Italy is a dream destination for us - full of amazing food, beautiful scenery, and a warm, vibrant culture. There are so many worthwhile regions to explore, not to mention countless picturesque villages that could keep you wanderlusting for a lifetime.
On our recent visit to Italy, we were able to spend a good six weeks there; and we chose to spend most of that time in Tuscany. It did not disappoint. After wandering the cities, towns, and countrysides, we came up with five of our favorite places. One is a must-see and the others are the best towns in Tuscany to visit.
Ok, Florence isn't a town, but course, a visit to Tuscany is not complete without seeing its famous capitol, Firenze. The cathedral, Il Duomo, is an iconic landmark at the center of town - free to enter, but the whole area gets extremely crowded so it's best to go first thing in the morning. Florence is also well known for its huge collection of art masterpieces, housed in famous galleries like the Uffizi and the Accademia. We also recommend checking out the Mercato Centrale for an affordable, fresh pasta lunch from the counter - or to get a tasty meal from the trendy vendors upstairs.
For more things to see and do in Florence, check out our one- and two-day itineraries to discover Florence on foot.
Casale was probably our favorite village on the Etruscan Coast. The town has a few restaurants and a small but friendly grocery store, with everything in walking distance – though it’s all very steep, being perched on the top of a hill! You can easily see it all within the course of a day, so either stay one night and move on, or use it as a home base to see the Northern side of the Etruscan Coast region.
Another favorite place to stay in Tuscany is along the Wine and Olive Road, between the hill-top villages of Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri. We had the pleasure of staying at Casa Toscana for six weeks during our help exchange and we can personally attest that the owner, Chicca, is a wonderful host. She lives on the main floor of this Tuscan farm house, where she hosts cooking classes, and she rents out two self-contained apartments above. Our recent book launch shares tips about work exchanges and other unique stays and accommodations on a budget.
The Wine and Olive Road provides a picturesque drive through the area’s most popular vineyards and olive groves. From here, you can easily drive or bike to many other medieval villages as well as the beaches. If you take the short but steep hike up to the little village of Castagneto Carducci, you’ll find cafes, gelaterias, and several restaurants with stunning panoramic views.
The coastal town of Populonia is the site of an incredible discovery of an ancient Roman acropolis. Because the port town processed so much ore, slags of metal eventually buried the original Etruscan city. Centuries later, remains of the densely populated acropolis were uncovered while cleaning up the shores.
Today, you can climb the medieval castle towers for excellent views of the coast. There is also an archeological park and small museum in the village of Populonia where you can learn about the historic significance of the site.
The medieval town of Volterra was once capital of the Etruscans and definitely worth a visit, or even a longer stay. Aside from charming shops and beautiful medieval architecture, an impressively well-preserved Roman theater was uncovered under a parking lot behind the town! At the other end of town, you’ll find a stone arch gateway into the city with foundations from 2nd century B.C. A moving story on a nearby wall tells of how the townspeople worked round-the-clock to fill up the entire arch and prevent it from destruction during WWII.
This is a guest post by Michelle and Jedd of Intentional Travelers. This 30-something couple left their full-time jobs to join the Peace Corps, then became digital nomads, doing work online as they travel the world.