Things to Do in Tuscany – Art & Culture, Food & Wine, Shopping, Nature, Active, History & Monuments, and Museums
We all dream of passing time ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’ seeing Michelangelo’s David statue in Florence, and zipping through the vineyards in a vintage FIAT 500.
Tuscany, famous around the world for its wines, food, art, and architecture, is full of things to do, for all ages and interests.
You’ll find gems inside Tuscan cities, along tiny lanes in villages, and out in the vineyards and hills.
I first arrived in the area in 2003, so I’ve had some time (as a guide, trip planner, and resident) to sort out which activities are worth doing on a trip to Tuscany. The list below only includes things I’d do myself, with family, or with visitors.
Good To Know: I haven’t included anything that isn’t happening any longer post-pandemic. I’ll keep the list updated.
You won’t find many things in Florence on the list. If you’d like ideas on what to do there, check out our posts on The Best Things to Do in Florence and Our Favorite Things to Do in Florence at Night.
The list below is long, so I’ve divided it into the following categories:
- Art & Culture
- Food & Wine
- History & Monuments
I hope you find some fun things to do on your trip to Tuscany!
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Map of Things to Do in Tuscany in 2023
Things to Do in Tuscany – Art & Culture
Photograph the Val d’Orcia
The Val d’Orcia, or Orcia Valley, is in Southern Tuscany and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Its rolling hills are a vibrant green in the spring and velvety gold in the summer and fall.
The entire valley is a photographer’s dream.
Some of the most photographed sites include:
- Vitaleta Chapel
- The valley below Pienza
- Villages like Montalcino and Montepulciano
- San Quirico cypress trees
Celebrate Carnevale in Viareggio
Though not as well-known as Venice’s Carnival, the Viareggio Carnevale is famous throughout Italy and Europe.
It’s worth a visit if you’re in town during the Carnevale period in early spring. And, if you’re in the area during other times of the year, stop by the city’s Carnevale Museum to learn about how the floats are made and maybe see some being created in the huge hangars in the complex.
Read more in our post – Italian Carnival – 16 Not-To-Miss Carnevale Celebrations.
See Tuscany’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Tuscany is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites:
- Florence historic center (1982)
- Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo (1987)
- San Gimignano historic center (1990)
- Siena historic center (1995)
- Pienza historic center (1996)
- Val d’Orcia (2004)
- Medici villas and gardens, in Florence, Vaglia, Fiesole, Prato, Cerreto Guidi, Quarrata, Carmignano, Barberino in Mugello, and Lucca (2013)
- The Great Spa Towns of Europe, including Tuscany’s Montecatini Terme (2021)
Find Filming Locations
Tuscany makes a pretty fabulous film set and you can find the set of many scenes throughout the cities and countryside. Check out the filming locations for:
- The Gladiator
- Under the Tuscan Sun
- A Room With a View
- Letters to Juliet
- And more!
Good To Know: If you’re a fan of Letters to Juliet, stay at one of its sets – Borgo Scopeto, near Siena. The 4-star hotel is gorgeous, the restaurant is delicious, and you can relax at the pool and wander the estate’s vineyards.
See a Concert
We get our fair share of international musicians and bands here in Tuscany, but it’s also fun to go to an Italian concert. There are a lot of smaller venues in the main cities, and some of the more well-known concerts are:
Firenze Rocks – Florence’s big music festival takes place in June in the Visarno Arena at the Cascine Park to the west of the historic center (easily walkable). It’s a spacious venue and the event is well-organized. Big names arrive every year. 2022’s lineup included MUSE, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Nas, and Metallica.
Lucca Summer Festival – This festival takes place in multiple venues around Lucca and attracts incredible acts from many musical genres. We took my son to see Macklemore and it was incredible!
Pistoia Blues – Every July, Pistoia draws crowds for its jazz and blues festival.
Tickets for all of the above can be purchased on TicketOne.it and you can find Firenze Rocks and Pistoia Blues tickets on Ticketmaster.
Perfect the Art of Aperitivo
Often, as visitors, we’re eager to check things off our list – visit this museum, see this statue…
One of my favorite things to share with friends and family who come to visit is aperitivo.
It’s a bit like happy hour, but it’s for all ages, and it’s quite calm. Before dinner, head out to a local bar for a drink and snacks. Usually, the bar has a spread of delicious salads, finger foods, and little nibbles (not just peanuts and pretzels here, folks!).
You can even make it into a dinner – we call it apericena (aperitivo+cena).
To learn more, see our post Aperitivo – All You Need to Know About Italian Aperitif!
Find Your Favorite Renaissance Art
If you’ve come to Tuscany seeking incredible Renaissance art, you’ve got quite the selection. A few of the most popular works are in Florence:
- Michelangelo’s David statue (Accademia Gallery)
- Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (Uffizi Gallery)
- Donatello’s David statue (Bargello National Museum)
- Michelangelo’s tomb sculptures (Medici Chapel)
Looking for Michelangelo’s Art in Florence? Want to learn more about a particular artist or style? Contact guide Sashia for a personalized tour.
Choose Your Favorite Work at the Chianti Sculpture Park
The Chianti Sculpture Park is a hidden gem in the forest near Siena. International artists submitted ideas for sculptures and 26 were invited to visit the park and make their ideas a reality.
You can walk the trail through the forest and see the sculptures, which are all so different and interesting. Kids and adults will love the percorso.
If you time it right, you can see a concert in the amphitheater.
Soak Up Tuscan Village Life
Tuscany is full of gorgeous villages, many scattered on hilltops. Most don’t have sites to see – the beauty is simply strolling the narrow streets, having aperitivo at a café in the piazza, checking out the views from the city walls, shopping at a market, or people-watching.
Cheer on an Italian Sports Team
Watching an Italian sport elbow-to-elbow with Italians is one of the best cultural experiences you can have while you’re here. Of course, calcio (soccer) is the beating heart of the nation, but cycling and other sports are followed closely here as well.
In Tuscany, you can sit in the stands at a Serie A soccer game. Local teams include Fiorentina (Florence) and Empoli. The other leagues are also fun to watch and can be just as exciting (and intense!).
Good To Know: If you want to go to a match, you’ll need to buy a ticket that’s attached to your ID.
Check out How to See a Soccer Game in Italy!
Some famous cycling races pass through Tuscany (but not every year, so check the route):
- Giro d’Italia – In 2023, stages 10 & 11 (May 16 & 17) include Tuscany
- Tirreno Adriatico
- L’Eroica (amateur)
Watch a Race at the Mugello Circuit
Spend an afternoon at the Mugello Circuit watching motorcycle or auto races. The track hosts the MotoGP – Italian Grand Prix and will celebrate its 30-year anniversary of holding the race in 2024.
Buy tickets in advance and expect large crowds and traffic.
Feel the Emotion at the Palio in Siena
Twice a year, in July and August, the city of Siena (and visitors) fill up the Piazza del Campo for a bareback horserace. That’s what is, but it’s so much more.
Siena’s Palio pits the city’s contrade, or neighborhoods against each other and the emotions run high. Your contrada means everything and the people of Siena spend all year preparing for the races and the feasts, jockey selections, and more.
If you can, find a ticket for a seat in the stands on the edges of the piazza or from a window that overlooks the piazza. ‘Watching’ from the center of the piazza isn’t easy under the hot summer Tuscan sun. And, if you need to go to the bathroom before the race, you’re out of luck. It’s an experience, for sure (but one I won’t repeat!).
Even if you can’t make it to the race, you can enjoy the spirit of the occasion at neighborhood dinners (some are invite-only), post-race celebrations, and other festivities during the week.
Explore a Tarot Garden Inspired by Gaudi’s Parco Guell
Niki Saint Phalle spent over 20 years building this quirky, creative, colorful Tarot Garden, and she even lived inside one of the sculptures while she worked on the project.
You can visit the Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) near Capalbio, and after, head to the village for lunch or the sea for a swim!
Things to Do in Tuscany – Food & Wine
Go Wine Tasting in Tuscany
Tuscan wines are famous around the world, for good reason. You’ve probably enjoyed a glass or two at an Italian restaurant in your hometown. Now’s your chance to taste them at the source!
You can visit small producers like Fattoria Sant’Appiano or giants like Antinori. You can visit vineyards (although you should reserve, not just drop in), or taste wines at enoteche (wine bars).
Some wines you may want to try:
- Chianti Classico
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Super Tuscans (like Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Tignanello, Rondinaia, Solaia)
- Morellino di Scansano
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano
- Castello di Fonterutoli – group and private tours by reservation
- Antinori nel Chianti Classico – group, private, and personalized tours by reservation
- Fattoria Sant’Appiano – private tours by reservation
- Istine – private tours by reservation
- Tenuta Guado al Tasso – personalized tours by reservation
- Castiglion del Bosco – private tours by reservation
Fill Your Belly at a Tuscan Sagra
A sagra is a casual local festival, usually focused on food. You’ll typically find the entire town (and maybe even surrounding towns) gathered outdoors in a main piazza or in the streets – think long tables, pitchers of wine, everyone chipping in by cooking or working the register.
There’s often music, play areas for kids, and other entertainment.
If you have a chance, head to a sagra to see true Tuscan life. Our visiting friends and family love going to a sagra when they’re here.
You’ll find them throughout the year. In Tuscany, we have sagre for grilled meats, porcini mushrooms, ribollita (soup), chestnuts, pasta dishes, wine, fritelle (pastries), and more.
Take a Tuscan Cooking Class
Sure, it’s wonderful to indulge in Tuscan cuisine while you’re here. But don’t you want to re-create it when you get home?
If so, head to Jacopo and Anna’s apartment in Florence or home in the countryside of Montespertoli for a fun, entertaining, and informative cooking class that’s personalized for you. If you’re in Florence, before the class you can head to a local market to shop for ingredients.
If anything, after making ravioli by hand, you’ll appreciate it that much more when you have it at a restaurant!
Find a Favorite Cheese
Pecorino (cheese made from sheep milk) rules here in Tuscany, but we do have other cheeses worth trying.
Try ricotta, Maremma caprino (made from goat milk), and cacciota Toscana while you’re in the region.
Taste them on a platter with local cured meats, or just head to the deli in the grocery store and pick out a selection for a picnic or apericena (aperitivo/cena – happy hour/dinner).
If you can, head to the homeland of our pecorino – Pienza. Try the cheese in all its forms – fresh, semi-aged, and aged.
Harvest Olives in Tuscany
Take part in harvesting our liquid gold (or green) – Tuscan olive oil. You can join the harvest with a farm or agriturismo. Even if a place doesn’t offer it, but you see that they have olive trees, check to see if you can help.
It’s a lot of work setting up the nets, getting the olives off the trees, and collecting them in baskets and crates. But, visiting the local frantoio and seeing your olives come off the press makes it worth it! Then, sample the fresh oil on toasted bread. We call it fettunta – fetta+unta, or an ‘oily slice.’
Become a Gelato Expert
We learn best by doing, right? Go ahead, have a gelato (or two) every day! Remember some of the rules of spotting a quality gelateria:
- Produzione propria or gelateria artigianale (homemade gelato)
- Pistacchio gelato is a dull greenish-brown, not bright green
- Gelato isn’t piled high; instead, it’s in metal containers
Want to learn more? Take a lesson at Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano.
Try Tuscan Specialties
Tuscan cooking is peasant cooking. Recipes used everything, including all parts of the animal and leftovers from the day before. Some typical dishes you’ll find in the region:
- Bistecca alla Fiorentina – a grilled, thick cut of steak with bone
- Trippa alla Fiorentina – tripe cooked with vegetables
- Ribollita – bread soup with vegetables
- Panzanella – bread salad with vegetables
- Pici pasta – a ‘fat’ spaghetti, often served with a garlic/tomato sauce
- Torta di ceci – thick flatbread made with chickpea flour
- Pasta al ragu di cinghiale – pasta with wild boar sauce
- Ricciarelli – cookies from Siena
- Schiacciata – like focaccia, but thinner and more chewy or crunchy
- Pecorino – sheep’s cheese – try fresh and aged
Make your own panzanella or gluten-free panzanella at home!
Things to Do in Tuscany – Shopping
Shop at the Outlets
Find discounts on some of Italy’s biggest designer brands at Tuscany’s big outlets.
If you’re looking for luxury brands, head to The Mall. Otherwise, check out the international and Italian shops at Valdichiana Village.
The most well-known is The Mall, located in the Valdarno next to the small village of Leccio. You’ll find Italian and foreign luxury brands, including:
- Jimmy Choo
- Saint Laurent
- Tom Ford
- Alexander McQueen
- Dolce & Gabbana
It’s easy to get to it by car, but you can also take a shuttle from the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station.
Good To Know: Don’t expect to find a Gucci purse for €50. You will find some good prices on items from previous seasons and some made-for-outlet gear. It is well-organized and a pleasant shopping experience.
Prada has its headquarters in the Valdarno and its Space Outlet carries Prada, Miu Miu, Helmut Lang, and Car Shoe clothing, shoes, and accessories. It’s located in Montevarchi, at via Aretina, 403. +39 055 919 6528.
Good To Know: The quality and selection are hit-or-miss. Go with low expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Space Outlet is best reached by car.
Barberino Designer Outlet
McArthur Glenn runs the Barberino outlet, north of Florence. It’s laid out like a Tuscan village, and has brands like Adidas, Levi’s, Dolce & Gabbana, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger. It’s pretty much like an outlet in the US, but the discounts aren’t as steep here.
Southern Tuscany’s best outlet mall, Valdichiana Village is also set up like a Tuscan village. You’ll find international brands like Adidas, Crocs, and the Gap, but there are also a lot of Italian brands.
Good To Know: This outlet is right off the A1 Autostrada, so it’s an easy spot to take a break, especially if you have kids. There’s a nice play area at one of the entrances.
It’s best reached by car, but you could reach it by train+bus, arriving in Arezzo by train and then taking a local bus to the outlet.
Look for Treasures at Arezzo’s Antiques Fair
The Fiera Antiquaria di Arezzo has been running since 1968 and visitors come from all over Italy to find new treasures every 1st Sunday of the month (and the Saturday before).
The fair’s heart is in Piazza Grande, and it spills out into small side streets.
You’ll find furniture, art, toys, watches, books, vases, jewelry, knick-knacks, and more. Kids and adults will enjoy looking for their own special treasure.
Good To Know: Loved checking out the antiques in Arezzo? Wander the Oltrarno District in Florence for more gorgeous antique shops.
Shop at an Outdoor Market
Sure, you can head to an Italian grocery store or centro commerciale (shopping mall), but it’s much more fun to shop at an outdoor market.
From clothing and housewares markets like the Forte dei Marmi market to colorful food markets like the Sant’Ambrogio market in Florence, you’ve got plenty of selection in Tuscany.
Most towns have a weekly market, which usually has fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and cured meats. It will probably also have shoes and clothing.
Ask your lodging which markets nearby they recommend for visitors.
Find Your Favorite Tuscan Ceramics
I used to think that Tuscan ceramics were for old ladies, but now I love them (and I don’t consider myself an old lady yet).
Italy has beautiful ceramics – if you love the art, you’ll want to check out the ceramics in Deruta (Umbria), Grottaglie (Puglia), Caltagirone (Sicily), or Vietri sul Mare (Amalfi Coast).
In Tuscany, Montelupo Fiorentino is famous for ceramics, as is Florence (home of Ginori porcelain). My favorite Tuscan ceramics are in Chianti, at a tiny shop called Ceramiche Rampini. Each piece is handmade, and you can ship gorgeous sets home for a reminder of your time in the region.
Things to Do in Tuscany – Nature
Go Truffle Hunting
Alba, up north in Piedmont may get all of the truffle fame, but Tuscany has its own famous tartufi areas, including San Miniato (Northern Tuscany, near Florence) and San Giovanni d’Asso (Southern Tuscany, in the Crete Senesi).
You can go on a truffle hunt with a hunter and his dog and later dine with your found treasures.
Year-round, choose from many truffle hunting experiences in the land around San Miniato with Truffle in Tuscany. They even offer virtual truffle-hunting experiences!
San Giovanni d’Asso
In March and April, head out into the Crete Senesi to search for truffles, followed by a truffle-themed lunch.
Later, visit the small Truffle Museum in the center of the village. Make sure you call ahead to confirm it will be open.
Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
This is a big activity for visitors in our area. In fact, from spring to fall, many mornings we can spot at least one balloon in the sky.
Rise early and catch a ride over the spectacular Tuscan countryside before breakfast.
If you see three little boys waving to you, please wave back!
Head to the Beach in Tuscany
The Tuscan coast stretches from Versilia in the north to the Argentario peninsula in the south. Many areas are dotted with umbrellas and bagni, or beach clubs. Other sections are wild, have dunes, or are part of a natural park.
Although Tuscan beaches aren’t Italy’s best (that award goes to Sardinia, followed closely by Puglia), they’re still a fabulous place to relax, catch some rays, and soak up Italian beach culture.
We usually end up in Versilia, which is beautiful, close to Florence, and easy with kids. Rent a spot at a bagno for the day and enjoy!
Drive Through a Lunar Landscape
One of my favorite drives is the stretch of road from Taverna d’Arbia (south of Siena) through the Crete Senesi to the town of Asciano. It’s a 19-kilometer rollercoaster road through the clay hills of Siena.
In the spring, the hills are bright green and dotted with farmhouses and cypress-lined roads. In the summer, they’re golden, and in the fall following the harvest, they’re a velvety brown.
The section of road can be driven on your way from Siena or Florence to any Southern Tuscan towns like Pienza, Montepulciano, Bagno Vignoni, or Montalcino.
It’s also an excellent road for cycling!
Ride in a 4×4 Through the Marble Quarries in the Apuan Alps
After driving through the massive quarries, stop in the museum to learn about the extraction of the marble, the life of the workers, and other ways marble is used.
Soak in Tuscan Hot Springs
Love hot springs? Well, you’re in luck. Tuscany is scattered with them, and you can visit them for free, or at luxurious spa hotels.
A few of them that are worth a visit:
- Bagno Vignoni
- San Casciano dei Bagni
- Bagni San Filippo
Frolic in a Field of Sunflowers
Sunflowers make everyone smile, and if you’re in Tuscany during the summer, you’re sure to spot some.
The season isn’t set in stone, but the sunflowers here are usually blooming in July, and you may see some from mid-June or into early August.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to say exactly where they’ll be. Farmers rotate crops so a lovely field one year may have something else growing the following year.
The good news is, there are fields of them all over, so if you don’t see any on your drive, just stop off at a gas station or ask someone at your hotel where the nearest field is.
Take a Boat Trip
That way you can tell all your friends ‘I’m on a boat!’ (That was for you, Andy Samberg fans.)
The best boat trips are around the Tuscan islands of Elba and Giglio. Take a ferry to the island of your choice, and once there, rent a boat or join a boat tour.
Many of Elba’s beaches are hidden from the land and only accessible by sea.
The Monte Argentario peninsula is also best explored by boat. Travel with Secret Boat (properly named) to some ‘secret’ locations around the peninsula or to Giglio Island.
Spend Time in a Nature Reserve
Leave the incredible artwork and medieval villages behind for a day (or afternoon) and spend time with Tuscan flora and fauna.
Two of Tuscany’s best nature reserves are the Parco Naturale Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli (say that quickly ten times) and the Natural Reserve Diaccia Botrona.
In San Rossore, look for deer, swans, owls, flamingos, rabbits, wild boar, squirrels, and red foxes. Lake Massaciuccoli is just one of Italy’s gorgeous lakes.
Take a boat trip through Diaccia Botrona’s wetland and keep an eye out for the 200+ bird species that call the reserve home during the year.
Things to Do in Tuscany – Active
Hike in the Hills or Vineyards
Tuscany is full of hiking trails. You can choose to walk:
- On trails marked by the CAI (Club Alpino Italiano – Alpine Club of Italy) with a red/white marker. They are often well-marked on maps.
- Along a vast network of strade bianche, white (gravel or dirt) roads. They aren’t necessarily marked as trails, but you can connect them to create your own hiking route.
- In vineyards and olive groves that are not fenced.
A few classic hikes in Tuscany:
- Along the Via Francigena
- Between castles in Chianti
- In the Val d’Orcia below Pienza
- In the Apuan Alps
Good To Know: Check with your accommodation or someone nearby and confirm that it’s not hunting season (wild boar, pheasant, etc).
Cycle or Walk Lucca’s Walls
Lucca enchants visitors and you’ll love wandering its streets, visiting its shops, and having lunch in the Piazza del Anfiteatro.
See Lucca from above – walk or cycle the city walls! Don’t be nervous – the walls are very thick, so you’re cycling on a wide, tree-lined path.
If you’d like to cycle (kids and adults!), rent a bike from one of the many cycling shops you’ll find in town. The route around the city is about 4 kilometers, which will probably take 30-60 minutes, depending on how fast you ride and how much ‘traffic’ you find on your journey.
Otherwise, go for a casual stroll and enjoy the views, stop for photos, and maybe a coffee at the café.
Buona pedalata – happy riding!
Climb a Tower in Tuscany
Head up for the best views of Tuscan towns and the countryside. Some of the area’s best tower climbs include:
- Giotto’s Bell Tower (Florence)
- Torre Grossa (San Gimignano)
- Torre del Mangia (Siena)
- Leaning Tower (Pisa)
Ski, Snowboard, or Hike in the Apuan Alps
The Apuan Alps are an outdoor playground in the winter and summer.
It’s a beautiful drive from Florence (on winding roads) and it makes an easy day trip.
Ski, snowboard, or sled in Abetone or nearby Val di Luce. The prices are reasonable, and you can rent all your gear from the shops.
You can also hike in the area during the summer and early fall. Stock up on blueberries and the area’s raviggiolo sheep’s cheese and have a little picnic on the trail.
The Apuan Alps closer to the coast also have plenty of hiking trails for either day hikes or multi-day adventures. Contact Versilia Trekking for help deciding on a hike or to have a guide come with you (recommended).
Walk the Via Francigena
Sure, it’s not as well-known as the Camino de Santiago, but the Via Francigena is one of the most important pilgrimage routes in the world. It’s over 1900 kilometers long and connects Canterbury, England to Rome.
It passes through Tuscany, from Passo della Cisa to Aquadependente.
The most well-known Tuscan section is from San Gimignano to Monteriggioni (30 km, ~7 hours).
The Via Francigena official site has an excellent map, itinerary, guides, and info on accommodation.
Drive a Fiat 500 or Vespa in the Countryside
Ok, so it’s not active like a bike ride or a hike, but I guarantee you’ll be using some muscles as you steer and navigate your way on the winding roads of the Tuscan countryside.
If you’re comfortable driving a car or scooter, join a tour and go for it! If you wouldn’t drive a Vespa at home, please don’t try it here. The roads and other vehicles are real!
Things to Do in Tuscany – History & Monuments
Be King or Queen for a Day at a Castle
You could spend every day of your trip visiting a new castle.
Our favorite castle visit in Tuscany is Castello di Brolio, or Brolio Castle. You can see the interesting castle grounds, soak up the spectacular views, and then stop in the winery next door for a tasting.
In Greve in Chianti, you can visit Castello di Verrazzano’s Renaissance gardens and wine cellar, followed by lunch or dinner.
Although it’s closed indefinitely to regular visits, if you ever have a chance to visit Castello di Sammezzano, don’t pass it up! Check out these photos of the castle for an idea of what a unique and special place it is.
Want to sleep in a castle? I send friends and family to Castello di Tornano.
Visit an Abbey
Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore is located in a dramatic setting in Southern Tuscany. Don’t miss the 35 incredible frescoes in the cloister – they’re worth driving out of your way to see! If you time it right, you can hear the monks chanting. And, when you’re finished, pick up a jar of honey in the monks’ small shop.
Not far away, just south of Montalcino, you’ll find Abbazia Sant’Antimo. It’s a dramatic sight as you drive down to it. See the inside of the Abbey, along with the pharmacy and the garden. If you’re up to it, you can walk down from Montalcino, and then walk (or bus) back up.
See Pisa’s Leaning Tower
Although it’s not the only leaning tower in Italy, it’s definitely the most famous.
Train or drive to Pisa and then stroll to the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) for the classic photo of you holding up the tower (or some other creative gesture) and then climb the tower and explore the other monuments on the square.
Find the True Sword in the Stone
In the Chapel of San Galgano you’ll find the sword in the stone. Unfortunately, you can’t try to pull it out, as it’s covered in a transparent case after sneaky thieves tried to steal it.
You may think the sword placement was inspired by the legend of King Arthur, but it’s actually the other way around.
The story is based on Galgano, a rich, violent nobleman, trained in the art of war. Galgano saw the angel Michael, who told him to change his ways, so Galgano decided to become a hermit. He was led to the top of Montesiepi, where he ‘renounced his worldly desires’ and thrust his sword into the stone.’ This is where the sword in the stone is today.
The legend probably passed to England with pilgrims on the Via Francigena, traveling between Canterbury and Rome.
You can visit the sword in the stone all year at the Abbey of San Galgano.
Things to Do in Tuscany – Museums
Visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum
The Museo Leonardiano is located in Vinci, just a few kilometers from Leonardo’s birthplace, the small hamlet of Anchiano (you can actually walk a beautiful trail between the two places).
While there are multiple Leonardo da Vinci Museums, this one feels the most authentic – probably because this is where he was born.
The museum is spread out in multiple buildings and showcases his birth home, a museum with his science and engineering models and exhibits, and a museum that displays reproductions of his art.
Technology is used throughout the museum – with apps, holograms, and as part of the displays.
Can’t make it out to Vinci? Check out the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence (and read about our thoughts on the museum).
Get Queasy at a Medieval Torture Museum
There are a few of these small museums scattered throughout Tuscany. They exhibit original and models of medieval torture devices and explain how they were used.
You’ll find the museums in San Gimignano, Volterra, Lucca, Montepulciano, and Siena.
An interesting look into a horrible part of history.
Visit the Piaggio Museum
If you’re a Vespa fan, make the drive (or rent a Vespa?) to the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera.
See the earliest Vespas and follow the evolution up to the present day. There are 140 Vespas on display!
Along with Vespa models, you’ll find Piaggio’s other products, like the Ape and Moto Guzzi.
We love their little shop – the colorful mini models make great souvenirs and gifts!
Good To Know: No more dropping in – you need to reserve your visit. Can’t make it to Pontedera? The museum has set up a fantastic virtual tour.
Tuscany Travel Tips
Rent a car
Sure, you can visit larger towns and cities by train and most places by some form of public transport, but public transport can take forever and you’ll appreciate the flexibility a rental car gives you in Tuscany.
Want to stop for a picnic in a vineyard? With a rental car, you can! Want to drive out to see the sunrise from a viewpoint in Castellina in Chianti? With a rental car, you can! Want to visit remote sandy beaches? With a rental car, you can!
You can rent a car in a large city like Florence, but don’t rent it until the day you’re leaving the city. Florence is a pain to drive around in and find parking.
Stay in an Agriturismo
Don’t worry, an agriturismo is no longer a working farm holiday. You don’t need to work in the fields to earn your dinner. Instead, relax at the pool or enjoy a farm-to-table dinner after a long day of touring.
There are different levels of agriturismi – some are quite basic, while others offer a more luxurious experience.
I love agriturismo stays because you can literally touch nature – reach out and touch a grapevine or walk barefoot in the grass.
Agriturismo stays are also perfect if you’re traveling with a baby, toddler, or small child. There’s plenty of room to run around and many have play areas, activities like cooking classes, or farm animals.
Add Extra Travel Time
When you look at the map, the towns and cities of Tuscany look so close to each other. And, they are. But, the reality is that it takes a while to get from one place to another. The roads are small and winding, and sometimes they’re gravel!
If someone in your group is prone to carsickness, make sure you take the curves slowly and allow plenty of time for (scenic) breaks along the way.
Keep Fueled Up
This pertains to fuel for your car and fuel (food and drink) for your body!
While most Italian cities have some stores and restaurants that remain open during the day, smaller villages are likely to come to a stop after lunch for a few hours for the riposo, or rest.
Make sure you have the food you need for the day (or evening) and keep your tank full.
Read our post on Italian Gas Stations – Getting Gas in Italy.
I hope this has given you some ideas of what to do in our beautiful and interesting region. Enjoy your time in Tuscany!
- Photograph the Val d’Orcia
- Celebrate Carnevale in Viareggio
- See Tuscany’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Find Filming Locations
- See a Concert
- Perfect the Art of Aperitivo
- Find Your Favorite Renaissance Art
- Choose Your Favorite Work at the Chianti Sculpture Park
- Soak Up Tuscan Village Life
- Cheer on an Italian Sports Team
- Watch a Race at the Mugello Circuit
- Feel the Emotion at the Palio in Siena
- Explore a Tarot Garden Inspired by Gaudi’s Parco Guell
- Go Wine Tasting
- Fill Your Belly at a Sagra
- Take a Cooking Class
- Find a Favorite Cheese
- Harvest Olives
- Become a Gelato Expert
- Try Tuscan Specialties
- Shop at the Outlets
- Look for Treasures at Arezzo’s Antiques Fair
- Shop at an Outdoor Market
- Find Your Favorite Tuscan Ceramics
- Go Truffle Hunting
- Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
- Head to the Beach
- Drive Through a Lunar Landscape
- Ride in a 4×4 Through the Marble Quarries in the Apuan Alps
- Soak in the Hot Springs
- Frolic in a Field of Sunflowers
- Take a Boat Trip
- Spend Time in a Nature Reserve
- Hike in the Hills or Vineyards
- Cycle or Walk Lucca’s Walls
- Climb a Tower
- Ski, Snowboard, or Hike in the Apuan Alps
- Walk the Via Francigena
- Drive a Fiat 500 or Vespa in the Countryside
- Be King or Queen for a Day at a Castle
- Visit an Abbey
- See Pisa’s Leaning Tower
- Find the True Sword in the Stone
- Visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum
- Get Queasy at a Medieval Torture Museum
- Visit the Piaggio Museum