Tuscany Off the Beaten Path

Towns and Things to Do in Hidden Tuscany

Tuscany is one of Italy's most popular regions. Most people head for the popular hill towns and top places to go in Tuscany, but there are many smaller and less-visited places that are well worth a visit. Most of Tuscan's top towns are in the center but many of the places where you'll see fewer visitors are in the region's far north or south.

Here's a sampling of my favorite choices for places to go where you won't see so many tourists, especially English-speaking tourists. Although some of them can be reached by train or bus, most are better accessed by having a car.

  • 01 of 10
    pitigliano.jpg
    ••• Pitigliano. © by Martha Bakerjian
    Pitigliano, in the southern Tuscany area called the Maremma, is perched dramatically on a tufa ridge. It's known as Little Jerusalem for its ancient Jewish quarter, established in the 16th century. Underground caves and tunnels are under the city and the cliffs are dotted with Etruscan tombs.

     

  • 02 of 10
    monte argentario pictures
    ••• Monte Argentario Coast. © by Martha Bakerjian
    Monte Argentario, in southern Tuscany, is a wilder part of the coast. The interior and coastline are rugged but there are some beaches and the pretty port towns of Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano with good seafood restaurants. Monte Argentario is a good place for hiking and for boat trips to the Tuscan archipelago.

     

  • 03 of 10
    pistoia-5.jpg
    ••• Pistoia. © by James Martin, Europe Travel

    Pistoia is sometimes referred to as little Florence because of the concentration of art and architecture in a much smaller city. Pistoia's main square has great examples of medieval architecture, including the Cathedral of San Zeno and its bell tower and the 14th century Gothic Baptistery. Its medieval marketplace is still in use today. Although Pistoia is a short train ride west of Florence, it sees far fewer tourists.

  • 04 of 10

    Barga and Garfagnana

    barga, italy picture
    ••• A small piazza in Barga. by James Martin, Europe for Visitors

    Garfagnana is the mountainous area north of Lucca. It's populated with picturesque villages, hiking trails, and the spa center of Bagni di Lucca. Barga has a link to Scotland and you may see Scottish items for sale and hear a fair amount of English spoken. Continuing up the Serchio River Valley you'll come to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the area's main town, which can be reached by train from Lucca. A car is best for exploring most of the Garfagnana though.

     

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    the Tuscany town of Pontremoli
    ••• Pontremoli and Castle. by James Martin

    The Lunigiana is a finger of Tuscany that borders on the Liguria and Emilia Romagana regions. Three valleys, divided by rivers, make up the Lunigiana. The hilly region is dotted with remains of more than 100 castles and small medieval villages like Pontremoli and Equi Terme, known for its spa and prehistoric cave.

     

  • 06 of 10

    Carrara Marble Quarries

    carrara photos, marble quarrry photos
    ••• Marble Quarries of Carrara. © by Martha Bakerjian

    The marble quarries, high above the town of Carrara, have been in use since Roman times and famous Renaissance sculptors, including Michelangelo, came here for marble. You can visit some places on your own, but for a really good look at the quarries, take a 50-minute guided tour. While you're up on the mountain, visit the village of Colonnata.

     

  • 07 of 10
    arezzo photo
    ••• Main Square in Arezzo. © by Martha Bakerjian

    The city of Arezzo, known for the Piero della Francesca frescoes, is often overlooked by tourists but well worth a visit. You may recognize its main square from the movie Life is Beautiful. Arezzo can be reached by train but if you have a car you can drive through the countryside of the Casentino Valley on the Wine and Culinary Routes.

     

  • 08 of 10
    ••• Viareggio Beach. © by Martha Bakerjian

    Tourists don't often associate beaches with Tuscany, but the northern Versilia coast has a long stretch of beach towns and good bathing establishments used primarily by locals. Forte dei Marmi is one of the most famous resort towns, once a favorite of wealthy Italians, and its Wednesday market is a good place for clothes shopping. The city of Viareggio is known for its Liberty-style architecture and the inland town of Pietrasanta is a favorite of artists.

     

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Corchia Underground Cave in the Apuane Alps Park

    ••• Corchia Caverns. photo provided by Corchia Underground
    The Apuane Alps offer great scenery and hiking opportunities. Monte Corchia is called the Empty Mountain because inside it is one of Europe's largest systems of caverns. Visitors can take a 2-hour guided tour that covers highlights of the stalactite and stalagmite formations and small underground lakes. In the same area you can take a Quicksilver Mine tour also. On the way up or back, stop at the small town of Seravezza with its Medici Palace.
  • 10 of 10
    ••• La Verna Sanctuary. © by Martha Bakerjian

    La Verna Sanctuary is one of the places in Italy associated with Saint Francis and many people go here for that reason. It was here that Francis is said to have received the stigmata. The sanctuary is perched on a rocky promontory in a forest setting with great views of the valley below so a trip here makes a nice day out in the countryside.