Join the Locals & Join the Fun
Summer in Tuscany is a beautiful combination of folklore, outdoor activities, and good old-fashioned fun. The variation in the temps from warm to hot will encourage you to explore the countryside and entice you to dip your toes in the crystal clear waters of the Tyrrhenian sea.
And when the temps are too hot? Do like the locals: stroll thru a museum, plan outdoor activities in the evening when things begin to cool down and enjoy the many festivals, street parties and special occasions under the stars.
Whether you are here for a few days, a week or even longer, be sure to keep an eye on our events calendar, so you can program fun activities along with visits to see the major sites of Tuscany like the Square of Miracles in Pisa, the Duomo in Florence and its rooftop terraces or the amazing Piazza del Campo in Siena and some of our favorite summertime activities.
Tuscans and visitors alike fall in love with Tuscany in summer, enjoying the night sky, the traditional medieval games, eating in the town squares and finding their "groove " with just the right music en plein air.
Here are a few of our suggestions for things to include in your itinerary while traveling Tuscany:
There are several opportunities to enjoy the celestial skies.
Both during the day and at night. Starting with the summer solstice in June. (at 12.07 CEST on Thursday, June 21, 2018) The Duomo in Florence annual has events that celebrate the first gnomon installed in 1475, check out the official website of the Duomo to find out about dates to visit the Meridiana. Or you can watch as a sunbeam hits the zodiac sign in the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte announcing the Summer Solstice.
But it is also a time to go stargazing and the various observatories and planetariums are open with shows, talks, and telescopes pointed to the latest stars on the horizon.
Perhaps the most famous event is the night of San Lorenzo (Aug. 10), a tradition in Italy that plays on a bit of fact and a bit of religious folklore. The martyred saint Lawrence is said to cry tears on the anniversary of his death, which are transformed into stars. At one time, many (many) years ago, there was an element in the atmosphere that made these falling stars seem red, and it was said that he cried tears of blood. The phenomenon of the red tears is no longer visible, but if you take a blanket and head out to an open field, or mountaintop where there is little to no light pollution you can still see the tears of San Lorenzo on the night of the falling stars.
The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year, occurs every year between July 17 - August 24. However, the shower tends to peak around August 9-13 and this year specifically on the 11th and 12th.
In 2018, will be near a new moon and promote a good view of the meteor shower.
2. Island Hopping
Discover the 7 incredibly beautiful islands off the coast of Tuscany
Each island is more tempting and beautiful than the last. During late spring, summer and early fall the islands of Elba, Capraia, Pianosa, Giannutri, and Gigli are the places to go if you want to catch some sun. Once they were filled with pirates hiding their treasures but now you will find only find tourists enjoying the sandy beaches, stunning Mediterranean landscape, and cool sea breezes. These are the months when it is truly a treat to take advantage of the opportunities to visit these islands with trained, expert environmental guides. Though some are possible on your own, you can truly max the pleasure with someone who can walk you through the exotic delights of these islands.
Isola Gorgona, which is the only European island prison, requires a background check, but you can arrange that online with your tour guide before you arrive. The island of Montecristo is inaccessible since it has been declared a nature reserve by the Italian government, accessed only by researchers with an authorized entrance. Check out this facebook page for a calendar of tours with one of my favorite guides (they speak English).
3. Medieval Games
Intense competition passed down through the centuries
Being caught in the middle of a cheering crowd! The thrill and the excitement of the recreation of the medieval games & fairs in Tuscany are felt not only by the locals (who are extremely loyal to their colors and their contradas) but have delighted tourists (Italian and not) for years. The color, pageantry, drummers, buglers, flag throwers, as well as the competition and the history, make these some of the more historic sports in Tuscany. So much so, that they are even televised for local audiences!
Beware, tickets sell out fast, and these towns will be bursting at the seams with rowdy locals, and enthusiastic viewers...but it is all good fun! The Palio of Siena, races horses around la Piazza del Campo, pitting the skill of the jockeys and the speed of their mounts. The Giostra of Arezzo and the Giostra dell'Orso in Pistoia challenge the rider to not only control his horse but also prove his prowess with a lance...while dressed in medieval garb. And don’t forget the Calcio Storico in Florence where the entire city chooses its colors and fights to the very end on the 24th of June.
4. Outdoor Concerts
Roman amphitheaters, town square & medieval castles
All of Tuscany looks forward to the summer months when they can finally stay out all night, in the cool crisp air, spending time with friends, gathering in the city squares to socialize and enjoying a full summer calendar which includes music of all types. From the choral competitions in Montepulciano to Arezzo Wave where up and coming pop stars from all over Italy, Europe and the world have a chance to show off. From the walled city of Lucca with top names to the castles of Casentino with classical musical, Italian comedians, and talented dancers. From classical opera at the Lago di Puccini to the smoky rhythms of Jazz in Pistoia.
It is almost impossible to not find something to listen to! And really, what could be better than creating memories listening to these melodious sounds in a Roman Amphitheater in Fiesole or the open air church at San Galgano. The best part is that many of these events are free or have a very small entrance fee, and they take advantage of the natural beauty of Tuscany. Read full details on where, when and how to get your tickets.
5. Food Festivals
The perfect combination: Tuscany & home cooking
Sagras happen all year long, but especially in the month of June, July and August - when everyone is taking advantage of any excuse to be outside with friends and family - dancing, chatting, laughing and of course eating. You will find that the number of sagras more than double in these months and wherever you go you will find one that is just begging for you to have a taste.
A sagra is the Italian word for food festival, where the locals will work to present you with a unique menu highlighting a particular flavor, pasta, fruit or tradition - favorites are the Porcini mushrooms, Cinghiale (wild boar) and ANY kind of pasta...personally, I love tortelli (potato filled ravioli) and pici (hand-rolled spaghetti).
Keep up with our events every month to see where our favorites are throughout all of Tuscany and close to Florence. Be sure to check out our list of our favorite summer food festivals and sagras at this link.
Want to know more about Tuscan sagras, have a look at our article.
Bonus Activity !!!
The Italians will tell you that you can eat a gelato any time, but they normally reserve the pleasure of choosing their favorite flavors for the summer months. There are lots of desserts to be eaten in the colder months! (Chestnuts for example...)
Therefore as the temps are on the rise, so is gelato consumption. This is the perfect time to savor homemade productions (produzione in proprio). Many creative gelatarias start to double up on the number of tubs and lots of new fun flavors will make their way into the display case.
Check out our best choice for gelato in Florence.