Southern Tuscany offers visitors charming borghi or small towns, rich history, and restorative hot springs, and gorgeous beaches. This region is not to be overlooked for the larger cities in the north, the Tuscan countryside is absolutely worth a spot on your itinerary.
This region is an excellent trip destination due to the variety of activities and opportunities that it offers in just a small area! The towns here are best known for their incredible beaches, impressive hot springs, charming Tuscan countryside, excellent wine and food, and rich ancient, medieval, and Renaissance history. You can’t go wrong with a trip to Southern Tuscany, and there are so many wonderful places to choose from!
The options you’ll encounter when planning a visit to the south of Tuscany can leave you with what Italians call the “imbarazzo della scelta” – the sensation of an impossible choice due to an abundance of fantastic options! But don’t worry. Read on for itinerary ideas, the best towns in Southern Tuscany, and details to help you select the perfect spots for your travels.
Where Is Southern Tuscany and How To Get There
Southern Tuscany is considered to start at Siena and stretch down to the region’s southern border with Lazio, where you’ll find Monte Argentario.
Some of this region’s best gems are not well connected with trains, so your best bet for flexible travel is a car. Buses do run between many towns, but are better for slow travel fans who have time to follow the bus route or make stops: schedules often don’t offer a lot of options, and it won’t be the most efficient route. You can check tickets and timetable on Tiemme, the main bus company for the south of Tuscany,
Siena is a great starting point for your adventures in Southern Tuscany, and can be accessed by train or bus from the major airports in Italy.
The 5 Best Towns in Southern Tuscany
Pienza was named for its patron, Pope Pius II. He renovated the Southern Tuscan town of Corsignano following the urban ideals of the Italian Renaissance, starting city planning trends that spread to other towns in Italy and across Europe. Famous for its Pecorino cheese, Pienza is full of history, Tuscan charm, stellar food, and wine experiences.
2. Massa Marittima
A quintessential small Tuscan town, Massa Marittima offers a famed Cathedral of San Cerbone, an archeological museum, and a relatively erotic (but potentially and controversially censored) “The Tree of Fertility” fresco. Mining was a critical industry in the area. This rich history can be explored in the Mining Museum of Massa Marittima which is located inside an ancient quarry and structured like the tunnels of a mine.
Located on the site of an ancient Etruscan town dating back to the 4th century BCE, Located in Southern Tuscany, Montepulciano is a very walkable town famous for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the Noble Wine. Be sure to check out the charming and unique San Biagio Church just outside the city limits.
Pitigliano is essentially and impressively carved out of the tuffaceous volcanic rock found in the south of Tuscany, and is home to a ton of Etruscan archaeological sites. It came to be known as “Little Jerusalem” and is an important city for Jewish culture in Italy. The Pitigliano Synagogue is worth a visit, and next to it, you will find the Museum of Jewish Culture.
Just a few kilometers away, you will find two other Borghi del Tufo – other towns carved into the volcanic rock and famed for their Etruscan sites: Sovana and Sorano. Sovana boasts the Sovana Archeological Park, one of the most famous archeological sites in Italy. The Archeological Park San Rocco is located between the towns. Sorano is also known for its impressive hot springs.
5. Castiglione della Pescaia
A critical stop on the coast of Southern Tuscany, Castiglione della Pescaia offers a charming port, luxury beach resorts, and nature adventures in the nearby pine forest and marshes. Between walks along the lungomare promenade and afternoons by the sea at Castiglione della Pescaia’s many beaches, don’t miss the famed Diaccia Botrona Natural Reserve which is a hot spot for bird watching and nature photography.
Other Things to Do and Places Worth Visiting
While those are the top contenders for towns in the south of Tuscany, there are a few other considerations in the running.
The Val d’Orcia, where you will find Montepulciano, offers a lot of other inspiring stops. From wine trails and vineyards, to towns built for hot springs, to ancient castles and small countryside chapels, this Valley is rich in wonderful experiences. It can be enjoyed by car or more slowly, allowing you to appreciate the countryside that much more, on foot or by bike. Montalcino is a town in the Val d’Orcia famous for the production of Brunello red wine. It also offers amazing views of the valley.
San Galgano Abbey, between Siena and Grosseto, offers a breathtaking and looming structure, whose slight deterioration only adds to the sense of the age of this structure (over 800 years!). Grosseto is a seaside town, and the largest in the Maremma, the southernmost region of Tuscany that offers beautiful coastlines and an abundance of charming towns – you can’t go wrong just exploring this area.
Monte Argentario is a promontorio in the south of Tuscany that was originally an island and boasts nature reserves, hilly treks, gorgeous beaches, and portside towns with Spanish fortresses like Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano. On the mainland, you will find Capalbio which offers a unique Tarot Garden in addition to the usual gorgeous churches and alleyways. A bit to the north is Talamone, which can be found right below the Maremma Nature Reserve.
Where to Stay in Southern Tuscany – Best Hotels
There are so many incredible options for places to stay in Southern Tuscany – from agriturismos, to spa resorts, to charming town apartments. Here are a few favorites!
Agriturismo near Saturnia’s thermal springs waterfall
Agriturismo Le Cascatelle is located just a kilometer from the thermal baths at Saturnia. This large complex offers apartments, rooms, and villas depending on your needs.
Room in town for a walkable dream in Pitigliano
Located in the center of Pitigliano, Casa Messi is a restored 15th-century building that offers an authentic and local feel. Each room is designed with both Tuscan charm and convenience in mind, offering both a kitchenette and a washing machine.
Seaside Hotel in Castiglione della Pescaia
Just a couple minutes’ walk from the beach, Hotel Lucerna offers a great location, incredible views, and impressive amenities. The hotel boasts a restaurant, mini-cruises of the Tuscan Archipelago, a reading room, and a rooftop terrace, as well as free parking and AC in each room.
Best Beaches In Southern Tuscany
The coastline of Southern Tuscany is charming as well as relaxing! Whether you want to adventure or sunbathe, it’s sea, sand, dunes, forest, and wetlands are always close by.
Cala Violina is a popular beach near the commune of Scarlino, in Maremma Grossetana. Cala is Italian for cove, and this beach is crescent moon shaped. It was named violin cove following a local legend that the sand makes an astonishing sound when walked upon, similar to that of a violin.
Historically home to one of the most important Tuscan ports, Baratti and the Golfo di Baratti are located on the coastline near Piombino and Grosseto. With a charming port and stunning beaches near pine forests, this is considered a must-see beach in Southern Tuscany.
Cala del Gesso
The most beautiful beach in Monte Argentario is often said to be Cala del Gesso, which can be found near Porto Santo Stefano. It does not have umbrellas or restaurants but can be reached by foot or by boat.
Hot Springs in Southern Tuscany
Southern Tuscany’s towns and countryside are rich in restorative thermal waters from hot springs. Many of these springs have been used by humans for their healing properties since ancient times and were referenced often in travel documents of pilgrims headed to Rome and Jerusalem. Many are now situated near or built up as modern spa towns where tourists flock for rest and relaxation, leaving visitors with options to visit the natural springs or experience more customized luxury in the waters.
The ancient town of Saturnia – with Greek, Etruscan, and Roman roots – sits atop a hill overlooking the glorious hot springs bearing the same name. Within minutes of arriving, you will understand why people have been drawn to this place for so long! The springs stretch from Mount Amiata to the hills of Albegna and Fiora rivers. There is a paid spa in the town of Saturnia, but the springs in public nature are free to visit – don’t miss the waterfalls Cascate del Mulino and Cascate del Gorello.
Hot Springs in the Vald’Orcia
Ever seen an Italian town with a pool of water sourced from hot springs in the main piazza? Bagno Vignoni is one of a kind! The piazza dates back to the Renaissance and is built directly over the hot spring source. The pool can’t be swimmed in now, but if you follow the springs that flow out of the pool you will find free and public bathing spots down the hill in the Park of Mills. The nearby Bagni San Filippo (15 minutes by car) is located at the foot of Mount Amiata.
Historically, the thermal waters of San Casciano dei Bagni have had a particular draw from international nobility, thanks to fame and promotion by the Medici family. The Grand Duke Ferdinand even built a portico over the source of one of its springs.
Other Hot Springs
One of the Borghi del Tufo, Sorano, is also located near impressive hot springs, the Terme di Sorano. Be sure to check out the 15th-century swimming pool Il Bagno dei Frati which was originally used by monks.
The nearby thermal baths are so important in Venturina Terme that terme (thermal) was added to the town name in 2014! The hot springs here are largely centered around the spa, which was first built in 1883, and draws many people seeking to cure specific ailments and illnesses with the waters.
The town of Sassetta is nestled gorgeously in a chestnut tree-covered hillside. The water of its springs is said to be particularly hot, up to 50° Celsius or 122° Fahrenheit.
Southern Tuscany Itineraries
If you’re traveling with specific interests in mind, check out the following itineraries!
Rest and Relaxation At The Spa Towns
If you’re looking for a relaxing break on a vacation, the thermal baths will provide just the ticket! Start in Bagno Vignoni, where the thermal spring pool in the piazza will set the mood. You can take a day trip just 20 minutes away to Bagni San Filippo, or add it as the next stop on your tour. Next, head to San Casciano dei Bagni before heading south to the famed Saturnia. On the way, you can stop in Sorano for a bite to eat among the tufo volcanic rock, or for a whole day if you’d like to check out their thermal baths as well!
The Scenic Route
Want to see as much of the region as possible without spending too much time traveling at once? This trip can be stretched across any number of days depending on how much you want to see. Ideally, you’d spend at least a day or two in each town. It’s done ideally by car, and times are listed as drive time.
Start in Siena, before heading onto Massa Marittima (1 hour and 10 minutes). Reach the coast at Castiglione della Pescaia (40 minutes) and continue on, through Grosseto, to Porto Ercole (1 hour) of Monte Argentario. While you’re there, you can check out Orbetello if you’d like! From there, cross over to the famed hot springs at Saturnia (1 hour) before continuing on to the Borgho del Tufo, Pitigliano (30 minutes). Next, head up to the Bagni San Filippo (1 hour) and then onto the wine town Montepulciano (35 minutes). Here, you should be sure to taste their Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Then return to Siena (1 hour), and you’ve completed your loop through Southern Tuscany!
Restaurants – Where To Eat
Pizza & Core
Pizza & Core is a Neapolitan-style pizzeria in Porto Santo Stefano that is very accommodating, offering both vegan and gluten-free options.
Sette di Vino
If you stop in Pienza, be sure to check out the cozy restaurant Sette di Vino. This place has a local, family-friendly ambiance and the menu is full of typical Tuscan eats.