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Spring in Tuscany: Our break into Reinassance, rural towns, stunning hills & beaches, wine & olives

We have planned it for weeks: at the beginning of May, we are going on a trip to Tuscany

Only one problem… we couldn’t decide whether to ride on our motorbike or taking it on a trailer. 

The weather helped us with a decision: a few days of pouring rain seemed like not the best idea for traveling over 1200 km (about 807 miles) on a motorbike, from the South of Poland to Tuscany. 

So we went by car and loaded our BMW 1200 GS on the trailer behind us.

Our Italian trip lasted almost a month. We have visited places that are hard to find on a map, we drove over 4000 km (2500 miles), had amazing food at small restaurants, drank fantastic wines at local vineyards, and talked to many people, who were always extremely nice and helpful, in tiny rural villages

Keep reading and join us on this marvelous adventure!

Our journey begins in South Poland and we crossed the Alps in Austria to reach Italy
Our journey begins in South Poland and we crossed the Alps in Austria to reach Italy

Fiesole and the magnificent view of Florence.

After 14 hours of driving, we arrived in Tuscany. Our first stop: Fiesole

Fiesole is a small town situated on a hill near Florence. Its roots – like many other Tuscan villages – go back to the Etruscan era

The cityscape of Fiesole - Image courtesy of Luisportugal -
The cityscape of Fiesole – Image courtesy of Luisportugal –

The life of the town revolves around Piazza Mino da Fiesole with the Romanesque Cathedral of St. Romulus. However, the biggest attraction of Fiesole is its stunning hilltop location 8 km from the center of Florence. 

It is the perfect place to stay for those who enjoy the peace and quiet of a small town but at the same time, they want to be close to all the attractions Florence is offering.

The view of Florence from Fiesole - Image courtesy of Tunç Yalçın -
The view of Florence from Fiesole – Image courtesy of Tunç Yalçın –

Via Vecchia Fiesolana used to be the main road connecting Fiesole with Florence. This street is narrow, quite significantly sloped, and surrounded by villas with extensive gardens. 

Vehicle traffic is one-way, from the bottom up, it is forbidden to stop, and the vertical and horizontal gauge is only 2.3 m. 

Lesson number one about riding in Tuscany: the roads are very tight and very winding. And they usually look like a one-way although usually, they are not.

Touch & Go in Florence

After Fiesole, we visited the capital city of Tuscany: Florence

Florence, one of the most beautiful large cities in Italy, is a pearl of the Renaissance. It certainly deserves to be explored thoroughly and spend more time there, but the vast majority of visitors come for one day and flee the crowds and high prices in search of a more idyllic, rural Tuscany. 

An evening in Florence

This is exactly what we did after spending only one day in this amazing city. 

We know Florence quite well from our previous trips, so we did not want to spend too much time there on this one. Especially since at the beginning of May – which is almost summer in Italy – the temperature in the city can rise up to 40 degrees Celsius (99 F). 

Riding in leather wasn’t that fun there, so we only stopped for lunch and gelato and left Florence to discover small, not at all popular Tuscan villages.

A breath-taking ride to Chianni

Chianni is located in a typical Tuscan hilly area, the highest hills in the vicinity do not exceed 700 m above sea level. Surrounded by chestnut forests, vineyards, and olive fields. It is about 100 km (60 miles) from Florence. 

This small- only 1500 citizens- town looks like a miniature of the well-known Volterra. It has the same medieval buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets.

Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta Church in Chianni. Built between the 10th and 11th century, is an example of Romanesque architecture – Photo courtesy of Claudio Cantù –

The road leading to Chianni is simply breathtaking. It leads higher and higher amongst the green hills full of vineyards and olive groves. 

Every minute or so you are thinking: Am I in a postcard, or what? 

Touching the border with Emilia-Romagna before heading to the coast

Next destination: Firenzuola. Located in the north of Tuscany, near the border with Emilia-Romagna region. The town itself doesn’t have too much to offer. 

The main attractions are Museo della Pietra Serena – a world-famous type of stone used in buildings, pavements, etc – and the Church of Saint Paul the Baptist – a very rare example of modern sacral architecture in Italy.   

Firenzuola has a quite sleepy vibe. However, the road leading to it looked so amazing on the map that we just had to go there for our afternoon espresso. 

That’s why after quick lunch in the lovely old town of Scarperia, we went uphill towards Firenzuola. And again: a very narrow and very winding road leads us to a small town. The views along the way made us stop a few times just to stand for a while and look.

Next, we visited villages we didn’t even know existed: Barberino di Mugello (yes, I am not a racing fan so I didn’t know), Borgo San Lorenzo, Londa, Vinci (yes, named after Leonardo da Vinci, it is his birthplace), Ruffina, Pontassieve, Malmantile. 

All in short distance from Florence.

The Tuscan coastline

Then we went closer to the Tuscan seaside and the views became even more beautiful.

We traveled there by the Fi-Pi-Li- express road that connects Florence, Pisa, and Livorno. It is the most convenient way to travel quickly between these 3 cities. The road is free of charge, in contrast to Italian highways that are a bit pricey.

Quercianella, just a few km south of Livorno
Quercianella, just a few km south of Livorno

Livorno is the second-largest city in Tuscany, it is also its largest port. It was founded by the Florentine family Medici at the end of the 16th century. 

Livorno is big and loud and it offers tourists a multitude of attractions of a varied nature. 

There are beautiful rocky beaches, interesting monuments, and art galleries, as well as typical entertainment places that will please lovers of nightlife.

If you want to know the city a little bit better I would suggest spending there at least 3 days-  it has a lot to offer and a lot of interesting places to visit.

10-minute ride from Livorno you will find a beautiful small town Castiglioncello.  With its amazing beaches and crystal clear water, Castiglioncello is a favorite summer spot for Italians and foreign tourists. 

The quiet small town during winter becomes noisy and lively from May till late September.

Check out the Spiagge Bianche a.k.a. White Beaches in Rosignano Solvay. You’ll be amazed by the color of the sand – it is so clean and white you can think you are in the Bahamas. 

Though beware, the color is the result of discharges from an old soda ash factory about a km away, which is no longer in activity.

Interesting milestones on the route: Andrea Bocelli’s birthplace & the biggest Buddhist center in Europe

After a few days spent on the coast, we went inland to discover some more Tuscan villages.

Santa Luce – meaning: Holy Light – is a village famous for being home to the Lama Thzong Kapa Institute, the biggest Buddhist center in Europe.  People gather there for seminars, retreats, and meditations. 

Lajatico – a tiny town, the birthplace of Andrea Bocelli, where every café, every car wash, and every grocery store is called “Bocelli”. 

Their famous fellow countryman is obviously loved there. And his concerts in Teatro del Silenzio (The Theather of Silence) are always sold out months in advance.

We could go on for a few months

I feel like this trip could go on for a further month or even two. 

kasia bmw r1200
Me by our ride

Italy is just an amazing place to visit, there is everything you can think of: unspoiled nature, beautiful cities, wonderful architecture, delicious food, and wine. 

It is impossible to see everything during one trip. Especially since Italy is so much more than just Tuscany. 

I feel like the other parts of the country are waiting for us to be explored and I am quite sure I will fall in love with them as I did with Tuscany. Italy makes you want to come back again and again. With its thousands of small roads leading from town to town, breathtaking views, and beautiful weather, it is just a dream destination for a road trip.

Kasia Zdanowicz
Kasia Zdanowicz
Based in Poland. Due to her reluctance to fly, she travels Europe on two- or four- wheels, discovering places that are hard to find in guidebooks. When she is not traveling she loves reading, cooking, and planning her next trips.

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