In Tuscany, Italy, photography has long been part of the local history. Indeed, the first commercial photography studio in the world was founded here by the Alinari Brothers way back in 1852. And as the birthplace of the renaissance, and for many centuries an important center for visiting artists from all of Europe and beyond, the Tuscan landscape has been well documented both in photography and other forms of art.
Today the region is one of the best places in Italy to shoot landscape photography, and many of Tuscany’s more well-known photography spots now attract scores of photographers every single day, all hoping to add their own creative twist to these iconic views. Planning a photography trip to Tuscany, Italy, but unsure where to begin? Here are just some of the highlights this region has to offer landscape photographers.
It’s a pretty safe bet that few people visit Tuscany without exploring the city of Florence. Yet with its rich offering of museums, ancient palaces, and stunning piazzas, it can be easy to overlook the opportunities for landscape photography this city can offer too.
The most obvious place to begin flexing your photographic muscles is on the banks of the Arno river, which offer some excellent opportunities for shooting stunning landscapes at all times of the year. The light here is invariably amazing, and the waters can often be incredibly glass-like, reflecting the beauty of the architecture lining either side of the river.
Anyone wishing to get their bearings in this incredible town will want to head up to Piazza Michelangelo on the southern banks of the Arno. Positioned high above the river and offering views of the entire city, yet just a short walk from the old gate of San Niccolo and the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Michelangelo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florence – so don’t expect to have this place to yourself. But if you’re prepared to climb just a few more steps, the outlook in front of the church of San Salvatore di Monte, located a couple of hundred yards away from the piazza, offers equally stunning views, only with much less jostling for position. As an extra bonus, from here you can shoot both the city itself and some of the charming olive gardens that cling to the surrounding hills.
The more adventurous might enjoy hiking higher into the foothills to get a more unusual view of Florence from above. Just be aware that some of the main arteries out of town can often suffer from heavy traffic and, in certain sections, offer very little in the way of navigable sidewalk.
If you are traveling to Tuscany, Italy, to do photography, Chianti is of course unmissable. This is the classic Tuscan landscape you’ve seen on Instagram: olive groves, chapels, and hilltop castles; alluring rows of grape vines; misty blue forests, dusty lanes, and cool valleys; cypress-crested hilltops receding into the distance.
Greve in Chianti will likely be your starting point for exploring the Tuscan countryside. But don’t miss Panzano, Radda, and Castellina, as these historic towns also have a great deal to offer photo enthusiasts.
The hill town of San Gimignano should be on every visiting landscape photographer’s itinerary. There are countless photography opportunities within San Gimignano itself, but head out into the surrounding countryside and you’ll be rewarded with some even more stunning views of the town, with its medieval towers standing guard over the local olive fields.
With its incredible annual horse race in the Piazza del Campo, and an elegant medieval cathedral, the small fortified town of Siena is a beautiful photography location in its own right. But literally just a stone’s throw from the town’s ramparts, you’ll also find some pretty inspiring landscape to work with too.
Indeed, pretty much all of the region moving south from San Gimignano down to Sienna offers great shooting locations. Take the smaller local roads in the late afternoon and you’ll be rewarded with vista after vista of idyllic and verdant scenery.
Heading out of Sienna to the southeast, your route should take you through the area known as Crete Senesi. Here the views are perhaps even more stunning and unspoiled than those to the north of the town.
Moving further south, the valley through which the Orcia river flows, taking in Pienza and Montepulciano, offers some of the most stunning landscape the lower part of Tuscany has to offer. Little surprise then that this area has featured as the location for numerous movies, from Fellini’s 8½ and Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty, through to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia.
Come here for gently rolling hills, winding cypress-lined roads, golden late-afternoon glow, rustic villas, verdant vineyards, and of course fantastic wine. You’ll also find some ancient thermal baths; with their cascading waters, and deep turquoise bathing pools, the local terme hot springs can make for some pretty unusual landscape photography too.
Landscape shooters accustomed to photographing the wild, rugged wilderness of Iceland or Norway will likely find that Tuscany cannot not offer the same kind of raw thrill and drama. But what Tuscany lacks in awe-inspiring natural beauty it more than makes up for in romantic charm, idyllic scenery, and truly gorgeous light.
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