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This guide is brought to you by Ashley of See Ash Run. During her time as a study abroad student in Florence, Italy, she explored all that Tuscany had to offer. Here are some of her travel insights for the Italian region!
There’s something about Tuscany. I know you feel it too. Maybe it’s due to the pictures of beautiful women lounging in the sun with their large straw hats and glasses of deep red wine, or maybe it’s the idea of attractive men spending their days in the fields picking olives and their night dancing and smashing grapes between their toes. No matter what is, Tuscany has an allure about it, which is why when I was 20, I moved there.
Now, I didn’t speak a lick of Italian and I didn’t know anything about pasta or vinegar or wine, but I had a feeling that this was where I had to go, and looking back I know I was right.
While I lived in Florence, a city that will always hold a piece of my heart, this was not the place that really made me fall in love with Italy. Florence was as filled with art and history as it was filled with American college students. So while I grew to love and know the city very well through my time there, I also branched out and tried to spend as much time as I could outside of Florence. And while when you go to Tuscany you must walk the Boboli Gardens, visit the leaning tower, drink the Chianti wine and see the David, you must also try and get out of the “famous cities” to experience the little towns that make Tuscany so famous and so beloved.
Lucca is a must see if you’re going to Tuscany. Just a quick train ride away from Florence and Pisa, Lucca feels as though you are taking a step back in time. With adorable cobblestone streets and its ancient walls, you can easily spend an hour or ten wandering the adorable city. Honestly, it’s hard to describe Lucca as anything other than charming. I went twice, once with friends and once with my parents and both times I was awestruck by its “cute-ness.”
Things to See
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro was once a Roman amphitheater, but now is a the central market with plenty of things to eat and plenty of shops to purchase trinkets. But the history of the amphitheater can been seen everywhere and it’s a pretty great place to get lunch.
The tallest structure in Lucca, built in the 1300’s, Guinigi Tower great not only for the history, but for the fact that at the top you get the greatest view of the city!
Cathedral of St. Martin
You can’t mention any city in Italy, without mentioning that city’s most famous church, Cathedral of St. Martin. Lucca is no different, but St. Martin is worth the visit. Not only is one of the prettier churches outside of Florence, it holds the Volto Santo di Lucca, a wooden cross from 782.
While I was living in Florence, one of my good friends was living in Arezzo and fortunately I was able to make the trip out to see her quite a few times. Also a quick train ride away, Arezzo is a wonderful little city (and by little I mean it’s the largest in eastern Tuscany, with about 100,000 people), and unlike most of Tuscany, I found it to be mostly empty of tourists, which is why I found it so appealing.
Things to See
Antique Market at Piazza Grande
The main reason to come to Arezzo is for the Antique Market. Held on the first Sunday of every month, Arezzo’s Piazza Grande becomes full to the brim with jewelry, furniture and art. The market has over 500 vendors and is basically a treasure trove of things to discover. What could be better than an afternoon of shopping/exploring while staring at beautiful Tuscan Mountains?
Another of my day trips brought me to the town of San Gimignano. This is probably one of the most historic places in Italy due to the fact that is completely walled in by its dozen or so preserved tower houses. The skyline of the city is astounding so I highly recommend a hike up a nearby hill to glimpse the city from afar, as it truly looks as though you’ve stepped back in time.
What to See
Historic Center of San Gimignano
The Historic Center of San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where you will find the majority of San Gimignano’s famous art pieces. Many of The frescoes were painted in the 13th and 14th Century and still can be seen today.
Tuscany is home to some of the greatest and most beautiful towns in the world. While Florence, Siena, and Pisa are all worth your time, I urge you to take a day, or a week and explore the tiny towns the make up this amazing region of Italy.
Ashley Hufford is a blogger and video editor living in New York City. She spends her days writing, playing the ukulele, drinking tea, and editing for the NHL, but not always in that order. To read more about her post grad caffeine fueled New York City adventures, check out her blog See Ash Run or follow her on Twitter @AshleyHufford.