I know loads of photographers who've been to Tuscany. I myself was itching to go there when I was starting out in photography.
My first trip was more than 15 years ago, and I've been back a few times since then.
And I've seen a massive change. From hidden gems in stunning landscapes to coach-loads of tourists, fenced-off spots, and queues to set up your tripod.
I'm not saying it's not beautiful. I love Tuscany. But I don't understand why most photographers don't know Umbria.
Because in Umbria, you can find the charm of Tuscany as it was 15 years ago. Fewer tourists, a more laid-back atmosphere, and early in the morning, you might even have a photo spot all to yourself.
Since both regions of Italy are so close together and it's easy to combine them if you're travelling with your camera to Central Italy, I'll try to show you the best of both.
I've deliberately left out the usual suspects like the Cappella Vitaleta, Florence, the ring of cypress trees and other hot spots because there's already plenty of information about them online. I thought I'd give you something different to explore.
Exploring Tuscany and Umbria: A Guide to Getting There and Around
While both Tuscany and Umbria are easily accessible by air and train, a car is essential for exploring the distances and hidden gems that lie beyond the main tourist hotspots.
The most convenient airports for reaching Tuscany and Umbria are Florence Airport (FLR), Perugia San Francesco d'Assisi Airport (PEG), and Rome Fiumicino International Airport (FCO). Florence
Airport is well-connected to major European cities, while Perugia San Francesco d'Assisi Airport is closer to Umbrian towns and villages. Rome Fiumicino International Airport offers extensive
international connections and is a good option if you plan to explore both regions.
Pisa might also be a good option. You could for example arrive in Pisa and depart from Rome, making the most of the time of your trip.
High-speed trains connect Florence and Perugia to major Italian cities, including Rome, Milan, and Venice. From Florence, you can take regional trains to smaller towns and villages in Tuscany. Perugia is well-connected to Umbrian towns, and trains also run between the two regions.
Getting Around Tuscany and Umbria
Once you've arrived in Tuscany or Umbria, a car is your best bet for exploring the countryside and discovering hidden treasures. Public transportation is limited to major cities and towns, making it difficult to reach off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Watch the video to see the difference between hot-spot photography and mindful travelling in Italy's authentic scenery to capture the Italian soul.
How Much Time Do You Need for Umbria and Tuscany?
The question of how long to spend exploring Umbria and Tuscany depends on your available time and travel style.
If you're a digital nomad with the flexibility to take your time, you could easily spend months immersing yourself in the culture and beauty of this region.
However, if your trip is more time-bound, I'd recommend staying at least eight days, ideally ten, to fully appreciate the essence of both regions.
Fourteen days would be even better, allowing you to delve deeper into the hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Of course, if time is a pressing concern, you could always opt for a more condensed itinerary, focusing on just two or three key spots in each region. This could be a good option if you're seeking a quick taste of Umbria and Tuscany, whetting your appetite for a longer, more comprehensive return trip.
Finding the Perfect Accommodation
Where you stay can significantly impact your experience of Tuscany and Umbria. Both regions are vast, and rushing between photo spots and back to your distant accommodation can eat into valuable travel time.
Consider splitting your stay into different locations, allowing you to immerse yourself in each region and explore at a leisurely pace. For instance, you could base yourself in the area of:
- San Gimignano and Siena
A word of caution: while the allure of Florence is undeniable, it comes with a hefty price tag and a glut of impersonal tourist accommodations. Opt instead for the charming countryside, where traditional stone houses and villas offer a more authentic and affordable experience.
Self-catered or serviced accommodations abound, providing a chance to savour the tranquility of the Tuscan and Umbrian landscapes. So, ditch the generic city hotels and embrace the rustic charm of the countryside. You'll be glad you did.
Links to parking, viewpoint, more photos with print options and icons for best daytime and level of difficulty.
Nestled amidst the majestic mountains of the Sibillini National Park in central Italy, lies the enchanting village of Castelluccio di Norcia. This charming hamlet, perched at an altitude of 1,452 meters (4,767 feet), is renowned for its breathtaking views of the Pian Grande, a vast plateau dotted with vibrant wildflowers, particularly during the colourful spectacle of the Fioritura, which occurs usually in June and July.
The charming village unfortunately suffered heavy damage in a earthquake in 2016. The village is currently undergoing reconstruction, but its beauty is still evident, especially during the Fioritura.
To reach Castelluccio, embark on a scenic drive from Perugia, about 1 hour and 45 minutes away. The journey is truly breathtaking, offering stunning mountain vistas that will make you want to stop and take photos every few minutes.
The SP 477 offers several vista points where you can capture the wildflowers in the foreground and the majestic Sibillini mountains as a backdrop. There are also vista points that feature the ruins of the village itself, creating a poignant contrast between the natural beauty and the human impact of the earthquake.
Parking is available at designated laybys near each vista point. Please be mindful of other vehicles and avoid parking in areas that could obstruct traffic flow.
While taking photos of the flowers works well throughout the day, it's recommended to avoid weekends during the Fioritura, as the road is closed to public traffic and shuttle buses are the only means of reaching the village. If you plan to visit on a weekend, be sure to book your shuttle and parking in advance.
Links to parking, viewpoint, more photos with print options and icons for best daytime and level of difficulty.
Hidden in the heart of Umbria, lies the charming medieval town of Corciano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its historic center, Corciano Vecchio, is a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets and stone staircases, offering a glimpse into the town's rich history and architectural heritage.
Corciano Vecchio is just a short 20-minute drive from Perugia.
Once you've parked in the lower part of the village, take the stairs up to the old, medieval part and let yourself get lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleyways.
The village is compact enough that you shouldn't worry about getting completely lost...
If you're planning to take photos, an overcast day is ideal, as it provides even lighting and prevents harsh shadows from disrupting your shots.
During the Christmas season, Corciano is renowned for its life-size Nativity scenes, which are displayed throughout the medieval alleyways, adding a touch of festive charm.
After exploring the village, don't miss out on a refreshing drink at Cafe Orange, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Umbrian hills.
Links to parking, viewpoint, more photos with print options and icons for best daytime and level of difficulty.
Lucca is a picturesque medieval city in the heart of Tuscany, surrounded by imposing city walls that serve as a pleasant park to explore by foot or bike.
The historic center is a maze of cobblestone streets lined with Renaissance-era buildings, quaint shops, and cozy cafes, inviting you to wander and discover hidden treasures.
The most iconic photo spots are:
- Views over the city from the walls of Lucca: Take in breathtaking panoramic views of the city's rooftops, rolling hills, and the distant Apennine Mountains from the top of the city walls.
- Duomo di Lucca: Admire the stunning rose window and the beautiful interior of this magnificent cathedral.
- Giardino Botanico di Lucca: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city in this tranquil botanical garden, home to a variety of plants and flowers.
- Piazza Napoleone: Soak up the lively atmosphere of this expansive square lined with cafes and restaurants.
- For a truly memorable experience, climb the 40-meter-tall Torre Guinigi, a breathtaking tower offering panoramic views of Lucca's rooftops, rolling hills, and the distant Apennine Mountains. It is the best photo spot in Lucca! I have pinpoint the map position above in the link.
If you arrive by car, park near the station and rent a bike from the shop just next to the station. This is the best way to explore the whole old town, including the medieval town wall.
Gubbio is a charming medieval hilltop town in Umbria, Italy, nestled amidst the verdant hills of the Appennine Mountains. The town's historic center is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets lined with ancient churches, medieval palazzi, and quaint shops. Visitors can wander through the town's numerous piazzas, each with its own unique charm, and discover hidden treasures tucked away in the narrow alleyways.
The main photo spots in Gubbio are:
- Piazza Grande: This expansive square is the heart of Gubbio and is home to the Palazzo dei Consoli, the town's town hall.
- Duomo: This magnificent cathedral is the most important religious building in Gubbio.
- Cattedrale dei Santi Mariano e Giacomo with great views
- The small alleys along the river with old stone bridges - the link to this photo spot you find above
Parking is found right in front of the old town.
From there it is a short stroll into the heart of the medieval town.
Pretty handy - there are some uphill passages, but the worst are covered by lifts which makes it easier to explore the old town which is built along a steep hill.
5. terrazza mascagni
Terrazza Mascagni is a stunning panoramic square in the heart of Livorno, fondly known as the 'chessboard of the world' thanks to its unique black and white marble layout. Built in 1866 to mark the completion of the city's new port, the square offers breathtaking vistas of the waterfront, the Mediterranean Sea, and the majestic Apuan Alps.
The Terrazza is providing ample opportunities for capturing stunning abstract shots and incorporating the checkerboard pattern into leading lines for captivating compositions.
Parking is conveniently located just a 5-minute stroll away from the Terrazza.
When you're in Livorno, don't miss the chance to explore the city's charming canal district, lined with traditional houses and punctuated by the imposing Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress) and Fortezza Nuova (New Fortress).
For the best photographic experience, plan your visit around sunrise or just before, when you'll have the Terrazza almost entirely to yourself and witness the square bathed in the soft glow of dawn. Your photos will showcase the vast expanse of the square with its myriad black and white squares, creating a truly mesmerising sight.
Castiglioncello is a picturesque seaside town along the Tuscan coast, renowned for its charming bay known as Baia del Quercetano. This secluded cove boasts a captivating blend of traditional houses, colourful boat huts, and stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
In the summer, Baia del Quercetano transforms into a lively beachfront, buzzing with activity.
However, during the winter months, it descends into a tranquil haven for photography enthusiasts.
To reach the bay, you'll need to park your car uphill and embark on a walk down a series of steps.
This descent is slightly steep, so be prepared for some exercise.
The walk should take around 15-20 minutes.
Once you reach the bay, you'll discover several photo opportunities.
Capture shots with rocks in the water as a foreground, or old walls, steps, and cliffs as captivating elements.
For panoramic views of the bay, head uphill for great vistas.
For the most picturesque experience, plan your visit around sunset.
However, it's important to note that Baia del Quercetano transforms into a bustling beach in the summer, making it challenging to capture those idyllic shots. So, if you're seeking a tranquil photographic experience, plan your visit during the winter months.
7. Marina di Pisa
While the bustling tourist hub of Pisa attracts crowds, Marina di Pisa, the harbour of Pisa, offers a tranquil escape. Situated where the Arno River meets the sea, known as "Bocca d'Arno," is home to charming fishing huts, or "Retoni" in Italian. These unique structures are typically small, wooden huts with overhanging roofs, used by fishermen to store their nets, equipment, and catch.
The Retoni stand out as a defining feature of the Bocca d'Arno landscape and have become an iconic symbol of the area.
What makes this spot even more captivating is the breathtaking backdrop of the Alps. The juxtaposition of maritime and alpine scenery creates a truly unique photographic opportunity.
To capture this scene, park your car near the beginning of the long harbour wall. As you step onto the wall, grab your long lens and compose your shot so that the fishing huts appear to be just below the majestic peaks of the Alps.
This photo spot is particularly magical at sunrise. With only a few fishermen sharing the serene morning, you'll have ample space to capture stunning photographs.
In the heart of Tuscany's Maremma region, lies this captivating medieval town called Sorano, perched atop a dramatic tuff stone cliff.
Time seems to stand still in this enchanting town, with its age-old buildings that appear untouched for many decades. The townscape, adorned with ancient yet vibrant structures, is truly spectacular, creating an illusion that the houses might tumble down the sheer tuff stone drop any moment.
To capture this spectacle, park your car in a small car park where a hiking trail commences. Embark on a 15-20 minute trek along this trail, and as you reach its end, you'll be greeted by the most breathtaking panorama of the town and the dramatic drop of the cliffs.
For the most picturesque experience, plan your visit during the afternoon or evening, when the setting sun paints the houses in hues of red and orange.
There are more viewpoints along the road to Sorano (and beyond, looking back to the town).
9 . Pitigliano
Pitigliano in the Maremma region of Tuscany is another stunner, perched atop a dramatic tuff stone cliff. Like Sorano, the town's buildings have stood the test of time, creating a vertical wall of ancient structures above the deep drop of the tuff stone. The texture of the very old houses is amazing.
Tuff is a type of volcanic rock formed from the accumulation of volcanic ash and pumice that has solidified over time. The Maremma was once covered by a shallow sea, and the volcanic ash and pumice from ancient eruptions settled on the ocean floor. Over millions of years, the ash hardened into tuff, and the sea eventually receded, leaving behind the dramatic cliffs that we see today.
The best spot to capture this unique beauty is from a panoramic road along which you can park your car. From there, grab your camera and shoot from the pedestrian walkway at the cliff's edge. The view is particularly stunning during sunrise, when the town is bathed in a warm, crimson glow.
Be warned: nobody will believe that the colours are real - the houses look like they're bleeding with red!
After capturing the breathtaking views, venture into the town itself and get lost in its maze of narrow lanes and alleyways. Explore the quaint shops, admire the Renaissance architecture, and soak up the town's unique atmosphere.
Wander through the enigmatic Vie Cave, a series of Etruscan tunnels carved into the tuff cliffs of Sovana, an ancient town in Tuscany. These mystic passageways, dating back to the 7th century BC, were once used for both transport and religious ceremonies.
Park your car nearby and start a brisk 10-minute walk to the entrance of the Vie Cave. The dimly lit tunnel with sunbeams filtering through the cracks cast an ethereal glow, illuminating the tunnels with an otherworldly ambiance, is for sure a fantastic photo spot.
Better take your tripod because there is not a lot of light in the tunnel.
For the best experience, plan your visit on an overcast day, allowing the soft illumination to showcase the natural beauty of the cave without harsh contrasts.
11. marmore Falls
The Cascata delle Marmore, also known as Marmore Falls, are a man-made wonder located in the Umbria-Marche border region of Italy. This dramatic waterfall plummets down three tiers of volcanic rock, creating a thunderous roar that echoes through the picturesque hills.
Park your car in the conveniently located public lot and take the foot path to reach the falls. For the most breathtaking views, take a steep climb to the almost-top, where you'll witness the falls from an elevated perspective (20 mins uphill). When the water is in full flow, the mist will magically transform into a heart shape, a truly enchanting spectacle and a symbol for the Umbria region which is called "the green heart of Italy).
After capturing this heart-shaped beauty, venture to the other side of the falls for a closer look at the cascading waters. This side is more touristy, with a variety of restaurants and souvenir shops, but it's a great spot for capturing the falls from a different POV. Just be prepared for crowds, especially during peak hours.
To ensure you don't miss the main event, check the water release schedule before your visit. The flow of the falls is regulated, and the water only falls during specific times of the day, or even not at all on certain days. In winter, the water release is less frequent and long than in summer. You can find the schedule online: https://www.cascatadellemarmore.info/orari-e-aperture/
If you arrive outside the water release times, you'll only see a trickle of water, so plan your visit accordingly to witness the falls in their full glory.
If you thought you could only capture stunning photos of cypress tree avenues in Tuscany, battling crowds of selfie-obsessed tourists, then check out this hidden gem in Bevagna, Umbria.
This idyllic spot is off the beaten path, offering solitude and tranquility amidst the majestic cypress trees. You won't have to fight for the perfect angle or worry about posing awkwardly amidst a sea of Instagrammers.
Parking is a breeze, with a layby right next to the avenue. And the cypress trees themselves are simply breathtaking, their slender forms reaching towards the sky like majestic sentinels.
This tranquil haven is not just for photography enthusiasts. The avenue serves as the entrance to the ColSanto vineyard, which offers guided tours during specific opening times.
The light will good for shots during the whole day.
This scenery is truly otherworldly, especially in October, when the unique wine varietals grown in Umbria transform into vibrant shades of crimson and amber. This spectacle is undoubtedly a sight to behold, and it's not something you'll find anywhere else in Italy.
Near the charming village of Montepennino, this panoramic view of the vine-laden valley unfolds right alongside the road. Access is effortless, and photography enthusiasts will find it a dream to capture the breathtaking panorama.
Venture here in the morning to witness the valley bathed in the golden hues of the rising sun. On an overcast day, the wine plants will stand out in sharp contrast against the gray skies, creating an even more dramatic effect. And as the sun dips towards the horizon, the sky will ignite with fiery colors, adding an extra layer of colour to the already colourful scene.
In essence, this photogenic spot is accessible and photogenic at any time of day. But to fully appreciate the captivating colours, plan your visit in the second half of October, when the wine plants are at their peak of autumnal splendor.
Another stunning autumnal vista awaits you amidst the vibrant vineyards below the charming hilltop town of Montefalco. In the second half of October, the wine plants transform into a tapestry of rich reds, creating an unforgettable spectacle.
A narrow rural road winds its way to this picturesque spot. Find a parking space along the quiet road and go towards the fields on the left. Small paths in the mud guide you through the vineyards, ensuring you won't disturb the crops.
Remember, these are working fields, so tread carefully and respect the farmers' hard work.
As long as you stay on the designated paths or the edges of the fields, the locals will be welcoming and may even engage in a friendly chat.
The rows of wine plants, laden with autumnal hues, serve as an ideal leading line, drawing the eye towards the silhouette of Montefalco.
For the most dramatic photographs, plan your visit during sunset, enhancing the enchanting beauty of this autumnal wonderland.
Located on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, Passignano is a charming town with a rich history and a vibrant atmosphere in the heart of Umbria. Its cobblestone streets, lined with medieval palazzi and quaint shops, invite exploration.
Perched atop a hill, the captivating Rocca di Passignano offers panoramic views of Lake Trasimeno, a spectacle worth the uphill climb. But for the ultimate photographic opportunity, head to the marina, where you'll witness the town's enchanting silhouette unfold along the hillside, with the castle as its majestic centerpiece.
Park your car at the marina's spacious lot and walk only 5 minutes to the viewpoint at the end of the mole. If you time it right and arrive during sunrise, the town will shimmer and radiate in the morning sun. And if there is no wind, you'll even capture a reflection of the town in the tranquil waters.
To capture this scene, be sure to bring along your tripod and an ND filter to blur the water's surface and enhance the reflections.
After capturing this breathtaking panorama, take a stroll along the lakefront promenade, where you'll discover a monument submerged in the water and the quaint charm of the old town.
16. san Feliciano
San Feliciano is a charming fishing village along the serene shores of Lake Trasimeno, and it's my absolute favourite spot in the region. In the morning you can witness a timeless tradition as fishermen going out in their boats, heading to their traps to arrange their fishing nets along wooden poles, a practice that has been passed down through generations.
The atmosphere in San Feliciano is as authentic and tranquil as it gets, transporting you back to Italy in the 1960s or 1970s. Capture the essence of this bygone era with long exposures that showcase the Isola Polvese, the enchanting island, in the background, and the rustic fishing sticks that form a picturesque foreground.
The pier and the small, weathered boats lining the shore add to the charm, offering endless photographic opportunities. Don't forget to bring your tripod and filters to capture these scenes in all their detail.
Parking is easy, with ample spaces right by the lake. And if you're an early riser, sunrise is the perfect time to witness the fishermen's daily routine and capture the tranquil beauty of San Feliciano in its purest form. With no crowds and a pristine backdrop, you're sure to create stunning photographs.
Often overlooked and overshadowed by its larger sibling, Florence, Siena holds its own in terms of beauty and charm. In fact, I personally find Siena more photogenic than Florence. Plus, while it attracts tourists, it's nowhere near as crowded as Florence. The atmosphere is a bit more laid-back.
I highly recommend spending an entire day exploring Siena. There's so much to discover and see, from its charming medieval streets and squares to its iconic Piazza del Campo and the magnificent Duomo. And with its abundance of fantastic bars and restaurants, you won't have any trouble finding a place to rest and recharge throughout the day.
The photo above captures the so-called "sunset POV of Siena," a stunning vantage point that's easily accessible. There's a car park right next to the viewpoint, and to make your experience even more enjoyable, there's a bar where you can enjoy a drink while watching the sun paint the city skyline in a fiery blaze of red.
In the morning, start your day with breathtaking views of Siena from Parcheggio Il Campo. Leave your car there for the day, take photos of the skyline, and then embark on a stroll into the old town to uncover its gems.
18. Castello Sonnino
Castello Sonnino is a majestic 19th-century residence perched atop a hill south of Livorno, offering panoramic views of the city and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its neo-gothic architecture, adorned with towers and turrets, makes it an imposing landmark that has captured the imagination of visitors for centuries.
The castle can be photographed to its best advantage from the Ponte di Calignaia bridge. Park your car at the bridge's starting point and use the pedestrian path.
The afternoon and evening sun will offer the most favorable lighting conditions for capturing stunning shots of the castle.
19. Cascate del Mulino
In the middle of the Tuscan countryside, Cascate del Mulino is a natural wonder that offers a rejuvenating dip in its sulfurous hot springs. The cascades tumble down a series of travertine pools, creating a serene oasis that's perfect for soaking away the stresses of everyday life.
The cascading waters, sourced from volcanic activity deep below the earth's surface, are believed to have therapeutic properties, making Cascate del Mulino a popular destination for wellness seekers.
There's a vantage point situated above the springs, just alongside the main road. You can park in a designated area and, with a telephoto lens, capture the pools and distinct levels of the springs.
For the best shots, opt for an evening visit with late sun.
Spello, nestled in the heart of Umbria, is a delightful town brimming with charm. It's renowned for its enchanting alleyways adorned with an abundance of flowers. Each year, they even host a competition where alleys and courtyards compete for prizes. The flower festival takes place in June, but even during the winter, there are still plenty of plants that add vibrant hues to the medieval streets.
Ample parking options are available just outside the town center, making it easy to embark on a leisurely stroll through the maze of medieval alleyways. Grab your camera and get lost in this labyrinth of beauty. If you find yourself on an overcast day, you can freely capture every angle without harsh shadows interrupting your shots.
During the summer, Spello can get quite crowded, but if you visit during the off-season, you might even have the alleyways to yourself.
Rasiglia in Umbria is a small, charming village with an extraordinary history. It is known for its unique canals, which were built in the Middle Ages to power mills and factories.
Wander around with your camera and capture the beauty of the canals, ponds, and mills, lined with bridges and adorned with lush greenery.
Evenings are the best time to visit as the crowds have dispersed, allowing you to immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere. Even during the winter, Rasiglia can be quite crowded due to its popularity among locals.
Parking is available along the main road just outside the village, with a short, mostly flat walk into the heart of the village.
Another gorgeous town in the heart of Umbria is Spoleto. The main attraction is undeniably the Rocca Albornoziana and the towering Fortilizio dei Mulini, complemented by the dramatic old stone
bridge, Ponte delle Torri.
While the bridge is often undergoing renovation and closed to visitors, the map pin above will guide you to a picturesque spot where you can capture stunning shots of the fort even when the bridge is inaccessible.
Early mornings are ideal for capturing the best light.
You can walk around the Rocca to uncover the best views of the bridge and the tower.
A leisurely stroll through the town is also highly recommended, as you'll encounter countless captivating old structures, particularly the Duomo.
If you plan to park for exploring the town, be sure to avoid driving into the historic center. It's a restricted traffic zone with cameras that will automatically issue hefty fines upon entry. Instead, park in the large car parks located outside the town and venture into the old town on foot.
23. La Foce
The Zigzag Cypress Road of La Foce is a hidden gem in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, perfect for those seeking to escape the crowds while still capturing the quintessential Tuscan charm, complete with an old farmhouse and iconic cypress alleys.
Arrive early in the morning for the best chance to have the scenery entirely to yourself!
The farmhouse, now a tourist accommodation known as Podere Casanova, adds to the idyllic ambiance.
There are two vantage points to view the Zigzag Road. The first offers a slightly elevated perspective, as seen in the sample photo above. Park at the La Foce restaurant and embark on a 10-minute walk down a small dirt road to reach the spot. From a derelict building, you can capture stunning shots. But don't forget to bring your telephoto lens for optimal framing.
The second viewpoint is from the main road SP 40. There are a few lay-bys where you can briefly park your car.
Sunrise is the ideal time to visit, as it provides ample parking space, minimal crowds, and the most flattering lighting conditions.
24. Bagno Vignoni
Bagno Vignoni is a charmingly small village with just a handful of houses in the heart of Tuscany, known for its unique central thermal pool. This fascinating warm pool, fed by thermal springs from the nearby Val d'Orcia, is the heart of the town, attracting many visitors. So it can get quite crowded with people admiring the scene.
My advice: come early morning to avoid the crowds which is anyway the best time to capture some reflections of the surrounding buildings in the pool since the wind is less in the morning.
Pack your tripod and take photos from every corner of the pool, as each side is equally stunning!
Once you're done capturing the magic, relax with a cappuccino in one of the cafes around the pool square.
For this location, you'll need a tripod, a wide-angle lens, and an ND filter.
Parking is available outside the village for a small fee, with a short 5-minute walk to the pool.
Sant'Antimo is a breathtaking 12th-century abbey in the middle of the rolling hills of Tuscany. It's a true masterpiece of medieval architecture and spiritual significance, with its origins shrouded in legend, some attributing its foundation to Charlemagne himself. The abbey boasts an imposing structure, adorned with Romanesque arches and intricate carvings.
And it seems that just for photographers, a massive cypress tree was planted next to the church tower, transforming this abbey into an outstanding photo spot!
Surrounding the abbey are centuries-old olive trees, providing a picturesque frame for your photos. Park your car just before the abbey and venture into the olive grove, which is possible if you are careful with the old trees! Choose a few olive trees with winding branches and stems to create an idyllic frame for your photo.
For an elevated view of the abbey nestled amidst the rolling hills of Tuscany, head uphill on the road. This will give you stunning shots from a different perspective.
The evening and sunset hours offer the most flattering lighting conditions for capturing this gem.
26. Bagno San Filippo
In Tuscany, Bagno San Filippo is a charming village with a magical secret: cascading natural hot springs. These milky-white travertine pools, fed by thermal waters from deep underground, offer a surreal landscape that's like something out of a fantasy film!
Bathing in the warm, mineral-rich waters is a popular activity, even in the winter. If you want to capture the springs and pools without any people, aim for an early morning visit.
Park your car along the road at the entrance to the village and follow the path leading down to the springs. It's a 10-minute descent, but the uphill climb back up is a bit longer. Be careful as the ground around the pools is quite muddy and slippery.
27. San Biagio
The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio, also known as the Tempio di San Biagio, is a stunning 16th-century church just below the charming hill-top town of Montepulciano.
The best photos are taken when the church is in the foreground with the town towering above it on the hill. This works particularly well at sunset when the church and the town are illuminated.
There is a small lay-by to park your car just below the church - see the map pin above. From there, you can go onto the grassy spot and find a gap in between the olive trees to get a view.
There are also some good views along the main road, but be careful, it is a very busy road.
If you arrive early, take your time to visit the town itself. It is a very picturesque town with some panoramic viewpoints to overlook the hills of Tuscany.
Umbertide is a hidden gem, a small town along the Tiber River in Umbria. It may be less well-known than its bigger neighbours, but it's no less charming. With its authentic old town and friendly locals, Umbertide offers a glimpse into real Umbrian life.
For photographers, the town's riverfront is an absolute treasure trove. On a still day, the vibrant colors of the old town houses are reflected perfectly in the river's mirror-like surface, creating a mesmerising spectacle.
Sunset is the prime time to capture this magical scene, as the warm hues of the setting sun bathe the houses in a glow and make the colours of the buildings even more vivid.
Don't forget your tripod and ND filters to capture the essence of this photogenic moment with long exposure shots.
Parking is just above the river, with a short 2-minute walk to a footpath along the riverbank.
Position yourself just before the river makes a bend to get the perfect view of the houses and their complete reflection.
All right, I admit it – Assisi isn't exactly a hidden gem, and it can get pretty crowded. But I still wanted to include it in this list of uncrowded photo spots because I want to show you a vantage point where you can capture the majestic Basilica and the old town, stretching out impressively along a hill, without any distractions or crowds.
This vantage point can be found on a small road just outside of Assisi. You can easily drive there and park wherever you find the best composition for your photo. See the pin above for directions to the road.
You might need to walk a bit across the field to get under the electricity wires. If there's any crop planted, please be mindful and respectful. When I was there, it was mostly just grass and soil, so there was no problem walking on it.
The best time to visit is late afternoon or just as the sun is setting, as this will illuminate the town in a magical way.
If you have the time, I highly recommend visiting Assisi itself and the Basilica before your sunset shoot. During the summer, this might not be the best idea, as thousands of other people will have the same thought. But off-season and early morning Assisi is still a great place to discover.
Perugia is not as well-known as Siena or Florence in Tuscany or Assisi in Umbria, but it's also less crowded and much more authentic. It's a vibrant university city with a lively atmosphere and less of an open-air museum like other tourist hot spots nearby.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Perugia is its ancient aqueduct, a structure dating back to the 13th century. The staircase that ascends along the aqueduct in Perugia to the old town is approximately 200 steps long. It's a relatively short climb but can be challenging if you're not used to walking uphill. The views from the top are worth the effort, though, offering stunning panoramas of the city and the steps themselves.
The steps are a popular spot for young couples or groups of students. They love to have a chat (or date) there. So if you want to have it all to yourself - come early morning. Although I would recommend sunset for the best light. If you don't come in summer, you will still have the place almost to yourself once it gets colder in the evening.
Once you've ventured uphill, continue to wander through its labyrinthine streets, discover hidden piazzas, and admire the details of ancient churches and palazzi. Don't forget to take time to enjoy the stunning views from the top of the Rocca Paolina, a fortress atop the city, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding hills.
The Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia's main square, is a bustling hub of activity and a microcosm of the city's vibrant spirit. Surrounded by magnificent buildings, including the Palazzo dei Priori, the city's medieval town hall, the square is abuzz with outdoor cafes, lively markets, and street performers. It's the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere, people-watch, and enjoy a taste of authentic Perugian cuisine.
There are plenty of car parks around the city. Most of them downhill, so you have to walk uphill. I've pinpointed the car park which is closest to the steps of the acqueduct and not really known by tourists. From there, it's a 10-15-minute walk up the steps.
Be better than just a hot-spot photographer...
I hope this photo spot guide has convinced you that you don't have to join the crowds and inconvenience locals by clogging up narrow streets just to take a photo of the same overused spot that millions have done before you.
Instead, consider exploring alternatives that don't contribute to overtourism. This can help boost the financial well-being of smaller communities and provide some breathing room for more popular tourist destinations. It's a win-win for everyone: a more relaxed atmosphere and a more evenly distributed tourist population.
I also hope I've demonstrated that these hidden gems are not at all less photogenic or less worth visiting than the well-trodden hotspots. In fact, many of them retain their authentic charm, making them a true joy to visit and photograph.
I wish you the best of light in your exploration of Tuscany and Umbria's hidden gems with your camera!