Travel writers and tour operators tend to deploy the word 'idyllic' far too often, devaluing it in the process. But here in Tuscany, it really does apply.
Home to some of the world's most recognisable tourist icons, Tuscany has been enticing visitors ever since the Etruscans arrived here to party and decided to stay. The Romans came to pave roads and stock their grain silos, Christians came to walk the stages of a medieval pilgrimage route, and British aristocrats came to admire art, drink way too much of the local wine and complete their Grand Tour. Once here, these visitors swiftly fell into the local swing of things, partaking of the food and wine with gusto and soaking up the region's rich historical and cultural heritage. You're sure to do the same.
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. Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli – these and dozens of equally famous names hailed from Tuscany and left seminal works for us to enjoy.
Taking It Slowly…and Enjoying Every Minute
It's not all about art and history, though. 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 it can be.
Yes, the scenery really is that gorgeous. Central Tuscany is dotted with medieval hilltop fortresses 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. Enjoy!
Best places to stay in Tuscany
Delicacies of Tuscany & Umbria
These recommendations are taken from a previous edition of Lonely Planet's Tuscany & Umbria travel guide, which is full of inspirational ideas & detailed coverage for foodies, walkers & culture lovers. "To cook like your mother is good; to cook like your grandmother is better," says the Tuscan proverb.
Tuscany destination guides
So many lookers in such a good-looking city! Naked like Michelangelo’s David or rugged up in the latest winter fashion by their own world-class designers, Florentines and their city never fail to impress.
Tourist-dodging excursions from Florence
Florence: city of mile-high stilettos, the Duomo, romantic red-tiled rooftops, 3-inch tall bistecca alla fiorentina and Michelangelo's David. Everyone should visit this place. Only problem? Everyone does. Florence's relatively small population of 400,000 is dwarfed by the millions of tourists who swarm to it annually.
Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour from Rome
See the very best of Tuscany on a full-day trip from Rome! Traveling to the stunning Val d'Orcia region, south of Siena, you'll be introduced to a beautiful landscape where medieval towns cling to sunny hills and rustic farms adorn the countryside.
Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour
Famous for a wealth of art, history, striking landscapes and outstanding produce, Tuscany really does have the best of all worlds! With only a day to spare, see the best Tuscany has to offer on this full-day guided coach trip from Florence. Meet your local guide before heading for the hills on a scenic drive through the Tuscan countryside.
Fleeced in Florence
When the best advice is your own, don't ignore it. A few years ago I spent several weeks in Italy with my girlfriend’s family. Anyone who has travelled in a large group knows the logistical challenges this can create, and that having a strong leader is often the only way to avoid a disorganised mess.