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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.

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