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Tuscany is my favorite region of Italy. There are large numbers of expats from all over the world, including the United States, who call this region their home. I have a home in Volterra, which I consider to be the most beautiful part of Tuscany.
There are few places in Italy that are better loved than Tuscany; and because of its natural beauty and cultural heritage it’s the perfect place for photography; and whether you’re a professional or a keen hobbyist like me, the wonder of the scenery ticks every box.
Tuscany is a paradise for shutterbugs and you’ve doubtless seen hundreds of pictures of the region online; but getting out there yourself and shooting the outstanding views for yourself is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a great photo album of your own.
Tuscany – The Definition of Classical Italy.
Although it’s one of Italy’s most famous regions, with tourists from all over the world flocking to visit each year, many people don’t know exactly what or where Tuscany is!
Tuscany is one of Italy’s central regions that encompasses almost 25,000 square kilometers and has a total population of 3.8 million people, as well as the hundreds of thousands of seasonal visitors. The capital city of Tuscany is Florence, the birthplace of the European Renaissance and the heart of the diverse artistic culture of the region.
Famous for its art, heritage and stunning rural vistas, Tuscany is perfect for artists, creatives and photographers who travel from all over the world to experience it for themselves.
Well known for its unique wines, cuisine and heritage, Tuscany is often referred to as a nation within a nation due to its strong sense of regional identity and pride. Some of the most popular parts of Tuscany include the Maremma region, Chianti, Siena, Lucca, Val d’Orcia and Versilia; however, wherever you visit you’ll be struck by the picturesque charm of your surroundings.
Amazingly, Tuscany contains 7 officially recognized World Heritage Sites, each of which is an ideal location for dramatic photoshoots. The World Heritage Sites in Tuscany are:
- Florence – the historic city center.
- The Cathedral of Pisa.
- San Gimignano – the old town’s center.
- The Medici Villa and Botanical Gardens.
- Siena – the town’s center.
- Val d’Orcia.
Where Are The Best Photography Spots In Tuscany?
The entire region of Tuscany is outstanding and ideal for a photography trip but there are still some stand out locations that you have to include on your list of places to see for yourself.
The Ancient Hilltop Towns Of Tuscany.
Among the most unique and picturesque sites in Tuscany for photographers are the famous medieval hilltop towns such as Volterra, San Gimignano and Cortona. Other less well known towns, which are equally beautiful, include Pitigliano, Marittima and Anghiari, all of which are worth a visit.
These hilltop towns have incredible historic centers, lovely medieval churches and buildings as well as stunning views across the valleys below. You can also shoot wonderful photos of the Sunday markets, the boutique stores and traditional Italian restaurants, bars and cafes.
Street Photography In The Cities Of Tuscany.
While Tuscany is best known for its rural scenery the cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa are superb locations for street photography. Each city has its own special feel and as well as the incredible architecture you can also take some great photos of the daily life of the locals. The markets, cobbled streets and city parks are wonderful to explore with a camera in hand.
The Cinque Terre.
Located on the stunning Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is made up of five ancient towns along the coast. With stunning harbors, beautifully colored houses and vineyards hugging the steep surrounding terraces, the collection of towns is a huge draw for tourists; and you won’t find anywhere better for beach and coastal photography!
The Val D’Orcia.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of the rolling hills, cypress trees, vineyards and lonely farmhouses in Italy, then you were probably looking at a photo from the Val D’Orcia. The Val D’Orcia, also known as the Valdorcia, is a region of Tuscany that stretches from the southern hills of Siena right up to Monte Amiata.
The amazing scenery is made up of gentle hills that are often cultivated with vineyards and other regional crops including cereals and vegetables. The entire area is a paradise for budding photographers and if you want to come away with some archetypal photos of Tuscany at its best then it should certainly be at the top of your bucket list!
Self Guided Photo Tour Versus Tour Operator?
There are many tour operators who organize and operate photography tours in Tuscany. The decision to go one way or another will depend on a few factors:
Doing a self guided photo tour is far cheaper than taking a tour with a tour operator. A Florence photo tour that lasts a few hours can cost upwards of $90. A six day tour can cost upwards of $4000. But remember organized tours are more convenient. You do not have to worry about directions, parking, etc.
Your Level Of Interest.
If you are a skilled photographer, then a guided tour might not be for you. You might want to spend a few hours to setup the equipment, compose and take the perfect shot that you are looking for. This might not be possible due to the time limitations of the tour.
Availability of Tours.
Availability of guided tours will depend on many factors like time of the day and seasons. So if you want to shoot the Val d’Orcia during peak winter, you will have to do a self guided tour.
Lack Of Flexibility.
Most of the guided photo tours are setup in a way that will satisfy the bulk of the tourists. You might be interested in certain types of photography but not the other. I am very interested in taking sunset photographs of the valleys in Tuscany from the hill top towns like Volterra. In cases like this you are better of designing your own tour rather than going with a guided tour.
Essential Items For Your Photography Trip To Tuscany.
When you visit Tuscany on a photography trip it’s vital to bring the right bits of kit with you. Firstly, you’ll have to dress for the weather, and depending on what season you visit the region you’ll need different items of clothing.
Contrary to what you might expect, the climate of Tuscany is very changeable, with very hot summers and ice cold winters. The spring and autumn seasons are mild, with temperatures hovering in the mid 60s Fahrenheit, compared to summer temperatures that range between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re visiting in the summer you should wear light clothing and, if you’re sensitive to the sun, a good hat. During the winter, spring and autumn months you will need a warm coat and a sweater.
The Equipment That You’ll Need For Your Photography Trip To Tuscany.
If you live in Tuscany or the surrounding areas, then you will be able to bring all the equipment that you need. However, if you are flying to Tuscany from the United States or United Kingdom for example, you will be somewhat limited in terms of what you can bring because of airline restrictions.
A Good Camera.
Many tourists rely on their Smartphones to take photos while on holiday but if you want to get the best results you really need to use higher quality equipment. You can purchase a weatherproof camera but in Tuscany this won’t be necessary since you’ll usually be near your car or a building while you’re shooting your pictures. Also, remember that the weather is very pleasant during most of the year although you may have to put up with some rain!
When you’re considering the type of camera you need for a photography trip you can pick up an excellent, professional grade camera from anywhere between $1000 and $5000. Of course, the more you spend the better quality the camera will be and if you can it’s always worth stretching your budget to get the best equipment that you can.
In terms of the type of camera; you can choose from a Full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera, an APS-C or micro 4/3 camera. It’s better though, if you don’t have previous experience or a personal preference to shoot with a Full-frame DSLR.
A Lens Or Two.
It’s not only the camera you need to consider because the type of lens that you use will make a huge difference to the types of photos you can take. A fantastic all round lens is a 24-70mm zoom lens. This allows you to take stunning panoramic shots as well as portraits, close ups, cityscapes and landscapes.
As well as your 24-70mm zoom lens you might also want to take a 70-200mm telephoto lens. This will allow you to zoom into specific elements within the landscape, even if you’re far away. It’s also perfect for action shots, wildlife photography and coastal scenery.
Another good option for a photography trip is a wide angle lens. This will let you capture the huge spaces of the rural Tuscan landscapes and if you spend a little extra and get a good quality lens you won’t have any noticeable distortions on the edges of the frames.
You’ll also need to get a good quality camera bag for your equipment because it’s vital that you keep it safe while you are travelling or looking for photo opportunities. There’s a good range of camera bags available for you to choose from. You can select a camera bag that hangs over your shoulder but if you’re worried about the weight of the equipment, and you’re planning to do a lot of hiking or travelling, you can purchase a rucksack camera case.
The last item that you will need is a tripod, and although you may think they are too heavy and inconvenient you can actually buy very light weight travel models. A good travel tripod has foldable legs and fits easily into your rucksack.
With a tripod you can take photos without the shakes which define too much amateur photography! When you use a tripod you can also take slow shutter speed shots and take your time while adjusting the settings in manual mode. Your tripod will also come in handy when you’re shooting in low light conditions, such as at dawn or in the charming back streets of small hilltop towns.
Your Favorite Filters.
If you want to experiment with filters you can use either a Neutral Density Filter or a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. These are not essential items but they will reduce glare in photos which can be helpful in the summer months; as well as improving the depth and dynamic range of the colors in your shots.
Remote Control Trigger.
Another useful item to have on hand is a remote control trigger for the camera. This makes taking self portraits and group photos much easier but it also reduces any shakes in your photos as your camera sits safely on the tripod.
Take Spares And Lens Cleaner!
Finally, you should always travel with some spare, fully charged, batteries as well as a few extra memory cards. This will ensure that you don’t miss a perfect shot because your battery is dead!
A lens cleaning cloth is also advisable so you can keep your lenses clean without scratching them, which can happen if you just use a regular cloth because Tuscany, particularly in the summer, can get quite dusty.
Explore The Traditional Beauty Of Italy’s Favorite Region.
Tuscany is one of Italy’s most popular regions, and for good reason! There’s such a beautiful diversity of sites to explore that you’ll be in seventh heaven if you’ve brought along your camera.
From the charming rural towns that sit on hills and overlook sweeping valley scenes, to the bustling life of the region’s major cities, you will never be short of inspiration for your photography. The architectural splendor of Florence, the home of the Renaissance, Siena, Volterra and Pisa are all iconic sites that photographers travel from all over the world to experience. So next time you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, don’t forget to pack your camera!