Tuscany town bound?
What is it about our North American genetic makeup?
We have an alarmingly high predisposition to the “Tuscan Holiday” syndrome.
At some point in our life, usually around a marriage, a divorce, or our 20th wedding anniversary, the symptoms become increasingly acute and we seek treatment.
Rolling hillsides. Chianti by the litre. And a rental car with extortionate day fees and a GPS dialed to an unpronounceable hill town.
The people affected by this syndrome are in the millions. The book, Under the Tuscan Sun sold over 2 million copies. The movie was a box office success and grossed over 60 million.
It’s true that there’s equally stunning scenery in other parts of Italy, but something about Under the Trento Alto Adige Sun or Under the Friuli Venezia Giulia Sun just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
So whether “Tuscan Holiday” is genetically predisposed or not, Tuscany is easily the most celebrated region in Italy to visit.
Which is the most popular town in Tuscany?
The most famous city is Florence of course. But the hot list also contains Pisa, Sienna, Lucca, San Gimignano and Cortona.
What’s an alternative to those places?
Do you want something a little lower key?
Would you like to find your own slice of paradiso in terracotta?
Then you’re gonna need a car.
And your gonna need some great ideas.
Sorry–you can’t have my car but you can steal my ideas.
I must tell you that I didn’t pick these towns. I never could have. When I lived in Italy I always deferred such choices to the locals. I just jumped in the car and went for the ride.
So for this list I asked my Italian friend to give me her best picks. I wanted “under the radar” and “picturesque”.
She gave me this list. If you visit her in Italy, this is where she would take you.
Now go forth. And dream with reckless abandon.
6 Towns in Tuscany Your Travel Agent Has Never Heard Of:
Pitigliano is a medieval town with Etruscan heritage. It’s found in the southern Tuscan region of Maremma in the province of Grosseto.
The Maremma region is definitely my favorite region in Tuscany; it’s less popular than the hill towns of Chianti but it’s where Italians spend their summer holidays.
The earth under Pitigliano is riddled with tunnels, caves and tombs that you can explore – hook up with the local tourist office to arrange a tour. There’s also a Christian cave chapel said to be the oldest in Italy, from about 400 AD.
For the best views of the surrounding valley head to Piazza Becherini.
There’s no train service to Pitigliano–therefore a car rental is your only option other than a bus from Sienna or Florence.
Capalbio is also located in the province of Grosseto, close to the Lazio border.
The views from Capalbio give you an awesome picture of the entire Maremma region all the way to the sea.
The old and lovely things that attract people to the town are the Renaissance Collacchioni Palace which houses the piano of Giacomo Puccini–Capalbio’s most famous vacationer.
The main square has a 13 century church decorated with Romanesque architecture and Renaissance frescoes.
If looking at art commissioned by rich eccentrics is more your thing–head to the Tarot Garden featuring the 22 characters of the Tarot cards.
Wash it all away on the coast of Capalbio which is 12 kilometres of sandy beaches and clear water.
The town of Manciano is built on a hilltop with massive views of the surrounding valleys and the sea. You can even see clearly to Giglio Island, where the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank.
Apart from the views, you wanna visit Manciano to enjoy the thermal hot springs.
Many people don’t know that Italy has some amazing natural springs and the Saturnia hot springs just outside of Manciano are famous within Italy.
You can pay for access to the thermal waters via the spas in Saturnia. The free access is just two kilometres outside of Saturnia at Mulino waterfalls, also known as Cascate del Gorello.
Manciano is just eleven miles SW of Pitigliano (above) so it would make sense to see them both on the same trip while you’re bombing around in your car.
Montescudaio is a miniature Tuscan town with a whopping 1800 residents.
The village is a medieval borghi, a fortified town surrounded by protective walls. The town is located on a hill close to Pisa.
This is a beautifully preserved town where you might want to plunk yourself at a restaurant with a terrace with stunning views of the ocean, the Islands of Elba, Capraia, Giglio and Montecristo. You’re just 12 km from the coast.
At the restaurant you’ll want to take a sip of the local product: Montescudaio D.O.C. wine. The red is made from the Sangiovese grapes and the white from the Trebbiano Toscano, and the D.O.C certification mean that the grapes are guaranteed to be from that tiny geographical area. No outsider grapes, man.
If you happen to be in Montescudaio in summer and you need some beach time, choose Marina di Cecina, Vada or Bibbona.
If you dream of staying in a farmhouse in the famous hills of Chianti Classico then Montefioralle might be your golden ticket for under the radar Chianti living. It’s on the road between Florence and Sienna where vineyards, scattered peasant houses and beautiful villages are dotted between hill-top woods.
Montefioralle has just 2 restaurants and is virtually car free, so if you have kids then this would be a great place to relax. It’s a 20 minute walk on foot to the popular village of Greve in Chianti, where you can visit a grocery store and see other humans apart from the 79 other residents who live in the Montefioralle.
Monteriggioni conforms perfectly to the mental image of a walled castle village.
The walls and towers are virtually intact and the streets are mostly traffic free.
Many Italian towns have festivals in the summer, but these people really know how to throw a party. If you‘re visiting Italy in the summer – check out their medieval festival on the first weekend of July every year. I would recommend it as an alternative to Il Palio (the horse races) in Sienna – especially if are travelling with your kids or parents.
The locals dress in medieval costumes playing farmers, merchants, soldiers, cross-bowman friars, magicians, astrologists, ballad singers and jesters. Kids get in free. Their handlers, (us adults) gotta pay 10 euro.
This list is meant to give you a town in Tuscany worth visiting.
These towns are well preserved, picturesque and quaint. They are more terracotta than gold. More pappa al pomodoro than fusion cuisine.
And I guarantee the towns will be boring at night, which is sometimes, just what we need.
I’d love to hear from you.
Do you have any other suggestions?
Have you ever visited a small town in Tuscany?