Tuscany itinerary: 8 Days of Great Art

A vacation blueprint for spending 8 days amid the glories of the Renaissance and Old Master paintings in Tuscany and Umbria

FlorenceSiena—Monterchi—Sansepolcro—Perugia—Assisi—Cortona

Days 1-3 - Florence

Where to spend the night
Hotels in Florence (days 1-2)
Hotels in Siena (days 3–4)
Hotels in Sansepolcro (day 5)
Hotels in Perugia (days 5–7)
Hotels in Assisi (day 6)
Hotels in Cortona (day 8)
Spend at least three full days in Florence, the city that invented the Renaissance. The short list of masters whose work fills the city’s museums includes Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Raphael.

These Renaissance Men reveal their artistic secrets in the world famous collections of the Uffizi Galleries, the museums of the Pitti Palace, and the Accademia (Michelangelo's David), and in churches such as Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, and Santa Maria delle Carmine.

Try not to strain too many mental muscles, for on the evening of day three you must head south to Siena to spend the night and prepare yourself for a completely different, late-medieval school of painting.

Brace yourself with a medieval meal at the Nuova Grotta del Gallo Nero. Spend the night in Siena.

Day 4 - Siena

Don't forget to pay attention to the "Before you Leave Home " box at the end of the itinerary covering all the details you need to take care of before leaving home—and be sure to read the "Foolish Assumptions" page about how these itineraries work along with more time-planning tips.Spend the morning of day four in Siena with Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s masterpieces of medieval secular art in the Palazzo Pubblico, and after lunch hit the art-filled Duomo and its museum of Gothic sculptures and a lookout over the burnt-sienna cityscape.

In the evening, dine away your impending art overdose with a meal at La Torre and take a relaxing walk through the lamp-lit streets and see the beautiful Piazza del Campo by moonlight. Spend the night in Siena again.

Day 5 - Siena, Sansepolcro, Monterchi, Perugia

On the morning of day five, get a good overview of the entire Sienese school with a visit to Siena’s Pinacoteca painting gallery.

Grab a sandwich for lunch so you can get on the road to drive to Sansepolcro, stopping along the way to see Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto in Monterchi, one of the only pregnant Madonnas in Italian art by this ethereal early Renaissance master.

Spend the afternoon in Sansepolcro’s Museo Civico with its Piero masterpieces—which rival great works here by Signorelli and others. If you want to spend more time at the museum, stop here for the night and a wonderful homecooked meal at the Fiorentino; otherwise push on in the evening to cross into Umbria and make Perugia by nightfall. Spend the night in Perugia.

Day 6 - Perugia

Spend all day in Perugia, the city that produced Perugino and Pinturicchio. Art lovers can spend hours in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, the best collection anywhere of Umbrian art. Masterpieces by Perugino and his student Raphael are scattered around town as well.

Perugia’s very good restaurant crop awaits to give you time to relax and prepare yourself for Giotto the next day. Spend the night in Perugia again.

Day 7 - Assisi

Get up early in the morning to make the short trip over to Assisi. The basilica of San Francesco here houses fresco cycles by the earliest Renaissance masters: Sienese like Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti, and Florentine-school founders Cimabue and his star pupil, Giotto. Visiting the church will fill up your morning, but take a break for lunch and wander outside the walls for a countryside feast at La Stalla.

You could spend the afternoon and the night here in Assisi, or after lunch you could cross the valley back to Perugia for the afternoon and take a trip outside the walls to the painting horde in San Pietro church, have one last peek inside the Galleria Nazionale, and spend the night in Perugia again.

Day 8 - Cortona (and maybe Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino)

Before you leave home:
 Book plane tickets
 Book hotels
 Check train times
 Book entry tickets:
    Florence: Uffizi, Accademia (David)
 Learn more about Italy
 Practice your Italian

Head back into Tuscany to make your last stop at Cortona, hometown of Renaissance master Luca Signorelli and baroquie Pietro da Cortona.

Fra’ Angelico also spent time here, and the towns modest museums and churches all have small but choice collections of masterpieces.

If all the art has become one big blur and you need to recuperate, you are close to both the hilltowns of southern Tuscany (Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, etc.) and the thermal spas at Chianciano Terme.

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This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in August 2010. All information was accurate at the time.

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