Tuscany has been a muse for artists and dreamers since time immemorial. The fascination of this region in central Italy lies in its iconic landscapes, artistic cities and perfectly preserved Medieval towns. In Tuscany you also find some special and inspiring places that can awake your creative side: ancient castles, picturesque hilltop towns, wondrous views and magical places to spark your imagination!
Inspiring Places in Tuscany that can truly Spark your Imagination
1. San Galgano Ruined Abbey – Legends and mysteries
A roofless Medieval Abbey. Enchanting countryside all around it. And a little Chapel where the very Tuscan ‘sword in the stone’ is guarded. This is a place of legends, spirituality and intrigue. Like something out of a historic mystery thriller. Legends even talk about the Holy Grail being hidden here.
Once upon a time a dissolute knight met an angel and that encounter changed his life. That knight was named Galgano, and after this extraordinary encounter he became a hermit. When he died the Montesiepi Chapel was built in his honour, and later the monks founded the great Abbey nearby.
Where is it? You find San Galgano Abbey near Chiusdino, south of Siena.
2. San Gimignano – Aboard a Time Machine
Is time travelling your thing? Well then, in San Gimignano you can try the thrill of leaving the 21st century behind and embark on a trip back to the Middle Ages. It’s the best preserved Medieval town in Tuscany, and justly famous because it still boasts 14 original tower houses. Here, wealthy families in the 13th century used to live, show off their power and protect themselves from enemy attacks. What is there to see? There are impressive frescoes inside the Cathedral, a wishing well in the picturesque Piazza della Cisterna, and a Torture Museum for anyone wanting to get up close to the dark side of the Middle Ages.
Insider’s tip => Come in Winter (out of the main tourist season) to better experience the atmosphere of this magnificent Medieval hilltop town, which is among Tuscany’s top sights. Spend the night, and take a evening walk delighting in your steps on the cobbled streets. Take a Guided Tour led by a local to learn about the fascinating history of this area.
3. Apuan Alps Caves – Otherwordly Natural Beauty
For a truly unique experience organise a visit to the white world of the Apuan Alps, in northern Tuscany. This mountain range is famous for its marble quarries, still active today. As you approach the Apuan Alps (highest peak: 1.946 meters) you’ll notice that the mountain tops are sparkling with white. What you see is not snow, but precious Tuscan marble, used throughout the centuries in sculptures, edifices and decorative motifs. Exploring this part of Tuscany is like entering a parallel dimension, made of fine white dust and peaks overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea. You can join a Guided Tour of the Carrara Marble Quarries, or hike to see the David mural near the small town of Colonnata.
=> On the way to the Apuan Alps, visit the art-filled town of Pietrasanta.
4. Tarot Garden – Imaginative Symbols-filled Art
Filled with multicoloured, crazy sculptures, the Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) is an inspirational place that surely can sparks your imagination. The Gaudì-style shapes represent the figures of the Tarot cards, inviting you to explore their symbolic meaning or simply to enjoy their interaction with the nature that surrounds them. You have the Star, with water flowing out of the vases she’s holding, the Papess representing our feminine, intuitive side, and a winged figure that teaches us Temperance. A perfect place to forget rationality and let your creative juices flow. You find it near Capalbio, in Southern Tuscany.
5. Florence Cathedral – The stroke of a Genius
When Brunelleschi came up with his ingenious idea of how to build the Cathedral’s dome, the Florentines were amazed, and a bit incredulous. Still today, experts revere his groundbreaking engineering work with amazement and when we look up towards the ‘cupolone‘ (nickname for the Dome) we can’t help wondering how they manage to build it at that time.
If you visit the Opera del Duomo Museum you can learn the inspiring story of how Brunelleschi created the dome, and if you climb up – Skip-the-Line with this Guided Tour of the Dome – you can really feel like you’re at the top of the world.
=> Discover the Top 12 Hilltop Towns in Tuscany
6. Orbetello – Location location!
A small town surrounded by water. The Orbetello Lagoon is a nature reserve with a unique ecosystem, a natural paradise in the Mount Argentario area, in Maremma, Southern Tuscany. Simply magical at sunset, where sky and water mirror each other, creating enchanting combinations of colours. In the middle of it, the small town of Orbetello, with its ochre-coloured stone, a beautiful Cathedral and picturesque streets. Relaxing, peaceful, attracts and soothes every dreamy spirit.
When to Visit => Best time to visit is late Spring, or early Summer before it gets too crowded.
7. Poppi Castle – a Tuscan (…Dark) Fairytale
Visiting a Medieval Castle is always a good way to excite your imagination. And Poppi Castle, of all the castles to visit in Tuscany is the best preserved one. With its crenellated tower, a magnificent courtyard and imposing figure, it dominates the Casentino Valley like it did in the 13th century, when the count Guidi were ruling over this territory. They say the ghost of the beautiful (and passionate) Matelda still hangs around the castle’s rooms, and it’s not difficult to believe such a story. A fairytale princess – or in this case, a black widow – would be the perfect occupant for such a suggestive place.
8. Join one of Tuscany’s traditional Festivals
Taking part in one of Tuscany’s traditional festivals is surely a great way to spark your imagination. The choice is endless: from the Medieval Festivals that take place in scenic towns like Monteriggioni, Volterra or Arezzo, Mercantia in Certaldo Alto that every July fill this historic hilltop towns with wonders and folk music, or the world famous Viareggio Carnival in February, to see how the masters in Viareggio have crafted their huge colourful floats in a festival that turns the coastal town of Viareggio in a giant theatre setting.