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It's a dog's life in Tuscany

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

dog looking at the leaning tower of Pisa
That tower doesn't look straight to me!

Prior to owning a dog, our campervan holidays were usually spent in Spain but when we got our beloved whippet Tiggy, we started researching and realised that many of the places and beaches we loved in Spain, were just not dog friendly and so we started investigating Italy, knowing how much the Italians love both dogs and children in almost equal measure.

We loved the idea of an island holiday. We considered Corsica as it was somewhere I had long dreamt of visiting but it was harder to find out where dogs were welcome on Corsica and it was quite a long crossing for our then only 9 month old puppye always try and make her first experience of trying anything as comfortable as possible so she get used to things without fuss. So Chris, researcher extraordinaire, suggested Elba, which is part of the Tuscan archipelago. Tuscany’s Regional law 59 states that leashed dogs accompanied by their owners can enter open-air public spaces, beaches included so the first big tick for Elba. We get our island dream holiday and Tiggy wasn’t to be excluded. We did eventually get to Corsica and I plan to do another blog post on this as it was actually for the most part pretty dog friendly but back to Tuscany!

What I love about Tuscany is that when you ask someone if your dog is allowed, be it at a bar, hotel, beach or even a fancy restaurant, you just get a slightly quizzical look as though “why wouldn’t your dog be allowed?”

As if to prove a point, there are even dedicated dog beaches and the one we visited in San Vincenzo is like no other dog friendly beach we have ever been to. Normally the parts of the beach where you can take your dogs are the parts that they assume people won’t want to go to and so that usually means the slightly grubbier or stonier part of the beach. Not here, there is a huge stretch of beautiful golden sand that is totally set up to cater for your dog’s every need including water bowls everywhere. Find out more on the website by clicking here or watch this YouTube video below.

Dog in San Gimignano, Tuscany

While we have based ourselves on Elba mostly when coming to Italy, we have also visited other lovely places like San Gimignano and Lucca, where we left the van in a parking lot for a night or two and stayed in a hotel or Airbnb where there was no issue at all with Tiggy sharing our room or a table at breakfast.

Right: Tiggy bravely facing a wild boar in San Gimigniano (never mind it’s stuffed and the other side of a glass window!)

Lucca is a stunning little city and I guess because it competes with so many trophy Tuscan towns and villages it maybe doesn’t get considered as a holiday destination so often, or certainly not in the UK. What is fabulous about Lucca is that it has a very well preserved historical centre with impressive and intact city walls that now form a walking and cycle track around the entire city with exansive views to the hills beyond and back in towards the rooftops of the historical centre. There are wide paths and plenty of grassy stretches which gives your pooch a much needed break from pounding the streets.

You will definitely want to take to the streets too as they are utterly charming and peppered with lovely artisan shops, cafes, restaurants and many churches and piazzas. At any time you can point yourself in the direction of the walls (north, south, east or west) and do a section of the walls or the whole tour. There are many gateways back into the centre when you have cooled off and your dog has done his/her “business” and met with some new friends. Find out more about the walk around the walls here .

Back in the centre you can stop for a morning coffee or a late afternoon/evening aperitivo without worrying about your dog being refused entry and they usually welcome you with a bowl of water and if you’re lucky a dog treat.

While we love a night or two stop over on the mainland, our main destination of Elba is where we all settle into a regular routine for a couple of week’s or more which revolves around an early morning run for Chris, yoga for me then a walk and swim before heading back for breakfast and generally lazing around or working until later in the day when we head to the beach again for more swims. This routine works perfectly for travelling with our dog as she gets plenty of downtime to relax and we avoid being out too long in the middle of the day when it can be too hot for little paws.

Dogs are allowed on most beaches at any time on leash but before 9am dogs are generally tolerated off leash and Lacona Beach, where we base ourselves, is a lovely long stretch of golden sand with only a part of the beach sectioned off for sun beds and umbrellas with the rest of the beach as nature intended it and perfect for stretching legs and paws in the morning. For our afternoon swim we tend to go on the bike to one of the quieter coves to avoid the crowds. Tiggy loves travelling by bike and you can find out more about how we do it here.

Wherever we go, we never worry that we will be turned away because of our four legged friend. If you are looking for a stress free and dog friendly holiday, I can’t recommend Tuscany, in particular Elba (though I admit a certain amount of bias here too) enough!

Top tips for taking your dog to Tuscany:

- Check the rules in the place you are going. Generally the law in Tuscany allows your dog in most outdoor settings (except in children's playgrounds or when clearly stated otherwise) but you will still need to observe the rules regarding whether they can be off the lead or not. Generally dogs are tolerated off the lead on quieter stretches of beaches and off leash parks but need to be under control at all times.

- Check your accommodation allows dogs. So many hotels in Italy, especially Tuscany are dog friendly and if using or you can filter your search to include pets. If like us, you are travelling with a motorhome, most campsites and sostas will accommodate your dog.

- Consider traveling during the shoulder periods if you can. We love September/October as it is not as hot but the water temperature is perfect. June can also be less intense heat wise and more bearable for your four legged friend.

- When visiting towns, chose the less touristy places to avoid the crowds. While Florence and Siena are obvious destinations, there are many wonderful villages and towns that are just as pretty and usually a lot less expensive and crowded. We love Lucca so read on for more info. Your wallet and your dog will thank you!

- Time your activities to avoid the hottest part of the day. Beaches are much less crowded before 10am and it is much easier to exercise your dogs off leash. When taking dogs to the beach later in the day be sure to have a sun shade and plenty of fresh water to hand.

- Consider an island holiday. The Tuscan islands have many more beaches free of sun beds with smaller quiet coves for swimming away from the crowds with lovely coastal walking trails. Nicer for you and your dog. See our blog post on Elba here.

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