Travel writers tend to deploy the word 'idyllic' far too often, devaluing it in the process. But here in Tuscany, it really does apply.
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.
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.
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.
Why I Love Tuscany, Italy
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.
Best places to stay in Tuscany
Florence & Tuscany travel guide
Yes, the scenery really is that gorgeous. Dotted with hilltop fortresses, vineyards and sculptural stands of cypress trees, Tuscany is a glorious repository of grand-slam sights and experiences.
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...
Florence & Tuscany - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Florence & Tuscany starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on regional cuisine.
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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...
Florence & Tuscany - Central Coast & Elba (Chapter)
Despite an enviable setting, this part of Tuscany is not burdened with well-known destinations. Anonymous working cities prevail, but saunter inland and you’ll find eye-catching medieval villages and Etruscan ruins. The best alfresco frolics...
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...
Florence & Tuscany - Southern Tuscany (Chapter)
Diversity reigns supreme in southern Tuscany. Here, it’s possible to travel from sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains in the space of a few hours, passing marshy coastal plains teeming with wildlife and dramatically sited hill towns along the...