Sign in

Travel Tips

Need help making plans for activities that will keep everyone entertained on your holiday in Tuscany? We know the tips and tricks that will ease your journey and fill your days. Make a good start by following our advice about what to pack, whichever season you’re planning to visit. Check your diary against our year-round guides to the best local events taking place, from markets and concerts to exhibitions and festivals. And discover some of the more curious experiences you might want to try while you’re here – fancy testing the health-giving properties of bathing in the local wine? We’ve suggested games that will keep the kids amused on nights in, and some great ideas for days out that won’t cost you a euro. Sorted!

Travel Tips

Five free things to do in Tuscany

They say the best things in life are free and Tuscany certainly has plenty of enriching experiences to offer that won’t cost you a penny. These outdoor activities and jaw-dropping sights will nourish both body and mind.
Wallow in a hot spring
There are plenty of natural hot springs to enjoy around Tuscany, many of which are free to use. Take a dip in these thermal baths in the wilderness to be at one with nature. Among the best are in the south of the region, including the Cascate di Mulino waterfalls at Saturnia, and the hot springs at Bagni San Filippo
Swim in the sea – or lie on the beach
Tuscany isn’t all about rolling hills and lush countryside, this region is also blessed with a coast of craggy coves and pine-fringed beaches, especially in the Maremma. Spend a day on the sands and take a dip in the sea at the old seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia, not far from Grosseto, or the Marina di Alberese, a peaceful beach in a nature reserve a little further south.
Visit a museum
Plenty of state-run museums in Tuscany offer free admission on the first Sunday of every month. Plan your trip accordingly and you can tick off some of Tuscany’s most impressive attractions, such as Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, without having to open your purse.Click here for a list of Tuscan museums that take part in this scheme.
Get an overview of Florence
It’s not on the usual list of attractions, but one of the best things to do in Florence – and for free – is to climb the steps to the Piazzale Michelangelo for sublime views across the city.
Discover Roman Siena
Go in search of Roman treasure in Siena. The city dates from the first century AD and has plenty of Roman ruins around the city to warrant whiling away a few pleasurable hours delving into the past. Keep an eye open for the dappled red bricks that were made using small crimson stones mixed with cement in Roman times. To Tuscany has a fantastic range of villas across the region

Read more

What’s on in Tuscany in Spring?

Spring in Tuscany is a time of celebration, which means it’s festival time in the towns and villages as locals welcome the season of renewal. These are gentle events focusing on food, drink and, of course, family, as well as the serious business of paying homage to patron saints. Next, Easter arrives, a chance to enjoy the full spectacle of one of the most important religious festivals of the year.
La Pasquetta – or ‘little Easter’ – held on our Easter Monday, sees families get back in touch with nature as they head out to the countryside or gather in cities’ green spaces to picnic on a feast of traditional seasonal foods, such as pecorino cheese and fava beans, rustic bread, olives and red wine.

La Pasquetta sees families head to green spaces for a picnic. Photo: Mark Bolton Photography/Alamy

Easter is the time to witness the full spectacle of this important religious festival, which is marked by events from sombre plays depicting the Passion of Christ to colourful street parades and historical re-enactments. The carnivalesque celebration lasts from Holy Thursday to Easter Monday, and generally finishes with gorging on chocolate eggs.

Watch a religious procession at Easter. Photo: Robert Onencini/Shutterstock

In Florence, Scoppio del Carro, or ‘the explosion of the cart’ has been an unusual highlight of Easter Sunday for 350 years. A parade trundles a cart through the streets to the cathedral square where it is literally blown up in a noisy pyrotechnic display. Why? They say the ceremony commemorates the return of a crusading knight, while the ‘blessed fire’ carries the promise of a good harvest.

Visit Sant’Anna di Stazzema on Liberation Day. Photo: REDA/Alamy

Meanwhile, Liberation Day, a public holiday on 25 April, marks the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy in 1945. Honouring those who served in the Resistance, events range from marching bands and concerts to food festivals and political rallies. But there’s a time and place for quiet contemplation, too, such as at the shrine to the inhabitants of the remote Tuscan hillside hamlet of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, where the entire population was massacred in one day in 1944. Declared a National Park of Peace, the hamlet is the site of a memorial monument, and its little church bears a plaque mentioning the priest who pleaded for their lives in vain.

Even kids can take part in Nova Eroica. Photo: Paolo Martelli

Amateur cyclists hit Tuscany’s strade bianche, or white gravel roads, in April as the Nova Eroica gets young and old in the mood for the nation’s eagerly awaited professional race, Giro d’Italia, in May. This spring version of the more famous autumn vintage cycle festival, Eroica, is a ‘gravel gran fondo’ that combines time trials and a variety of routes, from a leisure ride for children and families to a 130km circuit that really tests competitors' endurance. Even non-cyclists can enjoy race day, watching the cyclists speed along and joining in the (five-day) festival celebrating art, nature, food and wine in the village of Buonconvento.

Serious cyclists should find a space at the roadside for Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia when it makes its way south from Bologna. After crossing the Apennines to enter Tuscany, the cyclists will make the descent into Prato to a finish line in the town of Fucecchio. The following day, the town of Vinci is the starting point of Stage 3, marking the quincentenary of the death of its famous son, Leonardo da Vinci. From here, the peloton will head off through the Tuscan landscape, passing by San Miniato, through Grosseto and on to the southernmost tip of the region, Orbetello, for the first sprint finish

Three important Tuscan gardens will be opening to the public on La Pasquetta as part in the nationwide event Caccia al Tesoro Botanico Grandi Giardini Italiani, with fun and games such as Easter egg hunts for children to enjoy, as well as the chance to admire the blooming herbaceous borders. There are guided tours of historic buildings and gardens, too, at Giardino Bardini in Florence, Giardino Storico Garzoni in Collodi, and Parco della Villa Reale di Marlia in Lucca.

Spring is also the moment to catch a hilarious alternative to the great Palios di Siena, which takes place in the medieval town of Torrita de Siena, south of Florence. Instead of a horse race featuring gleaming steeds, Palio dei Somari sees neighbourhood jockeys in historic outfits competing astride humble, if disobedient, donkeys. The stakes are high and this race is taken very seriously, but it’s filled with funny moments as the stubborn animals ignore their riders, stop and even go backwards. A market, parades and traditional flag-throwing contests keep the weekend’s proceedings lively, too.

All aboard the Nature Train for day trips departing from Siena. Photo: Visit Tuscany

The popular steam-engine-driven Nature Train comes back into service after winter in the sidings, departing Siena for scenic day trips around the region, carrying passengers to local festivals and special events. The first trip of the spring season heads out to San Giovanni d’Asso for the Mazzuolo White Truffle Market, while other journeys include a ride out to the San Quirico d’Orcia Wine Festival.

The San Quirico d’Orcia wine festival offers a taste of Tuscany’s vineyards. Photo: Shutterstock

Whether or not you go there by train, the four-day San Quirico d’Orcia Wine Festival is a date for your diary. The long weekend is packed with organised tours of local vineyards on foot, on two wheels, and by bus, talks and tastings, and lots of cultural events, including opera performances and a short film festival.

Spring ends with the start of the internationally renowned Lucca Summer Festival

Read more

What’s on in Tuscany this Autumn?

Late summer and autumn is the time to indulge in Tuscany’s fantastic home-grown food and drink, with plenty of festivals, or sagre, to experience.

If it’s autumn, it’s time to celebrate the region’s wine. Photo: Look/Alamy

One of the biggest is Chianti Classico Expo, a major celebration of the region’s most famous wines in Greve. Taste your way around 60 producers from the nine towns of the Chianti Classico region, which will be presenting their wines alongside olive oil and other delicious local produce. Check out, too, the national Calici di Stelle wine event when glasses are raised as night falls, with tasting events beneath the stars in towns including Siena, Gaiole, Castiglione D’Orcia and Montepulciano.

Prefer beer? Get down to the Villaggio della Birra festival

For beer-lovers, there’s the Villaggio della Birra beer festival held south-east of Siena in Buonconvento. This international festival of artisanal breweries started in 2006 as a celebration of friendship between Italian and Belgian brewers. It now welcomes brewers from across the world for tastings, food, live music and arts.

Montepulciano’s Bravio delle Botti was originally a horse race but in 1974 wine barrels were substituted for the steeds. Eight contrade, or districts, challenge each other to win a precious piece of painted cloth by rolling wine barrels up hill. They make a day of it: lunch follows, with a medieval procession in the afternoon.

One of the region’s most important events takes place in autumn, L’Eroica a cycling event that has launched an international movement over the past 20 years. Thousands of cyclists set off on vintage bikes from Gaiole along the white gravel roads of the Tuscan countryside. Routes range from 46km to 209km and a 3,700m altitude difference with plenty of stop-offs to sample local food and, of course, wine.

See ‘Heaven In A Room’ at the Uffizi. Photo: Ministero Beni e Attivita Culturali/Roberto Palermo

Chestnuts get their own celebration at Bacchereto. Photo: Christine Webb/Alamy

So, what about those delicious sagres? Carmignano celebrates figs at its Benvenuto Fico Secco festival and Bacchereto, a hamlet of Carmignano, puts chestnuts in the spotlight. For truffles, head to the hamlets of San Miniato in the province of Pisa. Corazzano holds its White Truffle Fair on, with more truffles in Ponte a Egola on, while there are mushrooms as well as truffles on show at La Serra and Balconevisi.

And, if you missed Siena’s famous horse race, Il Palio, in July, there’s a second chance to catch it in August. And don’t forget Domenica al Museo, when all the state-run museums open free of charge on the first Sunday of the month, starts in October and runs until March.

Read more

What’s on in Tuscany this Summer?

The arrival of the warmer weather calls Tuscans outside as they make the most of the region’s natural surroundings, enjoying activities such as folkloric festivals by day and concerts beneath the stars by night. So take a lead from the locals with our pick of the best events in June and July.

The race is on: Il Palio is the highlight of the year in Siena. Photo: Xinhua/Alamy

Italy is the home of the Slow movement, so why not ease yourself into Tuscany’s fifth Slow Travel Fest, a selection of outdoor experiences including talks, hikes, culture, food and music events held along the Via Francigena over three weekends in June and September. The first, ‘Folks and Family’, takes place in Villafranca in Lunigiana and features a programme of excursions on foot, by bicycle and on horseback, as well as river hiking, storytelling, concerts, performances and workshops.

See Pisa light up during Luminara. Photo: Pisa Photography/Shutterstock

See the city of Pisa in a different light on the evening of 16 June when Luminara di San Ranieri illuminates the River Arno with 70,000 candles suspended along its banks and set afloat on the water. A magical celebration that dates from the 17th century, Luminara hails the feast of the city’s patron saint, St Ranieri, the following day. Join the crowds of Pisani to enjoy the city by flickering candlelight and watch a spectacular fireworks display launched from the old town.

Meanwhile, intense rivalries resurface every summer as Il Palio takes over the city of Siena. Not one but two spectacular horse races take place in the medieval Piazza del Campo. It’s an exhilarating time to be in Siena – in the days leading up to the race, the streets are dressed with the colourful banners of the city’s 17 contrade, or districts. On race day, the event kicks off with the blessing of the horses, followed by a parade of more than 600 participants through the buzzing streets. Then, in a fast and furious race that’s over in just three minutes, the jockeys and horses give their all to cross the finishing line first. Read our interview with photographer Greg Funnell about his experience of shooting the event.

See Tosca at the composer’s lakeside home. Photo: Giorgio Andreuccetti

Opera buffs can join thousands of fellow fans from around the globe at Torre del Lago for the annual Puccini Festival, held in the huge al-fresco auditorium at the late composer’s villa. The 65th edition, a comprehensive programme of Puccini’s works, including performances of Turandot, La Bohème, Madame Butterfly, Aida, Manon Lescaut, Tosca and Le Villi. Whilst there, make time to visit the museum and stroll through the grounds dotted with contemporary sculptures by the likes of Pietro Cascella, Jean-Michel Folon and Kan Yasuda. Brush up on the maestro’s operas with our bluffer’s guide here by Puccini expert Adrian Mourby.

Enter the ‘fourth dimension’ at Mercantia. Photo: Massimo Tordini

About an hour’s drive from Florence, the small hill town of Certaldo offers the intriguing opportunity to enter the ‘fourth dimension’… The international street-theatre festival Mercantia, will stimulate the senses, with performances taking place in atmospheric parts of the town, including secret gardens and quiet courtyards. Take the scenic route up by parking at the bottom of the hill and riding the funicular railway.

Cortona becomes a photo gallery in summer. Photo: Massimo Tordini

Each year, the Etruscan hilltown of Cortona hosts Cortona on the Move, a programme of contemporary photography events and exhibitions mounted around the lively town.

Read more

Try these games to keep the kids amused

Been relaxing around the pool all day? Don’t fancy getting dressed up to go out? Here are some fun games to liven up an evening at the villa. (In fact, you could even play some of these on the go – how about in the queue to the Uffizi?)
How’s yours?
Select a player to be the questioner – he/she should leave the room or cover their ears. Meanwhile, the rest decide on something that they all possess, for example a car or a telephone number. The questioner returns but can only ask individuals the question “How’s yours?”. The other players must answer with a detail that doesn’t give a lot away (but also isn’t so vague that the game can’t progress). The questioner must overcome their growing frustration to work out what the ‘thing’ is. Once they guess correctly, a new questioner is nominated and the game continues.
When I went on my holiday…
In this well-known memory game players take it in turns to add an item to a list, but first they must recall all the previous items before adding another. For example, Player 1 starts with “When I went on my holiday I brought with me some flip flops”. Player 2 continues, saying, “When I went on my holiday I brought with me some flip flops and a game of Tetris.” Player 3 says, “When I went on my holidays I brought with me some flip flops, a game of Tetris and my sense of dignity!” And so on… If you make a mistake you’re out and the winner is the last one standing.
Fortunately unfortunately
This storytelling game is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Each player takes it in turns to add a sentence to the story, alternating with either fortunately or unfortunately to start the sentence. Here’s an example of how it might go.
Player 1 says, “Once upon a time there was a frog sitting peacefully on a water lily.” Player 2 counters, “Unfortunately his feet were stuck to the leaf and he couldn’t jump off.” Player 3 adds, “Fortunately a wave came along and the frog realised he was a rather talented surfer.” Player 4 says, “Unfortunately the leaf split in two and he discovered he wasn’t quite as good at water skiing…” And so on…
Wink murder
Choose an investigator from the group. Ask them to leave the room and nominate a murderer. Ask the investigator to return, all gather in a circle and the game can begin. The murderer must wink at people to signal their death. The person winked at must then die – relish your chance to show your acting skills. Now the investigator has three chances to guess the identity of the murderer.

Read more

How to pack for a holiday in Tuscany

Don’t get caught out by sloppy packing. Observe a few cultural mores and mix in a bit of common sense to keep comfortable and get the best out of your holiday in Tuscany. Here are some tips.
Keep an eye on the weather
Tuscany experiences dry weather and hot days in summer. Yet, it can be prone to occasional bursts of stormy weather and heavy rain, too. Stay dry and cool by packing a lightweight and breathable waterproof coat with a hood.
Add layers
Layering clothes made from natural fibres will help you regulate your temperature. But modern fabrics that wick sweat are a good choice for a strenuous ramble, too.
Be observant
A lightweight jacket, cardigan or shawl to cover the shoulders and a skirt to cover the knees are recommended for women intending to look around religious sites. Meanwhile, men should avoid wearing vests and short shorts.
Know the swimwear etiquette
Alike other European countries, Italian public swimming pools sometimes have rules about swimwear. At some, swimmers must wear a cap to enter the water and men can be required to wear Speedo-style trunks (although this isn’t as strict a rule as it is in France).
City and country
If you plan to explore Tuscany’s countryside or look around its historic towns and cities make sure you’re wearing comfortable footwear. A pair of trousers zipped at the knee to double as shorts is a clever choice, too. Pack a soft jumper to stave off evening chills and make sure your daypack is lightweight and made of a fabric that won’t chafe bare skin.
On the beach
Heading for the coast? Pop your tech in a drysack – a great way to keep your tech free from sand – and forget that bulky beach towel, a sarong is good for drying off and covering up.

Read more

10 ways you never thought you’d experience Tuscany

Tuscany may be popular for its historic towns and cities, dreamy rural landscapes, world-class art and fine wine, but there is a quirky side to the region, too. Whether you are a returning visitor or it’s your first time in the area, these entertaining activities will give you something to write home about.
Eat dinner in a prison
Foodies in search of a truly unusual experience should book a table at one of the Galeotta dinners held at the working prison Fortezza Medicea in Volterra, near Pisa. Here, inmates learn valuable catering skills by cooking and serving dinner to paying guests, under the direction of famous visiting chefs. On arrival, diners pass through the cold steel gates of the fortress and are led to a large dungeon-like room with a vaulted ceiling. Guards keep an eye on guests as they eat reasonably priced meals – using plastic cutlery. Even the booking process is bizarre; you must apply for a criminal background check two months before your dinner date.
Learn how to make ice cream from blue cheese
The town of Castellina is an essential stop on a tour of Chianti. While it’s best known as a centre of wine production, one of its other highlights is Gelateria di Castellina (+39 0577 741337), where they make some of the best ice cream in Italy. Owners Chiara and Simone are very particular about the quality of the gelato they produce, which is available in 24 flavours. Find out about the process in more detail at one of their ice-cream classes, where more unusual samples to taste include ice cream made from blue cheese.
Meet a monster
Watch out for monsters at Bomarzo. The Park of the Monsters – Il Parco dei Mostri – near Viterbo is dominated by larger-than-life monstrous sculptures. They were commissioned by Francesco Orsini, the Duke of Bormarzo, during the 16th century, as a way of coping with his grief following the death of his wife. Subjects include a whale, winged horse, giant, dragon attacked by lions, and a turtle with a winged woman on its back. Unsurprisingly, the great surrealist artist Salvador Dali was a big fan of Orsini’s curious collection.
Bathe in wine
After a warm bath, there was nothing the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed more than scrubbing their bodies with pulp and grapes – the perfect way to release tension and rejuvenate the skin. Take a leaf out of their book at Castellare de’ Noveschi (+39 0577 746010) in San Sano, near Gaiole, where fragrant baths await weary bodies. Here, in a cosy cellar, a whirlpool bath for two is filled with warm water and wine, the atmosphere enhanced with scents of berry, rose, violet and orange. A very relaxing way to spend 45 minutes.
Taste bull’s penis and testicles
The stalls at Florence’s Mercato Centrale are piled high with bread, cheese, salami, fish, meat – everything you could possibly want to make an authentic Tuscan meal. But what about bull’s penis and testicles? Now that’s something to surprise them with for dinner back at the villa.
See a mountain god
Half-man, half-mountain, a sculpture of Appennino stands 35 feet tall in the grounds of the Villa Demidoff near Florence. This colossus, created in the late 1500s by the sculptor Giambologna, hides a wonderful secret – his interior includes several spaces with different functions. Inside his left hand is an underground stream, and there is a space in his head for a fireplace – light a fire and the smoke blows out of his nostrils.
Wallow in mud
Head to the village of Bagni San Filippo in southern Tuscany to play in the natural thermal waters. Follow the signs to Fosso Bianco to discover hot springs, pools and waterfalls in the wild. You can even choose your preferred temperature – the lower down the springs you go, the cooler the water. Give your skin a polish, too, by covering yourself in the mud and allowing it to dry – the perfect natural exfoliant.
Witness the Second World War
Tuscany is a peaceful place today, but in 1944 it was filled with the roar and smoke of battle. This was the site of the Gothic Line – in fact, many German and Allied bunkers and positions still remain. To remember what took place in this area, Gotica Toscana, a group of enthusiasts based in Scarperia near Florence, regularly re-enact pivotal historical events from the Second World War.
Stroll around the Tarot Garden
A sculpture garden based on the tarot cards is surely one of Tuscany’s unique sights. Il Giardino del Tarocchi in Grosseto is the work of the late French artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, who started the project in the late 1970s. Her garden, inspired by the mysteries of the tarot, is set with 22 monumental figures that can be walked through, extraordinary sculptures made from reinforced concrete covered with colourful mosaics of mirrors and ceramics.
Eat wild boar with chocolate
Think chocolate, think dessert. Not in Italy. The Italians have been adding the stuff to savoury dishes for centuries, since cacao beans first arrived from the New World. Fine dark chocolate offers a complex taste profile, a lovely toasted flavour and a silky finish to dishes featuring venison and wild boar – keep a look out for them on restaurant menus.

Read more

Pull on your boots for two extraordinary walks in Tuscany

A holiday in Tuscany doesn’t have to be all about lounging by the pool. Pull on your walking shoes, grab a map, sun hat, and plenty of water and try out some of these rewarding walking routes.
Via Francigena
This was once the path taken by pilgrims on their way to Rome and was later used by merchants. Today, it’s favoured more by walkers who are either setting themselves a challenge or just looking for a way to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the fantastic landscape. The Via Francigena begins in the English cathedral city of Canterbury and, on its way to Rome, passes through France and Switzerland, a journey of more than 2,000 kilometres. On its passage through Italy, the route cuts across Tuscany, so you can pick up a section as a taster to suit your walking ability. Recommended routes in the area include Carmaiore to Lucca (about 24km) and Lucca to Porcari (about 10km). Buy a map or download GPS directions at or download the app here
Vie Cave
The Etruscans dug this curious network of roads through sheer rock, creating protective walls reaching heights of 20 metres, to which a roof of tree branches was sometimes added. Some say the Vie Cave, which link Sovana, Sorano, and Pitigliano in Grosseto, were sacred routes, others believe they were just well-defended lines of communication. Today, they provide unique places for a ramble through rare microclimates where mosses, lichens and ferns thrive – wear stout shoes, there are streams to ford. Along the way, you’ll find information points revealing more about Etruscan culture as well as the routes themselves. Download a map here to the Vie Cave.

To Tuscany has a fantastic range of villas with private pools, just the place to cool off after a long day trekking around the area.

Read more

Join us


Do you want to receive weekly inspiration, villa recommendations and travel tips from our Tuscany experts?

Find out more

© 1998-2024 To Tuscany Ltd. All rights reserved.

Can we help you?