Tuscany has many hidden gems, which are definitely off the beaten path while also being easy to reach from the most popular cities. Visit these original spots and experience Tuscany from a completely different point of view.
This list might also prove useful for those who know Tuscany quite well and who are looking for ideas for an alternative weekend.
Lucignano is an elliptical-shaped small medieval village that overlooks the Valdichiana valley, halfway between Siena and Arezzo. It is famous for the Tree of Love, a true masterpiece of Gothic jewellery decorated with coral, enamel and rock crystal. Legend has it that this golden tree seals the promises of love of couples, smiling upon them with luck and eternal happiness.
Other sights are the fortress attributed to Bernardo Puccini; the sanctuary of the Madonna della Querce dating to 1568 attributed to Vasari; the convent of the Cappuccini dating to 1580; the churches of Misericordia (1582) and della Collegiata (1594).
Lucignano has a somewhat unusual architectural look to it, especially due to the considerable differences between the buildings of the two parts of the old town. Entering from Porta San Giusto, the streets branch into two paths: via Roma, to the left, and via Matteotti, to the right. The first is traditionally known as the "poor road," as in ancient times it was home to the poorest families and it is characterized today by the presence of small medieval buildings. The second path is called the "rich street," and it is where the village’s noble families once lived, as evidenced by the elegant Renaissance palaces.
The Vie Cave (meaning “sunken roads”) are the incredibly narrow paths in the Maremma area with a mysterious history, radiating out from the beautiful towns of Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano. The Etruscans carved them into mile-high tuff (tufa) stone, but what were the Vie Cave for? Maybe they water channels? Sacred roads? Roads for transportation of goods and the passage of information? The mystery is still unresolved, as too is understanding how the Etruscans dug out these passageways.
If you decide to explore the Vie Cave, take the maps provided at the park entrance. You can start this adventure in the town of Sovana (worth a visit, too). The best period to visit the Vie Cave is during the sunny season.
Suvereto is a small village dating back to the year 1000 located on the slopes of the hills overlooking the Costa degli Etruschi, in the green valley of the River Cornia. It is an important stop on the circuit of oil and wine producing towns and home to major wineries (this is where Val di Cornia Suvereto DOC is made).
The town has an enchanting architectural harmony and its ancient walls enclose paved streets lined with stone houses, historical buildings, beautiful churches and cloisters. See the Rocca Aldobrandesca, the Town Hall, Forte degli Angeli, the Church of Santissima Annunziata, San Giusto parish church and the futuristic Petra winery, designed by the architect Mario Botta.
In Suvereto you can also visit the Natural Park of Montioni in the hamlet of Montioni, part of the system of Parks of Val di Cornia, a park with a rich fauna, rare examples of typical Mediterranean flora and important monuments of the Napoleonic era, which have recently been renovated.
Montecarlo is a charming town situated in the hillsides surrounding Lucca and known mainly for its great wines, Montecarlo DOC, certified red and white wine.
The historic centre of Montecarlo is enclosed within fortified walls and is still well preserved today. The symbol of the town is the Fortress, also called the Rocca del Cerruglio, which dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Other points of interest are the Chiesa Collegiata di Sant’Andrea, the Pieve di San Piero in Campo built in 46 AD and the small Teatro dei Rassicurati, which was frequented by Giacomo Puccini, the famous composer.
From Montecarlo, many footpaths among olive groves and vineyards start. One of these lovely itineraries is the one that leads to the town of San Martino in Colle, where you can find an enormous 500-year-old oak tree. According to local legend, witches would gather for the Sabbath under the foliage of this centuries-old tree, earning it the nickname “Oak of the Witches”.
Fosdinovo is located about 15 kilometres northwest of Massa, between the sea and the mountains. This position caused the village’s fortune and misfortune throughout its history: on one hand, the opportunity for trading; on the other hand, the wars and the struggles to conquer it.
This town can be considered the gateway to the Lunigiana area and in this post you can find more out about the main sights and how to reach the village.
The town of Montescudaio is located in the Val di Cecina and is part of the Maremma Pisana. About ten kilometres from the coast, it is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Montescudaio was a fortified village of great strategic importance, due to its dominant position. It was founded at the end of the 12th century around the pre-existing Church of St. Mary, one of the must-see monuments, along with the historical lookout tower and Villa Pucci. The excellent red wine Montescudaio DOC is produced locally.
Collodi is a medieval village not far from Pescia. Evidence of the existence of the town dates back to the 12th century, while its recent history is strictly linked to the name of Carlo Lorenzini, the author of Pinocchio. The renowned writer spent part of his childhood here, and later in the years chose to sign his works with the pseudonym Carlo Collodi.
Collodi is the perfect spot both for adults and children. Nowadays the, the hamlet is best known for the park dedicated to Pinocchio, characterized by activities like literary itineraries, buildings and sculptures set amidst the greenery, exhibitions of art and illustrations, puppet-making workshops and more. In addition, the village boasts an ancient fortress and a villa that belonged to the aristocratic Garzoni family, with a large garden that masterfully combines symmetry, flora, fauna and sculpture.
Other must-sees are the Antica Rocca, an ancient fortress, and the beautiful church of San Bartolomeo, with a fabulous view.
Artimino is a walled medieval village on the top of a hill in the Montalbano area, a few kilometres away from Carmignano. It is known for its numerous archaeological, historical and artistic evidences, but especially for the presence of Villa La Ferdinanda, one of the most important Medici villas in Tuscany.
Various Etruscan findings in Artimino underline the importance of this area across the millennia. During the Renaissance, the construction of Villa La Ferdinanda represented a radical change in the area, as the Grand Dukes, who often stayed in Artimino, transformed the entire village.
The archaeological museum of Artimino, currently situated in the basement area of the Medici villa, is another must see. Discover more about Carmignano.
Trequanda is located in one of the most unspoiled areas around Siena: it stands on a hilltop, immersed in a natural environment of woodland and well-ordered vineyards and olive groves. Centuries ago, the village was founded around a 13th-century castle, with a cylindrical tower that you can still see today.
One of the main attractions of the historic centre is the Romanesque church dedicated to St. Peter and St. Andrew, built in the 13th century, boasting a façade’s with a peculiar chromatic effect, a frescoed Ascension by Sodomy and a triptych by Giovanni di Paolo.
The tenth choice is up to you! From Montaione to Fiesole, from Vinci to Borgo San Lorenzo... take a look at these 10 small towns near Florence and pick the town that suits you best!
This article was originally written by Oriana Papadopoulos.