Here you find some good tips for visiting Tuscany without busting your budget by Priscila. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
To the average traveler, the mention of the name Italy brings up mental images of Rome and its landmarks. The Eternal City has left such an indelible mark the world over that most of its tourist attractions have become global icons. However, there’s a lot more to Italy than just its capital. Equally rich in culture, history and elegance is the Tuscan region.
To the travel savvy, Tuscany has an upscale reputation for its natural beauty, luxurious hotels and high-end wines. This gives it an aura of class that’s envied the world over. However, this can also deter potential visitors who are touring Italy on a tight budget. Reputations, though, don’t always tell the full story. If you do your homework and read up on Tuscan tourism, you’ll find out that you can actually keep the costs down without sacrificing spectacular outdoor views, breathtaking art, fine wine and great food.
Skeptical? We’ve got the info to wash away all your doubts. Here’s our guide to having a great time in Tuscany without overspending:
The beautiful city of Florence is a must on any Tuscan itinerary. Be sure not to miss out on these three amazing activities while you’re there:
Bird’s Eye View
The dramatic dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is one of the most recognizable sites in Florence. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the early middle ages, this extraordinary architectural feat is even more interesting when viewed up close. Climb the stairs of the Duomo – yes all 463 of them – and see the double-vaulted interior of the dome. You’ll also get acquainted with remarkable frescoes started by Vasari and completed by Zuccaro from just inches away. The 360-degree view of the city and the Tuscan hills beyond from the very top are worth every step of your effort. Purchase a ticket online for 10 euros that includes entrance to Galleria dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni and Crypt of Santa Reparata.
Explore the Oltrarno neighborhood Cross over the Arno river from Florence’s historic center to the neighborhood known as Oltrarno. Here you will find artisan workshops busy with masters and apprentices making shoes of fine Italian leather, mosaic tables and jewelry from semi-precious stones and painters still using Renaissance techniques. This quieter side of Florence is where you will find the Renaissance-Mannerist Palazzo Pitti which is almost always hosting an interesting exhibit. If you would like to hang out with the locals, head to the large Piazza San Spirito and sit on the fountain steps or in one of the cafes surrounding this lively square.
The best Florentine street food is a Panino di Lampredotto, a kind of tripe made from the fourth stomach of a cow. Look for one of the famous kiosks scattered about the historic center or markets. Do not be put off by the idea of offal. It is truly delicious and it’s a taste you can’t find anywhere else. A crunchy roll is dipped into the flavorful broth and then filled with the finely hand-chopped beef tripe, a dollop of salsa verde and a swipe of hot pepper sauce. Trust us, you will like it.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
This is one of Tuscany’s most iconic must-see spots. Yes, it’s touristy, but the Piazza dei Miracoli is really extraordinarily beautiful with the grand Romanesque cathedral, the round marble Baptistery and of course, the famous Leaning Tower. If you didn’t know, the tower leans because of the soft Pisan soil and a poor foundation. These imperfections in engineering panned out nicely, as the structure has remained stable through the decades despite its inclined state, resulting in a unique, world-famous site. The piazza is an incredible opportunity to see the unique Pisa Gothic style of architecture. Take some photos and get ready for your next stop.
Perched on a high ridge carved by wind and time from volcanic tuffa stone, this breathtaking town is also known as Little Jerusalem. There’s been a Jewish community that has settled here since the 15th century. In this pretty Tuscan hill town, you can visit medieval, renaissance and baroque era churches filled with frescoes and sculpture. The best views of the valley below are from the dramatic Piazza Becherini. In the valley below, Pitigliano, there are at least ten Etruscan tombs to explore. Seeing them up close is like going back in time, so take a moment to check them out for a truly unique experience.
Tuscan Hot springs
The area known as the Maremma in southern Tuscany is filled with wild natural hot springs. Explore the countryside between the towns of Pitigliano and Sorano. Near Saturnia, you can soak away the fatigue of your climb to the top of the Duomo or the jet lag from your journey in one of the warm, mineral-rich pools. You can find well-appointed spas with a menu of facilities and services or a rustic open public spring if you’re more inclined towards the outdoors.
Eating and Drinking in Tuscany
Eat pici with ragu di cinghiale; Pici is a hand rolled pasta, like thick spaghetti made from only flour and water. It’s one of the more typical pasta types found in the region and it’s great for a filling meal. One of the most delicious ways to eat pici is to try the type that’s topped with a rich and hearty sauce made from wild boar. It’s called ragu di cinghiale and it tastes as good as it sounds.
Learn about Sangiovese and Trebbiano grapes.
There are almost 800 wine estates in Tuscany. Spend a day at a vineyard in one of the 40 DOC wine growing regions of Tuscany. Drive the well-known “Chianti Road” (Strada Statale 222) for names like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino or seek out to lesser known varieties like Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Maremma Toscana. Another way to taste a variety of Tuscan wines is to visit an enoteca. You will find these small wine shops in almost any Tuscan town. A sweet end to a Tuscan meal is a small glass of Vin Santo and cantucci (biscotti) to dunk.
To make the most of your euros in Tuscany, follow these golden budget rules.
Running on a limited travel budget? Don’t worry. These three tips will save you a bundle while you’re in the region:
Book your train tickets ahead of time. Fares are drastically reduced the father ahead you book, but only a few of these tickets are available on each train.
Stand up. Have your morning cappuccino and afternoon coffee standing up at the bar. It can cost up to double the price if you choose to sit down.
Stay in the country. Agritourismos are working farms with accommodations for travelers. They offer great value for money and they’re an excellent way to see the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. Accommodations often includes a kitchen so you can shop at local markets and grocery stores so you can make a few of your own home cooked Italian feasts.
There’s so much more to see, do and eat in Tuscany than one blog post can do justice to. The best way to experience this wonderful region is to pack your bags, take a leap of faith and see it for yourself. It’s every bit as great as any other tourist destination in Italy, so go ahead and come visit. Ciao!
About the Author
Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She’s a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients. For more on Priscila and her work, connect with her on Googlle+.