Here are some ideas for a perfect day tour in Tuscany. Original suggestions for all tastes!
Tuscany, a small jewel of central Italy, is a land rich in olive groves, vineyards and cities of art that are famous throughout the world for their charm that remains unchanged over the centuries. From the rolling hills adorned with rows of centuries-old cypress trees, to the mountains that reflect in the waters of the lakes, to the beautiful green fields that form the backdrop to an ancient castle or an enchanting medieval village. Everything is a perfect balance of beauty and charm, to be discovered, trip after trip, attraction after attraction.
There are many activities to be enjoyed, that are suitable for all age groups and all tastes: from religious tourism to bathing tourism, from sports and nature tourism to cultural and food and wine tourism.
There are activities for those who want to relax at the thermal baths, those who prefer adventures in nature such as trekking, hiking and walking, those who enjoy family fun with their children at the animal farms. Tuscany is one of the regions with the highest number of UNESCO sites in the world. In fact, there are seven World Heritage sites: timeless places that witnessed a rich past and are a source of inspiration for future generations. The historic centres of Florence, Siena, Pienza, San Gimignano, the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, the Val d’Orcia area and the Medici Villas are places where, in an increasingly globalised world, history and art become masters of life for all.
Stop and observe: discover Tuscany
If you are looking for the perfect Sunday trip, follow me because I will give you all the most useful tips for spending a day in harmony with nature and in contact with art. Destinations can be reached either by bus or train, but obviously the car is the most convenient means of transport to get around the marvellous Tuscan landscapes.
These experiences are unique and they represent different opportunities to escape from everyday life and spend a relaxing weekend away. Tuscany, the cradle of fine arts and the Italian language, the land of the supreme poet Dante Alighieri, is a region you can visit in every season, with its mild winters and sunny summers; it will become the ideal setting for your itineraries.
The best Tuscany day tours: let’s discover them all!
1. Vinci and the Leonardo Museum
Among the Tuscan hills of Montalbano, a hilly massif pervaded by olive groves and vineyards, lies the small birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci. Here stands the municipal Leonardo Museum in Vinci, built inside the Conti Guidi Castle and the Palazzina Uzielli, which houses a precious and complete collection with models of inventions of this great master. You can thus discover one of the most famous and important museums in Tuscany that not only contains the famous machines invented by Leonardo, but also contains an in-depth study of his scientific-technical researches, civil engineering and architecture. Don’t forget to also take a look at the Biblioteca Leonardiana, an international centre for Leonardo studies.
If you are looking for a city rich in history, Lucca is the ideal place for your day tour in Tuscany. In the historic centre, you can wander its picturesque streets. You will see the Palazzo Ducale, the Church of San Martino, until you reach the unique Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. You cannot miss the wonderful views of the landscape, walking along the ancient ramparts of the walls. The city of Lucca offers countless events that you cannot miss, such as the Lucca Comics & Games in the autumn season and the Summer Festival during the summer. To get to Lucca, besides the car, you can always count on the railways that connect the city with other points of interest. Half an hour from the city centre we find the Pinocchio Park, located in Collodi, an attraction that will entertain all children and make the adults dream.
3. Versilia and the Versiliana Park: the region that enchanted Gabriele d’Annunzio
“Perfume of Versilia. Made of pines, of channelled waters, of junipers, of cuoras, of seaweeds, what depths you gave to my breath!”. This is how poet Gabriele d’Annunzio described this mystical and luxuriant land. If you are looking for peace and tranquillity for your outing in Tuscany, make the wise choice of letting yourself be pampered by the sounds of nature, the bright colours of the landscape and the intense perfumes of the local flora of Versilia. You will feel as if you are living inside a fairy tale, a poetic setting that will make you feel regenerated.
The Versiliana Park offers hikes, a visit to the Villa La Versiliana, jogging trails, a cycle path along the seashore and, for the little ones, the observation of animal species that live in the area. This park also offers interesting activities in July and August such as events and shows. New additions in recent years include the Café-Chantant and the open-air cinema for families.
Situated on the slopes of the Apuan Alps, Colonnata is one of the most popular and chosen destinations for day tours in Tuscany. It is located east of Carrara and is famous for its marble quarries, the town’s symbol, used throughout history to extract the famous pearly white rock of Canova and Michelangelo’s masterpieces. Walking through the town, you will realise that it is a little gem, thanks to the marble details hidden in the door jambs and windows.
As you walk down the streets of the centre, you must enter an ancient larderia and taste the delicious lardo di colonnata PGI, known throughout the world as the white gold of the Apuan Alps. The scent will intoxicate your senses. Savour it on crunchy crostini or as the star of a platter of cold meats and cheeses, accompanied by honey and fig jam!
5. Pistoia and Montecatini Terme
For a day trip to Tuscany, I definitely recommend Pistoia, proclaimed Capital of Culture in 2017. Located at the base of the Pistoia Apennines, beloved by writers and poets, renamed the “enchanted stone” city, it offers many points of interest appreciated by everyone, young people and old. In the town center you will find the Piazza del Duomo, nearby the octagonal Baptistery of San Giovanni in corte, the Palazzo dei Vescovi, the Cathedral of San Zeno and Piazza della Sala. In the afternoon, however, a visit to the Zoological Garden will allow you to explore a place inhabited by around 400 animals and have fun with your family.
Don’t forget to visit Montecatini Terme, a UNESCO-protected town just 20 minutes from Pistoia. The town is home to an important spa for wellness and personal care. The hot mineral waters have therapeutic properties, purify the body and invigorate it. In the afternoon, to you can visit the village of Montecatini Alto to breathe in some fresh air. It is a hamlet of Montecatini Terme at an altitude of 300 metres. A few minutes ride on a funicular railway will take you back in time and offer you the chance to observe the entire Montecatini valley from above.
6. San Miniato
Travelling between one hill and another, between Pisa and Florence, here we are now in San Miniato, a town of taste, slow food and territory of the white truffle, “the diamond of the earth”. Here you will find not only a delightful little town but also an agricultural centre of excellence. It is worth spending a day out of town to delight your palate and taste some unique food and wine delicacies such as: the wrinkled tomato, the artichoke, the mallegato, the mignola olive.
The town is also one of the Tuscan municipalities specialised in leather processing; here it is possible to see live the stages of processing this material, right up to the purchase of top-quality handcrafted products. San Miniato offers year-round events, fairs, concerts, festivals and the National White Truffle Market Exhibition. In every street, in every square, unforgettable experiences are possible.
Travelling through the Tuscan hills for an out-of-town trip, the Chianti area is ideal for finding oneself in a timeless adventure. In the heart of Tuscany, covering an area of about 20 kilometres, we find a lush, bubbling nature that changes its appearance and colours in all seasons of the year. Visiting this area in spring or autumn is ideal, but here any time is the right time.
Many villages and towns come alive with festivals and fairs, the right occasion to discover local traditions, culture, good food and excellent wine. These Sangiovese vineyards produce the Chianti Classico DOCG wine, one of the noblest wines in the world. All locations in Chianti can be reached by bicycle, motorbike, car or public transport from the most important Tuscan cities. There are many activities and itineraries to follow in this area: from historical to naturalistic, from cycling to hiking and trekking. So… get on the road, there’s no time to lose!
8. Abbey of San Galgano
Some thirty kilometres from Siena is the Abbey of San Galgano. A construction dating back to the 12th century. Opened daily to the public , without the need for a reservation, but with a small entrance fee, you enter a mystical and evocative place, which often becomes an ideal location also for weddings and memorable events. Majestic in its kind, with no roof, it is perfectly set in a bucolic and fairytale-like surrounding landscape. And I assure you, the view is fantastic and not to be missed!
Close to San Gimignano is Volterra, perfect to be visited throughout the year. This town too has its charm and is certainly interesting, for people who love, history and art, It is an “an open-air museum”. It still retains visible traces of its Etruscan past, such as the acropolis, the walls and gates to the city, and unique artefacts, most of which are kept in the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum. An amphitheatre and the remains of baths from the Roman period can also be visited. In addition, the oldest town hall in the whole of Tuscany, Palazzo Priori, is visible and well preserved.
If you want to observe splendid examples of late Renaissance architecture, the Pinacoteca, or Art Gallery, is certainly the ideal place for a trip to Tuscany. Strolling through the streets of Volterra, your attention will be caught by the shop windows. You will see various objects made of alabaster, a precious material obtained from the quarries in the surrounding areas, they enchant passers-by with their unmistakable colour and veining. From March to November, the town will be full of numerous festivals of local products, while the townspeople will go back in time to around 600 years ago to re-enact a medieval festival in August. What a unique experience!
During an out of town excursion in the Tuscan countryside, the village of Monteriggioni is something you must see. A unique place. Situated on a hill, it is surrounded by a circle of walls that frame the small historic centre, known as Castello. When you visit this place you’ll be pervaded by its evocative medieval atmosphere. In fact, numerous films set at the time have been shot in this area, so much so that, in July, the Medieval festival is organised to remember those ancient centuries with songs, dances and shows.
11. Val d’Orcia
This valley, located at 25 km south-west of Siena, is a true landscape jewel, a protected park recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Crossed by the Orcia river, from which it takes its name, it will enchant you with its incomparable palette of colours. A land where medieval villages, castles and abbeys intertwine and blend with vineyards, olive groves and cultivated fields. A very unique landscape.
The village of San Quirico d’Orcia was built on top of a small hill. An important stop for wayfarers travelling along the Via Francigena in the Middle Ages, today it could be the starting point from which to begin discovering the Val d’Orcia. The stone houses and narrow streets make it look enchanting.
Here then is Pienza, a little gem nestled in the hills of this territory. Its palaces are splendid , just like its streets and its marvellous Piazza Pio II. Allow yourself to explore its narrow streets, you can stop to taste whatever you like in a shop: you can try the famous PDO pecorino cheese, emblem of the Tuscan dairy tradition.
Lost in the fields of the Val d’Orcia, enclosed between two rows of cypresses, stands the small but famous Vitaleta Chapel dedicated to the Madonna. Every first Sunday in September, a festival is organised in her honour. Definitely an unmissable occasion for a Sunday tour to Tuscany!
Another picturesque village is certainly Bagno Vignoni, inhabited by only thirty people. Arriving in this place, one is confronted by a large thermal pool that was even used by the Romans, in which, however, bathing is forbidden. Inside, hot thermal water gushes out from an underground aquifer. Everything develops around its main square, called Piazza delle Sorgenti. It is the ideal place to spend a peaceful and relaxing day out, and where you can linger until the evening to see the lights of the houses and historic buildings reflected in the water, including the loggia of Santa Caterina da Siena.
And here we are in the town of Brunello wine, Montalcino, one of the best Italian wines and among the most renowned in the world. Located south of Siena, it is surrounded by mighty walls and overlooked by an ancient castle. The village is almost intact and well preserved. The historical centre is dominated by a massive fortress from whose ramparts you can enjoy a spectacular view. Its streets are really delightful; you can wander freely among arts and crafts shops, cafés, restaurants and wine bars.
And if you want to taste a good glass of wine, you are in the right place. Perfect for day tours in Tuscany, this village becomes in summer an ideal place to attend festivals, events or concerts such as the famous Jazz & Wine Festival.
12. San Gimignano
In the hills of Tuscany, south-west of Florence, the profile of the medieval town of San Gimignano, with its fifteen tower-houses and Romanesque-Gothic buildings, stands out high above the Val D’Elsa. The walls, date back to the 13th century, they surround the triangular Piazza della Cisterna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. Strolling through the small but characteristic streets, you will feel transported back in time. The village is surrounded by a living land that offers unique and refined products such as the saffron of San Gimignano PDO and the white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG.
In the province of Arezzo we find Cortona, a historical town in the Val di Chiana. Situated on a hill at an altitude of 600 metres and protected by walls, it dominates the valley. The panorama from this hilltop is unique; with an amazing view on the rolling hills and, on bright days, you will be able to spot the Lake Trasimeno and Mount Amiata. The town hall with its characteristic clock tower and Piazza della Repubblica are today the symbols of Cortona.
For those who wish to dedicate time to praying, the Hermitage of “Le Celle” is an enchanting place. It constitutes one of the first Franciscan settlements built by Francis of Assisi. The Fortress of Girifalco and the Basilica of Santa Margherita are certainly places to visit and not to be missed.
In the surrounding area, excellent wines are produced under the Cortona DOC denomination and the Chianina, one of the breeds of cattle with the finest meat, is reared.
Following the various itineraries for a trip out of town in Tuscany, you reach the Argentario: a magnificent promontory located on the coast in the province of Grosseto. Here, especially in summer, it is possible to go trekking or mountain-biking along numerous paths and, for golf enthusiasts, attend the Argentario Golf Club: a beautiful 77-hectare park. The mountain is surrounded by the sea and connected to the mainland by the town of Orbetello. The latter is immersed in a WWF oasis lagoon.
Two important tourist resorts are also part of the Argentario: Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, both overlooking the sea with a marina and many places where you can enjoy fresh fish accompanied by good local wine.
Along the Via Aurelia, a few kilometres from Orbetello, you can visit Capalbio, an ancient village dominating the surrounding Maremma countryside.
Among the things to see during an excursion to Capalbio, you cannot miss the Tarot Garden, an artistic park that enchants thousands of people and children every year. Created by the artist Niki De Saint Phalle, it is only 7 kilometres from Capalbio. The garden is enlivened by majestic sculptures inspired by the major arcana of the Tarot. Fantasy and emotions reign supreme here. Everything acquires another dimension, it is a magical and timeless place, suitable for making us forget for a few hours the reality in which we live.
15. Thermal Baths of Saturnia
The Terme di Saturnia is one of the main attractions in Tuscany. If you want to recharge your batteries, here you will find the ideal place to spend a day of relaxation and wellness. You can dive into the healing, warm waters, already used by the Etruscans and Romans, and enjoy the beauty of the Tuscan hinterland.
Our itinerary on Tuscany day tours has come to an end. Now it’s up to you, join Italia Delight to experience this land at its best! Book your next Tuscany experience now 😍
Cover photo: chris-barbalis-unsplash
Featured photo: jandira-sonnendeck-unsplash