How to make the most of Tuscany in winter
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Tuscany is more often visited in the warmer months, where it's a picture of lazing in glorious sunshine among a landscape of rolling vineyards and villas stitched together by rows of cypress trees.
However, those in the know will tell you that Tuscany* brings many surprises during winter when the hills are lightly dusted with snow and the towns and villages settle down for a quieter season. It's also often cheaper to travel at this time and there are plenty of experiences for visitors looking for seasonal escape.
Getting to Tuscany: find great value breaks to Tuscany with Jet2holidays*, which offers excellent seasonal escapes for all the family.
Soak in outdoor thermal pools
By the foot of volcanic Monte Amiata on the southern end of Tuscany is Saturnia, famous for its white-coloured cascading thermal pools.
Due to the geothermal activities of Monte Amiata, the underground water that fills the pools of Saturnia and the surrounding areas is rich in minerals, giving it the milky colour which crystalises as it flows.
A medieval legend tells of the story where Jupiter's thunderbolt crashed into Earth during a battle with Saturn, causing the steamy water to leak through onto the surface. The Etruscans and the Romans believed the waters to be a gift from the Gods.
Today, these therapeutic sulphurous pools are enjoyed by locals and visitors as a place to relax and enjoy this wonder of nature.
Dive in an underground thermal lake
Scuba diving in the middle of Tuscany? Yes really. For certified divers looking for a brand new experience, why not try what the local tour operators call 'spa diving'?
Grotta Giusti in the town of Monsummano Terme is Europe's largest underground thermal lake, with the water at a constant 34°C making it comfortable to dive any time of the year.
Certified divers will get to experience the unusual underwater environment of Grotta Giusti as part of a short training before being given the opportunity to explore the caves accompanied by a guide.
Take a Tuscan cookery course
Winter in Tuscany conjures warm, hearty meals made by grandmothers. Piping hot soups and stews to be enjoyed around the table with family, friends and lively conversation.
One of the best experiences is to join a cookery class to learn the secrets of these wintry dishes. Immerse in the cooking culture on a farm by learning first-hand where the ingredients come from and working with what's available to harvest.
Some schools are designed for families with children, where the kids will be involved in creating meals that are fun and delicious. From day workshops to week-long courses, you'll find yourself in a culinary heaven, with recipes you can recreate at home.
Warm up at Florence's historic cafés
For a city saturated with history and the beauty of the Renaissance, Florence* has been the popular gathering place for writers, artists and intellectuals to come together to discuss ideas and projects, often meeting in one of the city's fantastic cafés.
There are several historic cafés where you can get a rich coffee surrounded by beautiful interiors with vintage furniture all in the centre of the city and perfect for a break from all the sightseeing.
The grand Caffè Concerto Paszkowski is a great place to go for a hot drink, meal or evening livener. First founded in 1846, the venue was declared a National Monument in 1991. The Polish family owners have been running it since 1904 and although they have modernised the café over the years, the elegant decor takes you straight back in time.
For a smaller, more intimate setting, try Bar Tabacchi Bianchi, which is still owned by the same Bianchi family who opened it in 1920. It maintains the original pink marble counter and wrought-iron display cases, a nod to the Art Deco era in which it was founded.
Take in museums by day, opera by night
While Tuscany's cultural scene can be enjoyed throughout the year, it's generally quieter in winter, which means fewer crowds and shorter queues when it comes to visiting the great museums and attractions around the region.
Spend the day in the heated warmth of Florence's museums or, if visiting around Christmas time, check out the fantastic nativity play and Christmas tree outside the Duomo.
After the museums close, glam up in your best frock and attend an opera performance at night; nowhere else will you enjoy a more distinctive cultural scene.
Witness a fire festival
Who doesn't love a bonfire? The celebration of fire as the 'Sun God' has ancient origins and, during the Tuscan winter, several fire festivals are held around the region where you can witness this dazzling spectacle.
Starting with Focarazza of Santa Caterina in November in the town of Roccalbegna, locals gather around an oak log wrapped in cloth which is set on fire. A race is then on to see which district can get it back to their part of the village.
By volcanic Monte Amiata, a military torchlight ritual is held in the town of Abbadia San Salvatore each year in December to celebrate the feasts of St Nicholas and St Michael.
Meanwhile, in January, riverside Pontremoli hosts two events: Falò di San Geminiano and Disfida dei Falò, both involving bonfire building and lots of eating!
Think medieval dress-up parades, songs and dances around fires, torchlights and fireworks; it's a different way to experience a lesser-known side of Tuscany.
Enjoy snow sports
Yes, you can ski in Tuscany! While the region doesn't have the same silvery limestone peaks of the Alps, Tuscany's mountains provide a tranquil backdrop for skiing, perfect for families with children, or those looking for alternative snow sports such as snowshoe hiking.
There are five skiing areas in Tuscany to choose from, each with its own distinctive landscape and towns and villages to explore. The Abetone ski area, the largest in central Italy*, will delight those looking for a bit more than easy runs, with 50 km of pistes of varying difficulties, all surrounded by nature.
Or, try ski mountaineering and snowshoe hiking at the Doganaccia ski area, with a well-marked route that connects Croce Arcana to Mount Cornaccio.
Climate in Tuscany
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