I recommend making a list of everything you want to see in order of importance to you. But before you do that, let me mention a few things you might not know about.
Tuscany is the birthplace of the Renaissance and you can expect to see this influence in every village, church and cathedral, castle, wall and bridge. Everywhere you look is something worth noting. So heads up.
Almost everyone going to Tuscany visits Florence and In my view, only second to Rome in remarkable things to see. Even the Italians consider it their most beautiful city. Be prepared to walk because many streets in the central part of Florence where you’ll find the museums are closed to traffic. The Piazza della Signoria is the city square surrounded by the Palazzo Vecchio and a number of historic buildings. The Uffizi Gallerie is one of the oldest and best museums in the world. And of course the Galleria dell’Accademia home to Michelangelo’s David. Don’t miss the Ponte Vecchio, the city’s oldest stone arch bridge with stores along the top. The Pitti Palace is the former home of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany houses of art, porcelain and costume galleries - incredible. But less known are the Boboli and Bardini Gardens from which you can get the most breathtaking panoramic views of Florence and a relaxing hour to sit among the statues and impressive greenery.
Tuscany is known for its excellent wines, with Chianti Classico being its most popular. The Chianti area in Tuscany is one of the most beautiful in the region. It’s an area of green, gentle hills covered with vineyards. But it’s is only one of the great wine regions in Tuscany. Don’t miss Montalcino and Montepulciano. I recommend taking a guided tour to all three in one day from Florence. It’s nice to have a designated driver.
My favorite time of the year to visit any of Tuscany’s many vineyards is harvest time in September. The weather is a bit cooler and tasting a local wine on a sunlit terrace in the fall is about as good as it gets.
About an hour and a half from Florence or 25 minutes from Pisa is the town of Lucca. It’s famous for its well preserved Renaissance walls surrounding the historic center. Walk or ride a bike around this picture postcard town. This is also the birthplace of Puccini and a bronze statue of him sits in the center of town. There is usually a line of people waiting to take a picture of it, even as late as 10 pm! Who knew?
If you find yourself traveling between Rome and Florence I recommend a detour to Pisa. The bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral is beautiful on its own but the fact that it has a noticeable tilt makes it irresistible to travelers. And just so you know, you can climb to the top. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunto is sometimes overlooked but it is spectacular both inside and out and is located in the Piazza Dei Miracoli right next to the Leaning Tower and the beautiful Baptistry.
Ask anyone who’s been to Tuscany what their favorite town is, chances are its Sienna. Smaller and less crowded than Florence, surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings, it has a romantic, almost magical feel to it. Have a cup of coffee in the Piazza del Campo, in the heart of the city. It is considered one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. Climb to the top of Torre del Mangia, just a quick 400 steps, for breathtaking views of the city. If you’re in Siena on a Wednesday, visit the largest market in Tuscany at La Lizza. Come early, it’s always crowded.
One last thing, you must try the pici while you’re in Sienna, it’s similar to spaghetti only thicker and is served with pepper and cheese like caci e pepe or with tomato sauce. It’s always freshly made and you won’t forget it.
There’s no end of places to go and things to see in Tuscany. I'll be back with more later…..