Road Trips With Avis: Tuscany
Around Tuscany - Renaissance Romance
A rental car is the ideal way to cover Tuscany and Umbria
From rolling hills carpeted with sunflowers to achingly beautiful towns where the streets are lined with artistic treasures, in this region love is permanently in the air. If the light of your life doesn't say "yes" here, they never will ...
Test drive this two-day road trip for the best of Tuscany
Most people think of medieval frescoes when you mention Tuscany, but this region is also home to some stunning coastline. So while the crowds flock to Florence, turn the other cheek and head to Livorno.
Pick up your Avis hire car from Pisa Airport and drive south on the SS1 road. From here, it's a short hop to San Gimignano and on to Siena, before nipping into neighbouring Umbria, where you'll pass by the Lago Trasimeno, with its jaw-dropping views over the voluptuous countryside.
By now, your significant other should be putty in your hands. If not, Tuscany has a few more tricks up its sleeve, in the form of Arezzo, Empoli and Lucca ...
High points en route
Livorno – Renaissance by the sea
There are so many beautiful buildings in Livorno – just a 10km drive from touristy Pisa – that they seem to spill over into the blue-green Med. Stroll by the water, fall in love with the local architecture, and if you're lucky, you might even see dolphins splashing around the pink rocks along the shoreline.
San Gimignano – Tuscan towers
Perched at the top of the Elsa Valley and a windy drive, San Gimignano's famous towers can be seen for miles around, the pink stonework contrasting with the rich green of the surrounding hills. Make sure you check out the Museo d'Arte Sacra (look out for the wooden angel dating back to the 14th century) and the Sacra and Piazza della Cisterna.
Siena – Campo it up
Park up and head straight to the Campo – the spectacular city square, which hosts the annual horse race (Il Palio) every July and August. From here, wander the town's winding streets and soak up the laid-back Sienese atmosphere.
Arezzo – Bargain hunting
Lose your way among the architectural hotchpotch spanning six centuries. Twelfth-century houses happily sit next door to 18th-century civic buildings, interspersed with the ubiquitous family-run espresso bars. Head to the Piazza Grande on the first weekend of the month and spend a couple of hours rummaging for bargains at the antique market.
Lucca – Walk the line
Go straight to the Duomo di San Martino, in the piazza of the same name. As you walk in, look to your right for the group of statues known as The Begging of Saint Martin (L’Elemosina di San Martino), which date back to the 13th century. As the sun goes down, take an early-evening amble around the 4km city wall.
Free time on your hands? Take your pick from the following gems
1. Florence (Uffizi Gallery) – Art HQ
You could spend weeks admiring art in Florence and only scratch the surface, but the Uffizi is essential. Marvel at the Botticellis, Canalettos and Titians before taking a stroll across the nearby Ponte Vecchio, lined with jewellery shops.
2. Cinque Terre – Top up the tan
After all that art and architecture, this cluster of five romantic villages nestling in the hills above the rocky coastline, off the dramatic E80 coastal road, provides the ideal opportunity to catch some rays. Monterosso al Mare is the most accessible by road, and there are free beaches here.
3. Hotel Ristorante Il Maniero, near Assisi – Eat your heart out
Book a table in the vault of this medieval castle, about 20 minutes from Assisi, and savour truffles and other Umbrian classics. If you eat too much – and you probably will – stay over.
4. Castello di Brolio – Liquid history
If you have time, take a detour from Siena on the SS408 and head to this amazing castle, owned by the wine-making Ricasoli family since 1167, and which has breathtaking views out across the Chianti region.