Tuscany is rightly recognised as being one of the world’s most beautiful regions – here we highlight ten of our favourite destinations that justify this claim…
1. BAGNO VIGNONI HOT SPRINGS, VAL D’ORCIA
While traditional towns may have a main town square in their centre, in Bagno Vignoni it is simply a huge thermal pool. Although this one can not be used, just steps away is the Parco dei Mulini for those who wish to take a dip in the thermal waters. Bagno Vignoni became a halting and refreshment point in Etruscan times for the numerous pilgrims on their way to Rome, when it was used both for personal hygiene and curing illnesses. A stunning beauty spot, the water is heated from underneath by the Earth’s crust.
2 MICHELANGELO’S DAVID, FLORENCE
The most famous statue in the world, no trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to see this iconic figure. Standing at an amazing 17 foot tall, this statue of biblical hero David, one of the most recognised works of Renaissance sculpture, is on display at the Accademia Gallery. Incredibly realistic looking, with its tense neck and veins bulging out of his right hand, the twist of David’s body conveys to the viewer that he is in motion, with his eyes looking towards Rome. A visit to see the David is guaranteed to be something you will never forget.
While some people know Chianti as a type of wine, it is better known for being a stunning town between Florence and Siena. Its steeply rolling hills, terraced with vineyards and olive groves, broken castles and bustling market towns have made the region so popular with the English it is affectionately referred to as Chiantishire. The 14th century hamlet of Montefioralle sits above Chianti’s capital of Greve, consisting of a single circular street, two churches and views over the valley.
4 ELBA ISLAND
Just six miles off the Tuscan coast is the island of Elba. Roughly the size of the Isle of Wight, it has more than 150 beaches and remains green throughout the year, regardless of the season. With a beautiful harbour and stunning flower gardens, paths around the shore lead to secretive spots where sunbathers lie across the boulders. Taking a cable car to the summit at 3,343 feet, you can see other islands in the Tuscan archipelago, including Montecristo and Pianosa.
5 BASILICA DI SANTA CROCE, FLORENCE
The Basilica of the Holy Cross is the burial site of some of the most illustrious Italians in history, such as Michelangelo and Galileo, making it known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. As the largest Franciscan church in the world, it is also the richest medieval church in Florence, with stunning frescoes and architecture. At the rear is the Scoula del Cuoio, which offers high-quality artisan bags and leather items.
6 MONTALCINO, SIENA
This small town with its population of just over 5,000 is situated high on a hill covered with olive groves and the famous Brunello vineyards that dominate the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys. On the highest point of the hill is the fortress, which is an outstanding example of military architecture. Known today as the home of one of the world’s greatest wines, the Brunello di Montalcino, the town encompasses nearly 24,000 square hectares, half of which are covered in characteristic Mediterranean marshes, native grasses and forest. Perfect for a quiet retreat amid the most beautiful of surroundings.
7 DANIEL SPOERRI SCULPTURE GARDEN, MAREMMA
This garden in the Maremma region of Tuscany is different to your usual style of garden, in that it houses 100 art installations of various media, from entire rooms reconstructed in bronze with an open ceiling in the middle of the woods, to landscape art that takes particular advantage of the landscape and view from the garden. New works are added each year to make this garden a worthwhile visit for something different to explore, with spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding area.
8 THE UFFIZI, FLORENCE
Originally the uffizi, or offices, of the ruling Medici family, this museum is the ultimate primer of the Renaissance, housing the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo. As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence, it has more than 1,700 works on display and more than 1,400 in storage, although there are plans to increase the size of the museum so that some of these holdings can be put on display. Its beautifully intricate architecture makes this a must-visit for anybody in Florence.
9 DUOMO DI SIENA, SIENA
This magnificent Gothic cathedral in Siena is full of late Gothic sculpture, early Renaissance painting and baroque design. One of the best examples of Gothic style in all of Italy, all of its 59 floor panels are visible in early autumn, and some of them are visible all year round. These panels were created by Sienna’s top artists from 1372 to 1547, including Matteo di Giovanni. The cathedral was largely built by, among others, Nicola Pisano, famed as the Italian founder of modern sculpture.
10 SATURNIA HOT SPRINGS, SATURNIA
One of Tuscany’s famed thermal centres, Saturnia has remote origins. Dedicated to the god Saturn, legend declares it to be the oldest city on the peninsula. With waterfalls that rush into pools etched into travertine rock over the centuries to create a natural spa, the water is kept at a consistent 37 degrees centigrade and contains sulphur and other healing minerals.