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Trekking in the Uccellina Park
Photo ©Lara Musa

Top 10 fun things to do in Summer

From hiking to food festivals

If you are planning to spend your summer in Tuscany you will find plenty of activities to choose from. Here is a list of the 10 must fun things to do, making your holiday even better, from hiking to food festivals.   

Hiking and extreme sports

In Tuscany there are many defined hiking routes and itineraries suitable for all kinds of hikers: from the peaks of the Apuan Alps to the Etruscan Coast, from the long, difficult circuits to urban walking as a slow way to explore a city. Another enjoyable way to visit Tuscany is to follow in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims and travel the Via Francigena, the ancient route that leads to Rome from France. If you’re into extreme sports, try Vie Ferrate in the Apuan Alps, well-equipped rock faces that are perfect for those who crave more than a mountain walk. For this kind of excursion, special equipment is essential: harnesses, helmets, lanyards, karabiners and energy absorbers. 

Watersports
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- Credit: Visit Elba - Alessio Gambini

When the temperatures rise and you are at the beach there is nothing better than indulge in watersports. From surfing to scuba diving, from kayaking to sailing, watersport lovers have  a vast selection of activities in well-equipped professional watersports centres. Fishermen, amateur or expert, will love the clear waters of Elba Island, whose pristine sea beds teem with myriad species of fish. Giannutri is paradise for snorkellers and scuba divers. The sea beds teem with fish and coral, and even old shipwrecks. The waters off Talamone, south of Grosseto, offers top thermal winds for kitesurfers. The wide Gulf of Baratti offers big westerly and southwesterly swells for expert surfers. Monte Argentario is a superb spot for kayaking, especially along the rocky shores from Porto Santo Stefano to Porto Ercole

A ride along Etruscan Paths
Vie Cave
Vie Cave - Credit: Goncalo Figueiredo

The vie cave is a network of incredibly narrow roads that the Etruscans cut into mile-high tuff (tufa) stone (in some cases even 25 meters tall!) in the Maremma area, south of Tuscany. How did they do it? Actually, that’s still a bit of a mystery! This network of trails was built to connect numerous Etruscan settlements and necropolis around the area of Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano. Because of their characteristics, the vie cave were also an effective defense system against possible invaders. Traveling these vie is an unforgettable and unique experience. It’s also a different way to explore this picturesque part of Tuscany, with its wild landscape and three beautiful tufa towns. The routes are easily walkable, but to add a little adventure to your family’s holiday... ride a horse!

Hunt a ghost (town)
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Deserted streets, abandoned shops and silent homes: you may not know that Tuscany is also the right place to launch yourself into a little adventure, exploring one of the many abandoned towns and ghost villages. A great way to unearth some fascinating and mysterious places that have been forsaken over the course of time, but which still preserve their charm and uniqueness. These places are alike in their silence and atmosphere, but each possesses a different soul and have their own story to tell.

Visit an art park
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- Credit: Shutterstock / Valerio Mei

What’s a sculpture park? It’s a great example of how art and nature can coexist and create something magical and unique. This kind of special garden hosts sculptures and art installations, creating permanent or temporary contemporary exhibitions, integrated and combined with the natural elements. The most fascinating, original and fun of all the art parks in Tuscany is probably the Tarot Garden, created by the world-renowned French artist Niki de Saint Phalle and opened in 1998. The Chianti Sculpture Park near Pievasciata (10 km north of Siena) hosts a permanent exhibition of sculptures and art installations, where art and nature coexist and give life to a magic and unique outdoor space.

Summer Medieval Festivals
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- Credit: Monteriggioni Medieval festival

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong to this era? If you or your children dream of knights, swords, fair ladies and castles or if you are a Thrones devotee, this is your chance to finally feel at home! Summer in Tuscany is like stepping back in time: almost all the cities and towns celebrate their traditions with re-enactments and festivals. Usually, the medieval festivals take place in charming locations that you can travel through while attending the event: a unique medieval feast and some must-see Tuscan towns, you can’t lose!

Rock your summer

In Tuscany, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to summer music festivals. Lucca Summer Festival can be considered the most important music event of the Tuscan summer due to the international artists on stage. It takes place every year in Piazza Napoleone (Lucca historic centre) in July. Pistoia Blues is another event in Tuscany that is absolutely packed with good music. Every year great artists perform live in Piazza del Duomo in Pistoia in July. Puccini Festival is dedicated to the great Tuscan opera composer Giacomo Puccini and takes place in the open-air theatre set on the Massaciuccoli lakefront, a truly striking location in Torre del Lago (Lucca). The program of the events runs from late July to late August.

Experience Tuscany with your taste buds
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Summer in Tuscany means… aperitivo on the beach, wine under the stars, watermelon parties and dinner at many local food fairs or sagre!

From August 1 to 10 it is time to celebrate San Lorenzo and to enjoy the Perseids’ yearly falling stars while sipping a glass of wine. Look for special dinners, shows and concerts(with wine tastings) organized by Movimento Turistico Città del Vino. Many towns celebrate summer with great watermelon festivals (cocomerate). Ferragosto (mid-august) in Prato for example means a cocomero party in Piazza del Comune. Every August 10, the feast day of San Lorenzo, Florentines gather around the outside of the church of San Lorenzo for free concerts, and free lasagna and watermelon.

But there is much more...don’t miss the many fish festivals along the coast, steak feasts (Sagra della Bistecca) as well as the potato and spelt fairs celebrated up in the Tuscan mountains or in the countryside.

A vintage ride
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Want more fun? Take the beautiful landscapes of our region, add a Vespa or a Fiat 500, shake it all together, bake it under the Tuscan sun and the recipe is ready! For example, you can discover the Valdera on a vintage Vespa following one of the itineraries of Valdera in Vespa or the countryside around Siena in a vintage car. It is also fun and, if you choose the car, you can bring the whole family too. Traveling in a vintage vehicle means going slowly and enjoying the surrounding landscape. 

Sweet fun: gelato break

Gelato first appeared at banquets in the Medici court in Florence: a legend has it that Bernardo Buontalenti invented ice cream for the court of Catherine de’ Medici in 1565. Today, shops all over the region sell fresh gelato made of just a few natural, raw ingredients, free from preservatives, artificial flavours and colours. Since there are too many ice-cream stops to choose from in the summertime, we’d like to help you choose the best options. Take note of these tips for choosing the best artisan gelato: 
1. Be wary of gelato displayed in heaps
2. Choose flavours with natural-looking colours
3. The list of ingredients should be on show in the shop
4. After good gelato you shouldn’t feel thirsty
5. Don’t be afraid to order the local speciality: it might surprise you!

These texts has been excerpted from our free e-book 10 fun things to do in Tuscany in Summer (authors: Serena Puosi, Kinzica Sorrenti, Leila Firusbakht, Lara Musa and Flavia Cori)

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