The 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites you’ll discover in glorious Tuscany

Though we think that every corner of Italy is worth visiting, staying at one of our hotels in Tuscany holds a special place in our hearts, with the region featuring mile after mile of spectacular landscape, an unrivalled way of life and a fascinating heritage. So important has the region’s heritage been deemed that an incredible seven places in Tuscany have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Read on and we’ll take you through each of the sites, one by one.

Florence’s historic city centre

The first place in Tuscany to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Florence is the region’s capital, home to the birth of the Renaissance as well as one of the most fascinating historic city centres in the world. Many have labelled the city centre as an open-air museum, with the historical buildings being the artefacts. Visitors to Florence can expect to admire such grand buildings as the impressive Cathedral, topped with its remarkable Duomo by Brunelleschi, as well as other landmarks such as the Ponte Vecchio and Giotto’s Bell Tower.

Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa

Translating into the ‘Square of Miracles’, the piazza really is a miraculous place, nestled within the historical city centre surrounded by fortified walls. Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower overlooks the square, which dates back as far as the 11th century, also containing the cathedral, the baptistery and the cemetery. Although the other buildings tend to be overlooked for the often-photographed Leaning Tower, they work in harmony together to create a spectacular piazza deserving of its name.

San Gimignano and its unique medieval towers

Added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1990, San Gimignano is a small yet unique town which captures the true essence of life in Tuscany. Its tall medieval towers stand out against the town’s skyline, overlooking the surrounding landscape from a high hilltop, with its encircling fortified walls another symbol of the town’s medieval roots.

Siena’s historical centre

Internationally known for its famous horseback race, the Palio, Siena also boasts some of the finest medieval and Gothic architecture in Italy, with the beauty culminating in the city’s central shell-shaped square, Piazza del Campo, which features the Mangia tower and the Santa Maria church. Its striking medieval cathedral also houses some of the most important works by some of the key artists of the Renaissance.

Pienza, the home of Pope Pius II

Nestled within the hills of the Val d’Orcia, Pienza is known for being the hometown of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius II, who turned the old town of Pienza into a place widely known today as “the ideal city of the Renaissance”. The town became one of the first places to house Renaissance architecture such as Palazzo Piccolomini, built in 1459 as his summer home, creating today a fascinating and historic city centre lined with incredible architecture.

The Val d’Orcia

Proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004, the Val d’Orcia is a one of a kind landscape which reflects the image most travellers have in their heads of Tuscany of rolling hills and bright sunshine. Amongst the valleys, groves of olive trees and sweeping vineyards, you’ll also discover the quaint villages of Montalcino and San Quirico d’Orcia.

The Medici Villas and Gardens

Last to be added to UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2013 were the 12 Medici villas and 2 gardens you find not far from Florence. These were Renaissance-era summer residences and hunting lodges for the powerful Medici family, most of which can be visited for free and which house important works from Renaissance artists.

Image: Stefano Montagner, available under Creative Commons

Andrew is a firm believer that travelling like a local inevitably leads to the best off-the-beaten-path finds which truly make a destination remarkably more memorable. From traditional Indian festivals in humid Hyderabad to fresh seafood pasta by the Sorrentine Peninsula, he appreciates variety when travelling. He hasn't been everywhere, but it’s on the list.