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94 Best things to see & do in Tuscany

  • Tuscany, Italy

Last updated: 17 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow

Famed for its rich tapestry of earthy hues, undulating hills dotted with cypress trees, fertile vineyards, and silvery olive groves, Tuscany charms the visitor like no other region of Italy, if not the world. Its landscapes are a testament to a rich agricultural heritage, thriving under the Tuscan sun. Life here moves with the seasons, rooted in tradition, where history is etched into every stone of its Renaissance cities and medieval villages filled with tales of art, power, and innovation.

For the visitor, Tuscany offers an immersive journey through time and taste. Here you can roam through Renaissance art in Florence, sip world-class wine in the vine-laced Chianti region, unwind in the thermal baths of Saturnia, or join a hands-on pasta-making class. It’s a place for leisurely afternoons on sun-soaked piazzas, and a slow-paced exploration of the region’s cultural and culinary soul.

See below for a list of the best things to do in Tuscany, recommended by Italy expert and leading travel writer Nicky Swallow.

  • Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Bucket List Experience

Leaning Tower of Pisa

One of Italy’s most popular sights, this astonishingly beautiful belltower dates back to 1173. An architectural marvel at the time, the tower was doomed from the outset, having been built on unstable sand and clay.

It began to lean once the third storey was completed; work was suspended for a hundred years, with the tower only being completed in the late 14th century. It housed seven bells, one for each musical note, and eventually reached a height of just over 58m.

In 1993, at 15 feet off the vertical, the tower seemed so close to collapse that an expensive rescue bid was made involving vast counterweights, steel cables and lots of digging. It worked to a degree; the building is once again safe and open to the public (but with enough lean to keep the hordes coming).

The still-famously titling tower still attracts millions of visitors a year, for the unnerving climb up its 293 steps.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 13+

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Close up of horses going around a bend in the Il Palio di Siena horserace

Bucket List Experience

Palio di Siena

The most famous bareback horserace in the world, Il Palio sees horses and riders galloping three times round Siena’s glorious, medieval Piazza del Campo.

Palio is a centuries-old settling of neighbourhood scores for the Sienese, and it defines the social, cultural and political fabric of the city each year. Each of the 17 contrade (neighbourhoods) enters a horse and jockey (although only 10 compete in each race) with the single objective to win by fair means or – occasionally – foul.

The race itself is over in a flash (an average of 75 seconds), but it’s preceded by several hours of processions and three days of pre-race trials and festivities. Each contrada holds its own festivities (al fresco dinners, the blessing of the horses in the contrada churches) in the three days leading up to the races.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 3 hours

When: 2 July & August 16

Freq: annually

  • Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

Chianti Wine Region

Bucket List Experience

Chianti Wine Region

Some of Italy’s best wines are produced in the DOCG Chianti Classico, 177,500 acres of undulating, vine-striped land stretching between Florence and Siena. Dozens of wine estates share this fertile terroir, many of which offer tastings and vineyard tours and an opportunity to buy wines from source. Some also have very good restaurants and accommodation.

The history of wine-making in the region dates back hundreds of years. Early Chiantis were a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia Bianca grapes; today, a DOC Chianti must be made with at least 80% Sangiovese.

The main Chianti growing area is divided into eight sub-zones. The most famous is Chianti Classico, located between Florence and Siena, which produces some 25 million bottles a year, including some of the region’s greatest wines. Most bottles sport the image of a black rooster on a gold background, a guarantee of quality.

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

World-class art in Florence

Bucket List Experience

World-class art in Florence

With around a million paintings, frescoes and sculptures, Florence harbours the world’s densest concentration of Renaissance art (and not only), remarkable for both the sheer volume of work contained within its walls, but also for the quality; expect to see masterpieces by the likes of Giotto, Masaccio, the Lippis, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Exactly why this ‘rebirth’ occurred in Florence is a matter for debate, but wealthy patrons such as the ruling Medicis, along with the presence of outstanding artistic talents and the 15th-century thirst for knowledge, certainly helped.

Adult price: £-

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Exterior of the entrance to the museum

Bucket List Experience

Accademia Gallery, Florence

Florence’s other big-name art museum (with the Uffizi) has a world-class collection of 14th- and 15th-century art, but those endless queues of people are really here to see one thing: Michelangelo’s 1504 4m-high statue of David.

Moved here in 1873 from Piazza della Signoria, the iconic sculpture appears quite different in the flesh: the head and hands are larger than expected (a trick of perspective; originally the statue was placed higher up).

Walk around the back to see David’s sling, a tree stump – and those famous buttocks.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Uffizi Gallery

Bucket List Experience

Uffizi Gallery

Containing some 5,400 works, the Uffizi’s collection spans art history from ancient Greece through to 18th-century Venetian painting. But most of all, it is known as the world’s largest and most important collection of Renaissance and Mannerist art.

You could spend all day wandering the galleries, but the best bet is to pick out the works you want to see beforehand and head straight for those. The website has helpfully selected 14 must-see masterpieces and provided some useful background information on each – worth reading before you go.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Florence is known as the cradle of the Renaissance and is home to a wealth of buildings belonging to that era. Lavish Romanesque and Gothic styles were fashionable in the 11th – 13th centuries, before an early Renaissance style emerged in the early 15th century.

The centre of Florence is filled with palaces, churches and monuments defining this movement which was characterised by a classical sensibility with pilasters, columns, arches and pediments and strictly mathematical proportions.

The three architects who dominated the period were Brunelleschi, Michelozzo and Alberti while Michelangelo became one of the most important architects of the High Renaissance.

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Completed in 1436, this multi-colored marble megalith is crowned with one of the marvels of the Renaissance world; Brunelleschi’s vast double-shelled dome – built without scaffolding – was a breathtaking feat of engineering.

If time is short, skip the cathedral’s barn-like interior and visit the dome (463 steps) and Giotto’s magnificent bell tower (414 steps).

Adult price: £16

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Pitti Palace

Bucket List Experience

Pitti Palace

Florence’s most imposing building was once home to the Medici court and later to the Savoy kings. Now this vast former palace houses multiple museums, the largest – and most important – of which is the Palatina Gallery.

The Palatina is laid out in a series of grand rooms on the first floor with fabulous frescoed ceilings under which hang masterworks by the likes of Raphael, Rubens, Botticelli and Van Dyck in elaborate gilded frames.

The other museums include the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Costume and Fashion. A new ground-floor gallery opened in late 2021 housing the oldest collection of Russian icons in Western Europe.

Adult price: £9

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Many of Florence’s religious buildings were constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, but few have remained untainted by later additions. During Renaissance times, wealthy families such as the ruling Medicis commissioned the finest artists to fresco family chapels, carve tombs for loved ones, update architectural structures and create bespoke works of art.

Step into any Florentine church today and you’ll find an extraordinary legacy of art treasures by masters such as Giotto, Masaccio, the Lippis and Michelangelo.

Good for age: 18+