So, you have made your choice, taken your pick from our portfolio of Tuscan villas. Congratulations! This is where the really good bit begins.
However often you’ve visited Tuscany, you will almost certainly want to plan some excursions. The best place to begin is to read our guides to the historic cities, towns and villages of the region. Our exclusive free Concierge Service can also help your planning, including by recommending nearby experiences you can pre-book.
Based on decades of Tuscany travels, we’ve also gathered some of our own advice below.
Trim your Tuscany to-do list
If you are anything like us, you will likely end up doing much less than you imagined. Part of the fun of Tuscany is having a chance to do very little in the local area, to enjoy slowing to Tuscan pace. One of the wonders of renting one of our villas in Tuscany is just to “be”, not only to see.
Of course, if you’re in one of our villas near Florence, or Siena, or Pisa… you won’t want to miss some of the most memorable sights in Europe. But part of the Tuscan experience is adapting to the local tempo. Leave aside a day or two to relax. At least.
Dine under a Tuscan sun
Nothing could be easier than fixing an al fresco lunch. Every town in Tuscany has a weekly market, on at least one day of the week, sometimes two. These are the best places to pick up seasonal produce and local treats – a gold mine of Tuscan flavours. You can check the day in the information folder that’s in every villa.
Villas in Chianti will almost certainly have a top-class butcher nearby. This part of Tuscany is famous for its meat.
Supermarkets, even small ones, are usually excellent back-ups for an impromptu lunch or snack-on-the-go. Fresh produce is part of everyday life here. Just remember that small shops sometimes close on a Sunday or Monday (all day or half-days). Hours are always posted at the door.
You will quickly work out how to plan your days around the rhythms of local timekeeping. Traditionally, every shop closes for the lunchtime riposo, between around 12:30 and 3:30pm daily. In the centuries before aircon, this was a necessity to escape summer heat.
Small shops and family-owned businesses largely stick to this tradition. The centre of Florence and Siena, and sometimes Lucca and Pisa, are the only major exceptions to this.
Some sights also close over lunchtime. Churches almost all close over lunch, even if they have major art treasures inside. You should check ahead if you are unsure.
The chiusura per turno sees restaurants in a town, village or even city take it in turns to close one day of the week. The idea was this system would allow families at least one day off, without everyone shutting on the same day. For obvious reasons, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are common, but we’ve even seen a Saturday chiusura.
In high season and big cities, week-long opening is slowly catching on, but the chiusura per turno is still widespread. Don’t drive 30 miles without checking, if you have your hearts set on a meal somewhere specific.
Another to watch you’re not caught out by: state museums close on a Monday. And, yes, that includes both the Uffizi and “David” at the Accademia in Florence.
Big flavours reign here, and you should not leave without sampling some of the traditional foods of Tuscany. Wild boar (“cinghiale”) finds its way into salami and stews. It’s dark and sweet, and melts in your mouth when it’s cooked slowly. Dishes of the Maremma go big on boar.
Ewe’s milk cheese pecorino is also strong (and indeed, makes a good match for boar salami on an antipasti plate). Pecorino di Pienza is Tuscany’s most prestigious. You can take the edge off a pecorino’s sheepy-ness with a touch of Montalcino honey.
These are just a few of our favourites. Tuscany has many, many more.
You can also sample a genuine flavour of local life by attending a “sagra” while you’re here. These small village festivals tend to be scheduled for summer afternoons and evenings, and are advertised on posters around the area.
For a small fee, there’s food, usually live traditional music, local wine and old-school dancing till late. Communal, low-key and welcoming for everyone, they are the soul of a Tuscan summer.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your week in a Tuscan villa passes. Which is why we also offer 2-week stays (but that’s another story…).