Enchanting vistas, expansive meadows, breathtaking medieval architecture bathed in centuries of history are what define Tuscany. And not to forget the hamlets that this charming province in Italy is peppered with. With so much beauty to feast your eyes upon, Tuscany definitely presents a sweet challenge of deciding where to spend your leisurely weekend.
There is no better way to understand Italy than by spending a fun-filled few days in the lap of history and nature found in abundance in medieval hamlets of Tuscany.
Read on to know about the top five must-visit medieval hamlets to get a peek into the vita Italiana.
1. San Gimignano
Topping the list is San Gimignano, a medieval walled community that gives you a heady concoction of culture and nature. The rolling hilltops, defensive castle towers dating back to the 11th and 13th centuries and the brick red terracotta roofs make for an exceptionally picturesque place. Declared a world heritage site in 1991, the story of San Gimignano goes back to the 12th century as an Etruscan village. Today, it stands as a testimony of years gone by and envelopes you in an atmosphere of old rural Italy. The hamlet is interspersed with Romanesque and Gothic architectural reminders for you to be transported back in time. For a more studied approach, you can visit the many museums and galleries that offer a slice of the bygone era in Tuscany. If you are a wine lover, tantalize your senses with La Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine laced with centuries of history.
Just a stone’s throw away from the famous San Gimignano, Volterra is a hidden gem of the medieval times. The churches depicting the quintessential Roman architecture, the Etruscan acropolis and walls, and the Roman theatre built in an amphitheater-style in the 1st century, Volterra makes you step back in time. Contained within the four walls of this oldest hamlets of Italy is the most captivating piazza. The Piazza dei Priori is one of the charming squares in Tuscany exuding the old world charm with its palaces and vibrant open spaces. Walking on the streets of this medieval village is experiencing the middle, renaissance, Etruscan, the Roman periods all at once. Known for its protective walls built during the 4th and the 5th centuries, the present-day Volterra is visited for its urban layout and rural experience. Take a leisurely walk around the square sampling the local cuisine and be one with the 2500 yrs of history.
Fondly known as “Little Jerusalem”, this exceptionally pretty hamlet of Pitigliano finds a mention as the 4th most beautiful village in Italy. Located atop a cliff with a panoramic view, Pitigliano encapsulates centuries of Etruscan and Roman historical legacy. The picture-perfect tiered, tile-roofed buildings give it a fairy tale look. In a hamlet that was predominately Christian, Jews co-existed peacefully till 1622. The Jewish Museum of Culture chronicles the existence and contribution of Jews to the village of Pitigliano. A trip to the various local museums here is like getting a crash course in the history of various periods that the hamlet has been a part of.
If you are looking for a mix of tranquility and charm away from the touristy hustle-bustle, the sleepy hamlet of Barga is a perfect choice. Located in the Media Valle of Serchio River is an alluring town to discover. With its maze of cobbled streets, precipitous stairways, and tiny square exudes the true Italian charm. The lush green environs with the spectacular backdrop of valleys and mountains make this hidden treasure worth visiting. Tightly packed with medieval churches and palazzos, this enchanting town begs to be explored. It has been named Borghi più Belli d’Italia (Italy’s most beautiful small towns) for its setting that is straight out of a picture book. If its natural splendor and rich history aren’t enough, the hamlet gives you another reason to visit it. Every year the month of August sees the most happening event taking place in this otherwise serene town: The Barga Jazz Festival. The festival is the melting pot for all jazz lovers, the pro, the armature, and the audience. Visit Barga and immortalize its beauty in your mind.
Tuscany gives you many reasons to pay it a visit. A potpourri of fashion, culture, art, and gastronomy, all draped gently by the antiquated charm, these medieval hamlets bewitch your senses in no time.