Tuscany has an impressive seven different regions on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. The first was added back in 1982, while the most recent wasn’t added until 2013.
These are areas of outstanding natural beauty, rich history, and renowned culture, and once you visit, you’ll understand why they hold such significance.
If you’d love to visit Tuscany’s World Heritage Sites but you’re not sure where to begin, this post will give you a little more information about each one.
Want to jump right in and start planning your own tour of Tuscany? Check out our 7-day tour that lets you discover the real Tuscany with some incredible site-seeing adventures.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tuscany
Tuscany’s World Heritage Sites are a must-visit when you’re in the region. Let’s take a closer look at the history behind each one.
The Piazza dei Miracoli
The Piazza dei Miracoli (or Square of Miracles) became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The Leaning Tower dominates the scene that sits within the historical center of the city, surrounded by fortified walls.
The square started forming in the 11th century with the construction of the cathedral. The baptistery came next, followed by the Leaning Tower, and the graveyard was added last.
It was the peculiar angle of the Leaning Tower that made this square world-famous, with thousands of tourists visiting every year to have their picture taken with the iconic monument. Really, it was just a poorly laid foundation and weak support that led to the tower becoming world-renowned.
In the summer, this square is filled with tourists, so it’s best to visit outside of peak times if you’d like to avoid crowds.
San Gimignano was added to the World Heritage List in 1990. It’s a quaint town with stunning surrounding landscapes, filled with art, architecture, and quintessential Tuscan life.
The medieval towers are one of the main attractions of the town, standing proudly against the beautiful scenery.
As well as the beautiful architecture, this small town is known for traditional Tuscan wine and food. You’ll find small restaurants to sample home-cooked cuisine as well as the famous Vernaccia di San Gimignano (delicious local wine produced in this hill town).
Val D’Orcia was a little late to the World Heritage List, being added in 2004. Found in southern Tuscany, Val D’Orcia is known for its rolling hills and rows of cypress trees.
Within the Orcia Valley, you’ll find the small towns of Montalcino, Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia, all of which will give you a feel of the real Tuscany.
Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, there is no better place to taste traditional food and get a feel for rural traditions.
There’s no better place to try Tuscan virgin olive oil or wine than in the small hilltowns where it’s produced.
Medici Villas and Gardens
Medici Villas and Gardens was the last of our places to be added to the World Heritage List and has only held its spot since 2013.
There are 12 Medici villas and two gardens, all just outside of Florence. Owned by the Medici family, these Renaissance-style villas were holiday homes and hunting lodges.
The gardens are beautiful with luscious lawns and beautiful flowers surrounded by stunning landscapes – a truly peaceful place to visit.
Here is a full list of the villas and gardens you can visit:
- Villa di Cafaggiolo
- Villa del Trebbio
- Villa di Careggi
- Villa Medici di Fiesole
- Villa di Castello
- Villa di Poggio a Caiano
- Villa di La Petraia
- Villa di Cerreto Guidi
- Palazzo di Saravezza
- Villa La Magia
- Villa di Artimino
- Villa di Poggio Imperiale
- Boboli Gardens
- Pratolino Park
Tourists can visit for free and the villas house beautiful pieces from well-known Renaissance artists.
Taking a walk around the grounds and visiting the artwork is the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon in Tuscany.
Along the scenic routes of the Orcia Valley, you’ll find Pienza, which has been on the World Heritage List since 1996.
This town was once home to Enea Silvio Piccolomini (who went on to become Pope Pius II), a 15th-century humanist who turned Pienza into the “ideal city of the Renaissance”. Because of his efforts, Pienza was one of the first cities in Italy to begin Renaissance Architectural Projects. In Pienza, this project was the construction of Palazzo Piccolomini, a summer home built in 1459.
However, the actual World Heritage Site is the historical center – a unique labyrinth where it’s easy to get lost in the charm and culinary traditions. On every corner you’ll find mouth-watering traditional Tuscan food for sale and friendly locals to meet.
On the Heritage List since 1995, the historic center of Siena is another must-visit in Tuscany.
Siena is most well-known for the ancient tradition of Palio that takes place twice a year. Ten riders and horses race bareback, dressed in the colors of city wards. Thousands of people flock to Siena and line the streets to witness this tradition every year.
If you want to avoid the crowds, Siena is still a beautiful city to visit outside of these events. The Italian Gothic architecture of the cathedral and Campo (square in the center of the city) and not to be missed.
Florence is the starting point of many of our guided tours of Tuscany, and when you visit this city, you’ll see why it’s world-renowned.
Often referred to as the Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence was the first region of Tuscany to be added to the World Heritage Site and has been on it since 1982.
It’s home to some of the most famous Renaissance artwork and is widely thought of as one of the most culturally significant historic centers in the world.
Many famous artists called Florence home including Michelangelo, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Buontalenti, and Vasari. The historical center is somewhat of an open-air museum with masterpieces dotted around.
You won’t want to miss the famous red roofs of Florence where you can also admire the cathedral, Uffizi Museum, Vasari Corridor, and more.
No matter what time of year you visit, Florence is a bustling city with so much to explore.
Visit Tuscany’s World Heritage Sites
Whether you have just a few days or weeks to visit Tuscany, you’ll want to make at least one of the World Heritage Sites a top priority. From the stunning Tuscan countryside and traditional food to the rich history and jaw-dropping architecture, it’s difficult to put into words just how beautiful these places are.
If you’d love to plan a trip to see the heritage sites but you’re not sure where to begin, we’re here to help.
Our local tour company runs personalized tours of Tuscany that allow visitors to see the hidden gems of this wonderful region. All of our guides are knowledgeable and local and can teach you about the history of the places you visit.
Discover some of the most beautiful landmarks Tuscany has to offer with your very own personalized tour.