Farmhouse and its vineyards at sunrise. Gaiole in Chianti, Siena, Tuscany

Tuscany Guide: Planning Your Trip

••• Andrea Comi / Getty Images

Italy’s largest region—Tuscany—is undoubtedly one of its most famous. After all, who hasn’t seen images of terracotta-bricked farmhouses, indulged in a glass of juicy Montepulciano, or dreamt of strolling along the streets of Florence? With a population just under 4 million, Tuscany has lots to offer visitors. The art, no surprise, is unparalleled, the landscapes are breathtaking, and anyone with the slightest interest in food and wine will be in heaven.

Whether you’re hoping to spend your vacation at a rustic agriturismo or stick to the galleries of Florence, let this be your guide to when to visit, where to stay, and what to do.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit
April through October is when Tuscany’s at its best, but it’s also among the most-crowded times to visit. If you visit during November, you’ll strike a happy medium of good weather and fewer crowds. (Added bonus: November is also truffle season!)

Language: Italian, which developed in Tuscany and was formalized there in the 14th century, largely thanks to the works of Florentine Dante Alighieri.

Currency: The euro.

Getting Around: Tuscany is large and spread out, so renting a car is best. However, if you’re sticking to the region’s larger cities, you can also easily travel by train.

Travel Tip: If your goal is to get off the beaten path, don’t miss Tuscany’s far northern region. In Lunigiana and Garfagnana, you’ll find incredible food and the region’s rural heartbeat.

Things to Do

Most tourists first head to Tuscany’s capital, Florence, to take in sites like the famed Ponte Vecchio and the world-class Ufizzi Gallery. Still, the region is also home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the historic center of picturesque San Gimignano and Pisa, home to a famous tower you may have heard something about. Regardless of your gameplan, Tuscany is full of treasures, and you’ll never run out of things to see and do.

  • Florence, considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, was a nexus for trade in Europe. While you could easily spend a week here alone, don’t miss the Uffizi Gallery, the San Lorenzo Outdoor Market, and the quaint neighborhoods of Oltrarno, across the Arno River.
  • If you like wine, don’t skip Chianti. It’s close to both Florence and Siena (making for an easy day trip), and there is tons of high-quality juice jam-packed in such a small area.
  • Tuscany is home to numerous hot springs, known for their curative properties. Visit Montecatini Terme (the Terme at the end of the name indicates the presence of thermal baths) to try an enormous variety of spa treatments, including taking the waters at the historic and elegant Terme Tettuccio. It’s accessible along the rail line that links Lucca and Florence.

Explore more things to do in Tuscany, including the top things to do in Florence, a complete guide to visiting Siena, and a guide to San Gimignano, a famed medieval walled hill town. 

What to Eat and Drink

If your idea of Italian food is just red-sauce pasta and pizza, you haven’t been to Tuscany. While Tuscan cuisine is remarkably diverse, you’ll find an incredible emphasis on seasonality and locality.

While there are plenty of delicious dishes to try in Tuscany, meat, in particular, is popular, and you’ll see this in dishes like the bistecca alla Fiorentina (a giant grilled T-bone steak, served rare), and pappardelle al cinghiale, a rustic pasta dish of wild boar ragu, perfect for accompanying a juicy red wine. Other must-tries include panzanella, a filling salad of stale bread, tomatoes, onions, and olive oil, and ribollita, a hearty soup made with beans and kale.

Tuscany has hundreds of wineries open to visitors, ranging from small mom-and-pop vineyards to literal castles. The starkly modern Antinori nel Chianti Classico is especially worth a visit, as is Castello Banfi, a medieval fortress that includes a Michelin-starred restaurant, alongside the winery. Check out our guide to Tuscany’s best wineries, as well as the best Tuscan wine tours.

Where to Stay

If you’re starting your trip to Tuscany in Florence, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of great places to stay. From the Ferragamo-owned Hotel Lungarno to Villa La Massa, a sprawling park-like property on the town’s outskirt, Florence’s best hotels can suit every taste.

Looking outside of the major cities, Tuscany is also home to seemingly endless castle hotels, many dating back to the 12th century, agriturismi (rustic stays on farms, not unlike an American bed-and-breakfast), and even entire villages that have been converted to resort towns, like Monteverdi Tuscany, a boutique hotel set within a medieval hilltop hamlet in the Val d’Orcia.

For more info on where to stay in Tuscany, check out our guides to the best hotels in Lucca, the top hotels in Cortona, where to stay in Montecatini Terme, and Siena’s top hotels

Getting There

Travelers can reach Tuscany by flying into Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport or Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport. Both are relatively small.

At Florence, the single runway is served by Alitalia, Italy’s national airlines, and several European and international carriers, including incoming flights from Paris, London, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, and Munich. Within Italy, the airport offers connecting service to Rome, Catania, and Palermo.

Pisa’s airport is Tuscany’s largest (a relative term) and is served by Aer Lingus, Alitalia, British Airways, EasyJet, Norwegian, Ryanair, Vueling. Ryanair is the main carrier, offering low-cost flights to other European destinations.

Many travelers to Tuscany will opt to fly directly into Rome, rent a car, and drive to their destinations. For instance, Rome to Siena is about 2 1/2 hours by car, but be sure to read up on driving in Italy before you hit the road.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Don’t stay in Florence. While Florence is wonderful, it is a bigger city and is plagued with some of the downfalls that accompany that, pricy hotel rooms being one of them. Simply staying on the outskirts of town can be a much more budget-friendly option—and many hotels have shuttles into the city.
  • Many larger towns in Tuscany offer free walking tours, a great way to get the lay of the land before embarking on some solo exploration. Even if there’s not, armed with a guidebook and a little research, you can easily create your own.
  • While Italian buses aren’t the most reliable means of transportation, they are the cheapest, with a bus trip from Siena to Florence costing around $10.
  • Don’t eat at the piazza! We get it: the breathtaking piazza is the centerpiece of most Tuscan towns. What could be better than sipping a glass of wine and taking in the sights? Well, you’ll pay a hefty premium for that privilege and will likely find better food elsewhere.
Article Sources
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  2. Europass. "History of the Italian Language."

  3. Discover Tuscany. "UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tuscany."