Holidays in Tuscany take you to walled medieval towns and Renaissance cities brimming with art. Book a Tuscany hotel to catch a local festival or follow tranquil back roads past vineyards and olive groves.
Situated in the north of ltaly, to the west of the Apennines, Tuscany has a roughly triangular shape. Its coastline runs from Liguria in the north to Lazio in the south. The River Arno connects the lively university town of Pisa with Florence, the powerful Renaissance city of creative geniuses da Vinci and Michelangelo. South of Florence, the vine-covered hills of Chianti are topped by hill towns like Siena and San Gimignano. To the north of Tuscany, Lucca nestles near the foothills of the Apuan Alps.
Cultural holidays in Tuscany begin in Florence, where there is art and architecture at every turn. Take in the nougat-coloured cathedral with its enormous red dome and matching campanile by Giotto. Visit the Uffizi Gallery to see Botticelli’s graceful Birth of Venus. The medieval laneways surrounding Siena’s sloping Piazza del Campo can be tricky to navigate. Use the multicoloured Gothic cathedral, with its artworks by Donatello and Pisano, as a landmark. There are more Pisano sculptures in the cathedral at Pisa, famous for its majestic piazza dominated by the Leaning Tower. Stroll around the city walls and Romanesque cathedral at Lucca, birthplace of composer Puccini. In Arezzo, see early Renaissance paintings by Piero della Francesco.
From informal trattoria restaurants to elegant dining in frescoed Tuscany hotels, Tuscan flavours are rustic and robust. Menus feature hare, wild boar and the famous bistecca (beef steak) from the Chiana Valley near Arezzo. Olive oil is an essential ingredient, with the finest oils coming from the gentle slopes surrounding Lucca. Olive oil features in refreshing panzanella (bread and tomato salad), and hearty ribollita (white-bean soup). For dessert, try fruity panforte from Siena with a glass of vin santo dessert wine.
Young imaginations are fired by San Gimignano’s medieval skyscrapers and Pistoia’s narrow laneways and lively weekly market. In Florence, little ones can run in the lush Boboli Gardens surrounding the Medicis’ Pitti Palace. The city is filled with shops selling creamy gelato (ice-cream). Shop for wooden toys in Florence before visiting the Pinocchio-themed park at Collodi, outside Lucca. The leafy Garfagnana region is ideal for horse riding, picnics and boating, and there is a wide and sandy beach at Viareggio.
Indulge in a week-long cooking class in the truffle town of San Miniato, or take a wine-tasting class in Chianti. Soar over the vine-covered hills surrounding Siena with a glass of champagne in your hand on a hot-air balloon trip. San Casciano dei Bagni offers soothing thermal springs. Make time during your holiday in Tuscany for a shopping excursion in Florence for leather luggage and hand-marbled paper.
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