Hot days in Italy, with the sun pounding off centuries-old palazzi and cobblestone streets, can be unbearable. If you find yourself in Tuscany during the summer, places like Florence can be particularly hot and sticky thanks to humidity and temps over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), while it is thankfully more pleasant in the countryside, where nature keeps things cooler. If you find yourself overheating in a way no amount of gelato can fix, you might be wondering where you can go to beat the heat. Luckily, Tuscany offers many great, inexpensive options for cooling off.
If you want your cooler weather with great views and a bit of history, this is the stop for you. Just 30km from Florence, Vallombrosa is a Benedictine abbey tucked away in the Apenninnes mountains, surrounded by forest in the commune of Reggello. It was founded by a Florentine in 1036 and since then has been a retreat for writers such as Mary Shelley and William Wordsworth. Today, you can tour the grounds (free), taking in not just cool mountain air, but also frescoes from the 18th century, altarpieces from the 16th century and architecture dating to almost 1000 years ago. The large lawn near the abbey is a popular picnic location for Florentines in search of fresh air.
Viareggio is a beach destination that is easily reached by train. From Florence, you can be there in about 1.5 hours and the train passes nearby many other interesting stops such as Pisa and Lucca. Once off the train, the beach is about a 15-minute walk away, and since it is a large beach, there are a few free areas as well as places to rent an umbrella and chair. While the seaside here doesn’t offer the pristine blue waters some parts of Italy are famous for, it’s a great place to take a dip, stroll the boardwalk and enjoy the cooling sea breezes.
Lago del Bilancino
The Bilancino lake is located 40 minutes north of Florence and is a great location if you’re traveling with kids. They have a public beach plus the opportunity to rent chairs, umbrellas and paddleboats. Dining can be done right on the shore and the hilly area around the lake can be explored on foot or by bike. The lake is man-made and has a rocky bottom and still waters, perfect for little ones or those who don’t like the currents in the sea.
Grotta del Vento
More adventurous types will likely find these windy caves, located north of Lucca in the middle of the Alps nature reserve, a great respite from the summer heat. The caves, with their stalactites, blue and green waters and steady temperature of 10 degrees Celsius are sure to be a welcome reprieve from the sun and scorching heat. There are three tour options available, ranging from 1, 2 or 3 hours and all of them offer a look into a strange underground world, which includes alabaster walls and lakes with crystal shores.
Try any or all of these locations next time you find yourself in Tuscany during the summer!