Soñando Sunday: Tuscany
As I spent almost two weeks going around the Tuscan countryside this summer, we decided to add it in to our Soñando Sunday category. We know that it is not Spain, but we would definitely recommend checking out this beautiful region of Italy!
How to get there: Plane, train, bus, or car
While there are technically a bunch of airports in this region, the ones you can probably find connections to are the airport in Florence and the one in Pisa. The rest are small airports with private planes or (very) low traffic. However, if you are traveling from other places in Italy, I would highly recommend taking the train to Tuscany! I love travelling by train and in Italy this infrastructure works well, even it it can be, on occasion, a bit expensive. As always, you can also find bus options and, especially if you want to reach more remote places, having a car can come in handy! I would recommend taking a train to Florence or another bigger city and then renting a car to get the full Tuscan experience.
Three Cities to See:
1. Florence: As the capital and largest city of the region, Florence should top your list of cities to see not only in Tuscany, but in all of Italy. The architecture and culture (it is considered as the birthplace of the Renaissance) in this city are absolutely amazing and you can easily spend days wandering around the city, eating gelato and pizza, and taking it all in. If you can swing it, I would recommend buying the ticket to climb to the top of the Duomo as you can see the whole city from the rooftop!
2. Siena: Although slightly smaller city than the regions’ capital, you know it is worth a visit as the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also known for its good food, museums, and the Palio, a horse race that is held twice a year in the city center (Piazza del Campo). On a side note, despite being from a smaller city in the middle of the countryside, the Bank of Siena—Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena—is one of the most important in all of Italy.
3. Lucca: A relatively small city close to Pisa*, Lucca has several things that sets it apart from other cities in the region. Firstly, it has a piazza that is circular—that is the buildings around the edge of the Piazza Anfiteatro have been built in a way that makes the center a circle. If you’ve never seen something like this before, it is probably hard to imagine, but it is worth visiting to check it out! Secondly, Lucca has an incredible music culture with many great artists playing in this city all year long (see the top 5 festivals here). I have quite a few friends who head to Lucca from Milan or Florence to see concerts!
Two things to do in nature
1. The mountains: I am not impartial here because I spent a glorious ten days in the mountainous area of Tuscany (specifically, the region of Monte Amiata in the town of Abbadia San Salvatore) and fell in love with this area! If you find yourself here, I would also recommend checking out the Val d’Orcia, a valley that is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Tuscany and, according to the Tuscans, in all of Italy. This valley is where traditional Italian movies were shot and current day photo shots take place when the goal is to capture typical Italian countryside. Finally, you can’t miss the natural hot springs that are all around the area—take a soak in the naturally warm, sulfur-filled water and feel all your worries melt away.
2. The beaches: Although I spent the majority of my time in the mountains, I also had the opportunity for a few beach days! Think warm, soft sand and Mediterranean temperature water (according to some Portuguese friends, bath water instead of ocean water). You can find beautiful beaches all along the coast but I personally enjoyed the beaches of Cecina and Le Rocchette. Make sure to bring a sun umbrella or be prepared to have an extra-long coffee or beer at a beach bar—my personal choice—to avoid burning in the hot sun.
One thing to eat: Homemade pasta
Your jeans might not thank you but you will be happy eating as much homemade pasta as you can (when in Tuscany…). I had the opportunity not only to gorge myself—people made impressed comments on how much I can eat—but also learn how to make pasta from true Italian mamas. If you have the chance, I would definitely recommend taking a pasta-making course as well! If you’re anything like me, you will be hooked for life!
One thing to drink: Wine
You can find good wine all over Italy, but when in Tuscany I drank a fair amount of ‘normal, house wine’ that I found to be better than a lot of ‘special’ wine you can find in bars across the world. You can find delicious reds and whites and everything in between. An added bonus? It is usually less expensive that local or craft beers.
*I know you are all probably wondering why I decided to list Lucca over Pisa. My thought process was that 1.) you’ve probably heard of Pisa and can stop by for a couple of hours (or days if you prefer) but potentially never hear of Lucca, and 2.) Lucca is regarded as nicer by a lot of my Italian friends just because it is quieter/less touristy than Pisa. So, I definitely recommend seeing Pisa too if you have time—I did—but don’t forget about Lucca!