5 of the most beautiful, underrated towns in Tuscany

There’s so much more to Tuscany than Florence and Siena – stunning cities which are often, unfortunately, swamped with tourists. For your next trip to Italy, why not explore some of Tuscany’s “hidden gems”?

Lucca

Lucca is refreshingly – and surprisingly – untouristy. For many visitors it’s seen as a second choice after Siena, but Lucca also has plenty of beauty, history and atmosphere. It’s best-known for the wide Renaissance walls which encircle the city, providing an attractive cycle path and park. There’s lots to see, including an unusual tree-topped tower and numerous museums and churches, but its compact size makes it a relaxing place to visit.

Lucca is particularly appealing in the autumn, as the trees turn gold and the trattorias offer tempting dishes with truffle and mushrooms, but the summer is also a good time to visit, as there’s a famous music festival.

Lucques (Lucca), Italie : vue depuis la tour Guinigi

Volterra

Volterra’s comparatively remote location saves it from the tourist hordes. It’s a striking hilltop town with ancient origins, having been a settlement in the Bronze Age and a centre of Etruscan culture. Visitors to Volterra can still find traces of the city’s Etruscan history everywhere, from the city walls to the excavated tombs in Vallebona. The Etruscan museum, which is filled with ancient funeral urns and artifacts, is also worth a visit.

Although Volterra is becoming increasingly well-known – partly because of Rick Steves’ recommendation, and partly because of its role in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series – this small town remains unspoilt.

beautiful-tuscany-volterra

Suvereto

Not far from Livorno is the tranquil village of Suvereto. It’s a small, sleepy place, but its rough stone buildings have plenty of rugged charm, and on certain streets it feels as that you’ve been whisked back in time. Suvereto is ideal if you want to spend a relaxing weekend pottering around the town, sampling local wines and experiencing “Slow Food”. Nature lovers could use Suvereto as a base for exploring the countryside, as the Parco interprovinciale di Montioni is nearby.

beautiful-tuscany-suvereto

Monteriggioni

In medieval times this walled town was on the frontline of the battles between the rival city states of Florence and Siena, and it doesn’t take much imagination to journey back to the Middle Ages – some streets in Monteriggioni are virtually unchanged. The town, which makes an appearance in Dante’s Divine Comedy and the video game Assassin’s Creed, is promoted as the “gateway to the Middle Ages”, and is an ideal destination for history lovers. In June there’s even a medieval festival with duels, dances, and “medieval menus” at the local restaurants.

Although Monteriggioni can be visited as a day trip from Siena, there’s a good choice of hotels in the town centre, and some top-rated agriturismi nearby.

beautiful-tuscany-monteriggio

Barga

The medieval town of Barga stands out for its spectacular setting, surrounded by chestnut forests and mountains in the valley of the Serchio River, close to Lucca. Somewhat bizarrely, Barga is known as “the most Scottish town in Italy” because of the countryside’s resemblance to the Scottish highlands. There are red telephone booths and even a fish and chips festival in the summer. But otherwise, Barga is distinctly Tuscan, as you’ll see from the medieval architecture and hilltop views.

There’s not much in the way of accommodation in Barga, so consider using Lucca as your base, or staying in an an agriturismo.

beautiful-tuscany-barga

Rosario Gorgone is Co-Founder of Through Eternity Tours.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Patrick says:

    I love all things Italian and this article just reminded me of exactly what it is about this wonderful country I enjoy so much. The photos are superb too. What time of year do you think is best to visit Tuscany when it isn’t too hot?

  2. Cari says:

    So happy to see Barga and Lucca on this list. I would say the Alpino Hotel is a great place to stay in Barga, though, if more than one day is planned. It’s one of the few Italian towns that isn’t overrun with tourists in the summer…and the music festivals at night are a dream.

  3. Janice says:

    I enjoyed visiting Volterra when my husband and I went on a self-guided bike tour of Tuscany. It truly was the least crowded of the four towns we visited and stayed in, and learning about the Etruscan history was an unexpected surprise. The only issue I had was visiting in the middle of summer – a bit too warm for my liking. I would love to return in either fall or spring.

  4. Nick says:

    Personally the best times to go to Tuscany, as I was there a year or so ago, to avoid the heat would be to avoid months such as July & August and months such from November until March for the cold weather. So, the best months to visit would be April until June and September & October.

  5. Stephanie Hunter says:

    Tuscany is on my “to do list” and your blog was helpful and interesting It saves me researching before planning for sure. Pics were great too thank you

  6. Jane says:

    Wow, this is a really helpful post. I’ve been thinking of returning to Sienna but now my horizons are broadened. Thanks!

  7. Nina says:

    Towards the end of May is the best to visit Tuscany….the weather was beautiful , no bugs, just beautiful cool evenings, comfortable days.

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