With its timeless landscapes of gently rolling hills, golden wheatfields, vineyards, olive groves, tall cypresses lining white roads, and quaint medieval hilltop villages, the Tuscany region of Italy is what postcards were made for.
Named after the Estruscans, the pre-Roman peoples who created the first major civilization in the region, Tuscany is a popular tourist destination in Italy and is the home of many UNESCO World Heritage sites including the historic centre of Florence, the historical centre of Siena, and the cathedral square of Pisa.
A visit to Italy is not really complete without having a taste of Tuscany. And even if you are pressed for time, you can still experience the Tuscan region in one day via a guided tour from Florence.
Ciao Florence Ciao Florence is a leading tour operator in Central Italy. Based in Florence, the company offers a diverse range of half day and full day tours, not only from Florence, but also from Naples, Rome and Venice.
On a recent trip to Florence, my little family and I decided to explore the wider Tuscany region on a guided coach tour. Since we didn't have a lot of time in the region, we wanted a tour that would basically give us a good overview of Tuscany, so we chose the "Special Day in Tuscany: Pisa, San Gimignano, and Siena" full day tour. This tour covered three of the major highlights of Tuscany and also included lunch in a typical Tuscan wine farm.
On the day of the tour, we boarded the bus bright and early at 7.45am at the bus terminal near the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. Then we left Florence and made our way through the Tuscan landscape to our first stop: Siena.
Siena Siena, like many other Tuscan hill towns, was founded during the time of the Etruscans. Siena is famous for its medieval cityscape, its magnificent cathedral, and the Palio di Siena, a horse race held twice every year in July and August on the Piazza del Campo.
The tour included a specialist Siena city guide who guided us through its narrow medieval streets, explaining the history of the city. We stopped at the Piazza del Campo, located in the historic centre of Siena and regarded as one of Europe's greatest medieval squares. The famous Palio di Siena horse race takes place here every year.
As we made our way up the winding streets of the city, we saw colourful flags fluttering high above us. The flags represented the teams of the ten contrade or city wards/neighbourhoods of Siena that compete in the Palio every year.
Next, our guide led us up the narrow streets to Siena's magnificent medieval cathedral. The cathedral was designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. The finest Italian artists completed works in the Cathedral. These artists included Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Donatello, Pinturicchio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Bernini, and Michelangelo.
Michelangelo's statue of St Paul in the Siena Cathedral. It is said that this statue features the only self-portrait we have of the artist. Source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siena_Cathedral#/media/File:Michelangelo.St_Peter.Duomo_di_Siena.jpg
Before we visited San Gimignano, our tour stopped for lunch first at a typical Tuscan wine farm in the foothills of San Gimignano. We feasted on delicious golden ham, fresh bread, cheeses, pasta, and the local white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area.
Our wanderings also took us to a rather terrifying but incredibly interesting place, called the Museum of Torture. The Museum features more than 100 ancient and modern instruments of torture and cruelty that humans have used on one another over time, such as the Iron Maiden, the Head Crusher, the Guillotine and the Hanging Cages.
Our visit to San Gimignano was too short as we would have loved to have spent more time in this fascinating place. But we needed to get to our next and final stop on our tour: Pisa.
Pisa is famous worldwide for its leaning tower. Located in the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square), the tower is actually the bell tower of the cathedral that stands in front of it. The third important building in the square with its red domed roof is the Baptistery.
Back to Florence.
After we visited Pisa, our tour made its way back to Florence. We enjoyed the drive back through the Tuscan landscape and watching the sun set over it. We returned to the bus station in Florence just after 8pm.
It had been a very long day, but it had been a truly unforgettable experience, enjoying the very best that Tuscany had to offer.
Ciao Florence's "Special Day in Tuscany" tour is a full day tour departing around 7.45am from Florence. The tour includesjourney by fully-fitted GT Coach, expert multilingual escort, free time in Pisa and San Gimignano; and lunch in a typical wine farm, Siena tour with professional guide (if option selected), and admission fee to Siena Cathedral (if option selected). Tour prices start at € 86 per adult. For more information, please visit the Ciao Florence website here.
"Life offers you a thousand chances... all you have to do is take one."
Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun