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san gimignano

text: Mila Montagni
photo: cover and San Gimignano Lorenzo Cotrozzi, other Pasquale Paradiso

April 8, 2020

The most beautiful villages in Tuscany

5 places to discover an hour from Florence

When spring arrives, everyone wants to go on a few day trips outside the city. The countryside once again shines in all its colourful glory, blossoming flowers tinting the fields and sides of the roads. And dotting the picturesque hillsides, even just a few kilometres from Florence, are centuries-old villages. Some date all the way back to the Etruscan era, while the origins of others remain a mystery to us, except for beautiful Pienza, whose foundation we know the exact date of, 1462. Here is an itinerary for discovering some of Tuscany’s greatest gems, home to artistic heritage and surrounded by landscapes so stunning it’s no wonder they have been immortalized in Renaissance masterpieces.


Its name is tied to the sumptuous Vino Nobile, the symbol of a millennia-old tradition begun with the Etruscans and never forgotten. To learn about the secrets of the village, you need to head below ground, under the wine bars: tunnels, wells, ancient cisterns and crypts made of tuff and rocks await.


The city walls are topped by a fairy-tale-like castle that dominates the city. From here, you can enjoy some of the best views of the surrounding vineyards, where one of the most esteemed Italian reds in the world is produced, the Brunello.


In the Middle Ages, this fortifified village, with the via Francigena winding down below, had the same appearance that we can see today in the upper and oldest part of the city. Its most famous citizen was Giovanni Boccaccio, while for centuries its symbol has been the typical red onion.


This jewel of the Val d’Orcia was the Renaissance dream of the sophisticated humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius II, who decided to transform the village where he was born into the ideal city in 1462. The architect Bernardo Rossellino designed this rare wonder, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Gimignano

Etruscan, Lombard and a crossroads between Pisa and Siena for those travelling along the via Francigena: San Gimignano, home to the famous Vernaccia, is famous the world over for its splendid towers (13 of its original 72 remain), which have survived both modern warfare and medieval conflflicts. The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.

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