Holidays in Tuscany: Ultimate road trip itinerary
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It is probably one of the most beautiful regions in Europe: Tuscany in Italy. And she also enchanted us directly. The warm light, the wide, lovely landscape, the medieval towns, the fantastic food - you just have to love this spot of earth. And the best way to explore Tuscany is on a road trip. Because there's one thing you shouldn't do: underestimate their size. So that you can explore Tuscany in a relaxed manner, I recommend two exploration locations: one in the north to explore the region around Siena, one in the south where the enchanting Val d'Orcia, hot springs and dream beaches await you , which are worthwhile excursion destinations, especially when traveling with a dog. But from the beginning.
- Itinerary with map
- San Gimignano
- Val d'Orcia
- The most beautiful hot springs in Tuscany
- The most beautiful beaches in Tuscany
- Detour to Verona
- Frequently asked questions and answers about Tuscany
Tuscany holidays: The itinerary through Tuscany
We visited Tuscany as part of an Interrail trip and started the road trip in Florence. This is also useful if you arrive by plane. Alternatively, you can also fly to Pisa, Verona or Bologna and start the journey there. And first of all: you need a car, without a car Tuscany is not easy to explore.
We took two days for Florence, but it is also possible to explore the heart of the city in one day, as long as you have a rough overview.
Then we traveled to San Gimignano, from where we explored the region for the next few days. So we visited Volterra and Siena and made one or the other detour to the regional wineries.
In order to also see the south of Tuscany, which is well worth seeing, without having to sit in the car for hours, you should change accommodation. The region around Grosseto is perfect because from here you can explore the Val d'Orcia, Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, Pitiglione and the beautiful coast of Tuscany. And you will also find what is probably the most beautiful hot spring in Tuscany here: the Terme di Saturnia (also called Saturnia thermal springs or Cascate del Mulino).
On the way back we also looked at Verona and straight away: we liked this city even better than Florence or Siena.
Tuscany vacation: The route
- Northern Tuscany with San Gimignano, Volterra and Siena
- Southern Tuscany with Val d'Orcia, Montepulciano, Saturnia, Pitiglione and the coast
- Return via Verona
Florence: A must visit an any Tuscany road trip
The city has just 400,000 inhabitants, but there is still a real big city vibe here, which initially surprised me a bit. You should also know that the city is one of the most visited in Europe, which you can clearly feel in the comparatively small center. Nevertheless, you have to see this city with your own eyes. The Renaissance architecture is too impressive.
Main attraction of Florence is Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. And we have to admit, it is simply iconic and one of the most imposing buildings we have ever seen. Best to visit early in the morning when the city is not quite as crowded. Not far away are the Uffizi - a complex of buildings that is now one of the most famous art museums in the world. If you want to go in, you should book the tickets in advance, otherwise you have to expect long waiting times. Good that you can admire the famous statue of David (ok, it's just a replica) outside. But not only they, but also numerous other statues give the city its face. That's why a walk through Florence already feels like a visit to a museum. Also stop by the Ponte Vecchio. It is the oldest and most famous bridge in the city but is best known for being completely built on. On the bridge you will mainly find shops with handicrafts, especially leather products.
And even if it's no longer an insider tip, you should end the day at the Piazzale di Michelangelo. Nowhere else do you have such a beautiful view and the light in the evening is just magical.
San Gimignano - the Manhattan of Tuscany
Because of its impressive towers, San Gimignano is also affectionately called the Manhattan of Tuscany, although it should actually be the other way around. Because did you know that the twin towers of New York, the World Trade Center that tragically collapsed in 2001, are replicas of the towers of San Gimignano? So they were built according to their model in exactly the same shape and position.
Of all the medieval towns in Tuscany, San Gimignano perhaps impressed us the most. Since our accommodation was on the outskirts of the city, we also had the opportunity to explore the place away from the hustle and bustle. The city is really crowded between 10 am and 4 pm, which is mainly due to the bus tours. Be sure to visit in the morning or evening, so that the city can exude its magic and the typical Italian flair. Get a world-class ice cream at Gelateria Dondoli, climb one of the towers and let yourself be carried away by the atmosphere. Incidentally, there are particularly beautiful vantage points above the city.
The alabaster city of Volterra
Not far away is Volterra, like San Gimignano, enthroned on a hill and beautifully embedded in the landscape. Volterra is slightly larger than San Gimignano and with its labyrinthine streets invites you to stroll and stroll. In addition, it was at least a little quieter during our visit than in San Gimignano.
Incidentally, Volterra is famous for the mining and processing of alabaster, which is why you can also find countless alabaster products in the local shops. We treated ourselves to a wine bottle stopper, which we still use with pleasure and full of memories to this day.
UNESCO World Heritage Siena
Siena is also a must-visit on any Tuscany road trip. The old town of Siena is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site for nothing. The heart of the city is the semi-circular, huge Piazza del Campo, which is surmounted by the Torre del Mangia tower and is used twice a year as a racecourse. By the way, the racetrack was already set up when we visited. The tower offers one of the best views of the city. Alternatively, you can climb the Facciatone, the large, never-completed facade of Siena Cathedral (Panorama dal Facciatone) through the Duomo Museum. This is particularly worthwhile if you wanted to visit the impressive cathedral anyway (subject to a fee).
Southern Tuscany: The cypress avenues of the Val d'Orcia, hot springs and the sea.
I already announced that Tuscany south of Siena is also worth exploring. Whether Pitigliano, Pienza, Montepulciano or Montalcino, here you will find some of the most beautiful places in Tuscany. Incidentally, these are a little less crowded than the places in the north. In addition, you will find THE photo motif of Tuscany here: the Val d'Orcia. The avenue of cypresses meanders through the wide landscape in a perfect serpentine. Beautiful. About an hour south is the Terme di Saturnia (officially Cascate del Mulino). And even if it is by no means an insider tip and is well frequented at lunchtime, it is one of the most impressive places in Tuscany and is one of the absolute postcard motifs. The fact that this hot spring, like most others, is free is mainly due to the population, who have so far resisted all plans by authorities and hotels to charge admission.
The three most beautiful hot springs in Tuscany
Terme di Saturnia/Cascate del Mulino: 37 degree warm water tumbles down a rock face past an old mill, collects in a natural pool and then flows out of a grotto into tiered, white sinter pools.
Bagni San Filippo. This spring is in the middle of a dense forest. At first glance, you think you can see a frozen waterfall, which turns out to be a lime deposit. The mighty limestone wall is also known as the whale because of its shape.
Bagni di Petriolo. The Bagni di Petriolo is still considered an insider tip and is mainly visited by locals. We were almost alone there at lunchtime. Similar to the Saturnia spring, the water flows gradually in natural pools. Not far away is a thermal bath, don't get confused, the natural spring is free and embedded in a beautiful landscape.
Tuscany holidays: The most beautiful beaches in Tuscany
In the past I wouldn't have associated Tuscany with a beach holiday, but now I know that exactly that is possible. Because especially along the coast of southern Tuscany dream beaches are waiting for you. By the way: The stretch of coast around Castiglione della Pescaia is particularly dog-friendly. A fishing village steeped in history, which is also a popular seaside resort. Here you will find fantastic beaches and large pine forests that reach as far as Marina di Grosseto. A particularly beautiful, extensive dog beach is located outside of Castiglione della Pescaia, in the direction of Marina di Grosseto. This dog beach is located just after the Etruria campsite and is indicated by a sign that says Bau Beach.
Verona - the most romantic city in Italy
We stopped into Verona on the way back which was a good decision even though the city is technically not part of Tuscany anymore. Verona may not be as impressive as Florence, but the place with its incomparably well-preserved historical buildings was able to convince us quickly. Incidentally, Verona is nicknamed the most romantic city in Italy because it was the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. An inconspicuous 14th-century dwelling house with a tiny balcony overlooking the inner courtyard is known as Juliet's house. What you should know: the balcony was added later. Nevertheless, a visit to the farm is a must. Also worth a visit is the 1st-century Roman amphitheater, which hosts concerts and opera performances. You should also stroll through the narrow streets, drink cappuccino in one of the numerous squares and enjoy the warm atmosphere of the place.
Frequently asked questions and answers about road trips and holidays in Tuscany
Now you know what you can see and do in Tuscany. Below I answer frequently asked questions about traveling to Tuscany.
When is the right time for a vacation in Tuscany?
You can visit Tuscany all year round. It is particularly pleasant in May/June and September/October. Then it is pleasantly warm, but Tuscany is not as well visited as in the summer months. Incidentally, it is particularly crowded in August, since that is when the Italians and French also enjoy their summer holidays here. It is possible to visit in winter, but it will not only be very cool, but also particularly quiet. The otherwise so crowded places then look like film sets. You can warm up in the hot springs, which you will also have to yourself.
Is Tuscany suitable for a holiday with a dog?
Tuscany is a particularly good place when it comes to vacationing with dogs. The places are almost all car-free, which makes a stroll through the city particularly pleasant. Dogs are welcome guests in restaurants. And on the coast, in addition to the wild dog beaches, you will even find catered dog beaches where you can rent a sun lounger not only for yourself but also for your dog.
How much time do I need for a vacation in Tuscany?
You can see a lot in one week, but it gets really relaxed if you have two weeks. Especially if you also want to see the cities and relax on the beach for a few days. Keep in mind that it takes hours to traverse Tuscany completely. If you don't have much time, you should choose a specific region. If you have a little more time, you should book several accommodations that are strategically located. For example in northern and southern Tuscany. For example, you can explore northern Tuscany with Florence, San Gimignano, Volterra and Siena in 5-7 days. You should have another 4-6 days for southern Tuscany. By the way, there's no such thing as too long, because you can just relax here and it won't get boring that quickly.
What is the best place to stay in Tuscany?
You will find every type of accommodation, i.e. hotel room, holiday apartment, bed & breakfast, campsite or even agriturismo. An agriturismo is a farm that also serves as a holiday home (e.g. a winery). Personally, I prefer accommodations with a nice (private) outdoor area and a kitchen.
What's the best way to get around in Tuscany?
As I mentioned above, the best way to explore Tuscany is by car. Buses run rather irregularly, trains only go to Florence, but not to the surrounding area. The inner cities are all car-free, so you will find large parking spaces at the entrance to the town. In the high season you should be on the road early, as the parking lots fill up by midday.
Also read: Cinque Terre with a dog
Holiday with your dog in the Cinque Terre - a good idea? We tried it and were amazed. You can find out how to plan the perfect trip to Liguria in the blog post.