Ian’s top five off-the-beaten-track Tuscan treasures
Having been fortunate enough to have lived in Italy and visited many times on holiday, I’ve been everywhere, from the Aosta Valle D’Aosta in the far North to Calabria and Sicily in the South.
But without a doubt, one place that always calls me back is the off-the-beaten-track gems of Tuscany.
Five small towns where authentic Tuscany can still be found
If you love holidaying in small, rural places, you’ll love these five authentic small towns in Tuscany:
Located at the foot of the Apuan Alps, Camaiore is an ancient, medieval market town north of Lucca.
What to do: When visiting Camaiore, the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta (which dates back to 1260) is a must, as is the Church of San Lazzaro and the 8th-century Lombard Badia di San Pietro.
Meanwhile, the Archeological Museum in Palazzo Tori Massoni and the Camaiore Museum of Sacred Art, with its collection of paintings, furnishings and sacred vestments dating back to the 14th and 16th centuries, will keep you occupied for hours. Camaiore is not a tourist trap and still bustles with the day-to-day activity of town life.
Or, for complete and total relaxation, visit Lido di Camaiore, a gorgeous seaside resort that overlooks the beach of the Versilia coastline. Sure, you can spend the day sunbathing but don’t forget to pop into some of the prettiest shops, bars, cafes and restaurants the region has to offer.
Where to stay: Villa Eremo – the perfect Tuscan hideaway high in the hills above the Tuscan coast. It’s a true oasis of luxury you’ll never want to leave.
Manciano is a small hilltop town near the coast that overlooks the nature trails and medieval villages of the Maremma region.
What to do: There are lots of rolling green hills, small villages, nature trails, castles and rural churches to explore here, but one of the main attractions is the thermal baths of Saturnia, which are known for their therapeutic properties.
Once that’s relaxed you, visit the small town of Montemarano.
Because with its winding streets, small squares and stone houses leaning against one another, it’s considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Other pretty villages include:
Or if the beach is more your thing, you’ll love the clear blue sea at Argentario.
Where to stay: Casale Orsetta – a pretty stone farmhouse in a charming location surrounded by olive groves, Tuscan landscapes and distant sea views.
Very little English is spoken here, but you will find rustic Italian charm, few tourists and a kind, gentle welcome from locals.
What to do: Castelmuzio is surrounded by beautiful olive groves, divine vineyards, and tall, slender cypress trees. So, get the most out of the area’s natural beauty by wandering the roads that wind their way through the hills and poppy fields.
And when you’ve had enough fresh air, you’ll find traditional cafes and restaurants selling tasty pizzas and local produce in the village square.
Oh, and make sure you pick up some fresh vegetables, cheese, meats and tasty wines to take back to your villa – you won’t regret it.
Where to stay: Villa Nobile di Castelmuzio – a stunning, luxurious townhouse in the picturesque village of Castelmuzio.
San Casciano dei Bagni
San Casciano dei Bagni is a renowned spa village characterised by its many sulphurous spring waters.
What to do: There’s no better way to start your visit than to one of the many springs. Millions of people have visited these world-famous waters for thousands of years to alleviate all types of ailments and conditions.
When you’ve had enough of that, you can have your fill of historic churches by visiting:
- Insigne Collegiata di San Leonardo
- Church of Sant’Antonio
- Church of Santa Maria della Colonna (which is built on the site of a pagan temple)
- Church of San Michele Arcangelo
Meanwhile, visiting the historic village centre will lead you to the 16th-century Palazzo dell’Arcipretura and Palazzo Comunale. These are located at the highest point of the village and were once part of the defensive system of this idyllic spa town.
Where to stay: Villa Vetrichina – a villa surrounded by beautiful woodland, perfect if you’re looking to pamper yourself.
Montefollonico is a tiny hilltop hamlet in the Tuscany countryside, located between the Valdichiana and the Val d’Orcia.
What to do: Your first port of call should be to the historic village centre, which is enclosed by imposing 13th-century stone walls.
And while you wander, you’re sure to come across the Palazzo Pretorio bell tower, a 17th-century marble well and the Roman-era church of San Leonardo.
Or if you fancy something different, no problem. Montefollonico is surrounded by greenery, so get back to nature by taking a stroll through the glorious Il Tondo nature park. Also with Pienza and Montepulciano only a short drive away you are spoilt for choice for day trips
Where to stay: Villa Reggello – a villa in the Tuscan hills with a private pool and gardens surrounded by cherry and pomegranate orchards and lavender fields.