If you’ve never been to Tuscany but have heard so much about it that you have succumbed and just have to get there to see what all the fuss is about, you won’t be disappointed! Known as the heart of Italy, this region is one so steeped in character that every visitor leaves feeling like they have a new friend. Whether you’re into history or culture, wine or food, or all of the above, this is a place that simply abounds with opportunity to experience a little of everything.
For first timers to the region, we feel it would be remiss of us not to introduce you to some of the most classic things to do in Tuscany.
Simply awash with architectural delights, historical accolades, bygone villas and ancient towns and cities, the area will have any history buff yearning to discover more. Here are a few of the best bits.
No trip to the region would be complete without a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While many people bypass the city on their way to Florence, we think that’s a mistake. The bell tower of Pisa cathedral is stunning and has become famous because of its distinctive tilt. Dating back to the twelfth century, the building still stands despite the unstable foundations and the local subsidence. Climb to the top and you are rewarded with fabulous panoramic views of the city and this is truly one of the unmissable things to do in Tuscany.
One of the most popular Italian locations, this dream-like city is rich in art and history. The main landmark is the Piazza del Campo, a uniquely shaped ‘square’ famous for hosting the twice yearly Palio di Siena, the most exciting horse race in the country. In the Campo you can marvel at the Fonte Gaia, the intricately decorated fountain, and the Torre del Mangia, which is definitely worth a visit and climbing it rates as one of the great things to do in Tuscany.
As you approach this pretty hilltop town, it’s hard to miss the 14 towers that rise up from the walls surrounding it. With Etruscan roots, the ancient city was said to have been saved from the wrath of Attila the Hun by San Gimignano, the bishop of Modena. After many years of prosperity, today the town is a charming place to visit and full of history and enchantment.
To experience the best this region has to offer, take a look at our Best of Tuscany Tour.
A Cultural Insight
Italian culture – where do you start? Home to the Roman Empire and the heart of the Renaissance era, the culture here has flourished through the centuries. Proud of their heritage, Italians all over the country exude a sense of belonging. Family and community have always been important, and long Sunday lunches under the Tuscan sun, vibrant family get-togethers at the great grandparents and late night pizzas with friends are the norm here. Food and wine are intricately woven into the everyday social scene and it is not uncommon to be invited to an Italian table to enjoy the local vintage from an unlabelled bottle, rounds of a pungent farmyard cheese and slices of delicious local meats.
Italians love life and live it to the full. Fashion, art, heritage and their regional traditions are at the heart of everything they do, and the great news is that they embrace visitors and are always happy to bare their soul when it comes to customs and culture. Hanging out with the locals is one of the most enlightening and enjoyable things to do in Tuscany.
For a real cultural experience, why not book one of these two tours:
If food and travel go hand in hand for you then this is your dream destination. Thanks to the moderate climate, rich volcanic soils and an ingrained link between the people and the food, this beautiful Mediterranean land has all the ingredients when it comes to incredible gastronomy. Luckily for us many Italian favourites have made their way onto the international stage, but there are still so many regional variations and seasonal specialities that a newcomer to the area can look forward to. Dishes are rooted in culture and tradition, and the way Italians treat their food is something to behold.
Here are a few tips if you want to fit in with the locals:
Never order a cappuccino after 1pm.
Stand at the bar for your morning coffee (it is cheaper too!)
The nibbles that come with the wine at a bar are free.
Take the kids out to eat at any time of the evening.
The house wine is usually excellent and complements the food perfectly.
While Sundays are for long lazy lunches that usually include the antipasti, primo (first course), secondo (meat course) and dessert, you’re more than welcome to just have a bowl of pasta. No-one will judge you!
Don’t expect long menus; food is freshly made and seasonal.
‘Menu fisso’ is an excellent choice if you want quality food for a great price.
Learn to cook some regional favourites on one of these cookery tours:
There are more than one million vineyards in Italy and it’s little surprise that for this country wine is a feature on every table. The tradition of viniculture goes back hundreds of years and it is thought that the Greeks initiated the concept. Vineyards gave way to horticulture over the years but the love of winemaking was not lost. Tuscan wines, in particular, take centre stage when it comes to quality bottles.
Whether you choose a restaurant’s rustic house wine or a bottle of the famous Montalcino or Chianti, sampling the wine is one of the most memorable things to do in Tuscany.
To get a real taste of authentic Tuscan food and wine, check out this tour:
Hopefully this introduction to some of the ‘must do’ experiences has given you the motivation to visit this wonderful region. To make the absolute most out of your trip, your best bet is to book with a specialised tour operator. You can’t put a price on local knowledge, and having the logistics sorted for you means that you waste no time on organisational hitches. With so many things to do in Tuscany, you’ll want to fill every moment.
We Are Walkabout Florence
Here at Walkabout Florence, we want all of our clients to get to know this magnificent part of Italy. History, culture, food and wine are ingrained in every part of Italian life and our guides and drivers are always keen to share their local knowledge. Florence is a wonderful city to be based in too, so book now and get the most out of your Tuscan adventure.