Tuscany is Italy’s most famous wine region, but this enchanting countryside in central Italy is so much more than vineyards. Seeing Tuscany’s unparalleled beauty will truly take you back through the mists of time, served with seductive food and drink and intoxicating art and culture, and all wrapped up in bewitchingly beautiful countryside.
So where do you begin? Some might think a trip through Tuscany begins and ends with wine, leaving vino-newbies out in the cold. The good news is, if you want to learn about wine on your Tuscany vacation, there are ample opportunities. The other good news is, wine is only part of the story.
Here’s Tuscany in 63 words: it’s the birthplace of the Renaissance with Florence as its capital and no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites; it has a coastline facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, a major river called the Arno and consists of 66.5% hills, 25% mountains and 8.5% plains; and actually it’s not the most prolific wine-producer in Italy, priding itself instead upon lower yields with higher quality.
Driving through this landscape of gentle hillsides, vineyards and olive groves is a joy – the only dilemma is deciding upon your itinerary.
Perhaps you’ll base yourselves at Montecatini, a spa town 40 miles west of Florence, from where you can explore an embarrassment of delightful destinations all within easy reach.
Taking the thermal waters at Montecatini dates back to Roman times, but reached the height of fashion in the early twentieth century, drawing the rich and famous from around the world.
The result of this international fame is a beautiful collection of Art Nouveau-style buildings alongside a medieval city. Montecatini’s celebrated waters are part of the city’s identity, and beautiful fountains are scattered throughout the streets and squares.
Then there’s laid-back Lucca with its labyrinthine streets, lovely piazzas and al fresco restaurants.
This amazing walled city has its roots deep in history, with Roman ruins and a splendid 11th century Romanesque cathedral. Inside St. Martin’s Cathedral, you’ll find magnificent artwork, including a painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio, whose roster of apprentices included Michelangelo.
Nearby you can find Pisa and its Leaning Tower. Pisa’s beautiful white cathedral complex would be an attraction even without its trademark leaning bell-tower. The Romanesque design, distinctive dome, interior artwork by Renaissance masters, and that gleaming white Tuscan stone should be enough for any cathedral. An ornate tower which leans like a toppling layer cake is just gilding the lily.
Pisa itself in unimaginably ancient; the city was mentioned by Virgil in The Aeneid, written between 29 and 19 BC. Pisa is filled with striking antiquities, including the National Museum of San Matteo, home to stunning galleries of medieval and Renaissance sculpture and paintings.
Of course, there’s always Florence, birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, home to stunning cathedrals. It’s very hard to go wrong with Florence, with priceless artwork and monuments at every turn. Michelangelo’s David is on display here, along with countless other works by Renaissance masters, here where the movement began.
And we simply must mention medieval Siena, whose winding lanes converge upon the spectacular open space of the Piazzo del Campo, and the ancient walled city of San Gimignano where a dozen stone towers create an imperious skyline.
The sea also beckons near Tuscany, and it’s a short trip to the stunning views and cliff-top villages along the Ligurian coast. The astonishing beauty of Cinque Terre, five fishing villages named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are not to be missed. The oldest village, Monterosso, was reportedly found in AD 643, making these ingeniously built cliff dwellings a piece of living history.
Can’t make up your mind? We can help with that! You’ll find Tuscany is just as fab on an escorted travel package like our Tastes of Tuscany tour. You’ll explore the flavors of Tuscany’s regional wines and cuisine, and even head to a Tuscan farm to try your own hand at a traditional Tuscan feast!
You’ll also be treated to exploration in Montecatini, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, the Chianti region, and optional tours of Florence. The trip includes seven nights of hotel accommodation, plus sightseeing in a modern air-conditioned coach and the services of both an English-speaking tour manager and local guides, to make sure you don’t miss a single detail.
You can indulge yourself in special features like wine-tasting and cooking classes and pre-book optional extras like a once-in-a-lifetime Leonardo da Vinci Tour.
Hungry for more? Add a few days in Venice, Naples, Rome or Sorrento with one of our other itineraries. You cans see the our affordable Italy vacations here, or call 888-937-8474 for a destination specialist who can help you plan your dream vacation.
Tuscany, courtesy of Virgin Vacations – an experience sure to satisfy even the most discerning traveller’s palate. Bottoms up!