We know that you crave the ultimate lists and tips about the most beautiful villages in Tuscany. It’s not easy to pick just a few places when you consider that Tuscany is full of wonderful hidden gems, especially when considering that “beauty” is subjective and depends on what you are looking for. Fortunately there is someone out there who on occasion embarks on this venture! The most reliable lists are those issued by tourism-related institutions. For example, we have already talked about the 38 most charming small towns in Tuscany that boast the the “Orange Flag” (Bandiera Arancione), the tourism quality designation awarded annualy by the Italian Touring Club. Today we present you the most beautiful villages in Tuscany according to “I Borghi più belli d’Italia” Club.
In March 2001 the Tourism Council of the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) founded the “I Borghi più belli d’Italia” Club (“The most beautiful villages in Italy”). The Club aims to promote Italy’s great heritage of history, art, culture, environment and the traditions of its smaller towns which are relatively unknown and off-the-beaten-track. Unfortunately, the population of these villages and towns tend to decrease and the significant negative social and economic impacts caused by this depopulation can be saved by travellers and tourists! It’s in this context that the “I Borghi più belli d’Italia” Club was born, to save these small but incredibly beautiful destinations.
Tuscany is one of the region with the highest number of top attractions in Italy. This list includes 20 towns and we have created a map (that you’ll find at the end) to help you get oriented and outline your itinerary. Get ready for a long journey through some the most beautiful villages in Tuscany:
1. Anghiari (Arezzo)
The valley at the foot of Anghiari is the site of the historic “Battle of Anghiari” of 1440, between the army of Milan and that of Florence. The Florentines won the battle and the victory was commemorated by Leonardo Da Vinci’s fresco painting on the right wall of the Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Although this great work has been lost, with the many years that have passed since, the town remains a very charming spot. Perched on a hill and protected by ancient walls from the thirteenth century, Anghiari is characterized by narrow and picturesque streets and offer an amazing views over the fields of the epic “Battle of Anghiari”.
- Discovering Valtiberina, a charming place in the Arezzo area of Tuscany
- Anghiari: A Fairytale Medieval Town
2. Barga (Lucca)
Barga is a must-see if you are going to explore the Garfagnana area and if you want more insight into northern Tuscany. It’s set in the Tuscan-Apennine mountains at 410 metres above sea level and is surrounded by lush forests. Barga is a perfect destination for those up for a trek or other outdoor activities!
3. Buonconvento (Siena)
“Buonconvento” derives from the Latin “bonus conventus” which means “happy, lucky community”. The strong walls of defence, built following Siena’s architectural style, once enclosed the entire village like a butterfly in the cocoon. The locals say that the best time ever to visit Buonconvento is during the “Sagra della Val d’Arbia” festival a special event that mixes music, art, sport and food. an event of historical significance that has been going on since 1805.
4. Castelfranco di Sopra (Arezzo)
A very small town frequented by local people and boasting a well-preserved historic centre. It’s a good place for relaxing, hiking, and enjoying beautiful views and that archetypal Tuscan town feeling. To better appreciate this village, go for a hike: just outside the walls, on the south side, there’s a marked trail called “Balze del Valdarno” (Valdarno cliffs). This route overlooks the Valdarno cliffs and offers amazing views of its surroundings. This scenery was created througha series of interesting geological phenomena which occurred after the extinction of the Pliocene lake of Upper Valdarno. This “Monument Valley” in the heart of Tuscany is little known, so it’s a perfect place for avoiding the tourist crowds.
5. Castiglione di Garfagnana (Lucca)
This fortified village remains perfectly intact and it is undoubtedly one of most beautiful villages in Tuscany. Its position was strategic, built in order to control the road leading to San Pellegrino’s pass, the road to the north of Italy, over the Apennines. Just outside Castiglione di Garfagnana there’s a lovely medieval bridge called “Ponte dei Mulini” (Bridge of the Mills). It’s a journey back in time, but do bear in mind that you need to be fairly steady on your feet, so wear proper footwear.
6. Cetona (Siena)
Cetona is also worth visiting, it’s very pretty and has lots to explore. The castle was built on the summit of a hill called Cetona. The Civic Museum of the Prehistory of Mount Cetona is found here and offers a guided tour of the Bronze Age encampment and of the Neanderthal cave. It is fascinating and highly educational for adults and children. The family ticket includes a visit to Cetona museum.
- The etruscan village located on the north-eastern slopes of the Cetona mountain
- Civic Museum of the Prehistory of Mount Cetona
7. Coreglia Antelminelli (Lucca)
The village is located about 600 m above sea level and is easily accessible. It is situated on a hill and was founded in the Middle Ages. The streets intersect like a spider web. You can visit the Church of St. Michael which has a bell tower next to it. The village of Coreglia Antelminelli, which in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the migration of many of its residents, is famous for the “figurinai“, artisanal worker who built statues made of plaster. To remember and celebrate these workers, the Museum of Plaster Figurines and Emigration was opened in 1975. The museum hosts 1,300 pieces of chalk.
8. Giglio Castello (Grosseto)
Giglio Castello is an ancient hamlet on the top of Giglio Island. It is an ancient medieval village characterized by majestic walls, a fortress and windy streets. If you plan to visit southern Tuscany, you should take a day trip to the island. The best period to visit Giglio Island is from April to September/October, but if you want to take a swim we advise you to go anytime between mid-May and mid-September. Keep in mind that on Giglio Island there is a strict policy about cars. In August, tourists’ cars and motorbikes are not allowed on the island (except for stays longer than 5 days). But Giglio Castello is easy to reach from Giglio Porto and Giglio Campese by bus (the ferry docks in Giglio Porto) so you don’t need the car.
- Isola del Giglio: how to get there, what to see and do
- Two days in Giglio Island: some ideas for an unforgettable stay
9. Loro Ciuffenna (Arezzo)
Loro Ciuffenna sits between the river Arno and the hills at the foot of the Mount Pratomagno. All around you can see the Balze, a collection of unusual rock formations made of clay and sand that are characteristic of the nearby territory of Castelfranco di Sopra (one of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany). Loro Ciuffenna is a beautiful and authentic place, perched on a Tolkien-esque gorge. You can walk down to the old watermill which is the oldest operating mills in Italy. The best time to visit is after a spell of rain. It is also possible to buy flour and chestnut flour made at this mill!
10. Montemerano (Grosseto)
Montemerano is a 12th century town in the heart of Maremma. A very charming village to explore at random, without having a set itinerary or time restraints. It is no longer completely unvisited as it once was in the past, otherwise it would not be one of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany, but it is equally a destination not submerged by mass tourism. Here you can enjoy a more slow-paced, friendly atmosphere.
11. Montescudaio (Pisa)
On a clear day, from Montescudaio you can see all the islands of the Tuscan archipelago right up to the Corsican mountains. Montescudaio was a Benedictine monastery and nowadays it’s possible to visit the Abbey of Santa Maria Assunta, the Oratory of the Santissima Annunziata and the Church of St. Andrew. The panorama on the Cecina Valley is surprisingly beautiful. The area is known not only for the one of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany and the famous Montescudaio D.O.C. red wine, but also for the production of delicious olives and cereals.
12. Ortignano Raggiolo (Arezzo)
This beautiful place offers a glimpse of an authentic Tuscan helmet surrounded by nature. Ortignano Raggiolo is not only the most beautiful villages in Tuscany, is the place to visit for all those who want to relax and to escape from the stresses of everyday life. The village is constructed entirely in stone and is perched on a hill. You have to park the car at the entrance of the village, because you can go in only by foot (when you’ll see the size of the alleys you’ll understand why). For the duration of your stay you will not hear the noise of cars, almost unimaginable for city dwellers. There being no phone signal makes Ortignano Raggiolo completely disconnected with the rest of the world, almost as if it were a different planet. But this will undoubtedly help you to take a break. The apartments are large and full of charm, but also a bit dark. As there was no heating in the past, these houses have low ceilings as houses in those times were built to be low and to have small windows to insulate and trap as much heat as possible as a means of insulation. There is only one restaurant in this village, but it’s a nice place to eat.
13. Pitigliano (Grosseto)
Pitigliano surprises you even from a distance, it’s truly one of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany! Pitigliano has been built in the tuff and has a charming Jewish neighbourhood (which is why it is known as Piccola Gerusalemme, “Little Jerusalem”). Pitigliano offers breathtaking views of the town as you approach it, a picturesque medieval centre that is small enough to walk around easily and many Etruscan sites in the surroundings. Unfortunately, Pitigliano has no train station but buses connect the town with other bigger cities including Siena, Florence and Grosseto. Nevertheless, a car is recommended for visiting the Etruscan sites, the other small towns of the Maremma and for exploring the countryside. If you visit Pitigliano don’t miss two other tuff-built villages, Sovana and Sorano.
- A day trip to Pitigliano in the heart of Maremma
- SettembrediVino: a wine festival in Pitigliano
- Vie Cave: Another Etruscan Mystery
14. Poppi (Arezzo)
Poppi overlooks the Casentino countryside and as you approach it you can see its castle which dominates the skyline. At the entrance of the town there’s a war memorial but Poppi castle (also known as the “Castello dei Conti Guidi“) is the most stunning sight that Poppi has to offer. Established in 1226, the Poppi Castle was ruled for centuries by the Guidi Counts until forced to abdicate by Florentines after the defeat during the Battle of Anghiari (read about Anghiari above, n°1). The castle offers a view of the countryside and is decorated with numerous coats of arms and centuries-old frescoes. It also has a library which boasts thousands of manuscripts and records. The climb to the top is a bit narrow but the view is worth it. We advise you to take advantage of the audio guides offered because it will offer some interesting insight and background information, enriching your overall experience.
- Poppi: the walled city with a wonderful castle in the Casentino area
- The 10 best mountain villages in Tuscany
- 10 small towns near Arezzo
15. Porto Ercole (Grosseto)
From the mountains to the sea!Porto Ercole sits on a hill above a bay and a natural harbour. Trees and rocks cover the surrounding countryside. The water is crystal clear and there are many caves to explore. Porto Ercole offers history and beach life. Forte Stella is a fortification that sits above Porto Ercole on the southeast corner of Monte Argentario. It offers splendid views! Feniglia beach is located nearby, and it is one of the most beautiful beach in the area. You can either walk the long beach or ride in the pine grove. It’s mostly wild and free but if you want there are also a few beach resorts with restaurants, umbrellas and chairs.
- Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole in Monte Argentario
- Monte Argentario in Tuscany: what to see and do
16. Santa Fiora (Grosseto)
Santa Fiora is a small and charming medieval village in the Mount Amiata. The main characteristic of Santa Fiora is the Peschiera, a small lake that gathers the waters from the Fiora River.
In santa Fiora you can visit also the old seat of local government called Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, the medieval clock tower (“Torre dell’Orologio”) and the the Parish of St. Flora and St. Lucilla.
17. San Casciano dei Bagni (Siena)
San Casciano dei Bagni date back to the Etruscan-Roman period. Seen from a distance this fabulous medieval village discloses a magnificent beauty uncorrupted by any urban alteration. By walking the narrow streets or admiring the charming noble palaces, you get a sample of genuine Tuscany. This town doesn’t offer shops but a peaceful atmosphere with stunning views. Nearby there’s the Fonteverde Terme a 5 star hotel and spa, a must-visit if you’re looking for luxury in Tuscany.
18. Scarperia e San Piero (Firenze)
People of Scarperia have been handmaking fine knives for more than five centuries. Legend has it that anyone who receives a knife, must gift a coin in return to offset the “bad luck” of giving a knife as a gift, because it is technically a weapon. In this area you’ll find Trebbio Castle (a popular venue for weddings) and you can visit the convent of Bosco ai Frati San Piero a Sieve and the Palazzo Pretorio Palace. This palace resembles a miniature version of Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze. It is great for a brief visit, and definitively a main sight for Scarperia.
19. Sovana (Grosseto)
Don’t pass up this little town, with its marvellous, historic church almost 1,000 years old. You won’t find walls of gold here. It is the simplicity of this church that makes it so attractive. Sovana boasts one of the quaintest squares in Italy and above the tourist office there’s an interactive display which tells the history of the Etruscan people and culture that children love to use. This area offers also offers the Archaeological Park “City of Tuff”. We recommend that you walk from Sovana to these Etruscan remains. Down an ancient pathway and along the road, the final sight of these ruins surrounded by trees is very evocative.
20. Suvereto (Livorno)
Suvereto is a small village, which dates back to the year 1000. It boasts medieval architecture, beautiful scenery, friendly local people and many cats. It’s very cozy and picturesque, the views from the upper part of the town are amazing. Walking its streets and alleyways will bring you back in time, and you can do it at a peaceful pace undisturbed by the tourist masses. If you visit this town along the Etruscan Coast, combine it with a trip to the Petra winery, located just 10 minutes outside of Suvereto’s walls.
Find out the most beautiful villages in Tuscany on this map:
Original article 2015
Updated version: October 2016