The Jewels of Tuscany

Image courtesy of Luigi Torreggiani

With its rolling hills, rustic vineyards, pretty olive trees and stunning natural beauty, Tuscany is perhaps one of Italy’s most attractive regions. Tuscany’s busy tourist highlights are well known – think Siena, Florence and the famous leaning tower of Pisa – but away from the cities, life in Tuscany is an altogether simpler affair. The beautiful towns of Tuscany stand out like shimmering jewels amongst the already glorious natural landscape, offering picturesque piazzas, ancient settlements, unique architecture and enchanting corridors of marble and stone. Join us as we explore some of Tuscany’s most beautiful towns.

Image courtesy of Dennis Jarvis

San Gimignano

Home to 15 breathtaking towers that spike the Tuscan sky, San Gimignano is a tourist favourite for all the right reasons. Located around an hour from beautiful Siena, the approach to San Gimignano is stunning, and visitors will delight in seeing the historic and pretty buildings cascading into the skyline, surrounded by rolling cypress groves and saffron-hued fields.

Highlights include the majestic Sant’Agostino Basilica and the 12th century Collegiate, both products of San Gimgnanon coming under church rule after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Image courtesy of Eric Huybrechts

Pitigliano

Known to the locals as “Little Jerusalem”, Pitigliano is the stuff of postcards. Located in the beautiful Maremma region, the town is a flurry of stone and brick that rises vertically from sheer cliffs of layers of red volcanic “tufa” stone.

Chiselled out from the stone by the Etruscans, dusted off by the Romans and crowned with the wealth of the Orsini family, Pitigliano is certainly one of Tuscany’s most spectacular attractions. Make sure to visit the underground tunnels and caves dug into the tufa beneath the city, where you’ll find a labyrinth of passages and rooms has been in use since Etruscan times. 

Image courtesy of Stefan Jurca

Lucca

Perched next to the Serchio river, Lucca is one of the few Tuscan towns and villages that does not occupy a hilltop position. What the town lacks in natural views, it more than makes up for with its gorgeous architecture and unique charm.

The tree-lined renaissance town walls, are the perfect place to admire the town’s cobbled streets and colourful buildings. The heart of the town is the perfectly circular Piazza dell’Anfiteatro – all of the streets in the town meet here, and the piazza is lined with pretty shops, bars and restaurants.

Image courtesy of Polina F

Volterra

Set along the highland ridges of western Tuscany, the town of Volterra cloaks its Tuscan landscape in a patchwork of medieval stone. Since its creation the town has played host to the Romans, the grand Tuscan dukes and the formidable Medici family, and its architecture reflects a rich history.

The centre is bursting with charm, and you’ll find basilicas, cobblestone streets, crumbling gateways, red-tiled roofs and wonderful piazzas full of locals. Volterra isn’t just a treat for the eyes – visitors to the town are often surprised by the gorgeous scent of fresh panzanella salads and fragrant olive oils sourced straight from the surrounding hills.

Image courtesy of Rino Peroni

Montepulciano

Tuscany is known around the world for its rustic vineyards and delicious grapes, and Montepulciano fully embodies this aspect of the area – the town is primarily known for its full-bodied variety of red grape, and it follows suit that beautiful vineyards surround the town as far as the eye can see.

Once you enter the town, you’ll discover a rich history – Montepulciano is full of Renaissance architecture brought about by the affluent Medici family in the 16th century, and not much has changed since – in fact, no major building work has happened here since 1580. Make your way along the tight-knit lanes to the Piazza Grande, where you can admire the Duomo and take in the grandeur of the surrounding palazzos. 

Image courtesy of Allie Caulfield

Barga

A sleepy town nestled below the snow-topped mountain summits of the great Pania della Croce, Barga is full of narrow cobbled streets, tiny squares and steep staircases. Surrounded by chestnut forests and olive trees, this hidden ancient village is virtually untouched by tourism, making it the perfect place to discover the true essence of Tuscan life.

Highlights include the incredible Duomo, which offers incredible panoramic views, allowing you to see the yellow, lemon and beige-coloured faces of its old Renaissance manors from a unique angle.