More Than Florence: Tuscany’s Unexplored Destinations

Beaches to rival Sardinia and mountains that link with the Alps—countryside to seaside, skyline to mountain range, Tuscany is a treasure trove of art, nature, and wonder.

Yes, technically a trip to Florence will still take you to Tuscany, since Florence is the capital of the Tuscan region, but that’s being literal. As beautiful as it is, the city of Florence can’t deliver the famous countryside panoramas you find in postcards or scenes you’ve only seen in movies like Under the Tuscan Sun—the rolling hills, sunflower and wild poppy fields, and the cypress trees that tower over driveways like sentinels. Florence has it’s own glory to boast, but the Tuscan towns and diverse landscapes deserve their own spotlight.

When it comes to Tuscany, you don’t have to choose between Renaissance masterpieces, breathtaking landscapes, or even a coastline that’s wild to her fingertips.  If you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, you can have it all, and then some.

Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Here, the journey’s as much the reward as the destination. It won’t matter if you’re catching Tuscany off-season, when the hills are misty with valley fog, or in high season, when the countryside is in full bloom. And getting around Tuscany is easy, whether you’re renting a minivan for a family vacation, or backpacking Europe for gap year. Most of the bigger towns are well-networked by train and coach, highway and scenic route.

Stop in a cute wine-centric enoteca for a glass of red and a platter of cold-cuts, or a trattoria or osteria with sweeping brick arches and garden terraces for a late lunch or evening cena.

Tuscany is also home to countless farm houses, with doors wide open to tourists. Here, you’ll find that everything on the plate and menu is from their own farm and garden. Many of these places are also more than happy to show you their wine and cheese cellars and stables. And if you want to make the best use of your time, our Best of Tuscany tour offers an exclusive view of three of the region’s most stunning medieval villages and some of the best spots for a delicious lunch.

And while central Tuscany is famous for its bistecca alla fiorentina and finocchiona, the coastal diet is lighter on the pizza and heavier on the fish. Wander deeper into the Maremma area, and you’ll find a wealth of traditional, mouth-watering flavors of classic peasant food , from fish to steak. Be sure to try the local cuisines in each area you go and experience Tuscan food in all its variety.

Marble Mountains and Idyllic Lakes

Travelers might give the Chianti vineyards and the Val D’Orcia countryside the most love, but the Apuan Alps deserve a fair share of appreciation too. It’s home to jade green lakes and lush forests, and a honeycomb-network of over 1300 caves including the deepest abyss in Italy.

And let’s not forget the marble quarries of Carrara, which sit nestled in a garland of mountains. Hairpin turns up the mountain will take you to some spectacular views of rugged peaks capped with “eternal snow.” The pure crystal-like marble was a favorite of Michelangelo, who carved his David and his Pietà out of blocks he bought himself.

You don’t have to go seaside to cure a fix for crystal clear water, colorful little towns, and fantastic fish, either. Italy’s got an abundance of lakes and rivers that rival the best. Although Tuscany’s lakes won’t replace the massive luxury you find in Como or the endless vibrancy of Garda, there is a magic to discovering a strip of clear water flanked by green forests.

Pristine Beaches and Rugged Coastline

Torre Mozza, Grosseto. Photo Credit Jacopo via Flickr.

But if vitamin sea is what you crave, check out the Tuscan coast where you’ll find the Italian lifestyle in all its luxury. A chain of 7 islands, the Tuscan Archipelago is a little-known jewel of crystal blue waters and turquoise beaches. Here you’ll find colorful sun-drenched cliff-side towns, stone castles perched above sandy shores, and national parks. There’s even the diamond-shaped Island of Montecristo, where Alexandre Dumas set his canonic novel. Once inaccessible to tourists, its nature reserve is now open to a handful of visitors at a time.

Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of a bit more than the stereotypical Tuscany, don’t limit your experience to Florence and the Chianti area alone. Although they’re both must-sees, don’t miss out on the rest of what Tuscany has to offer.

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