Tuscany conjures up romantic images of idyllic hill towns bristling with medieval towers, flowing green landscapes of low hills, and fields of sunflowers. It is without a doubt the region of Italy that is best known to foreign tourists. These places might be your next great destination for an Italian wedding. It’s difficult to live up to that reputation, but Tuscany does it with ease. Florence, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Siena, and charming Lucca are just a few of the cities and landmarks that dot this landscape. Consider that this region served as the birthplace of the Renaissance, one of the greatest artistic and philosophical revolutions in European history, along with the island of Elba and a collection of hill towns, each with its unique character and history. With that, there is a good and rich history of Tuscany, Italy.
It makes sense that everyone wants to travel to Tuscany. Numerous books have been written listing the numerous tourist attractions, villages to visit, and activities in the Tuscan countryside; however, this list only includes the best of the best. With this list of the top Tuscany attractions, you can be sure to find the best locations to visit.
1. Piazza del Duomo and Renaissance Florence
Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is the only place on Earth where you can delve deeper into its heart and soul. The aristocracy’s patronage, which encouraged and nurtured artistic genius and gave it the freedom to create, as well as the humanist thinkers, painters, sculptors, craftsmen, and architects of this city, propelled Italy and later Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Age of Enlightenment. The best representations of this exciting revival can be found everywhere you turn, but the Piazza del Duomo area has the highest concentration overall. The great dome by Brunelleschi dominates the skyline. The marble-faced tower by Giotto rises next to it. The unparalleled bronze Gates of Paradise doors, one of Ghiberti’s masterpieces, are located in the baptistery below.
2. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
There is no finer collection of Italian Renaissance artwork anywhere in the world than in the Uffizi, a former Medici palace located between Piazza Della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio. The collection’s size and scope are almost overwhelming, and it provides a thorough overview of how Renaissance Florence led to a revolution in western art. All of Florence’s famous painters from the 14th to the 16th centuries are represented here, along with earlier pieces that show how styles and themes changed over time. Birth of Venus by Botticelli is the most well-known piece displayed here, but you’ll also find other well-known pieces.
3. Pisa’s Leaning Tower and Campo Dei Miracoli
The Leaning Tower, a symbol of Italy, stands crookedly next to the cathedral and baptistery in the open area known as the Campo Dei Miracoli, or “field of miracles.” Even if the buildings had stood perfectly straight, the delicate marble arcades of Pisa’s bell tower from the 12th century would have made it one of Italy’s most iconic structures.
However, it doesn’t, and few visitors can withstand the slightly unnerving thrill of ascending the 294 steps to its leaning top. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which together with the campanile makes up a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the prime example of Pisan architecture and features a magnificent façade, bronze doors, and a pulpit designed by Giovanni Pisano. One of the great Romanesque sculpture masterpieces is a marble pulpit created by Nicola Pisano in 1260 and located in the adjacent baptistery.
4. Ponte Vecchio, Florence
The familiar Ponte Vecchio arches reflected in the Arno’s waters are the clearest representation of Florence, or even Italy. Few people depart Florence without taking at least one photograph of it. It is still lined with upscale jewelry stores despite being historically the location of the city’s goldsmith shops. But above the heads of the shoppers is a historic upper story, a passageway built by the Medici family to travel between their residence across the river at Pitti Palace and their offices in the Uffizi.
The Vasari Corridor was created by architect Giorgio Vasari, who also created Michelangelo’s tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce. It is worth visiting because of the numerous self-portraits painted on its walls by famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rembrandt.
5. Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Siena
The magnificent cathedral in Siena, one of the best churches in all of Italy, is a masterpiece on the inside and out. Giovanni Pisano’s magnificent façade features a rose window, sculptures, and Venetian mosaics above the doorways. It is faced in patterns of white, green, and red marble. It is among the best examples of Italian Gothic art. The interior is decorated with alternating bands of black and white marble, which are topped by a ceiling with gold stars on a blue background. Bible-themed marble mosaic panels cover the floor.
The exquisitely carved marble pulpit by Nicola Pisano, the Cappella Chigi (Chigi Chapel), which features two of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini’s statues, and the Cappella San Giovanni Battista (Chapel of St. John the Baptist), which is located in the left transept and features a statue by Donatello and frescoes by Pinturicchio, are some of the highlights of this art-filled interior.
6. Lucca’s Walls and Centro Storico
Lucca is a stunning city with a notable place in architectural history dating back to the Lombard era. Some of Tuscany’s most exquisite examples of Romanesque architecture can be found in its early medieval churches, which were updated later in the Middle Ages and partially built from Roman and earlier stones. Fine sculpture, including pieces by Nicola Pisano, was used to decorate the cathedral’s portico in the middle of the 13th century, and San Michele in Foro has retained much of its Romanesque style, with particularly noteworthy pieces by Andrea Della Robbia and Filippo Lippi serving as accents.
7. The Towers of San Gimignano
The nearly untouched medieval town of San Gimignano is the best place to see what medieval Tuscany looked like. As the Via Francigena, the primary pilgrim and trade route to Rome, waned in the late Middle Ages, new construction ceased, and this hilltop town was left to exist on its own. Thirteen of the original 70 towers were still standing when UNESCO started promoting its restoration, giving San Gimignano its distinctive skyline. Even though construction ceased before the Renaissance, artists from this era came to San Gimignano to decorate the churches’ interiors, so you can find works by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Benozzo Gozzoli, and Benedetto da Maiano there.