The Perfect Tuscan Road Trip
Few destinations are as achingly romantic as Tuscany. All it takes is one journey through the cypress-clad rolling hills, charming family-run vineyards, and historic Renaissance cities to fall in love with this diverse region of Italy. One of the best ways to experience Tuscany’s top gems is by hitting the open road. We’ve got the perfect places to plot your road trip and start discovering the best Tuscany has to offer:
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Start your road trip in the idyllic city of Lucca. Perched upon the Serchio River in Northern Tuscany, Lucca is perhaps best known for its well-preserved Renaissance walls that enclose the historic centre. The towering walls make for an impressive spot to enjoy a leisurely walk or cycle along 4kms of tree-lined promenade.
While in Lucca, don’t miss a visit to the Duomo di San Martino, a stunning marble cathedral and fantastic representation of Pisan Romanesque architecture. The Torre Guinigi and Baroque Palazzo Pfanner also make notable stops. Most come to Lucca as a day trip from Florence, but we recommend extending your stay at least a night for an authentic glimpse into the city after most of the tourists have departed.
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The centuries old Montecatini Terme has long been revered for its grand thermal spas and healing spring waters. Just a stone’s throw from Lucca, continue your road trip to Montecatini Terme to indulge in a luxurious spa treatment while admiring the Art Nouveau architecture.
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To experience a truly authentic Italian town, the next stop on the itinerary is Pistoia. While there aren’t many tourist attractions here, that’s exactly what makes Pistoia such a gem. Do as the locals and around 7:00pm head to the Piazza del Duomo or Piazza delle Sala for an aperitivo (a drink typically accompanied by a small bite to eat).
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No visit to Tuscany is complete without visiting the region’s capital and crown jewel: Florence. Considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, allow plenty of time to soak in the world-class art and museums. Visit the Galleria degli Uffizi to wander among the world’s largest collection of Renaissance art. Climb to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy expansive views of Florence’s terra-cotta roofs and pastel-yellow buildings. Savour gelato while ambling past the breathtaking Duomo and quaint Centro Storico. You’ll need at least a few days to fully appreciate all that Florence has to offer.
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Castellina In Chianti
This small town is nestled in the hills of Chianti, making it an ideal base to explore countless small wineries and sweeping vineyards. As you drive along the wine roads, keep your eyes peeled for the signature black rooster on a gold and red seal; this certifies that the winery is a Chianti Classico, and that blends contain at least 80% local Sangiovese grapes.
Nearby Tenuta Casanova is always a crowd favourite, featuring wine tastings, cooking classes and Tuscan cuisine. Apart from drinking wine, Castellina in Chianti is a lovely spot for ambling down cobbled streets, hopping in boutiques and exploring the Tunnel of Light (Via delle Volte.)
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Known as ‘The Manhattan of Italy’, San Gimignano is a small town famous for its 14 lofty towers that resemble those of downtown New York City. The cobbled streets, gorgeous rural setting and UNESCO World Heritage Status entice plenty of day trippers from nearby Florence and Siena.
But perhaps the best reason to stop in San Gimignano is to taste some of the best gelato you’ll find in all of Italy: Gelateria Dondoli. This small gelateria has been crowned Gelato World Champion multiple times (and rightfully so). The line can be intimidating, but the decadent ice cream here is always worth the wait.
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Colle di Val d’Elsa
The quaint, tiny town of Colle di Val d’ Elsa boasts mouthwatering cuisine and an enchanting local atmosphere. Don’t miss a stop at L’officina della Cucina Popolare. You’ll need to make reservations at this restaurant far in advance as it is extremely popular with locals, but L’officina della Cucina Popolare is undeniably one of the best eats you’ll stumble upon in Tuscany.
Cole di Val d’ Elsa is also known as Tuscany’s centre for hand-made leaded crystal glass should you fancy a souvenir. Entering this Tuscan town can be slightly confusing as there are two levels: the lower, modern level and the historic upper area of town (Colle Alta). Head to the historic section for the best views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside, as well as the most romantic medieval architecture.
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Finally, no stop in Tuscany is complete without a visit to Siena. A Gothic masterpiece, the city is full of quaint courtyards, red-brick lanes and a traffic-free central plaza. The stunning Il Campo makes a perfect place to relax with a cappuccino while enjoying the 100-yard tall Torre del Mangia (Italy’s tallest secular tower).For a truly extraordinary experience, time your visit during Europe’s most famous horse race: the Palio. The Palio is held every July 2nd and August 16th and offers visitors a look into the riveting competition of Siena’s 17 neighbourhoods competing for first place in the race. Packing into the square with some 60,000 other locals and tourists can be a slightly claustrophobic experience, but it is certainly one you’re bound to remember for years to come.
It’s worth noting that there is more to Tuscany than rolling countryside and vineyards. The region also boasts some 250 miles of coastline, promising a perfect beach holiday after ample time spent wine tasting and city hopping. If you have extra time, we recommend adding the Costa degli Etruschi on your road trip. The scenic drive will take you past dramatic cliffs and picture-perfect strips of sand.
To experience the best of Tuscany’s many wonders, it doesn’t get any better than a romantic road trip through the region. Use these highlights to help formulate your itinerary, but don’t forget to leave plenty of free time to see where the allure of Tuscany’s quiet roads will take you!
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