper in late autumn, winter and early spring, when the weather can still be kind. Transportation in the region is by train, bus, taxi or hire car.

Other Transport

Travelling by train or long-distance coach to Tuscany is perfectly possible and often a dramatically beautiful scenic experience. The Eurostar from London to Paris links with the overnight express sleeper train to Milan, Italy, from where a high-speed express runs to Florence in just over 2 hours. Eurolines long-distance coaches run from Victoria Coach Station in London direct to Florence.

Getting Around

Tuscany is a beautiful region to travel around, however you choose to do it. With scenic backdrops and endless culture, there’s always something to see, and with great transport links, always a way to get there.

Bus

There are several city link and long-distance bus services operating in Tuscany, linking the small towns as well as the cities. Lazzi is part of the Eurolines network, with its Florence to Pisa route taking just over 2 hours, and SITA runs from Florence to Siena in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Modern, comfortable local buses serve the cities and surrounding countryside, and are easy to use and comparatively inexpensive.

Car

Getting around the region is easiest by self-drive, with fast roads (autostrada) linking the main cities, although some only allow cars outside the central areas. Florence's historic centre is small, with most attractions within walking distance of one another, and the remainder of the city is served by local buses and taxis.

Train

Tuscany's rail network is modern, fast and comfortable, linking the major cities and towns with regular services. Florence's main rail station is Firenze Santa Maria Novella, set just outside the historic centre and offering fast routes to all the region's main cities. Train is the most convenient form of public transport for sightseeing, as all city rail stations are sited close to the important tourist sites.

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FACTS

  1. The word Pisa comes from the Greek word for ‘marsh land’ or ‘swamp’. Explaining the kind of land the city is built on, it’s the reason for that distinctive lean of its most famous tower, which was built with insufficient foundations.
  2. Tuscan beaches cover 250 miles of coastline, with the area around Viareggio especially known for its package tourist industry.
  3. The Torre Guinigi in Lucca has seven oak trees growing at the top. 44.5m high, it was originally one of over 250 towers in the city, although now is one of only a few remaining.

FACTS

  1. The word Pisa comes from the Greek word for ‘marsh land’ or ‘swamp’. Explaining the kind of land the city is built on, it’s the reason for that distinctive lean of its most famous tower, which was built with insufficient foundations.
  2. Tuscan beaches cover 250 miles of coastline, with the area around Viareggio especially known for its package tourist industry.
  3. The Torre Guinigi in Lucca has seven oak trees growing at the top. 44.5m high, it was originally one of over 250 towers in the city, although now is one of only a few remaining.

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