A vacation in Tuscany is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, but when you figure in airfare, a rental car, meals and the like, that holiday can come with a steep price tag. One of the easiest ways to make it work is to avoid the big cities like Florence, and stay in one of these surprisingly affordable towns.
Monteriggioni (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Monteriggioni is a postcard-perfect walled castle town with numerous budget-friendly accommodations to choose from, including lovely farmhouse stays and quaint B&Bs. Go outside of the busy summer months, and you’ll avoid the crowds and be more likely to find discounted rates as well. Almost perfectly preserved from its 13th-century start, visitors can look forward to climbing the stairs to walk the walls, trying on medieval armor in the Armament Museum, and exploring local artisans’ wares, include handmade wool items in the weavers’ shop.
Tavarnelle Val di Pesa (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The quiet little village of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa is just 23 miles south of Florence, offering a tranquil, less expensive stay while providing easy access to the city. Enjoy strolls past meandering vineyards, Chianti tasting, balsamic sampling, pasta making and a lively night market, as well as especially affordable accommodations at the hostel, Ostello del Chianti, with dorm beds well under $20 a night. It features a large common area to relax and mingle in, a quiet dining room in the evenings, and even a garden with a barbecue grill.
Pistoia (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Pistoia is a hidden jewel situated northwest of Florence, and is famous for cultivating beautiful flowers and plants that are exported around the world, with a long tradition of local nurseries being passed down generation after generation. Set around its central Piazza del Duomo are the Cathedral of San Zeno and the Palazzo dei Vescovi, an 11th-century palace that hosts several museums. Just outside the city is Borgo Isora, which offers four affordable holiday apartment rentals that make an ideal base for exploring the region. Filled with character and charm, they not only offer big savings, but the chance for a more authentic stay.
Borgo San Lorenzo (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Borgo San Lorenzo is located near the Apennines, only about 20 miles from the city of Florence. The town itself comes under the Mugello commune of the District of Florence, an area steeped in the history of the Medici Family. You’ll find outstanding affordable accommodation at Villa La Topaia, a farmhouse that sits atop a hill from which it dominates over the surrounding valley, just outside town. It’s surrounded by gardens and sunflower fields, and features a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool open in the summer as well as offering cooking lessons.
Pienza (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This charming, romantic village may best be known for its pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese that’s made from a breed of sheep particular to this area, generally regarded as the finest in all of Tuscany. The wonderful aroma of this artisan cheese permeates through the air, and many of the town’s eateries feature it on their menus, alongside handmade pastas and other traditional plates. While the cheese alone is worth a trip, it offers a ton of scenic beauty too, including the Val d’Orcia, a river valley dominated by the once active volcano, Monte Amiata. You’ll find a number of affordable accommodations here too, including farm stays and apartments for well under $100 a night.
Lucca (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Lucca is a unique medieval village that, while not small, offers budget accommodations and lots of magnificent sights. Its stunning old centro is walled off from its modern outskirts. The nearly 40-foot high ramparts serve as a tree-lined pedestrian and cycling path that circles the centro, and offers beautiful views of the entire city. At any point, you can easily descend from the wall and go exploring the interior, which includes lots of interesting shops and fabulous Lucchese food and wine.
Volterra (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This fortified hill-town in Tuscany’s western region not only offers accommodations that won’t ruin your budget, but it’s home to an imposing Medici fortress that can be seen from miles around. This wonderful art city is most famous for its annual medieval festival, one of the area’s largest, hosted every August. This is when the entire centro is transformed into what it was like back in the 14th century, and so are the people, with bands of uniformed drummers and flag-throwers performing in the town square, vendors in dressed in period clothing sell medieval-style fare like roasted meats and stone-oven breads; craftsmen work wood, leather, and metal with era-appropriate tools, and historical experts provide weaponry and falconry demonstrations. Modern currency is even exchanged for replicas of medieval coins which are spent at the food stalls and vendors’ displays.
Lucignano (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Lucignano is perched on a hilltop southwest of Arezzo, and is a well-preserved medieval walled town that looks somewhat like a three-tiered wedding cake. It stands at over 1,300 feet above sea level in the middle of an agricultural area that produces olives, grapes, grains and sunflowers. You can rent an apartment here for as little as $50 a night, and enjoy walking through the cobbled ancient pathways and exploring the town square and the 13th-century fortress.
Barga (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The forested Garfagnana region is home to the walled city of Barga, perched atop a mountain with an historic centro that’s completely car-free, providing a magical, peaceful refuge, far away from the chaos of the modern world. From the cathedral that sits at the top of the town, you can look out over wooded valleys and other mountaintop hamlets in the distance. There are a wide range of accommodation options too, including affordable B&Bs and apartments.