Tuscany, a province in the north west of Italy is one of Europe's most beautiful places and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the whole world. It boasts a fantastically rich and fascinating history, a varied and beautiful countryside and an excellent indigenous cuisine. There are gorgeous sandy beaches on the Mediterranean coast, thermal springs in Saturnia and the spectacular little medieval villages of the Chianti region. You might opt for a walking holiday or to take a cookery course, you could decide to go cycling around the countryside or explore the stunning cave system at Ancho del Corchia. There's really something for everyone in Tuscany!
Of course, Tuscany is renowned as the birthplace of the European renaissance and boasts an extraordinary cultural heritage. The most popular destination in Tuscany is Florence with its stunning cathedral and the fantastic collection of iconic art in the Uffizi Gallery. Siena is also a stunning city and boasts one of the most beautiful town squares anywhere in Europe as well as one of its most ancient horse races - the magnificent Palio. Most people fly into Pisa due to its budget airline connections, but it's well worth sticking around to see the gravity defying Leaning Tower of Pisa. Meanwhile Lucca - with its gorgeous old walled city and San Grimignano - with its soaring medieval skyscrapers are also destinations not to be missed!
When: Head out to Tuscany in April or May or late September. The weather is still very pleasant - a little less stifling than in the midsummer months - and you'll beat the huge crowds that descend on Tuscany in the peak season.
Where: Florence. One of the most stunning cities anywhere in the world, a place whose rich cultural heritage is on abundant display on every street and in every town square. There is plenty here to keep you enthralled for a couple of days or a whole week.
Why: Because there is just so much to see and learn in Florence. Climb the grand Duomo for stunning city views, look at the Boticellis and Titians in the Uffizzi. Other major attractions include the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and the churches of Santa Croce and San Lorenzo.
When: Why not go to Tuscany at the height of summer when the daytime average temperatures hover around 30ºC, there's not a cloud in the sky and not even the slightest possibility of rain!
Where: Tuscany is not primarily known for its beaches but the Maremma region is a particularly nice spot. Head to Castiglione dell Pescaia for example and enjoy a holiday of tanning, water sports and excellent local cuisine.
Why: The beaches of Tuscany boast long stretches of golden sands, crystal clear blue waters and outlying reefs. There are generally sun loungers and parasols to be found and you are within an easy day's trip distance of the magnificent city of Siena.
When: Take on the midsummer sun with a trip to Tuscany in July or August. It might be hot, but you're never too far from a refreshing glass of white wine!
Where: Siena is one of the most stunning cities in Italy and is an absolute must see. If you go in July, you'll have the chance of catching the Palio race in the main town square, one of the most extraordinary sporting events anywhere in the world!
Why: Because Siena is a simply stunning destination. Its Piazza del Campo and medieval cathedral are truly iconic sights and its summer jazz festival is well worth catching. Siena is much less visited than the nearby city of Florence, making it a much more romantic destination.
When: If the kids have school holidays in the late spring or early autumn, this might be the best time to go. The summer months can be a bit too hot for younger visitors as well as being a generally more expensive time in hotels.
Where: Why not do something a bit different and head to the Apua Alps? There are some excellent hikes here of varying difficulties. The Monteferato route is particularly nice.
Why: The Apua alps boast some gorgeous routes, with spectacular mountain views, small and ancient mountain villages and wonderfully fresh alpine air, a great destination for a family getaway!
Tuscany offers an excellent Mediterranean climate. The summers offer long days with temperatures of around 30ºC, clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The Tourist season generally stretches between April and September, with the majority of visitors coming between May and August and prices rising accordingly. You might want to head to Tuscany for April and May or for October and November when the climate can be very pleasant and the crowds are much sparser. There is, though a much greater chance of rain in the spring and autumn. Temperatures plunge to averages of around 7ºC in the winter months though in the mountains they are generally sub zero in December and January with very good prospects of snow and excellent skiing conditions.
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What to expect
Tuscany is a place of rich and varied history, a very vibrant culture and an immense capacity for enjoying the finer things in life, be it art, food or nature. You'll enjoy some of the fantastic and world famous cuisine of the region as well as some of its excellent wines. There are some of the most iconic buildings anywhere in the world - the Florence Cathedral, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Piazza del Campo of Florence. There are also exquisite works of art - including the spectacular collection housed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. There are gorgeous sandy beaches and clear blue sea waters as well as stunning alpine routes and there is a stunning countryside dotted with gorgeous little villages and stately villas. Tuscany is a place that everyone should see at least once, though it also richly reward return visitors!