Traveling To Tuscany: When To Come & Why It’s A Good Idea
|Stunning View In Tuscany|
If you have millions of euros, won the lottery, or magically found work in Tuscany, then you may be one of the lucky people that gets to spend all four seasons in the land of cypress trees, rolling hills and late autumn sunshine. But, if you’re a regular person out doing regular things, then sometimes you get to plan a vacation. And while many people choose summer and/or spring to travel to Tuscany, it’s worth knowing what this beautiful region is like throughout all times of the year so that maybe, part of your search for adventure could be exploring during a not-previously-thought-of season.
Before we jump into Tuscany through the seasons and why any time is a good time to visit, we must first talk about two important Italian words: festa and sagra. You didn’t realize you would also be getting a small Italian lesson here, did you? That’s just how we do it at Roman Candle Tours. In Italy, festa refers to a religious or other type of festival while a sagra generally refers to a local fair during which a specific culinary element is celebrated. Do you like celebrating and eating food? Then you should probably come to Italy.
|Alley in San Gimignano Tuscany|
So, here’s how we’re going to explore Tuscany throughout the year: we’re going to look at a snapshot of parts of the region during each season. In this manner, you’ll learn a little bit about what goes on in Tuscany throughout the year, what the weather may be like, and how big the crowds may be.
Summer (June – August)
|Summer In Tuscany|
Perhaps the most popular time to visit Tuscany, the summer months in Florence, Pisa and Siena are quite warm and filled with many wonderful hours of sunlight. For those working in fahrenheit, last summer, the temperatures in Florence reached 100+ starting in late July and carrying through August. While the rolling hills of Chianti, Montelpulciano and Montalcino provide welcomed shade and oftentimes lodging with swimming pools, it’s a sweaty time of year.
That being said, the summer months in Tuscany are filled with feste and sagre. You might head to San Gimignano for their medieval holiday during which locals dress in traditional costumes and partake in activities that were once popular during feudal times. Or maybe you prefer an exciting game of football? In which case, you should probably think about attending the Calcio Storico in Florence. Calcio Storico is an interesting tradition of men wearing costumes and playing football on a team of 27 where the rules are almost non-existent and each team is playing for their own district. It most certainly comes under the category of those things that can not be fully comprehended until they are seen. Another popular holiday in Florence is St. John the Baptist Day, occurring in June and celebrating Florence’s patron saint. The final match of Calcio Storico generally occurs on this day along with parades, fireworks, boat rides along the Arno, and many other special treats.
Maybe one of the most well known festivals, the Palio in Siena is a special treat to witness. It happens in both July and August when the main piazza in Siena is filled with sand and each neighborhood is represented by a horseman. The horses race around Piazza del Campo while spectators cheer on their neighborhood with an unbridled (horse pun intended) level of enthusiasm. Since this event has only gained popularity through the years, it is highly recommended one obtains tickets prior to their summer trip and knows when the race is happening so, should you find yourself on a wonderful tour in Siena, it is not interrupted!
Fall (September – November)
The autumn season has got to be one of the best times to be in Tuscany. Fall marks the harvest season which means that not only will you get the chance to celebrate amazing foods like wine, truffles and chestnuts, but the weather will start to cool and the crowds will start to dwindle. September and October are both still quite busy in Tuscany as the weather remains warm, sometimes even summer-like, until mid-October. But, come the middle of that month, the majority of the tourists have returned home leaving the start of lower hotel fares and more affordable plane tickets.
The Festival of , held on September 7th and 8th serves to mark the Virgin Mary’s birthday and typically includes all kinds of jazzy elements. You shouldn’t be surprised if you come across flamethrowers, roasted pigs, children throwing confetti and other street performers to mark the Virgin’s birth. It’s precisely how most people would want their birthday celebrated. At the beginning of October, a suburb of Florence, Il Girone, hosts a black truffle festival that would make any New York restaurateur jealous. This truffle festival is also a fundraiser for the Blue Cross so eating as many things as possible just means you’re super charitable. You can sample everything from truffle pizza to bisetcca (steak) with truffles to one of the Florentine favorites, eggs with truffles. An empty stomach is recommended to fit in as much as possible.
Winter (December – mid March)
|Florence Duomo In The Winter|
As the temperatures settle into the 30s and 40s and the wine festivals come to a close, so too, does the barrage of tourists that previously occupied Tuscany’s cobble-stoned streets. The winter season is generally the time of year when Italians travel to other parts of Italy to partake in holiday delights. At times, the winter weather in Tuscany can be a bit damp and rainy but, if you’re a person used to cold temperatures, it’s delightfully mild, even in January.
There’s one big reason you should consider coming to Tuscany during the winter season and it is most definitely either for Christmas or as near to the holiday as possible. Italians really do an upstanding job of keeping this holiday family oriented and religiously centered so there’s not nearly as much consumerism filling the days leading up to the festive occasion. What can fill those days are trips to Christmas markets. Piazza Santa Croce in Florence is filled with stalls selling artisan gems like scarves and cinnamon wreaths and deliciousness like chimney cakes and mulled wine. If there was ever a solution to feeling frustrated while bustling about the holiday season, it’s drinking mulled wine. Famous museums like the Uffizi and Academia and churches like Santa Maria del Fiori and the Cathedral of Siena aren’t nearly as filled and you may even be lucky enough to find yourself alone in one of their many rooms. What could be a better start to the New Year than watching fireworks explode over the Ponte Vecchio? The answer you’re looking for here is nothing, nothing could be better.
Spring (late March- May)
|Spring Fields In Florence|
The warmer weather brings the start of the crowds marking April as the beginning of high season although these spring months still aren’t nearly as busy as June through August. And just like Christmas makes the winter season a wonderful time to journey through Tuscany, Easter makes springtime a worthwhile excuse to come on over. You see, Italians are the best at seasonal treats. Of course, when a person vacations to a country, one frequently takes with him or herself a mindset of aiming to enjoy as much as possible. But this mindset becomes somewhat permanent when you’re in a country where certain treats are only made at specific times of the year.
|Rolling Green Hills In Tuscany|
During the spring season, travelers have the opportunity to sample treats like frittelle, Schiacciata di Pasqua (Easter), and cenci. Just imagine fried balls of rice that have been kissed with lemon zest, fluffy cake dotted with candied oranges and strips of lightly fried dough dusted with sugar. If Wonka vision had been invented and then retro-fitted for the Internet, you could be reaching into your screen for all of the above as we speak. Florence also hosts this very interesting tradition known as the exploding cart on Easter. Its origins and significance date back to the First Crusade but the tradition now entails a very special, very old cart being paraded through the streets of Florence until finally coming to position in front of the cathedral. An electronic dove is then used to light the fuse on the fireworks filling the cart and, bam, Easter is properly marked.
|Siena province, Tuscany region|
If these snapshots haven’t made it abundantly clear, any time is a great time to visit Tuscany. Whether you have a couple of weeks in December to enjoy quiet museum visits or can get away in October for wine festivals and strolls through Siena, one thing is assured: memories will be made, beautiful art will be viewed, and amazing foods will be consumed. Get your passport ready and come on over, the rolling hills await!
Written by: Morgan Maher
If you liked this article, read also: Five Lands in Two Days: Making the Most of Your Weekend in Cinque Terre