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5 unusual sites in Tuscany

Charming and quirky sites you never knew existed

Tuscany is home to so many beautiful sites that are firm in the collective imagination that you might be wondering if there’s anything to see off the beaten path. Fortunately, the region also has you covered on that front as well! With a myriad of unusual sites all over Tuscany, you’ll be sure to find a few unique highlights that you probably didn’t know existed. Here’s our list of five charming and quirky things to see:

Montefoscoli and the Temple of Minerva Medica
Temple of Minerva Medica
Temple of Minerva Medica - Credit: Mongolo1984

Tuscany may be famous for its medieval and Renaissance buildings, but you can also find some later architecture as well. Montefoscoli, in the province of Pisa, is home to the Neoclassical Temple of Minerva Medica, nestled inside a small grove of holm oaks. Few people in Italy know about this place, let alone the rest of Italy and abroad! It was commissioned around 1822 by Andrea Vaccà Berlinghieri, a successful physician at the University of Pisa. His intention was to devote a monument to his father Francesco, also a physician, and to celebrate their profession with a dedication to the goddess of medicine and wisdom, Minerva Medica.

A monumental avenue leads to the temple, which is built entirely in terracotta except for the pediment's lintel, made of white marble. The temple’s location is not random. Following in his father’s footsteps, Andrea chose the area where his father had planned, in 1808, to build a villa, though this was eventually built further south.

The temple can be visited upon reservation. Guided tours to the temple are organized on the night of the full moon by the "Ippolito Rossellini" cultural association. For information and reservations see the temple’s website.

Isola del Giglio and the Lovers’ Lighthouse
Isola del Giglio
Isola del Giglio - Credit: Maurizio Manetti

For those who love indulging in the sound of the sea, with cliffs in the background, or who can’t get enough of the smells and uniqueness of islands, head to Isola del Giglio in the Tuscan Archipelago. The island is the perfect place for a romantic getaway, where you can soak up the atmosphere, with its charming old stone houses and the ancient walls, surrounded by the Mediterranean scrub and endless sea. Giglio is also where you can visit the Lovers’ Lighthouse, nestled in the pinewood. With a name like that, what could be better for an outing with your sweetheart?

Montecatini Alto
Montecatini Alto
Montecatini Alto - Credit: Shutterstock / Stepniak

Not everyone knows that the town of Montecatini actually has two distinct parts: Montecatini Terme, famous for its many spas, and the little-known Montecatini Alto, a medieval village situated atop the hill overlooking Montecatini Terme.

Montecatini Alto was originally a Roman castle, and the hot springs below were nothing more than a swampland. But even in Antiquity, the swamp waters were famous for their curative properties, known for being enjoyed by the Etruscans. The views from the hilltop town are breath-taking, extending as far as the eye can see. It’s a bit of a hike to the top, but you can use the funicular, which opened in 1898 and connects the two parts of the town. And if you decide to walk? Sure, you can do that to, but make sure to reward your efforts with a nice bath at the spa! You’ve earned it, after all!

Guinigi Tower in Lucca
Guinigi Tower
Guinigi Tower - Credit: Wikimedia

Would you ever have thought that there’s a tower topped with a forest? You read that right: the Guinigi Tower in Lucca is the city’s most important tower, one of the few remaining inside the historic walls, and was donated to the local government by the descendants of the Guinigi family. The main feature of this stone and brick tower is the oak trees on top of it, making it a unique addition to the Lucca skyline. From up there, you can see the entire historic centre, including the famous piazza dell’Anfiteatro, and the surrounding mountains, with the Apuan Alps to the northwest, the Apennines to the north and Monte Pisano to the south.

Abbadia a Isola on the via Francigena
Abbadia a Isola
Abbadia a Isola

Abbadia a Isola is a hamlet in the municipality of Monteriggioni, near Siena, little-known outside the area. The village was built around a Benedictine monastery founded at the beginning of the 11th century. At that time, the land formed the edge of the Padule del Cannetto, and was situated along the busy via Francigena, a medieval pilgrimage and trade route. Thanks to this privileged position, Abbadia a Isola increased in power and gained immense strategic importance in the Middle Ages. For those interested in walking, you can reach the town from Monteriggioni along a 4-km stretch of the via Francigena.

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