Rick Steves' Best of Tuscany in 12 Days, Day by Day
Our brand-new Best of Tuscany tour will have you falling in love with everything about this beautiful region, from Renaissance treasures to fine wines to farm-fresh food. Starting in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, you'll discover the incredible Renaissance art treasures of the Bargello and Accademia, followed by a deep dive into the Tuscan countryside. Roll your way through the Chianti hills sipping wine and strolling through Siena. Breathe in the fresh air of the Val d'Orcia, where vineyards and cypress trees go on forever. Meet local family farmers and taste their fresh products. Learn how to make homemade pasta and savor every meal. Finally, soak up the Tuscan sun on historic Elba.
Follow along as we preview the Best of Tuscany in 12 Days tour. Let's go!
Day 1: Welcome to Tuscany
Our adventure begins in Florence, the capital of Tuscany. At 4 p.m. we'll gather at our centrally located hotel for a brief welcome meeting, followed by an orientation walk through our favorite Renaissance city. Along the way, we'll be introduced to the divinely domed Duomo and its storytelling Baptistery doors. Then we'll get to know each other over an aperitivo of Tuscan drinks and appetizers before setting you free to enjoy the city's evening ambiance and a light meal on your own.
Day 2: Renaissance and Everyday Florence
A local scholar will join us this morning as we tour the Accademia Gallery and study Michelangelo's majestic David. Afterward, we'll enjoy a neighborhood walking tour that connects us with the daily lives of Florentines — and their love of food and local markets. It's the perfect introduction to the rest of your day, which is free to explore more of Florence (including the Uffizi Gallery if you've booked ahead) and enjoy dinner on your own.
Day 3: Florentine Treasures and Chianti
We'll begin our day at Florence's famed National Museum of Bargello. Housed in a 13th-century palace (and 18th-century prison!), the Bargello welcomes us with intimate looks at Renaissance masterpieces by Donatello, Michelangelo, della Robbia, and more. We'll end our morning with a visit to an impressive mosaic workshop, where we'll learn how local artisans keep this Renaissance art form alive. After a break for lunch, we'll meet our coach and driver and embark on a scenic journey over the hills of Chianti, ending at our family-owned country hotel. We'll be welcomed with an aperitivo, followed by a traditional Tuscan dinner together.
Day 4: Savoring Siena
Today we'll head out to one of our favorite Tuscan hill towns: spirited Siena. With a local guide, we'll introduce you to the city's treasure-filled Duomo and learn the story of Siena's medieval city-state rivalry with Florence. We'll also gain insight into the city's beloved Palio horse races and learn why this tradition means so much to residents of every Sienese neighborhood. You'll have some free time to wander around Siena's charming streets — or relax with a drink and a view along the famous Campo. We'll return to our countryside hotel for some down time before enjoying a tasting of the world-famous Chianti wines.
Day 5: Tuscany's Val d'Orcia
This morning we'll head to Tuscany's picturesque Val d'Orcia region. Along the way, we'll hear stories of how this area was impacted by the tumultuous events of World War II. We'll stop at a family-run Brunello winery for lunch, tasting their delicious homemade prosciutto as we sip their fine wine. This afternoon we'll learn about the pivotal role of monasticism in Tuscan history at the hilltop Benedictine Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, famous for its wood-carved choir and colorful frescoes by Signorelli and Sodoma. We'll finish our day enjoying a traditional Tuscan dinner together at our villa in the Val d'Orcia.
Day 6: Farm-to-Table and Pienza
Today we'll visit the neighboring hill town of Pienza and take a short, scenic walk along the town wall before venturing underground to find a unique piece of Etruscan history. After some free time in town to enjoy a tasty gelato, we'll head to a nearby working family farm to learn how Tuscany's proud agricultural traditions are kept alive and sample the family's wine and olive oil. As evening approaches we'll gather back at our villa for a fun and informative cooking class, where we'll learn time-tested pasta-making techniques. We'll enjoy the labors of our culinary creations over a lovely dinner together.
Day 7: Hill Towns and Via Cava
Today we'll take a scenic drive along a less-traveled route through "back door" Tuscany — wandering through timeless hill towns with pristine views. At the "Little Jerusalem" village of Pitigliano, a resident will treat us to a history lesson that reveals how its nickname came to be, and we'll walk one of Tuscany's Cave Roads, pondering the mystery of these ancient passageways. Rest assured, we'll return to our countryside villa with plenty of time to kick back and relax before dinner on your own.
Day 8: Maremma's Old West
This morning we'll say goodbye to the rolling hills of the Val d'Orcia and head even further off the beaten path, into the ranching region of Maremma. For lunch, we'll mosey on over to a working cattle ranch for some tasty Tuscan BBQ and see how modern-day cowboys and their horses keep Maremma's "old west" traditions alive. Then we'll hop aboard a Mediterranean ferry to set sail for a very different kind of destination: the sparkling island of Elba.
Day 9: Napoleon's Island of Elba
Set your watch to "island time" for a little "vacation from your vacation" in seaside Tuscany. The day is yours to take in the stunning views from Napoleon's villa, where the infamous emperor spent 300 days in forced exile. And just like "His Imperial Majesty," you'll also have plenty of time to explore the local harbor of Portoferraio, with its colorful old town and marina, or just relax along the beach. When hunger calls, enjoy today's fresh catch at your choice of the many delightful Elban eateries. Remember, you're on an island, so you can't get lost.
Day 10: Charming Volterra
This morning we'll board our ferry back to the mainland and make our way up to one of our favorite hill towns, Volterra. We'll have some free time for lunch before meeting a local friend, who will give us a walking tour that includes artisans working in an alabaster workshop. Then we'll head on to the final stop of our Tuscan adventure: the walled city of Lucca.
Day 11: Puccini's Lucca
This morning we'll take a tour of charming Lucca, hometown of the great opera composer Giacomo Puccini. We'll stroll the elegant, pedestrian-friendly streets while learning about the history, music, and artistry that still thrives within this Renaissance walled city. The afternoon will be free for you to wander through more of Lucca, walk atop its scenic wall, or take a short train ride to see nearby Pisa's leaning tower. This evening we'll have our final dinner together, sharing memories and toasting our new friends. Salute!
Day 12: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. It's a breeze to reach the Florence or Pisa airports by train. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao!
Learn more about Rick Steves' Best of Tuscany in 12 Days tour.
Itinerary specifics subject to change.