Tuscany is probably Italy’s most popular tourist region. Many trips to the country remain entirely within the area for a week or more. The area is one of the finest wine-growing regions and contains numerous small towns oozing with charm and ambience. Here is my list of the best of the region. A photo album will follow shortly.
1. Florence – The unofficial capital of Tuscany was the cradle of the Renaissance and probably contains more famous artworks than anywhere else in the world. This is where artists such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Ghiberti and Dante Alighieri plied their trade and left behind masterpieces for all the world to enjoy.
2. Pisa – Infamous over the course of history for its Leaning Tower, Pisa awes visitors with its elegant and beautiful Piazza dei Miracoli, Field of Miracles. Although overly touristy, it is still a must-see for travelers.
3. Siena – This walled city once vied with Florence for pre-eminence in the region. Now the city has settled comfortably into a less prominent role. It is, however, a wonderfully pleasant place to stop and stay. The Piazza del Campo is one of Italy’s most popular squares and even hosts a horse race (the Palio) each summer.
4. San Gimignano – This is one of Italy’s incredible small towns. Its wines are distinctive and special and the walled town is perfect for strolling. Its most notable feature are the numerous towers which rise above the landscape.
5. Lucca – Another smallish town with much charm, Lucca is a delightful place to stroll, with beautiful little squares, such as the piazza dell’anfiteatro, and cobblestone streets.
6. Montepulciano – Here is another hill town whose wines (especially Vino Nobile) are famous around the world. Check out the masterpieces in its many churches.
7. Cortona – The town’s steep, narrow streets and Medieval architecture make it great fun to explore.
8. Pienza – This World Heritage Site sits dramatically above the Val d’Orcia (also listed by UNESCO) and is a rare example of urban planning long before the modern era.
9. Arezzo – Featured in Roberto Benigni’s film, Life is Beautiful, Arezzo is noteworthy for its many churches and its elegant squares.
10. Montalcino – Another of Italy’s famous wines, Brunello di Montalcino, is produced here. This is a classic Medieval village with a castle or fortress at the highest point in the town, and narrow, cobblestone streets, great for walking.