Tuscany is one of Italy's most visited regions, welcoming Italian and foreign tourists alike. I am sure you already know about Florence, San Gimignano, Siena, and maybe even Prato and Grosseto, but Tuscany has some off the beaten path gems that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I can honestly say that there is not a single spot that I do not enjoy in Tuscany, and during my many visits, I have collected some favourites I want to share with you. I am not including food and wine in these five reasons to visit Tuscany, because you already know about it. My advice; indulge and worry about the extra kilos after your trip.
1 – It is great to drive
You can drive for hours in Tuscany and never tire of it. Gliding along the rolling hills, enjoying fabulous views at every turn. Whatever your navigator says your travel time is, don't believe it; you always drive slower in Tuscany as you stop for pictures and soak in the atmosphere. Renting a car is an excellent choice as it means you can meander at your own pace, and stop off at little shops along the way to pick up local food and cheap wine, or take a break at that hillside bar for aperitivo (Italian styled happy hour) while gazing out into the distance. If you are already down in Val d'Orcia you can rent a scooter for a day and set out for adventure.
It is quite easy to stop for pictures along the roadside for landscape photography. Remember that you do not always need a wide angle lens, you can get great minimalist shots with a telephoto. Look for the lone trees and leading lines in the fields, and stop whenever you feel inspired.
2 – Exceptional Hot springs
Tuscany has numerous hot springs to enjoy. Some of them have fancy spas next to them with luxurious treatments, but all have free public access as well. Weekends will be busiest because that is when locals are usually off from work. There are plenty to choose from, but photographically speaking Bagni di San Filippo inspires me most. The water here has lots of calcium in it, creating natural white formations that look like fake snow at a water park. The water falls into lots of little pools of cloudy water; this makes it an excellent spot for portraits as the light reflects all of this white. If you go on a colder day, steam rises from the hot water creating a great atmosphere. It is also fun to play with the disappearing effect in the white water. So grab a friend who will agree to be your model and plan on spending some time here.
Insider tip: bring some baby wipes, because there are no shower facilities, and you will be chalky when you get out.
3 – Wildflowers
Travel season is already active during May, but it is more on the shoulder rather than the peak, and it is a gorgeous month for Tuscany. It is not too hot yet, wildflowers speckle the fields, the countryside is a pattern of yellows and greens, and even the rainstorms can be pretty. With the sun rising about 6 am, it is not too stomach churning to get up to capture a magnificent sunrise, and there is a good chance you will see some early morning fog nestled in the valleys, making for exceptional photos.
4 – The Quaint Towns
You will hear the word 'borgo' many times in Tuscany. In previous centuries a borgo usually meant a place where there were fortifications and a market, making it a centre for economic exchange. Nowadays the term is also used to indicate neighbourhoods. Tuscany has so many of these charming little towns; if you have to choose only one Italian region for visiting them, go with Tuscany (coming in second is Umbria). Being small, you do not need a lot of time to see them edge to edge and check off a couple per day. Many rely on tourism, meaning you can find plenty of stores selling local food and wine. Often they survive on day tourism and can be quite at night, making them the perfect place to shoot night photography without the burden of groups of people.
5 – Splendid Photographic Opportunities
Tuscany is a top-notch destination for landscape photography, but do not limit yourself there. The cities offer medieval and renaissance architecture, and if you plan your visit, you can grab the chance to shoot unusual events, like the Palio di Siena. You can take your time with portraiture using beautiful backgrounds, challenge yourself with an array of lighting situations, and do some macro photography out in the countryside. And remember, good photography does not happen on an empty stomach, so eat, drink, relax in a countryside villa, enjoy life and get inspired.
And these are just some of the many reasons we are excited to host a seven day intensive workshop in Tuscany in May 2019. Care to join us? Learn more on our Tuscany Photography Workshop page.
Author: Anna Volpi
The director of the Biennale della Fotografia Femminile (Biennial of Female Photography), Anna Volpi, is an art and travel photographer with Aperture Tours. She is hosting our seven-day intensive Tuscany Photography Workshop in May 2019. Places are limited, so act quickly if you want to be a part of this photographic journey.