The people of Tuscany are proud of their distinct heritage – spend a few days there and you’ll soon see why. The flag of Tuscany is a prancing winged horse, with strips of vivid red and no colour seems to be more appropriate for this time-honoured region of Italy. From the rich red of the tomato sauce in a traditional dish of Pici all’ Aglione, to the deep red of a classic Chianti, all accompanied by a vivid sunset, Tuscany is a top destination for those who love good food, good wine and good times.
Tuscany is undeniably historic, but the region’s culture is still very much living and breathing. The cities are full of life, with art spilling onto the streets and many rooftop bars overlook the city landscapes and stay open till late into the night. The streets are never quiet and a full calendar of festivities means that you are never far from a celebration. Easter is the centrepiece of events. In Florence, hundreds of people join the Explosion of the Cart where a procession of costumed revellers leads a cart to explode at its destination with a stunning display of fireworks. This vibrancy at the core of Tuscan culture is what draws thousands of visitors to Tuscany all year round.
The capital of Tuscany, Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance. The heavy hitters of Italian art can all be found here. Come and be inspired by some of the greatest works by Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo in the celebrated Uffizi and Accademia galleries. After all, there are lots to admire in Florence. From the red-roofed Duomo and Bell Tower to the tranquil Giardino Delle Rose, there is beauty at every turn. After a long day’s sightseeing, reward yourself with a cone of gelato, a Florence speciality.
Walking down the winding medieval lanes is the best way to explore this honey-coloured city. A laid-back stroll taking in the fascinating architecture may feel relaxing, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Siena is sleepy. At the heart of the city is the Piazza del Campo, home of the Siena Palio. A dramatic bareback horse race, the Siena Palio takes place just twice a year on 2nd July and 16th August. Since at least 1644, thousands of locals crowd into the piazza to enjoy the spectacle and back their favourite to win. The celebrations carry on after the race, with open-air feasts spilling out into the nearby streets.
The home of the world's most infamous lopsided tower is also the home of a million leaning selfies. A visit to Pisa wouldn't be complete without shamelessly taking a few yourself, of course, but there's much more to see and do besides this distinctive landmark. If you are interested in learning more about the Tower, you can climb the 300 steps to the top, for a fee, and you can even book your ticket ahead to avoid lengthy queues. From the top, you can gaze across the Piazza Dei Miracoli which contains the Piazza del Duomo, an intricately detailed cathedral accompanied by an impressive domed Baptistery.
If you love a traditional beach resort then Viareggio is the ideal place for your holidays to Tuscany. The history of the city goes right back to the 16th century, and at that time it was the only way for residents of Lucca to get to the sea. Since then, although there are plenty of other ways to get down to the stunning beaches, this place still always proves to be a favourite. One of the most exciting things to see in Viareggio is the carnival, which takes place in February. There are exquisitely-made papier mache floats, people wear fun masks, and the procession really is a sight to see. Don’t miss Bagno Maurizio, the best beach in the area.
Volterra is one of the most charming of Italian towns to visit and explore. Some of the fortifications and remains here can be traced back all the way to the 4th century BC, and can still be seen today. In fact, it’s what this town is most famous for. The Etruscan period ruins are a draw for thousands of visitors each year, particularly the 4th and 5th century BC walls that once ran around the borders of the city. Other attractions include the Roman theatre (built in about the 1st century AD), the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum where you can see hundreds of funeral urns. If you want to take a souvenir home, this is where you can find amazing handmade alabaster ornaments as you stroll through the historical centre of the town.
Livorno is known for being ahead of its time, and it one of the more modern towns in Italy. It had to be; much of its ancient architecture was sadly destroyed during World War II. Some of the wonderful old buildings have remained, though, and they include the impressive synagogue that is more than your usual traditional Italian architecture. You should also visit the quarter known as La Venezia, which is full of canals and bridges. There is plenty to do for the little ones too, including a fun aquarium and the Terrazza Mascagni (which also doubles as the ideal place for spending a romantic evening).
Sample local wines
Those without children in tow should take a tour of the vineyards of Chianti. Taste some of Italy’s finest vintages in the middle of the rustic Tuscan countryside. There are plenty of tours that will take you from vineyard to vineyard, where you will soon learn how dedicated the Chianti people are to the cultivation of their grapes. Study all of the tasting notes and food pairings, or just kick back and let the flavours tell their story.
Beaches in Tuscany
Once you have visited the bustling cities, there are plenty of beautiful beaches to unwind on. Just a short trip from Pisa is Marina di Pisa. A small beach surrounded by woodland, rock walls have been built to hold back the strong currents and make this spot safe for even youngsters to splash about in. The Grosseto province has a coastline known for its sandy stretches. Plan a visit to Castiglione Della Pescaia, a hillside city that slopes towards the sea and golden sands.
Tuscan food is bound to feel familiar as the delectable dishes have inspired menus around the world. However, a taste of the real thing will leave all copies by the wayside. Tuscan cooking is all about taking simple ingredients and making them shine, such as in a traditional ribollita. It may have been first invented as an economical and hearty stomach filler, but this vegetable stew thickened with slices of bread and cannellini beans can taste as delicious as any expensive dish. The local bread is unsalted, which makes it a great choice for soaking up any leftover juices.
Those looking for a more adventurous culinary experience should try lampredotto. A popular Florentine street food, lampredotto is made from the fourth and final part of a cow’s stomach. Slow cooked with the classic soffritto of onion, carrot and celery and then stuffed into a panini and accompanied by salsa verde, lampredotto showcases the local love for offal.
There are numerous restaurants to dip into in Tuscany, where you’ll find many wonderful flavours and dishes to try. Why stay indoors when you can eat al fresco? Simply stop off at one of the lively markets packed full of local produce and make yourself an impromptu picnic to take to a sunny spot in a garden or piazza.
With so many places to explore in Tuscany, the hardest part is choosing where to start. Your Tuscany holidays could be spent appreciating the Uffizi alone, so take your time and follow wherever your heart takes you. After all, Tuscany will not disappoint. The best way to start your Tuscan adventure is with easyJet holidays. By booking your hotel and flights together, easyJet holidays can save you time and money, leaving you with more Euros to spend on your gelato.