Which Town in Tuscany Should I Visit?

by Bianca Gignac

tuscany town

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.

Our cure?

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:

1. Pitigliano

tuscany_town_Pitigliano

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.

2. Capalbio

Capalbio

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.

3. Manciano

Manciano_Saturnia

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.

4. Montescudaio

Montescudaio

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.

5. Montefioralle

Montefioralle

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.

6. Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni

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?

Images: Pitigliano, Capalbio, Manciano, Montescudaio, Montefioralle, Monteriggioni

 

 

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Antoinette Hérivel January 29, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Hi Bianca
Funny I was just thinking of you and wondering when you were sending out the next Italian “fix”!

I stayed for a month in Pistoia- it’s a market town and exactly 1/2 hour on train each way between Piza and Florence. Also buses – and good connection for day trips. The history is interesting- lots of art etc and cheaper to stay than Florence. Nice old villas on outskirts- restaurants etc
One of these days – I hope to get back to Italy!!
Ciao
Antoinette

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Bianca Gignac January 29, 2013 at 9:50 PM

Hi Antoinette

Thanks for bringing up Pistoia. They have a music festival every summer that draws big crowds.

Glad to deliver your “fix”.

As you can see, I have fun with it.

xx Bianca

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Simon January 30, 2013 at 12:52 AM

This is a great post! I live in Chianti and I learned loads! Some great ideas I’ll pass on to our guests. Thanks Bianca!

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Bianca Gignac February 4, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Hi Simon,

Wow, I know you’re called the Tuscany Advisor on Twitter so that means a lot!

xx Bianca

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Sharon Stares January 30, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Looks Fantastic!!! Gives me the itch…
Thanks Bianca!

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Bianca Gignac February 4, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Hey Sharon,

Yes, the travel bug makes us itchy. That little bugger. It’s also contagious. xx Bianca

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Ellie Morstad January 30, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Hi Bianca
My friends and I are looking (just looking at this time) at your fabulous trips to Italy. Keep sending them. Never know when…..
We just got back from seeing Julie & Dean and the rest of the kids in van. Hope you and your family are well.
Good luck with the travel business. With all that enthusiasm I’m sure you will do well. Would love to join you sometime.
xox
Ellie

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Bianca Gignac February 4, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Hi Ellie,

Thanks so much for dropping by my digital home. Wish I could put the kettle on and make you tea. Thanks for your encouraging words. xx Bianca

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Lomoody February 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM

It is a good post for Tuscany Lover like me!!
I got the best moment in Tuscany during my trip, I really love Tuscany and wanna visit all the places there.

I also recommend Pienza, a small village but have a classic and stunning view of Tuscany!!

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Michelle April 5, 2013 at 2:29 AM

Just came across your website which is perfect for an Italiophile like me! My uncle lives near Arezzo which is full of wonderful Renaissance frescoes and has an amazing antiques market on the first (or is it last) weekend of the month.

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Janet Campbell April 5, 2013 at 11:19 AM

So happy I discovered your site. We leave April 18 for three months in Italy, one month in Roccalbagna and one month in Le Marche area. It’s my first time and along with the major tourist cities, I most want to visit the small towns and less traveled regions.

Great site and great sense of humor. Ciao!

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Claire Jessen April 23, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Hi Bianca,

Thank you for this helpful post!! My husband and I are going to be in Tuscany in early September to celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary. We plan to stay 4 nights in Florence, then 4 nights in Montepulciano (unless you recommend otherwise) and 3 nights in Rome. We are having a difficult time trying to decide whether we should stay in the town of Montelpulciano so we can go to dinner and have wine and walk home or if we should stay outside of the town in one of the bed and breakfasts in the outskirts? Any suggestions and recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so so much!!

Sincerely,
Claire Jessen

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Sally Massey October 4, 2013 at 5:25 PM

I have been to Italy 4 times. 2 nights in Montepulciano is plenty because in my opinion you will be sorry if you don’t spend more time in Rome, if these are your only destinations. Staying in a hill town to me is an amazing experience.I would highly recommend that, over staying in the outskirts.

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Annie September 12, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Hi
Hi Bianca, this is really great timing as we head off today for Itay and will be travelling through and staying in Tuscany. We are spending 6 weeks in Italy this time and looking forward to the food, wine, exploring more small towns and having a culture fix…..such a wonderful country and people. I look forward to your next post.

Ciao…Annie

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Sue Wille October 9, 2013 at 3:13 PM

I’m looking for a quaint, charming hotel in a small village in the Tuscan region. Want to walk to dinner and. breakfast.

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Bianca Gignac October 10, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Hi Sue,

One place really sticks out in my mind for you.

It is just outside of the beautiful Tuscan hill town of San Gimignanao. It’s a working organic farm, and they provide quaint rooms and wonderful food smack dab in the the centre of classic Tuscan countryside scenery.

I sent my close friends there and it was their favourite place in all of Italy. They couldn’t stop talking about it.

The pace is called Fattoria Poggio Alloro.

Enjoy your trip and report back upon return!

Baci, Bianca

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Tiana Kai November 12, 2013 at 3:38 PM

That’s quite the list there, your friend seems to know amazing hidden spots! Need to hop in a car and check these out!

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Bianca Gignac November 13, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Ciao Tiana,

Yes, my friend Rosa has a knack for showing me great little places I didn’t know about. Whenever she takes me to Genoa (where she lives), even if I’ve been many times, it always feels new because she knows so many hidden places.

Thanks for your comment,

Bianca

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Ken January 5, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Planning a week in Tuscany with two other couples in September or October. We’d like to spend the week in a villa that we can use as a home base for seeing the countryside. We’ll be renting a car (or two). We’re thinking that something within walking distance of a town or village would suit us fine. We’re a family of wine lovers and good food. We’ll be cooking some of the meals so access to a market is important. Any suggestions for such a location that would keep our interest for the week?

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Dave March 5, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Hi. I am spending 4 days/nights in Tuscany at teh end of April and was wondering where best to stay for those 4 nights? I fly out of Florence so will spend 2 days minimum there, but was wondering how best to split up the 4 days. I was considering 2 days Siena & 2 days Florence, or perhaps 1 day Siena & 3 days Florence. Or……. Any advice greatly appreciated. Many thanks

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Maritza April 21, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Can I just tell you how much I love your website, posts, recommendations?!!! I’m planning a trip to Italy in June (Florence/Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Almafi Coast, and perhaps a day trip to Capri?!) Unfortunately, I’m leaving the week before your tour :( I’m looking into everything you posted but if you have any recommendations for a solo traveler, would love LOVE to hear them! :) (I’ve been to Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence before). I’m only there for 10 days so I realize this is ambitious! :)

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