As well as offering a change of scenery and excellent local food and wine, a holiday in Tuscany can also include a visit to one of the area’s many traditional festivals, which celebrate local history and culture. For those dreaming of Tuscany this spring and summer, The Luxury Travel Book founder Susie Marquis recommends the best festivals to visit, and spectacular nearby villas or city apartments to rent.
FlorenceFor a time-honoured Easter experience, we recommend Florence and Lo Scoppio del Carro (The Explosion of the Cart). This historic annual event dates back to 1622 and is celebrated every Easter Sunday (with this year’s event taking place on the 17th April). The traditional procession comprises a 10m high cart pulled by oxen decorated with floral headpieces, which is paraded through the streets of the city by 150 people dressed as Roman soldiers, until it reaches the famous Piazza del Duomo. Once the cart arrives, it’s welcomed by a very impressive fireworks display, lasting around 20 minutes.
Recommended apartment: Apartment Piazza San Lorenzo (3 bedrooms, 6 guests)The Luxury Travel Book offers a wide variety of apartments in central Florence, and the Piazza San Lorenzo apartment is an ideal choice for attending Lo Scoppio del Carro, being situated just a 3-4 minute walk from the Duomo. From its position on the first floor of a historic building with its own lift, it offers wonderful views of the Duomo and Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower).
SienaArguably the most famous and exciting annual summer event in Tuscany is the Palio, the traditional horse races which have been taking place in Siena on2nd July and 16th August since 1701. The event is so popular that, as the day approaches, processions take place across the city, including one with a banner paraded to the cathedral which features the Virgin Mary, to whom the race is dedicated. We advise purchasing tickets as soon as possible if you prefer to have seats, although if you arrive early on in the day, it is usually possible to find space for standing room in the piazza.The races take place around the magnificent Piazza del Campo, with the racers representing the 17 contrade (or districts) of Siena, each of which has its own emblem and colours. While the race itself lasts just 90 seconds, the festivities here go on for days, so if you visit the city around either date, you’ll find a real celebratory atmosphere.
Recommended apartment: Piazza del Campo (1 bedroom, 2 guests)Our charming apartment to rent in Siena is in a picture-perfect location on the Piazza del Campo,offeringwonderful views over the famous piazza and the 88m high Il Mangio Tower from the windows of its living area and kitchen. Dating back to the 14th century, and restored to its immaculate former glory, the historic features here include original frescoes on the ceilings and hand-painted murals on the walls.
LuccaThe beautiful walled Tuscan city of Lucca hosts an annual Summer Festival, a popular concert which this year takes place from 25th June to 24th July. The month-long festival is one of the most anticipated musical events of the Italian summer season, having welcomed some of the biggest stars in the music world over the years. For 2022, the line-up includes Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Liam Gallagher, John Legend, Celine Dion, Ben Harper, Alison Krauss, Robert Plant and Kasabian. The concerts take place across the city in historical venues, including the beautiful Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.If you’re more of an art lover than a festival goer, you’ll also find The Painters of Light, from Caravaggio to Paolini exhibition in Lucca this summer. Curated by Vittorio Sgarbi, and showing at Cavallerizza di Piazzale Verdi until 2nd October 2022, the exhibition will showcase around 100 paintings that celebrate the use of light.
Recommended apartment: Via San Giorgio(2 bedrooms, 4 guests)This delightful property, which was originally a carriage house and dates back to the 1600s, is situated just inside the walls of the medieval part of the city and has recently been totally renovated throughout. As well as beautiful accommodation, it also benefits from a very pretty garden with several picturesque corners for dining and relaxing outdoors.
Recommended villa: Villa Lenka(7 bedrooms, 14 guests)  For larger groups who prefer to stay outside Lucca, we have a good choice of luxury villa rentals in the countryside, including the beautiful Villa Lenka. This aristocratic 17th century villa is surrounded by beautiful parkland and situated approximately 10 kms from the city. Enjoy access to shared tennis/football/volleyball fields and equipment as well as the library, wine cellar, card room and billiard table.
CollodiJust a 15-minute drive from Lucca is the charming historic town of Collodi, with its famous Pinocchio adventure park which is open all year round. It’s an ideal place for a day out with the family, thanks to its art, architecture and old castle. Children will love its fairytale atmosphere, with its games, toys, carousel and a variety of sculptures, including Pinocchio and the Fairy. 
Recommended villa: Vista Montecatini (5 bedrooms, 10-12 guests)Situated just 13 kms from Collodi, this property is also in an ideal location for visiting the cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa, as well as the Versilian coast and beaches. Surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, Vista Montecatini sits within large grounds and offers a 15m long swimming pool as well as outdoor dining area and barbecue.   
MontepulcianoThe Val d’Orcia region, just south of Siena, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also known for the beautiful medieval hilltop towns of Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano.  As well as its lovely views, picturesque narrow streets, and its famous red wines, Montepulciano is known for its annual wine barrel race, the Bravio delle Botti. The festival dates back to 1373 when it was a horse race, but was changed to a barrel race in 1974, and remains a competition between the eight contrade of Montepulciano. The swapping of the horse race for a barrel race demonstrates the great importance of the oak barrels in this area, which are used for storing and aging the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano!The race takes place on the last Sunday in August, the 28th August for 2022. Heavy barrels are pushed for approximately 2 kms up the charming narrow winding streets of the town to the main piazza, Piazza Grande. Each district’s barrel is positioned in a designated space determined by a morning draw, and the race starts with a bell ringing in the Torre del Palazzo Comunale.
Recommended villas: Villa Icario (4 bedrooms, 8 guests)Situated on a stunning winemaking estate, this luxury Tuscany villa rental is just a 3-minute drive from Montepulciano. Villa Icario offers a peaceful retreat where guests can relax, while also enjoying opportunities for tours and tastings at the local vineyard which surrounds the property. Set within large gardens with an impressive infinity pool, the accommodation is laid out across two buildings: a main villa, which is a restored farmhouse, and a smaller cottage that’s surrounded by a patio and flowers. The services of a local chef can be arranged for guests at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Villa Gracciano (4-5 bedrooms, 7-9 guests)Another villa with winemaking connections, Villa Gracciano is just 7 kms from Montepulciano and, until 40 years ago, had been in the same family since the early 1800s. A spectacular new winery was built in 2013 and, in 2015, the estate converted to organic farming. Within the garden is a swimming pool with artificial waves, and guests will enjoy a welcome basket on arrival, complete with wine, bread, salami and tomatoes. Be sure to enjoy a tour or tasting at the local vineyard during your stay.
ArezzoIn Arezzo, the medieval Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen) takes place twice a year, on the third Saturday in June, and on the first Sunday in September (for 2022, the dates are the 18th June and 4th September respectively). Like many historic Tuscan towns, the medieval centre of Arezzo is also on a hill, in a defensive position, and divided into contrade which challenge each other to the annual joust. On the day of the event, before the joust starts, there is a blessing at the Duomo by the Bishop of Arezzo, followed by a historic parade through the streets with 350 people dressed as princes, knights, princesses, ladies in waiting and drummers, plus over 25 decorated horses. Every neighbourhood is represented by two knights, who have to hit the shield of a wooden figure known as the Buratto. Once hit, this figure rotates and makes three lead balls which the Buratto can hit back at the knight! The neighbourhood which gets the highest number of shots and the smallest number of penalties, wins. With its historic costumes, flags and music, the parade from the Piazza Duomo to the Piazza Grande, where the joust starts at 9.30pm, is quite a spectacle.
Recommended villa: Villa Belvedere (9 bedrooms, 18-24 guests)A sensational property for a large group of friends or family members, this luxury villa to rent in Tuscany is located in the beautiful rural countryside between Arezzo and Montepulciano, which are both around 27 km away. It’s also just 10 km from the Valdichiana Golf Club and 30 km from the famous Terme San Giovanni spa in Rapolano Terme. The many facilities at Villa Belvedere include both indoor and outdoor swimmingpools, a sauna, air conditioning and a lift.
MonteriggioniThe beautiful hilltop town of Monteriggioni, with its historic castle inside circular walls, is rated as one of the most picturesque towns in Tuscany. Set in a spectacular location, surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and farmland, it is a perfectly preserved medieval walled village just 20 kms from Siena. On approaching, even from a distance, you will be able to see the town’s 14 towers and well-maintained walls. The Medieval Festival in Monteriggioni is usually held around 8th-17th July, although exact dates for this year’s festival are still to be confirmed. Taking place in the main piazza of the original castle, Piazza Roma, visitors can enjoy street shows, live performances, fireworks, medieval games, music and dancing. Guests are also able to watch artisans at work and enjoy tasting Tuscan delicacies from traditional recipes of the territory. This very special festival, held over two weekends, brings to life the experience of living in a medieval village.
Recommended villas: Villa Fonterutoli (7 bedrooms, 14 guests)This beautifully restored villa is situated between Florence and Siena in the Chianti region, and around 20 minutes’ drive north-east of Monteriggioni. Set within three acres of land, with 80 olive trees, it’s just a few minutes’ drive from the historic hamlet of Fonterutoli and the Mazzei family winery, which has been producing Chianti Classico wine for centuries. The charming town of Castellina in Chianti is also just 6 minutes’ drive to the north. With beautifully furnished and equipped interiors, the villa also offers wonderful outdoor spaces, including a saltwater swimming pool (which can be heated during the winter months), and several al fresco dining areas. The owners can arrange a wide variety of experiences for guests, including cooking courses, fitness classes, local foodie tours, wine tastings, cycling tours and horseback riding.
La Corte di Campalli (6 bedrooms, 12 guests)This villa is situated on a huge farm producing Chianti Classico wine, and is home to the original Castle of Campalli. The 360° views from each point on the estate showcase endless rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves. The villa was restored in 2002, using authentic traditional materials and equipping the rooms with all modern facilities. The interiors are particularly airy and spacious, with doors both to the courtyard and the garden. The beautiful swimming pool is in one of the most panoramic positions in the garden, and there is also a furnished sun terrace where the magnificent countryside views can be enjoyed. Guided tours of the estate and the castle, including Tuscan wine tastings, can also be arranged, along with guided visits to the property’s wine cellars.
Villa Casole d’Elsa (5-6 bedrooms, 10-14 guests) Situated just 10 kms from the charming medieval hilltop town of Casole d’Elsa, and with a 360° view over the surrounding Tuscan countryside, this luxury villa rental is also just 30 kms from the beautiful historic centres of Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. Decorated and furnished to a very high standard, including a stunning double volume living room, both the interiors and the grounds have been featured in various magazines, including Elle Décor and Côté Sud. Outside, there are furnished covered terraces for relaxing in the shade, as well as several dining areas – including one under a vine-covered pergola with magnificent views. The garden is beautifully maintained with a herb garden, plenty of mature trees providing shade, and a lovely infinity swimming pool.
Are you tempted by Tuscany? Whatever your summer plans, we offer a sleek selection of luxury villas and apartments across Italy that offer the perfect balance of fun and relaxation:Florence, Siena, Lucca, Puglia, Lake Como, Lake GardaStay at the top of the travel game by receiving updates on our fabulous collection of international luxury villas and apartments, our inviting new properties and our curated selection of enticing travel itineraries. Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter here.