Looking to get away from the crowds of sightseers during your travels in Tuscany? Then head east  to Valtiberina, an area often unnoticed, yet extremely beautiful and rich in art and history.

After Florence, the classic traveller’s routes in Tuscany are either west to Pisa, Lucca and the coast, or south through  Chianti, Siena and San Gimignano. But what about the east? If you make it till the border with Umbria, you’ll find an untouched corner of Tuscanywhere locals far outnumber tourists and sleepy villages preserve many artistic treasures. This is Valtiberina, an area that takes its name from the River Tiber flowing through the region, and is characterized by a fascinating landscape of forested hillsides and charming medieval hamlets. Here you can admire the masterpieces of Piero della Francesca, explore the birthplace of Michelangelo and follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, who lived in this area for part of his life,

Curious? Here’s what you can see and do.

Sansepolcro

Tuscany_Sansepolcro

Sansepolcro is the biggest village of Valtiberina and the birthplace of Italian Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca. Some of his greatest works can be admired at the Civic Museum and Gallery, housed in an elegant palazzo that was once the seat of the local municipality. The historic center still retains its artistic charm, with a multitude of fine buildings, interesting museums and fascinating churches. One of the best times to visit Sansepolcro is during the Palio della Balestra, a medieval crossbow competition between Sansepolcro and the town of Gubbio that takes place every year in September.

Anghiari

Tuscany_Anghiari

Anghiari is a charming medieval village with a perfectly-preserved historic center made of ancient palazzos and atmospheric passageways lined with artisan studios and antique shops. The view you get while approaching the town is equally beautiful, with the fortified walls rising up from a rocky spur above the Tiber. It’s no surprise that it’s been declared one of the most beautiful villages of Italy. Anghiari was the site of the famous battle fought between Florence and Milan in 1440 that inspired Leonardo da Vinci’s lost fresco and today this historical event is celebrated during the Palio della Vittoria on 29 June. Antique lovers shouldn’t miss the huge Mostra Mercato dell’Artigianato della Valtiberina that takes place in April every year.

Caprese Michelangelo

Tuscany_Caprese Michelangelo

As the name suggests, Caprese Michelangelo is the birthplace of the great Italian artist Michelangelo. Everything here is connected to the Renaissance maestro: from his childhood home to the XIII-century church of St. John the Baptist, where Michelangelo was baptized, and the museum within the walls of the old castle. Caprese Michelangelo is surrounded by a breathtaking scenery of vineyards, sunflowers fields and forests of chestnut trees. The Chestnut Festival that takes place in October attracts thousands of visitors that make their way to this corner of Tuscany to sample all sorts of chestnut-based delicacies. There are also some interesting religious buildings linked to the passage of St. Francis of Assisi, such as, the chapel of Zenzano and the Casella monastery.

Monterchi

Tuscany_Monterchi

Monterchi is a quaint medieval hamlet of 2,000 souls perched on top of a hill considered sacred by the Romans, due to a connection with the mythological figure of Hercules. The key attraction here is a tiny museum located just outside the village walls where you can admire Piero della Francesca’s most celebrated work of art, the XV-century fresco of Madonna del Parto. The village is also home to a bizarre collection of weights and measures on display at the Scale Museum. Monterchi hosts a series of interesting events throughout the year, such as the annual Monterchi Festival with 50 days of celebrations between June and August, and the polenta food festival in September.

Pieve Santo Stefano

 

Tuscany_Pieve Santo Stefano (credit Visit Tuscany)

This is one of Tuscany’s best kept secrets. A village much loved by Lorenzo de’ Medici, Pieve Santo Stefano is often referred to as the “town of the diary” because of its Little Museum of Diary, an incredible place that celebrates the historic value of the diaries and letters written by ordinary people. Pieve Santo Stefano was almost completely destroyed during World War II and this archive was created to keep alive the memory of local history and today the thousands of diaries, memoirs and letters kept here are an amazing recollection of our local history. Other interesting things to see in the area are the XIII-century Cerbaiolo monastery that was donated to Saint Francis and the Temple of Santa Maria del Colledestro with its intriguing octagonal shape. Also not to miss is the Calcio in costume battle in September, a competition that celebrates the early form of football that originated in Italy in the XVI century.

USEFUL TIPS

  • Valtiberina is about an hour and a half drive from Florence and is best explored by car. There are points where the road winds up the hills but all in all it’s a pleasant drive. Alternatively, you could reach Arezzo by train from Florence (about 1 hour) and then travel around Valtiberina by bus (check out timetables and connections at www.etruriamobilita.it)
  • I visited Valtiberina during my 10-day road trip in Tuscany last year, with an overnight stay at Sansepolcro to enjoy the Palio della Balestra. I suggest to spend one night in the area to thoroughly enjoy everything it has to offer without rushing from place to the other

 

Until next time,

21 replies
  1. Mimi
    Mimi says:

    Anghiari looks beautiful. Can’t wait to go to italy this summer. It sounds like we will have a blast seing these beautiful things in your list. Worth it for the road trip from Florence to see this town!

    Reply
  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    What a beautiful town in Toscana! I didn’t make it to Valtiberina, but it’s clear there are many great things to see and do here. I love that church, and would probably take a 100 photos if I visit!

    Reply
  3. Denny George
    Denny George says:

    I’ve visited Tuscany, but returned after the usual Chianti, Sienna, Florence, Pisa circuit. Your blog opened my eyes to how much more Tuscany has to offer. Valtiberina looks stunning and sounds quite interesting. I’ll definitely plan a revisit to Tuscany some time in the near future.

    Reply
  4. Sandy N Vyjay
    Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Valtiberina is indeed a revelation. Just about an hour from Florence! We were in Florence a couple of years ago but did not have much time to explore other parts of Tuscany, except for Pisa. Hope to head to those parts again. Valtiberina looks so pristine and untouched. One place we would love to visit is Caprese of Michael Angelo. It would be great to visit his birthplace.

    Reply
  5. YUKTI
    YUKTI says:

    I visited Tuscany but could only go through Florence and Pisa. But there are lots of things to see and go through in Tuscany. I would love to go through the narrow lanes and medieval town of Valtiberina

    Reply
  6. Deeptha
    Deeptha says:

    We haven’t been to Tuscany yet. Having read your post, I think when we decide to, we will probably skip the popular, touristy places and head to Valtiberina instead. Anghiari is so beautiful – small, hilltop town with narrow cobbled streets; just what I like.

    Reply
  7. Diana
    Diana says:

    I’ve never been to Tuscany before, but this looks like the perfect way to visit it – by stopping by these little towns and experiencing life as a local. It sounds so much more enjoyable to me than trying to push through the crowds of Rome or Venice. Did you find the food in these smaller areas to be better/more authentic than in the bigger cities as well?

    Reply
  8. Shaily
    Shaily says:

    Tuscany looks like an amazing place to visit. There is so much to explore in this less touristy city. The quaint medieval buildings look extremely fascinating. I would so love to venture into the narrow streets of these villages to get a glimpse of the local life as well as peeping into some chapters of the bygone era. Thanks for sharing these lovely photographs. 🙂

    Reply
  9. Kate
    Kate says:

    Beautiful! I travel to Tuscany pretty regularly (in fact, I’m going next week!), but haven’t made it up to Valtibernia yet. A lot of that has to do with reluctance to rent a car, but we really need to grit our teeth and do it! Anghiari and Monterchi are both calling my name–such beautiful spots.

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Driving around Tuscany is absolutely fine, I did it alone a couple of times and didn’t have any issues….go and explore all that beauty!! 🙂

      Reply
  10. Parnashree Devi
    Parnashree Devi says:

    Tuscany always fascinates me. But reading your post, I would love to visit each village which is out of tourist radar. Loved the post. Its a great guide for people like me who always want something beyond obvious. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. Stella Jane
    Stella Jane says:

    The Valitberina looks like a gorgeous area. I don’t know how to drive so I’d have to figure out how to see it, but it seems worth the effort. I’d especially like to go to Michelangelo’s birthplace and I’d also like to see the museum of the diary.

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      They have a pretty good public transportation system, so it shouldn’t be a problem 🙂 Hope you’ll have the chance to visit that beautiful area!

      Reply
  12. KaroAdores
    KaroAdores says:

    We love Tuscany, this is such a beautiful place in the world! Thanks to give us more beautiful places to visit in this nice area of Italy =)

    Reply
  13. Iulia
    Iulia says:

    I was saying earlier to a friend that I really need to get to Tuscany! This post convinces me two times more. I love it and have bookmarked it for future reference ☺️☺️ out of the small villages that you wrote about, I would absolutely love to visit Anghiari.. I would adore to get lost on those streets filled with rich history 😍😍😍 thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  14. Brendan
    Brendan says:

    This article confirms that I need to go back to Tuscany again. Anghiari and Monterchi look stunning. Want to get to Sansepolcro as well. Thank you, I had no idea of this region.

    Reply

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