Travel writers tend to deploy the word 'idyllic' far too often, devaluing it in the process. But here in Tuscany, it really does apply.
An Artistic Powerhouse
Then there's the art. And oh, what art! The Etruscans indulged their fondness for a classy send-off with exquisite funerary objects that are still being excavated to this day, and the Romans, always partial to puffing up their own importance, left their usual legacy of monumental sculptures. But it was during the medieval and Renaissance periods that Tuscany really hit its artistic stride, with painters, sculptors and architects creating the masterpieces that now entice visitors into churches, museums and galleries across the region.
Taking It Slowly…and Enjoying Every Minute
The local obsession with food and wine trumps every other regional characteristic, and then some. Three of Italy's greatest wines – Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano – are produced here, and gastronomic gems such as bistecca alla fiorentina (chargrilled T-bone steak), cacciucco (Livornese fish stew) and pici con ragù di cinghiale (hand-rolled pasta with wild-boar sauce) are just some of the region's signature dishes. Tour here and you'll develop a true understanding of what Slow Food is, and how truly delectable locally sourced and simply prepared Tuscan cuisine can be.
Why I Love Tuscany
By Virginia Maxwell, Author
Why do I love Tuscany? Let me count the ways. I love the bejewelled artistic treasure chest that is Florence, the Gothic gem of Siena and the multiplicity of miraculously preserved medieval hill towns. I love the food, which is made with love and local produce, and I adore the sangiovese-slanted local wines. I love the locals, who protect their traditions with an almost fanatical zeal and are careful custodians of their rich cultural heritage. But most of all, I love the fact that in this refined pocket of Italy, an extraordinary experience awaits around every corner.
Yes, the scenery really is that gorgeous. Central Tuscany is dotted with medieval hilltop fortresses, vine-planted hillsides and sculptural stands of cypress trees; the northwest and east harbour boast dramatic mountain ranges and fecund forests; and the central and southern coasts feature a garland of islands floating tantalisingly close to a shoreline teeming with wildlife. The range of outdoor activities on offer is equally diverse, contributing to the region's reputation as a repository of grand-slam sights and experiences unmatched anywhere in the world.
Tuscany has been enticing visitors ever since the Etruscans arrived here to party and decided to stay. The Romans came to stock their grain silos, Christians came to walk the stages of a medieval pilgrimage route, Napolean came to plunder art and British aristocrats came to complete their Grand Tour. Once here, these and many other visitors swiftly fell into the local swing of things, partaking of the food and wine with gusto, admiring the diverse landscapes and soaking up the region's incredibly rich historical and cultural heritage. You're sure to enjoy following in their footsteps.
Need to know
Return time and again and you still won't see it all. Stand on a bridge over the Arno river several times in a day and the light, mood and view changes every time. Surprisingly small as it is, this riverside city is like no other. Cradle of the Renaissance and of tourist masses that flock here to feast on world-class art, Florence (Firenze) is magnetic, romantic and busy.