Published On: Tue, Mar 22nd, 2016

Region Guide: Discovering Tuscany

Rolling hills, beautiful coastline and gothic architecture, we discover what more Tuscany has to offer…

Tuscany was one of the first destinations to attract large numbers of travellers from the UK – and with very good reason: the region offers a rich combination of culture, historic cities, antiquities, agreeable climate and friendly locals; it encapsulates everything that is beautiful about Italy.


Florence


Many would argue that other regions offer a similar mix, and although neighbouring areas share some of its features, it is evident that the combination of coastline, mountains, countryside and beautiful towns and cities including Florence, Siena and Chianti (and we could go on) is hard to match

Here are some of the top areas to discover within the region.

Arezzo
Arezzo was founded by the Etruscans and passed into the hands of the Romans. It was once an important Etruscan city, and is now famous for the manufacture of gold and its antiques.

Arezzo is situated between the Casentino and the Valdichiana valleys, the first of which is quite narrow until Bibbiena, then it widens from Pratovecchio to form a perfect amphitheatre of gentle slopes rising to the Pratomagno ridge, where the monasteries of La Verna and Camaldoli are located. The Valdichiana is the most extensive of all the valleys in the Apennine chain and is prosperous cattle country, producing the prized Florentine bistecca.

Florence
The capital of Tuscany is Florence, one of Italy’s most famous cities. It was once the home of the colourful Medici dynasty, which actively encouraged the development of the Renaissance by sponsoring masters such as Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo. Treasured works of art such as those found at the Accademia (Michelangelo’s David), the Uffizi Galleries (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus), and the Pitti Palace (Raphael’s La Velata) draw millions of visitors every year.

Throw into the mix fabulous architecture (the Duomo, with Brunelleschi’s dome, Giotto’s campanile and Santa Croce), fine restaurants and earthy trattorie, leading designer boutiques and bustling outdoor markets, and the city of the Renaissance becomes quite simply one of the world’s must-see sights.

Chianti
The Chianti region stretches across a large area of country from Florence to Siena and is defined by the rivers Arno, Elsa, Ombrone and Arbia. On its hills, set amidst vineyards and historical villages (such as Radda and Castellina), are the producers of the famous Chianti wines.

Mugello
A few kilometres from Florence – among the hills, cypress trees, and against a background of mountain peaks and passes – stretches the territory of the Mugello. Delightful countryside, wine-roads, museums and villas are all to be found just outside Florence.

The Mugello landscape is complex: from the woodlands of the ridges to the flat land of old terraces confined by slopes planted with wheat and sunflowers, to the fertile valley bottom where the main inhabited centres are situated. Visitors can discover castles, villas, convents and friaries immersed in a wonderful landscape.

Grosseto
The term ‘Maremma’ is today used to indicate the territory of the province of Grosseto. The Maremma landscape is varied, though mainly comprises cultivated hilly regions, with farmhouses placed in windy areas. The hills recede towards the sea, being replaced with olive groves, vineyards and woods of cork oaks. Pine forests grow along the coast, which boasts wide shores of fine siliceous sand.

Siena
Without a doubt, Siena is the jewel in Tuscany’s crown. It is a walled city with Gothic palaces, excellent pastries and its own stylised school of painting. With steep back streets and a mammoth art-packed cathedral, it is the region’s second most popular city. The Piazza del Campo is a beautiful square in the heart of the city, where each year rival neighbourhoods compete in the Palio, the horserace around its perimeter.

The surrounding countryside is home to some of the most remote vestiges of the Sienese heritage, with its towers and castles reaching toward the sky and its enchanting landscape in the Val d’Orcia. Characteristic of this valley is the presence of calanques, the result of the erosion caused by rain, wind and frost on the clay of the hills. The Orcia Valley has landscapes of fertile plains, hills and trees, which are a paradise for painters and photographers.

This area is about as picture-postcard as you could imagine. The towns to the west are almost as famous as Siena itself: San Gimignano, with its stone skyscrapers; and Massa Marittima, a medieval town with a gorgeous cathedral.


Siena Cathedrale


Pisa
Built on the banks of River Arno, the maritime Republic of Pisa houses the city of Pisa, which is famous for its magnificent Piazza dei Miracoli, with the leaning tower, baptistery and cathedral. Beside the artistic beauties of the cities, the province of Pisa contains many other places to see: the Arno Valley (the largest floodplain in Tuscany), and the Monte Pisano, with the baths of San Giuliano Terme and the famous mineral water of Uliveto Terme.

The countryside near Volterra is characterised by bare clay slopes – known as calanchi or biancane – created by the movement of water from streams.

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