San Gimignano can be best described as quintessential Tuscany, what with its quaint hill towns, medieval ‘skyscraper’ towers and harmonious vineyards. This Tuscan time capsule is a well-preserved medieval town, with its bold towers telling its own story of the area’s prestige and prosperity. While you’re here, join the other tourists around the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Cisterna for great views, and access to some of the remaining towers. There are four intriguing museums well worth visiting: the Museo d’Arte Sacra, Museo Civico, Museo della Tortura and the Museo San Gimignano 1300. If you’re looking for things to do in Tuscany that don’t involve museums, then pop along to the free Vernaccia di San Gimignano Wine Experience, which is the place to come to for sampling local wines; there’s also a multimedia wine tour.
One of the best things to do in Tuscany – and arguably the most iconic – is to pay a visit to the UNESCO-listed Leaning Tower of Pisa. This 12th-century landmark is something of a phenomenon, although it’s been restored in recent years to prevent threats of collapse. It’s very safe to visit now; ascend the 300-odd steps up the narrow spiral staircase and pause at the observation galleries over several floors, before reaching the top floor, which provides amazing panoramic views over the square, red-roofed Pisa and verdant rolling hills beyond. Visitor numbers are strictly controlled, so plan your visit in advance; you can book online or on the day from the Campo dei Miracoli ticket offices.
Surrounded by vineyards and wine estates, you won’t need to spend much time wondering what to do in Tuscany, when there’s ample wine to be tasted! The Chiantigiana, otherwise known as ‘Chiantishire” sits in the hills between Florence and Siena, and its chequered landscape is home to cypresses, vineyards and Medicean villa gardens. There’s a delicious-sounding Chianti Classico wine trail that every wine-lover should take; the Chianti, after all, covers such a large region that it has seven different wine ‘zones’. Grand, castle-like estates are home to rolling vineyards and gastronomic restaurants; make sure you book onto a tasting (degustazione) combined with a tour of the vineyards and cellars.
It can feel as if Siena is enfolded in its own private, romantic world, what with its hidden gardens and conservatism. It’s often considered as the feminine foil to Florentine masculinity: while Florence features masculine statues and innovative art, Siena opts for soaringly vertical buildings and sensitive paintings. Amongst the dazzling basilicas, fascinating archaeology museums and art galleries, there’s a rather tempting Sienese sweet scene for those with a sugar craving. Sienese pastries are renowned for their exotic spices and intense flavours; they even have their own San Lorenzo to watch over them. Opt for a panforte, a 12th-century rich cake including honey, orange peel and nutmeg; a panpepato is a spicier version; while a ricciarelli is a small almond biscuit for a lighter taste.
Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is home to the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance art; a visit here will see you take in the likes of masterpieces by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and other masters. Wind your way through the ground floor, and western and eastern corridors; while there might be restoration going on, there are plenty of rooms to fill you time.
This beautiful island is ideal for sun-worshippers. With rocky roads, sandy bays and crystal-clear waters, the beautiful island of Elba is perfect for history-, wildlife- and sun-lovers. Make the short sea crossing to this small island and you won’t be disappointed. Amongst the sights to see are Marciana Alta, a well-preserved medieval town with an Antiquarium housing sacred Etruscan objects; the elegant resort of Marciana Marina; the protected wild beauty of northwestern Elba; and the golden resort region in the south.