4 Top Small Towns of Tuscany
Most people when they think of Tuscany think of the large city of Florence with its museums and busy sites, or they think of rolling countryside scatter with iconic Tuscany villas. However, there’s much more to the area than these two extremes, and many people who visit enjoy spending time in some of the region’s lesser-travelled small towns where you can taste authentic Tuscany. Villa rentals here are easier to book, and you’ll get a different kind of experience. Below are four of the best small towns of the area.
Just an hour’s drive from Florence, Lucca is probably the most popular destination for visitors looking for that “small town” experience. This lovely town is laced with winding medieval streets and surrounded by classic fortification walls, which have now been turned into a charming bicycle and walking path. The Lucca Duomo and the Church of San Michele in Foro are spectacular structures that rival the Duomos of Milan and Florence. There are also the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheatre located at the Piazza Antiteatro, a circle of well-preserved small medieval buildings.
There are few places more charming than the cliff-top town of Pitigliano, which is perched precariously high on the edges of tufa cliffs in Tuscany. Villa rentals around here will allow you to explore the area in detail. Its history is rich in Jewish culture as its first inhabitants (in the 13th century) were Jews who came to the area from Rome. Unfortunately, most fled during World War II – although there is a museum in the Old Jewish Quarter that tells the history of their influence on the town.
Because of its setting for the Twilight films, Volterra has now become a more popular tourist destination. But outside of a few teenagers and their indulgent parents, this small town remains a quiet and peaceful retreat. It has roots that date all the way back to the 8th century B.C.E. as an Etruscan settlement; substantial parts of these Etruscan remains still stand, including a defensive wall around the old city from from the 4th century B.C.E. Volterra is still relatively unknown as a destination in Tuscany. Villa guests staying nearby will have the opportunity to wander its medieval streets and admire the stunning hilltop views.
Recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pienza is located in the beautiful hilly countryside of Val d’Orcia, which is known for its great hiking. Its wistful and fairy-tale setting made it the chosen place for Zeffirelli to film Romeo and Juliet. Though much older, the town was completely rebuilt by Pope Pius II as an ideal harmonious Renaissance town – principally because it was his birthplace. It is stunning to see such a small town (with only 2,500 people) adorned with such grand and beautiful architecture.