Tuscany is an incredible region to visit if you’re a history and culture lover. It’s the heart of the Renaissance and is rich with ancient architecture and cultural wonders.
Visiting some of the spectacular historic gardens and villas throughout the region is a great way to learn more about the area while seeing breathtaking views. Here are five of the most amazing historic villas to visit while in Tuscany.
1. Villa Garzoni
There are a lot of grand and impressive villas in Tuscany for visiting as well as staying. Villa Garzoni is perhaps one of the most majestic due to its layout. The facade of the villa rests on a hillside, blocking access to the village of Collodi. To enter the village, you walk through the archway of the villa. At one time, this was the only way to get in and out of Collodi.
The gardens surrounding the villa could be a standalone attraction. The sprawling greenery boasts a fusion of Baroque and Renaissance art styles with lavish displays. Scattered throughout the expansive natural surroundings are hidden caves and beautiful sculptures. Within Collodi, don’t forget to visit the Butterfly House and Pinocchio Park.
What to do in Collodi
When you’re done exploring, stop in at Ristorante Villa Garzoni for some authentic Tuscan cuisine. With a spacious, rustic main room and a private greenhouse for intimate dining events, Ristorante Villa Garzoni offers a delicious cafe, local authentic goods, and books to take with you to read in the gardens.
2. Villa Torrigiani in Lucca
Villa Torrigiani is a beautiful villa and park in the Lucca region that dates back to the 1500s. This small but elaborate villa was renovated to emulate France’s famous Palace of Versailles in the 1600s when it was purchased from the original owner by a Marquis. Believe it or not, the descendants of that Marquis still reside in Villa Torrigiani.
The impressive facade is flanked by ancient cypress trees and punctuated by an ornate fountain. You can tour the inside of the villa to take in the stunning frescoes and antique furniture. The surrounding park has intricate gardens with statues of fairytale creatures encompassed by floral displays.
What to do in Lucca
In addition to visiting Villa Torrigiani, there’s plenty to do in Lucca, making it a worthwhile city in which to stay for a few days. Climb to the top of Torre delle Ore, a 700-year-old clock tower that gives sweeping views of the city below. Wander around the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and Communal Botanical Gardens to take in the sights. You won’t want to miss the iconic Guinigi Tower, which boasts a rooftop garden above the city.
3. Villa La Pescigola
Villa La Pescigola is a bit different from the previous historical villas on this list. This site is an 18th-century wonder and a reflection of the changing times.
When you visit Villa La Pescigola, you’ll be greeted by hundreds of thousands of blooming flowers. The architecture boasts a very romantic setting, with sprawling gardens and unique horseshoe-shaped construction. Get there early and watch the sunrise over the sprawling hills of Lunigiana.
What to do in Fivizzano
There are plenty of activities outside the villa to keep you busy while visiting Fivizzano. With incredible lakes and mountains, this area of Tuscany is ideal for those who crave adventure. Get out and hike to take in the natural scenery of the area, or explore some of the subterranean caves and waterfalls at Equi Terme.
If you can appreciate these intricate architecture and structures, why not consider visiting the ancient castles in Ireland
4. Villa Cetinale
Villa Cetinale is peak Renaissance. This 17th-century building was built by one of Bernini’s students. Bernini is one of the most famous architects and sculptors, with his work being in such notable locations as St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and the iconic Fontana del Tritone in Rome.
Villa Cetinale is located near Siena, one of the best places to visit in Tuscany. It boasts a sweeping park that was added in the 18th century with beautiful fruit-bearing trees set in a gorgeous valley. Villa Cetinale is only an hour away from the shore, making it a great stop along the way to the gorgeous Elba region.
What to do in Elba
Elba is one of Tuscany’s hidden gems. This coastal settlement has been compared to tropical beaches, with white sands and secluded coves encompassed by craggy cliffs. Sansone beach boasts sparkling turquoise waters, similar to the world famous beaches in Varadero, Cuba. Elba is a part of the larger Arcipelago Toscano National Park, which is home to a collection of seven main islands, each more beautiful than the last.
If you like a bit of outdoor adventure, why not experience rock climbing which can be found in Italy and other parts of Europe?
5. Medici Villa of Castello
Medici is a name recognized around the world when it comes to Italian history. The House of Medici was the ruler of Tuscany during the Middle Ages, and the name holds weight still today. The Medici Villa of Castello is in the heart of it all, located near Florence, where the family ruled.
Unfortunately, the gorgeous villa itself is not open to the public as it’s home to the Crusca Academy. However, the gardens are free to roam, and you can see the outside of the villa from the grounds.
This magnificent complex was once home to The Birth of Venus, Botticelli’s most recognizable statue. While this incredible piece of art has since been relocated, you can still see other wonders, such as the famous Grotto of Animals.
What to do in Florence
Florence is the number one must-visit destination in Tuscany, not only for the history, but for the dining and culture as well. You must see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore at night, with its iconic red dome overlooking the city. The Uffizi Gallery is home to priceless works of art from the Renaissance, including the aforementioned Birth of Venus. Take a stroll along Ponte Vecchio, a world-famous bridge that’s known for its shops and stops over the water. Finally, stop and see Michaelangelo’s David in all of its glory.
The best of Tuscany
Visiting historic villas is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Tuscan culture. When you walk through the gardens or tour the ancient halls, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. From Pisa to Florence, there are endless opportunities for exploration in the ancient, natural, and modern worlds.