Exploring Tuscany is all the more enjoyable when you’re walking your way through it. After all, walking is a part of daily life in Italy, and medieval hill towns are the perfect place to walk right along with the locals.
Of course, you can easily walk your feet right off of your body in the larger towns and cities too (while trying to visit all those must-see sites) but village walks are not those go-until-you-drop kind of walks. They’re more like active exploration meets local culture. Throw in breath-taking panoramas and excellent regional food and you’ve created an ideal way to spend a day in the Tuscan countryside.
Since we prefer to steer off the beaten strada, and away from overly touristy towns (i.e. San Gimignano), here are 6 of our favorite village walks in Tuscany …
- Bagno Vignoni – population approximately 36. This tiny, Tuscan village is an absolute beauty, with its cobbled, traffic-free lanes and sweeping views of the countryside. A steep, but well-traveled, pathway outside of the village leads from ancient ruins of a grain mill to a thermal pool below. An ideal place to grab a bite to eat and kick up your heels for a while is alongside another picturesque stone pool that sits in right in the center of oh-so-charming Bagno Vignoni.
- Saturnia – population approximately 280. Saturnia is famous for its thermal spas and gorgeous thermal waterfall, but the town itself is often overlooked. Walking through this quiet village, with its quaint main piazza, is a treat. Plus there are remnants of a Roman road (and archway) that take you on a picturesque walk outside the town walls. Che bello!
- Sarteano – population approximately 4,700. A steep, winding maze of streets and alleyways in Sarteano leads upwards to a fabulous medieval castle that dates to the year 1038 – complete with thick, stone ramparts and an imposing crenelated tower. Plus, the climb up to the castle – and a tour inside it – is like stepping back in time. You can also explore the surrounding area where you’ll find caves, picnic areas and ancient Etruscan necropoli!
- San Casciano dei Bagni – population approximately 1,700. One walk through this sleepy, hill town and it will steal your heart – but San Casciano is small, so your walk won’t take very long. For more steps, with panoramic views, head outside town’s perimeter (follow any of the steep, cobbled streets downward) and you’ll find a trail that leads to the valley below, and a still-standing, Roman pool that gushes thermal waters – a great spot to soak tired feet and take in the scenery.
- Montefollonico – population approximately 480. Just a couple of kilometers outside the medieval walls of Montepulciano (famous for its Vino Nobile wines) sits the charming village of Montefollonico. Of course, Montepulciano itself is also a terrific town for walking, but you’re sure to find tourists there – especially in summer. What we love about Montefollonico is that it’s quiet, quaint and surrounded by some of the more spectacular vineyards in all of Italy. In addition to wandering through the tiny town itself, you can walk along the strade bianche (white roads) that lead in and out of town and get an up-close look at those beautiful, wine-making grapes.
- Pitigliano – population approximately 3,900. With its Etruscan past and miles of vie cave (cave roads) that date to Etruscan times, Pitigliano is a walker’s paradise. The town itself sits on a rock plateau like something out of a fairytale, and the views from the cliff-supported walls over the surrounding hills and forests are absolutely breathtaking. After exploring town, be sure to venture outside its walls and explore some of the nearby vie cave and necropoli.
Pamela Haack is an Italy travel consultant and author who specializes in creating group trips and personalized experiences for travelers who like active vacations in Italy – off the beaten strada.
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