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My 8 Favorite Places in Tuscany

Montefiorale, a typical rest stop on a Tuscan hike.
Nov 02, 2014

My 8 Favorite Places in Tuscany

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Every year, I lead a hiking and touring trip to Tuscany, which I like to call “Trails and Tables of Tuscany.” It’s a fantastic mix of walking through the countryside, hiking in the hills, visiting cultural sights, and of course … eating.

Hiking in Tuscany

Tuscany is a great place for both hiking and touring.

Here’s a link to the 2015 trip. If you want to know more about that, get in touch. Meanwhile, I just thought I would throw together some of my favorite places in Tuscany.

Oh, and about that food: Here are Part I (Setting and Antipasta) and Part II (Pasta and Meats) of my Ultimate Tuscan Meal.

The Chianti Countryside

We stay there, we tour there, we walk there, and we eat there. Chianti is the heart of Tuscany, with rolling hills and vineyards and olive groves and old buildings. It’s possibly the perfect countryside, and walking and touring there is really magical. Here are some highlights:

Walking along a cypress-lined country road in Chianti.

Walking along a cypress-lined country road.

The magical rollings hills, vineyards and old homes of Chianti.

The magical rollings hills, vineyards and old homes.

The rollings hills of Tuscany.

The rollings hills of Tuscany.

Antipasti with a selection of olive oils, made in a Chianti mill.

Antipasti with a selection of olive oils, made on the property.

The Cinque Terre

Okay, so the Cinque Terre isn’t in Tuscany, but who cares? Our trip goes there, and you’d have to be a loony to not like it. It’s a series of five old villages, clinging to the coast below steep hillsides covered with vineyards … and all of it connected with amazingly scenic hiking trails. We spend three days there, wandering the hills and villages.

The town of Vernazza, Cinque Terre, which we hike to during my trip.

The town of Vernazza, which we hike to during the trip. In the distance you can see Monterosso, where we stay.

The harbor at Vernazza, Cinque Terre.

Another view of Vernazza, from the trail above town.

The steep vineyards of Cinque Terre, Italy.

The steep vineyards, where grapes are gathered by mini trains!

The waterfront at Montegeggioni, one of the five villages in Cinque Terre.

The waterfront at Montegeggioni, another of the five villages.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, seen from the water.

Corniglia, seen from the water. We rent a boat during out trip, as well!

Florence

The trip always begins and ends in Florence, the capital of Tuscany and a terrific place to start. It’s easy to get to, easy to be a tourist in, and we have a great hotel where we meet for dinner before heading out of town. We also wind up there after the trip, and many people decide to stick around for a bit – and why not?

Street fair with Sicilian food treats in Florence, Tuscany.

There’s always a street fair or market going on in Florence.

The Arno River in Florence, Tuscany.

The Arno River in Florence.

View from the top of the Duomo in Florence.

View from the top of the Duomo in Florence.

Lucca

After Florence, we’re off to Lucca, a walled medieval city about an hour west. It’s the gateway for hikes in the Alpi Apuane, and a charming town in itself. It is like a smaller Florence without the major sights — and of course without the crowds!

View of Lucca, Tuscany, from the city wall, which you can walk or bike around.

View of Lucca from the city wall, which you can walk or bike around.

View of Lucca, Tuscany, with the Alpi Apuane in the background.

Another town view, from a tower in town. The Alpi Apuane are in the background.

The peaceful, lovely streets of Lucca, Tuscany.

There are plenty of peaceful streets in Lucca.

The walkable city wall around Lucca, Tuscany.

The walkable wall around Lucca.

The famous Piazza Ampiteatro in Lucca.

The famous Piazza Ampiteatro in Lucca.

The Hike to Monte Croce

Just north of Lucca, the Alpi Apuane rise in a wall and offer terrific hiking. We do two hikes there, Monteo Croce and the Pania di Corfino. Here are some shots of Monte Croce, which includes lunch in a hilltop shepherd village.

Wildflowers and the Apuane Alps, north of Lucca in Tuscany.

The flowers will be blooming for our 2015 trip!

Apuane Alps: shepherd's hut and a view of the Appennines.

Shepherd’s hut and a view of the Appennines.

All blissed out on top of Monte Croce, a hike in Tuscany.

All blissed out on top of Monte Croce.

Monteo Croce hike in the Garfagnana area of Tuscany.

Headed down, towards lunch, from Monte Croce.

Pania di Corfino Hike

The other hike we do in the Garfagnana area north of Lucca is to the Pania di Corfino, an accessible peak near the Appennines on the east and with a great view of the Apuane Alps to the west. We will stay in a village at the base of it, eat lunch in a village along the way, and visit a botanical garden afterwards.

Here’s more about the hike to Pania di Corfino.

Hiking at the top of Pania di Corfino in Tuscany.

Nearing the top of the Pania di Corfino.

The tiny shepherd's village of Campaiana, in the Garfagnana area of Lucca.

We’ll stop for lunch in Campaiana after climbing the Pania.

The beautiful little creek in Campaiana, Tuscany.

The beautiful little creek in Campaiana.

 

San Donato in Poggio

Typically our base in Chianti is the impossibly charming of San Donato in Poggio, where we take over a couple of B&Bs and have our bus take us around to different day trips. Here are some shots of the town:

Medieval charm in San Donato, Tuscany.

Plenty of medieval charm in San Donato!

Plenty of medieval charm in San Donato, Tuscany.

This is actually one of our B&Bs in San Donato.

Off we go to dinner at a local pizzeria in San Donato, Tuscany.

Off we go to dinner at a local pizzeria in San Donato.

View from pizza dinner in San Donato, Tuscany.

View from pizza dinner in San Donato.

Siena

At some point in the trip we always visit Tuscany’s second city, Siena. We’ll be turned loose for several hours to explore around, and the one place I always make it a point to visit is the brilliant duomo there — famous for the mosaics in the floor and the frescoes in the library.

Mosaics on the floor of Siena's duomo.

The floor of Siena’s duomo is amazing!

The floor of Siena's duomo is amazing!

Some of these mosaics are 800 yeas old!

The duomo in Siena, Tuscany.

The front of Siena’s duomo is amazing.

View down to the famous Campo square in Siena.

View down to the famous Campo square in Siena.

Again, if you want to go on my trip to Tuscany and Cinque Terre this June, get in touch!

 

Paul Gerald

I am the author of several books on hiking, camping, eating breakfast and chilling out. I am also a freelance travel writer, publisher, hiker, and inveterate traveler.

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