In a wine region as vast as Tuscany, any trip entails a dizzying amount of vineyards, wineries, and tastings. And while vino is very much a significant part of Tuscany, there’s so much more to see in central Italy that doesn’t necessarily involve wine. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying to skip out on the vino but, instead of jamming your schedule with back-to-back wine-centric experiences, consider less boozy adventures that will break up the tastings and allow you to connect more fully to the destination.
From the rolling hills of Chianti to the farmlands around Arezzo and the mountainous landscape of Montalcino, here are the best experiences to have in Tuscany that don’t involve drinking wine.
What to Do in Tuscany Besides Drink Wine
1. Steer a sports car through the rolling hills of Chianti
Italian sports cars were designed for the open road and what better way to test-drive one of the most iconic luxury brands than coasting through the vineyard-strewn hills of Chianti? This is what Borgo San Felice offers with its Ferrari Driving Experience; guests can book an afternoon or entire day outing in a fire red Ferrari to live out their James Bond fantasies. The team at Borgo San Felice will help you map out your ideal route so all you have to worry about is putting the pedal to the metal and taking the wheel.
2. Take a cooking class with a Michelin-starred chef
There’s no shortage of cooking classes in Italy, but some are admittedly more special than others. While cooking with a host family offers a traditional and humble showcase of regional, Italian flavors, in Montalcino, Castello Banfi Wine Resort offers an elevated epicurean experience with Chef Domenico Francone from its Michelin-starred restaurant, La Sala dei Grappoli. The four-hour course is still promisingly authentic, occurring in a farmhouse on the Banfi estate where Chef Francone creates rotating dishes with guests, but always includes a pasta course and dessert. The recipes may differ from the innovative plates that earned the restaurant its Michelin star, however, the techniques, regional flavors, and inspirations remain the same and offer a peek into the mind and creativity of transforming traditional dishes into elevated offerings at La Sala dei Grappoli.
3. Design shoes with a local artisan
Shopping in Italy is a no-brainer, but learning about the craftsmanship behind luxury Italian brands takes your experience a step further. At the heart of Il Borro’s functioning medieval village, guests can book a workshop at the Palaia shop for an immersive course on designing and manufacturing leather shoes and belts. The workshops last about two hours and guests can choose what they prefer to focus on when they book their session.
4. Learn the tradition and art of truffle hunting
Though truffle hunting is considered seasonal, there are actually a variety of truffles that grow year round and make an excursion possible no matter when you visit. At COMO Castello del Nero, a third-generation truffle hunter from Oressea introduces the differing types, including the black winter truffle, black summer truffle, and white truffle, then leads you through a morning hunt with his expertly trained pups. Don’t expect a leisurely walk through the woods. At points you may find yourself chasing the dogs through branches and brush to ensure you get to the truffle before them.
5. Indulge in vinotherapy
Practiced since ancient times, vinotherapy, or the act of bathing in grape musts, has become popular in modern spa offerings, evolving from simple soaks to grape-infused products used in massages. The treatments are now celebrated for reducing stress and rejuvenating skin, thanks to the antioxidants found in grapes and their skins. A number of Tuscan hotels offer their take on vinotherapy. At Borgo San Felice, guests can bathe in wine must, followed by a regenerative olive oil massage. Borgo Scopeto Relais uses estate grapes to create gentle scrubs for massages and facials. And at Falconiere Wine Resort, couples can enjoy a two-and-a-half-hour ritual that starts with a delicate peel before a soothing massage (both using grape components) that ends with a red wine soak in a copper vat built for two.
6. E-bike through vineyards
Tuscany’s hilly terrain attracts international cyclists for road biking races like The Strade Bianche and L’Eroica, but for amateur riders, e-bikes offer a less strenuous way to experience the winding roads passing scenic miles of vines and traditional stone farmhouses. Focus on the vines when you e-bike through Banfi’s 7,100 acres, or plan a more hands-on route through the otherworldly landscape of Crete Sensei with a local bike rental company.
7. Gallop against mountains on horseback
For completely unexpected vistas halfway between Lucca, Pistoia, Florence, and Bologna, visit Oasyhotel’s Tuscan location on a World Wildlife Foundation-affiliated nature reserve. The mountainous backdrop of the Pistoia Apennines feels more rugged than the prominent vineyard landscapes associated with Tuscany, which lends itself to horseback riding amidst the peaks. The eco-retreat is celebrated for its emphasis on sustainable programming that focuses on conserving the biodiversity of the 2,470-acre reserve through agriculture, breeding, and scientific research so a horseback riding excursion is not only unique, but also brings you closer to the retreat’s mission.
8. Enjoy a birds-eye view of the stunning countryside
No matter your pace, there’s an opportunity for an aerial experience in Tuscany. For leisurely views of sunrise, hot air balloon excursions are once-in-a-lifetime affairs worth waking up for. COMO Castello del Nero offers a morning ascent into the clouds and above the hills of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, followed by bubbles and breakfast, while Borgo San Felice offers a private outing accompanied by a waiter for brunching in the sky. For a more hair-raising birds-eye view, try a helicopter tour, like Castello Banfi’s experience flying over the Val d’Orcia, including storied villages like Montalcino and Pienza.