Famed for its gorgeous countryside and endless rolling hills everywhere you look, Italy’s central region of Tuscany is chock-full of destinations and activities to see and do while you visit. As there’s so much to do, we’ve come up with a list of the 20 best things to do in Tuscany in 2021.
Tuscany is full of impressive cities and great sites to see, but some of this region’s true beauty is the landscape itself. No matter where you are in Tuscany, you’re only a short distance from the sweeping countryside and picturesque landscapes. Although Tuscany is most known for the countryside, it’s also home to some of the best beaches in all of Italy. So it’s vital to know how to focus your time and energy while you’re in this vast region.
And remember, regardless of what you’ll end up doing, make sure you book a great accommodation to compliment your trip. For a true taste of Italy, we recommend renting a Tuscan villa. Without further adieu, here are the 20 best things to do in Tuscany, Italy!
Drive Through the Tuscan Countryside
While you’re visiting the Tuscany region as part of your Italian vacation, don’t forget to take time to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding you. Road tripping through the Tuscan countryside is one of the best things to do on an Italian adventure and certainly a great way to spend a day if your final destination is in Tuscany as well.
Especially if you visit in spring or fall, you’ll be surrounded by picturesque landscapes all around you. The rich colors of the countryside, the rolling hills in every direction, the fields of flowers all around, and the quaint little countryside villages dotting the map make Tuscany truly a magical place, and simply driving through the countryside is an experience like no other.
Go Wine-Tasting Throughout the Region
As a dream come true for any wine-lovers, Tuscany is chock-full of enormous vineyards with all sorts of incredible wines to taste. Don’t combine the road-tripping through Tuscany with a day of wine tasting, of course! But set an entire day aside just for trying the endless flavors of the wine that Tuscany has to offer.
Go on one of the many guided wine tours around different areas of Tuscany and try the different flavors and take in the different aromas from all around the region. No matter what kind of wine you like, you’ll be able to find it at one of the countless vineyards in the region. It’s one of the world’s wine capitals and somewhere that all wine-lovers need to visit at some point in their lives.
Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa
One of the most well-known landmarks in all of visiting, visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa is something you have to do while you’re in Tuscany. Not only is it worth making the short drive to Pisa to see the tilted tower, but you can also brave the 294-step climb to the top. Atop this iconic structure, you’ll have unobstructed views of Tuscany in all directions.
Due to its popularity, the Leaning Tower of Pisa does get very crowded with tourists during the peak travel season. So if you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, consider traveling during the low season to avoid crowds. Either way, visiting the landmark is a must-do while in Tuscany, and it only takes up about half a day at the most!
Visit Elba Island
While in Tuscany, you should consider spending a day or two relaxing on some of the amazing beaches in the region. A few of the best beaches in Tuscany are located on the biggest island just off the Tuscan coast, Elba. Leave from the port of Piombino, and just a short ferry ride later you’ll be on this little island of paradise.
On Elba, you’ll have a slew of gorgeous beaches to choose from, and whichever one — or two or three! — you decide to spend a day at, you won’t regret it. One of Elba’s most popular beaches is Cavoli Beach, with its views of the rolling hills along the Tuscan coast. Or maybe you should consider spending the day at Spiaggia di Sansone for incredible rock formations and knee-deep waters perfect for a relaxing day wading off the coast.
Check Out the Views From the Towers of San Gimignano
A lasting medieval town situated in Tuscany, a visit to San Gimignano will take you back hundreds of years ago. It used to be along the main route to Rome for pilgrimage and tradespeople and has since been left to itself among the hills of Tuscany as construction stopped in the Middle Ages.
The most iconic aspect of San Gimignano is its impressive skyline of tall, stone towers. San Gimignano’s Towers remain from the city’s original construction nearly half a millennium ago, dominating the skyline. To this day, 13 of the city’s original towers still stand, giving visitors a glimpse into the history and the amazing architecture and engineering of the medieval period.
Explore the Florence Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore)
Located in the city center of Florence, the gothic structure of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore towers above. This cathedral has been standing over Florence for over 1,300 years, being completed in the 7th century. Construction on this architectural masterpiece took over 200 years to complete, and the detail that the workers put into it are still visible today.
Get your entrance ticket in advance to skip the line. Take some time looking at the church’s unique exterior, noticing all the green, white, and pink marble intricacies all over. Once inside, you’ll be amazed by the structure’s sheer size and the incredible artwork housed within. Consider taking a short trip underground and exploring the crypt for a unique and eerie experience.
Visit the Uffizi Gallery
Situated along the banks of the Arno River in Florence, the Uffizi Gallery houses many pieces of priceless artwork dating from the Middle Ages to the modern-day. Originally founded and curated by the famous Medici family in the 1500s, the Uffizi Gallery was Europe’s first public art museum, and the works housed here are some of the most influential in Italian history.
An absolute must for any art or history lovers out there, the Uffizi Gallery is home to famous masterpieces that you just can’t miss on a small guided tour. The original collection from the Medici family itself has been expanded over the years. It now contains amazing work from famous artists, including Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Giotto, Michelangelo, da Vinci, and more. This museum is one of the things you have to make time for while visiting Tuscany. It’s without a doubt one of the best art museums in the entire world.
Hike Through the Alpi Apuane
In the northern region of Tuscany, consider visiting the botanical wonder of Alpi Apuane. This area is full of huge forests, beautiful wildflowers, and most notably, its famous marble quarries. Consider starting your journey in Isola Santa, a medieval village located at the foothill of the mountains, and going on a hike from there. In Alpi Apuane, you could easily spend a whole day exploring the area and getting lost in beauty as you journey along any of the footpaths.
Alpi Apuane is home to numerous hiking trails for all levels of adventure. Along the way, you’ll not only catch unique, unbeatable views all around you, but you’ll also have the chance to get in some of the best bird watching anywhere in Italy. In Alpi Apuane, you can see over 300 unique species of bird, something that you can’t get anywhere else.
See Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery
Arguably one of the most famous statues in both Italian history and world history is Michelangelo’s statue of David. Shortly you’ll read about the Piazzale Michelangelo and its replica of the famous statue, which many people mistakenly think is the original. But no, to see the original sculpture, you’ll need to travel to Accademia Gallery in Florence.
After you’re finished admiring the skill and technique of the amazing Michelangelo, spend a couple of hours taking in the rest of the artwork in the gallery. Although the Uffizi Gallery is by far the most famous art museum in Tuscany — and especially Florence — the Accademia Gallery is one you don’t want to skip. It’s just as incredible for most art-lovers.
Relax in the Hot Spring at Bagno Vignoni
Without reading about it here, you may not ever hear about the small village in southern Tuscany called Bagno Vignoni. It doesn’t have all the glitz and glam of some of the more popular cities in the region, but this quaint village is a great way to relax after a long day of exploring Tuscany.
What makes this little spa town so relaxing is the natural hot spring in place of the typical central public square. You can soak in the calming waters all day at absolutely no cost to you. So if you’re looking for a spa day in Tuscany, consider steering clear of some of the more popular options and instead relax in the hot spring at Bagno Vignoni.
Visit Giglio Island
Although the most famous island in Tuscany, Elba isn’t the only island in the area that’s worth visiting. Due to its popularity, Elba is often crowded with both tourists and locals alike. So if you want to get a taste of the Tuscan island life without being surrounded by tourists all day, Giglio might be the better option for you.
Once on Giglio, you’ll still have access to plenty of beautiful beaches to feel the warm sand beneath your feet. But you’ll also be able to explore some exciting places on land as well. Check out some of the ancient citadels dotting the island, or take a hike through the mountains for panoramic views that will leave you speechless. Giglio is a hidden treasure in Tuscany that more people should give a chance.
Walk Around the City Walls of Lucca
If you’re interested in endless examples of incredible Italian architecture, then a trip to the city of Lucca is a must for you. Within the city walls, you’ll find a slew of medieval churches, fantastic art galleries, and enough museums to keep you busy for an entire day. But if you’re willing to walk and climb for even better experiences, you’re in for a treat.
The city walls of Lucca offer visitors the unique chance to walk along on a tour. The lush, green vegetation all around and tree-lined city walls circle the entire city, and walking atop them is one of the most unique hikes anywhere in the world. While circling the city, climb to the top of Guinigi Tower for unobstructed views of the entire city.
While vacationing in Tuscany, you should consider taking a day trip to the Valdichiana plain and exploring the ancient city of Cortona. A staple of the popular film Under the Tuscan Sun, visitors to Cortona were at an all-time high for years following the movie’s release. Book a Cortona private walking tour and check out its top attractions.
Although less popular than it used to be, Cortona is still worth the visit. It might even be a bit better with fewer tourists everywhere! Cortona is known for its steep streets and hilltop views of the area, which are unparalleled. From the city’s highest vantage points, you can look out all around you at the rolling hills and endless countryside that make Tuscany such an inviting region to visit.
Montepulciano is yet another ancient hilltop town located in Tuscany. The city used to be home to wealthy families and nobles back in its heyday. Many of the most talented architects, sculptors, and artists during the Renaissance were drawn to this incredible city, leaving their impressive work behind for you to see hundreds of years later.
Start your trip to Montepulciano at its main public square, Piazza Grande. From there, you’ll be able to go in any direction and explore the city at your own pace. You’ll find impressive structures such as the church of San Biagio dotting the landscape all around. The views of Tuscany from this hilltop village are some of the most amazing in the region. You won’t soon forget your trip to Montepulciano after you leave.
Spend time at Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the most famous public squares in Tuscany, Piazzale Michelangelo is situated across the Arno River and offers visitors striking views of Tuscany’s capital city. The bustling square is often crowded with tourists taking in the views and enjoying Florence’s culture at all times during the year, but it’s incredibly crowded during the popular summer season.
In the center of Piazzale Michelangelo, you’ll find a replica of Michelangelo’s most famous structure, his statue of David, overlooking the town below. The iconic art piece, the amazing views, and the cafes and shops nearby make visiting the Piazzale Michelangelo the perfect way to start or end a day in Tuscany.
Visit the Museum of Human Anatomy in Pisa
While in Pisa visiting the famous Leaning Tower, consider taking some time to visit the Museum of Human Anatomy nearby. As mentioned earlier, visiting the actual tower will take less than half a day — usually only a couple of hours — so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the rest of Pisa while you’re there.
The Museum of Human Anatomy is an incredibly unique experience that you won’t get in many other places. This museum takes you on a journey of the human body, showcasing just how incredible our bodies truly are. The exhibits here are top-notch, and the experience you have here will be something you won’t soon forget.
Another one of the many hilltop towns in Tuscany, Volterra is one that you don’t want to skip out on. Volterra is a quaint town that is flowing with a unique combination of Roman and Etruscan characteristics.
Once a member of the twelve cities that made up the Etruscan League, Volterra was prominent in the medieval period for quarrying and art. Today, you’ll find incredible architecture and great bits of history within the town, including a Roman theatre and the hilltop Fortezza Medicea (Medici Fortress), which is built on the city’s tallest hill. It’s also worth exploring the Etruscan Museum and Etruscan Arch and Walls.
Visit the Church of San Miniato
While you’re spending time at Piazzale Michelangelo, as mentioned above, take some time to go a little further up than the square and explore the church of San Miniato. This seemingly hidden gem among the hundreds of churches in Tuscany is well worth taking some time away from admiring the views from Piazzale Michelangelo. You can book a guided walking tour to explore San Miniato.
Taking some time to admire the amazing exterior of San Martino before venturing inside to see the truly remarkable inside of the church. Dominating the interior is the Sacristy, containing 14th-century wood panels covering the walls, giving it a unique design that you won’t find anywhere else in the region.
Visit the Hilltop Town of Arezzo
During its heyday from the early Roman Empire through the famous Renaissance, artists, poets, and artisans from all over Italy were drawn to the quaint hilltop town of Arezzo. There are lots of attractions to attend to in Arezzo, and you’re likely to find impressive architecture and beautiful works of art at every corner.
In Arezzo, you can find many examples of architecture from the famous Vasari, including his own home. You can also find pieces of work from many other artists lining the walls of the town’s many churches and palaces. Visiting Arezzo is something that art-lovers will never forget — big-time art, small-town feel.
Catch the Viareggio Carnevale
You may have heard of the massive Venice Carnevale. And although it’s the biggest and the most popular, it certainly isn’t the only carnival celebration in Italy. Located in Tuscany, Viareggio’s carnival is just as fun for the average visitor, and it’s also a lot less expensive than its Venetian counterpart.
During Viareggio’s Carnevale, there are countless parades, thousands of costume-clad performers celebrating in the streets, and social events around every turn. A running tradition since 1873, Viareggio’s Carnevale runs from late January through late February every year. So if you’re looking for a great way to escape the cold winter elsewhere in the world, travel to balmy Viareggio and experience a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.