You are likely already familiar with many of Tuscany’s famous cities like Florence, Pisa, and Siena. But there is so much more to Tuscany than these big cities. In this post, I’m going to share with you the 3 best places to visit in Tuscany that you have probably never heard of. (all three cities are well known)
Lucca is widely regarded as one of the prettiest cities in the whole of Italy. Famed for its ancient walls, twisting and turning streets, and it’s Gothic and Romanesque style cathedral. Also known as Italy’s bike city one of the best ways to spend a day in Lucca is doing a bike tour along the city’s walls. If bikes aren’t your thing, the city walls can also be easily walked. Don’t forget your picnic though as the city’s walls make the perfect perch to do some people watching while you eat.
Lucca is full of ancient history to be explored, top sites include Piazza dell’Anfiteatro (Roman amphitheater) and the archeological remains that sit under the 12th-century church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata. Plus there are plenty of towers, churches and noble villas that date back to between the 12th and 16th centuries.
This charming city is located at the foot of the Apuan Alps just 25 minutes from Pisa, an hour and a half from Florence, and in less than 30 minutes you can be at the coast of Versilia. It also makes a great place to spend your vacation if you are looking for somewhere more low key than Tuscany. You can find some incredible Tuscan villas with a pool here.
Pistoia is Tuscany’s hidden gem. If you are looking for perfect day trips from Florence then Pistoia has to be the number one choice. It’s a short 30-minute drive from Florence so it
makes the perfect location to escape the crowds for a day or two.
In 2017 Pistoia was named the Italian capital of culture and that legacy of culture continues. From it’s incredible architecture to its ultra-modern libraries and out of this world restaurants in Pistoia there is something for everyone.
First things first Pistoia is not your typical Italian tourist town, in fact, it’s often overlooked completely by most tourists. Which is great news if you want to be able to wander around and explore the churches and museums without having to wait in long lines. The most important places to visit are all centered around Piazza Del Duomo. This is the main square and it is where you will find the cathedral, Baptistery, and the Palazzo Comunale.
Although in my opinion, the best reason to visit Pistoia is the food! Be sure to taste some traditional Tuscan dishes. I highly recommend bistecca alla fiorentina, ribollita soup, pappa al pomodoro, and of course crostini con fegatini.
The final place of my off the beaten track places to visit in Tuscany is, of course, San Gimignano – the ‘town of towers’. This walled medieval Tuscan town is a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to its unmistakable skyline of tall medieval towers.
The town’s history dated way back to Etruscan times (3rd century BC). Because of its location, it became a key stopover point for pilgrims on the famous ‘Via Francigena’ route to Rome. Although it was once a days walk, nowadays it’s just a short hour and a halfs drive from Florence. Although I would highly recommend staying over here, you can even rent an Italian castle!
There were once a total of 72 towers all of which were built during the 13th and 14th centuries, as displays of wealth and status among the aristocratic families. Only 14 of the towers still remain today the tallest being Torre Grossa which is open for visitors. You can climb the tower and enjoy panoramic views out across the Tuscan countryside.
If history just isn’t your thing then how about wine? San Gimignano has a History of Vernaccia Wine Museum that is well worth checking out. Or skip the museum and go straight for the tasting. Be sure to taste the Vernaccia di San Gimignano, this is a local delicacy that included adding saffron to its white wine.
I really hope this list of my favorite places to visit in Tuscany has helped you to find some new places to explore on your vacation.
Claire Summers is a Travel Writer, Blogger, and Vlogger originally from the UK. She writes about her travels over at Claire’s Itchy Feet.