How to See the Best of Tuscany—Beyond Florence—in One Week
Undoubtedly, the art highlight is the frescoed interior of the Collegiata, no longer a proper cathedral because it doesn’t have a bishop’s seat. Sant’Agostino and the Museo Civico, as well as the ascent of the Torre Grossa, are all within a few minutes' walk.
Seeing Siena in a day is the biggest challenge of your trip. Begin at the functional and spiritual heart of town, scallop-shaped Piazza del Campo. The Lorenzetti and Martini frescoes at the Museo Civico (inside the Palazzo Pubblico) should be your first stop. Serious Sienese art fans should then detour to the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena’s picture gallery, for a more in-depth crash-course in Sienese art. After lunch, head for the cathedral complex centered round Piazza del Duomo. You can easily spend three hours seeing the Duomo, the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana (home of Duccio’s Maestà), and the Battistero. The former hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, opposite the Duomo, is a great spot to end your day. (If you have little ones in tow, it’s here you’ll also find Bambimus, the children’s art museum.) If time remains, squeeze in some shopping and cafe time. Siena is renowned for both craftsmanship and bakery products.
Travel Tip: This itinerary does not leave you much time to relax at your stops. If you prefer to move more slowly, consider sacrificing one of the stops to spend an extra day in Siena.
After your ride, you can see the highlights of Lucca from closer up. Although it is light on truly first class museums, the town shelters some of Tuscany’s loveliest churches. Try to visit the Cattedrale di San Martino, San Frediano, and San Michele in Foro, if only to check out their Pisan-Romanesque facades. Leave yourselves time for one of Lucca’s great pleasures: wandering the main pedestrian shopping street, Via Fillungo.
Pictured: A Crowded Street in Pienza
For your final look at Tuscany, Arezzo won’t disappoint; it’s the major reason to visit the northeastern part of the region. Its steep medieval streets were made for walking (in sensible shoes), but the chief attraction is painted inside the Basilica di San Francesco: Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross. Book your timed entrance slot as soon as you hit town. If you’re rushed, you can skip the Duomo, but don’t miss the Pieve di Santa Maria, crazy-sloping Piazza Grande, or a trip to the Casa di Vasari, native-son Giorgio’s old digs. The city goes very quiet during the afternoon riposo (Italian siesta), so I try to make lunch at Gastronomia Il Cervo stretch through the middle part of the day. If you’re not due back in Florence until the following day, Arezzo has a couple of stylish, central boutique accommodations at very fair prices.