Tuscany comprises one of the most beautiful areas of Italy. Renaissance cities like Florence, Siena, Pisa and Livorno; charming hill towns with warm, hospitable people; rolling hills and valleys green with terraced vineyards and olive groves; delicious dining with the freshest of fruits, vegetables and meat; the beautiful beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Is it any wonder that when you think of Italy, you are probably thinking of Tuscany? It has it all.
Thinking of going? Almost anytime works except winter when it rains a lot. Because it is such a large area, select a location that is central to what you would really like to do and use that as your starting-off point. You may want to stay overnight in a city, taking day trips to the surrounding area. For instance, in Florence (Firenze to the Italians), visit the Uffizi Gallery, with the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance art and the Baptistery, one of Florence’s oldest structures and a monument of Italian Romanesque style architecture. Its Ghiberti doors are Renaissance decorated panels crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti and are a marvel to behold. Also in Florence is the famous Florence Cathedral, known as Il Duomo di Firenze and noted because of its enormous dome as well as the Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce Churches, the Baptistery, Academia, and of course, the great statue of David by Michelangelo. The art and architecture here is awesome and almost too much to take in on one visit.
In addition, Florence is home to a number of shopping outlets of the great designers such as Ferragamo, Gucci, Armani, and more. Keep in mind that even though the prices here are greatly reduced, they are not going to be like shopping at Kmart. They are still expensive. The outlets are found at an area in Florence called appropriately enough, The Mall.
Nearby Florence you will find the beautiful area of Chianti, known for its wines. Many of the wineries offer tastings, and what a delight to relax for a bit in such stunning and serene surroundings. This is where Chianti Classico began. While many wines in Chianti today are not Classico, they are still quite good.
In Greve in Chianti, for three weeks at the end of July and early August every year, the Daniel Ferro Vocal Studies program takes place. Young singers from all over the world come for master classes, to brush up on their Italian, and learn more about Italian culture. Outsiders are invited to “audit” the program and at the same time, enjoy Tuscany. Every week, there is a concert in a different place — a very special venue such as the terrace of the Verrazano Castle, high on a hill. While the concert goes on, the sun is going down, and lights are coming on all over the surrounding hills and valleys. It is magical.
Other small and charming Tuscan towns include Caprese Michelangelo, the birthplace of the great artist, Michelangelo. It is not too far from Assisi where St. Francis of Assisi beheld his vision of the crucified Christ. Panzano is the home of the noted “singing butcher” and the cobbler who creates shoes overnight made especially for your feet. San Gimignano is a small walled city known for its famous towers and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally, there were 72 tower houses for the very wealthy. Today, only 14 towers remain. But you can walk to the top of one of them and have incredible views of the valley below.
The center of Siena has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Siena Cathedral is a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380. But also in Siena is the Piazzo Del Campo, a large shell-shaped piazza with outdoor spaces to sit and sip Cappuccino or nibble on a gelato. If you’re in the mood, you can also have a huge plate of pasta!
The most famous thing about Pisa is the Leaning Tower in the Square of Miracles and while it may be touristy, it is still fun to climb to the top and look out over the valley. The climb up is fun, too.
Another must in Pisa is to eat cecina. This is gluten-free bread made with chickpea flour, oil, water, and salt and pepper. It is a real treat.
We have only touched upon some of the miracles of Tuscany. It’s not just all about history and art but about the beauty and simplicity of life here. When you go, you will want to return.
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
Under the Tuscan Sun
by Frances Mayes
Rick Steves’ Florence & Tuscany 2017
by Rick Steves
The Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria
by Mark Ellingham and Jonathan Buckley
Fodor’s Italy 2016
by Fodor’s Travel Guides
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