A car in Tuscany is less a luxury and more a path to freedom and the ability to plan your trip independent of roadblocks. We recommend driving around Tuscany and have developed a fulfilling route for you. It’s quite full and is about 500 km long. We chose the 15 best cities and villages in Tuscany, including both small and large ones that are worth a visit. If you’re not used to a quick pace, then you can adjust the route by skipping a few spots or spending more time in the area. Let’s begin!
First, take care of getting a car. It’s convenient to rent a car in advance on this site. It’ll help you find the perfect car among the many offers available.
Tuscany car route
Day 1: Prato, Pistoia
Our route starts at Florence’s airport, Peretola, where you’ll get your car and go not to Florence, the region’s capital, but in the other direction, to Prato, Italy’s textile region.
You have to visit a duomo in any Italian city, and the Prato Cathedral is as impressive as any other. The Gothic facade is made of alternating light and dark marble and the cathedral’s stripes are quite striking. The Emperor’s castle isn’t far. It’s an impressive leviathan of strict cubic design without consistent decoration. Another enjoyable destination is the textiles museum. It reminds us that ever since the 13th century, Prato has been a huge center of light industry in Italy. You can see the old equipment, as well as examples of silk and wool clothing on mannequins.
You’ll spend the rest of the day in Pistoia, a provincial town 20 kilometers from Prato. You can see the whole center in just a couple hours. The streets aren’t filled with tourists, and the churches and especially the baptistry also have bright stripes. Go to the trade square, Piazza della Sala, where you can eat dinner, buy fruit, bread and wine and enjoy the old Pozzo del Leoncino which means “the lion cub’s well.”
If you’re not in a rush, it’s worth buying an interesting walking tour.
Day 2: Montecatini Terme, Montecarlo, Lucca
Your first destination on the next day is Montecatini Terma, a famous spa resort. The best way to quickly see the city is by riding on the old cable car to the top of the city, Montecatini Alto. You’ll remember this place for a long time thanks to the wonderful views from above, especially if you take the car with an open viewing platform.
Then you can stretch your legs by meandering through the hills between the olive groves for a bit. Turn off the main highway towards Montecarlo di Lucca, leave your car in front of the old gates and go walk around the medieval city and buy some local wine. There’s a 14th century fortress here which is privately owned and can be visited with a tour on the weekends. Absolutely pay attention to the hidden miniature opera theater that seats 140 people. It’s not far from the Florentine gates.
We’ll end this day in Lucca, a beautiful, cozy town. We’ve already written about the most important places in Lucca and recommend reading that to learn more. You can spend the evening on a tour, learn the city’s history and the walk around the city on your own tomorrow.
Day 3: Lucca, Pisa
Lucca is a green city below brick roofs that are hard to describe—you’ll just have to see them. Right on the fortress wall that surrounds the old city is a walking street with sycamore trees. You can’t leave without seeing the St. Martin Cathedral’s beautiful facade with carved columns and campaniles. There are actually about 60 churches here, and about as many bell towers, forming the city’s surprising skyline. You can climb a clock tower as well as one of the remaining residential towers, whose owner planted an oak forest on the roof six centuries ago.
We will go to Pisa for the second half of the day. The leaning tower is the most recognizable symbol in the city, but it’s just part of the beautiful architectural complex of the Square of Miracles, which includes the Pisa Cathedral, a baptistry, a bell tower and the Campo Santo cemetery. If you want to learn more about Pisa, we recommend going on a tour of the city. You can find some on this site. And then it’s time to go to the leaning tower and enjoy the city and sunset.
Day 4: Pisa, Volterra, Colle di Val d’Elsa
Say goodbye to Pisa in the early morning, when the Square of Miracles is unusually empty. You’ll drive along a 55 km winding road to Volterra. The road will go towards the mountain until you run into the old fortress wall. Small Volterra isn’t like the refined, rich Pisa at all. Its medieval buildings are devoid of refinement. One of the tourist sites, the Medici fortress, is an active prison. Several times a year, there are open door days with lunch that is made and served by the inmates.
The next stop is Colle di Val d’Elsa, the Italian center of crystal production. The upper city has winding streets and old buildings, and the lower city is more modern, with a crystal museum and a “crystal” fountain on the square. The upper and lower cities are connected by an elevator in the rock! Spending the night in Colle di Val d’Else is a good choice, because this city isn’t very popular among tourists and the hotels are cheaper, like the Casa Soraya, for 57 Euros.
Day 5: Siena
The next day, we’re driving to Siena. You can stop at the city-fortress Monteriggioni for a couple of hours on the way if you’re interested.
Siena is the center of medieval Tuscany, and it will probably take you the full day to see since it’s so large. If you want to learn more about the city during your stay, sign up for a tour of Siena. But to start, here are a few fun facts:
- Siena has the Palio twice a year. It’s a world-famous horse competition between contradas.
- Various animals have become the mascots of every competitor. So, in Siena, you could run into a she-wolf, like the Roman one, an elephant, a giraffe and a dragon.You can walk along the Cats and Dogs street that has remained unchanged since the 13th century.You’ll want to see the tall, thin Torre del Mangia and the real Gothic Siena Cathedral.
- You can see the third Italian way to go up and down mountains: escalators.
You can spend the night in the B&B La Coperta Ricamata in the center of Siena.
Day 6: Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano
Today we will drive 80 km through Tuscany, visiting 3 gems in the Val d’Orca valley.
- Montalcino is a town with beautiful views from the fortress walls and it’s where the most expensive Italian wine, the Brunello di Montalcino, is made.
- Pienza is the birthplace of the sheep cheese and is the “perfect” Renaissance city, made according to a specific civil engineering plan, including a main square named in honor of Pope Pius II and a neat street grid.
- Montepulciano is a city of Etruscans and the Medicis, with endless hills and head-turning views of the valley. You can buy superb Vino Nobile here and go on tours and master classes in the vineyards.
» See more – The 10 best wineries in Tuscany
Day 7: Chiusi, Lucignano
This is the last day of driving through Tuscany’s hills and valleys.
First, we’ll go to Chiusi, a city where the Etruscans, Romans and the first Christians all left their mark. You can find catacombs, labyrinths, excavated tombs and an Archeological Museum with treasures from the Etruscan and Roman cultures. You can also try masterful Tuscan dishes here. Chiusi’s food is amazing. They make soup from lake fish, great steak, and the biscuit-cookies cantucci.
Lucignano is built in a clear oval shape that is repeated by all the streets and rows of buildings.
There’s also the striped St. Francesco cathedral, the main square and three towers that remain from the old fortress. If you can, schedule your visit so that you can see the May Flower Festival, Maggiolata. It’s a farming holiday, full of fun and hope for the future harvest.
Day 8: Florence
For the last spot on our journey, we’ve saved the best for last. It’s Florence, the capital of Tuscany, where you can find many interesting things to see and do.
You can return your car now because it won’t be needed on this old city’s narrow streets. The center of Florence and its surroundings are perfect for biking, so if you want to move around faster, you can rent one here. And, of course, we have a bike route of Tuscany for you too.
Let your car trip around Tuscany become truly unforgettable!