Tuscany – Overview

The joy of Tuscany is that it always looks exactly as it should. Here is the lush, green landscape, rolling lazily towards the horizon; there are the cypress trees, the olive groves, the vineyards and the fields of lavender. On every hill top sits a medieval town of palest apricot. 

Underpinning it all is Tuscany’s cultural and artistic heritage. Most of the important paintings and sculptures – from Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to Michelangelo’s David - are in Florence, but there are wonderful examples throughout the region, and not always where you might expect them. Only in Tuscany can you wander into a small town museum and come face to face with three paintings by Piero della Francesca. 

And then there are Tuscany’s great wines, aromatic olive oils, and delicious, hearty cuisine (is there anything Tuscans can’t turn their hand to?). There are Etruscan relics and roman remains, as well as mile upon mile of coast to explore. Little wonder that for many of its visitors, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and of some of the world’s greatest Italians (Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Botticelli, Puccini) is Italy.

 

FLY TO

Pisa (PSA) or Rome (FCO)

FLIGHT TIME FROM UK

2 hours 30 minutes

TIME DIFFERENCE

+1 hour

CURRENCY

Euro

Tuscany – Location & Map

   

Tuscany – Villas

   

La Rocca

  • Tuscany, 7 bedrooms/sleeps 14
  • Historic and romantic
  • In secluded grounds
  • Catering and driving services available
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Tuscany – Regions
Tuscany – Our Guide

Tuscany is located in western Italy, south of Genoa and north of Rome. The region includes the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Grosseto, Livorno, Massa and Carrara, Pisa, and Sienna, covering around 9300 square miles.

Famous the world over for its ethereally beautiful landscapes, fine wines, magnificent architecture and matchless cultural heritage, Tuscany is a region that thrills all the senses. Florence has a greater concentration of art treasures than anywhere else in the world, set in a landscape of rolling, vine-clad hills, golden medieval towns and tall cypress trees. Sienna is smaller and more intimate yet almost as rich in art and architecture, while Pisa is Italy’s most renowned university town with a youthful buzz in amongst the Romanesque buildings, Gothic churches and Renaissance piazzas. The walled town of Lucca is another Renaissance gem, whose surrounding hills are home to some of the region’s most historic, luxurious and sought-after villas. And for those for whom a holiday is not a holiday without a beach, Tuscany also boasts over 150 miles of Mediterranean coastline.

Tuscany – History & Culture

Florence was once the Italian capital city
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Tuscany takes its name from the Etruscan people who first inhabited the region around 3000 years ago. By 800 BC, several Etruscan city states had been created, including Fiesole, Arezzo and Volterra, and by the 6th century B.C, the Etruscans dominated northern and central Italy.

Following the rise of Rome, the Etruscans were defeated by the Romans around 280 BC, and Etruria became part of the Roman Empire. Rome established the cities of Lucca, Pisa, Siena, and Florence, extended the road system, introduced aqueducts and sewers, and funded many grand public and private buildings.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the region became a part of the Frankish Empire during the reign of Charlemagne. Matilda, the last Frankish ruler, bequeathed her lands to the papacy, an act which provoked years of conflict between popes and emperors. Pisa, Lucca, Siena and Florence became successful republics, and flourishing centres of trade, industry and the arts.

 

In the 2nd half of the 14th C, a banking crash followed by widespread plague decimated the population and destroyed the economies of Siena and San Gimignano. By the end of this century the Medici, Florence’s powerful banking family, began their rise to prominence, and in 1406, Florence conquered Pisa and gained a vital sea port in the process.

The Medici became the ruling family of Florence and when the Pope made Cosimo Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Medici acquired the entire Tuscan territory. Florence became one of the most important banking and trading cities in Europe. The city was regarded as the intellectual heart of the Renaissance, witnessing an extraordinary blossoming of art, literature and scientific learning under the patronage of the Medici wealth.

After the extinction of the Medici line, Tuscany passed into Austrian rule in 1737, and was then annexed by Napoleonic France in 1807. In 1860, Tuscany became part of modern Italy and Florence became the Italian capital in 1865, superseded by Rome six years later, in 1871.

Tuscany has been inhabited for 3000 years
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Tuscany – Climate

Hillside villas have cooling sea breezes
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Inland Tuscany is has a relatively mild year-round climate, though July and August can feel extremely hot in the cities, and winter nights can be cold, especially in the mountains. The best months for a walking holiday or a sightseeing visit are April, May, October and November, when daytime average temperatures are between 15 and 20˚C, though you should also pack an umbrella.        

 

June and September are good months to combine some cultural visits with relaxing by your villa or hotel pool. High summer temperatures can climb to 30˚C, the ideal time to base yourself in a breeze-cooled hillside villa or hotel. Coastal Tuscany has a more typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and very mild winters.

Cities heat up quickly in the summer
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Tuscany – Activities

The city of Lucca is one of the region's great art centres
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Tuscany is Europe’s artistic powerhouse: from the Renaissance riches of Florence to the Gothic grandeur of Sienna there is a trove of treasures for serious art lovers to explore in a compact area. Florence, Sienna, Pisa and Lucca are the great art centres of the region, but away from the main cities you are just as likely to stumble upon an exquisite painting casually hanging in a small town museum, or exceptional sculptures adorning a hilltop village church.

From the Apennine Alps to the fertile Chianti hills, there are many stunning hiking trails to discover and countless itineraries for road and mountain bikes, though reasonable fitness is a definite pre-requisite.

 

If you are inspired by the classic cuisine of the region there are many courses where you can learn to cook like a local, sometimes combined with art appreciation classes for a fully-rounded Tuscan education.

While it might seem almost sacrilege in amongst the myriad museums, galleries and exhibitions, it’s worth coming to Tuscany for the shopping alone. There are highly specialised food shops with dozens of different oils, charming craft and jewellery stores with exclusive one-off pieces and masses of clothing boutiques for all budgets, from flagship designer stores to out of town outlets.

Hike through the Chianti hills
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Tuscany – Feasts & Festivals

Florence holds a saint's day
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Religion still plays a part in daily life in Italy, and many festivals and events through the year are based around a religious event or celebration. Carnevale is the traditional festival which marks the beginning of Lent, generally involving parades, masked balls and lively parties, similar to Mardi Gras. Viareggio Carnevale was first held in 1873 and is now one of the most famous pre-Lent carnivals in the world, running once a week throughout February.

In June, Pisa honours its patron saint at the Festa di San Ranieri, where the Arno is lit up by a torchlit display. Florence celebrates its saint’s day with a historic football game played by two teams of 26 men in 16th century costume. The Festa della Esaltazione della Santa Croce is the main event of the year in Lucca, during which a wooden crucifix figure is carried along the streets of the old town to the Cathedral of Saint Martin, illuminated by thousands of small candles, followed by fireworks on the riverbank.

 

Tuscany’s rich history is also widely honoured and celebrated. From Easter to October there are colourful costumed events and displays of pageantry, from flag waving to jousting and crossbow competitions. Highlight of the historical events is the Sienna Palio, a thrilling, bareback horse race around the Piazza del Campo preceded by 3 days of enthusiastic partying. The Palio runs on 2 July and 16 August.

High summer is the time of the music and performing arts festivals, with the Fiesole Summer festival (June), the Sienna Music Week (July) and the world-renowned Puccini Festival in Lucca (July). The region’s gourmet cuisine and commitment to high quality local produce is celebrated at many local fairs and events throughout the summer, peaking in the autumn with a series of events dedicated to mushrooms, cheese, honey, truffles, chestnuts and of course, the finest Tuscan wines.

Celebrations in Pisa
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Tuscany – Food & Drink

Cold meats make a popular starter
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Traditional Tuscan food is regarded by many as the best regional cuisine in Italy. Italian cooking revolves around the staples of olive oil (the Tuscan variety is distinctively fragrant and bitter) pasta, meat, fish and rice. Tuscan food is quite heavily meat-based: specialities include bistecca alla fiorentina (chargrilled T-bone steak), lampredotto (cow stomach cooked in a broth served with salsa verde) and pici con ragù di cinghiale (pasta with wild-boar sauce).

Popular starters include lardo di Colonnata (cold meats), and panazanella (salad made with traditional unsalted Tuscan bread and tomatoes). Fish cacciucco (Livornese fish stew) is the classic seafood dish of the region, and non-meat-eaters might also enjoy hearty ribollita bean soup.

 

End your meal with a glass of sweetly powerful vin santo and a few cantucci, Tuscany’s famous almond biscotti, castagnaccio (chestnut cake) or schiacciata alla fiorentina (orange-flavoured Florentine sponge cake)

Italy is the largest wine-producing country in the world, and Tuscany is home to 33 Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) and 9 Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) production areas. Tuscany produces three of the country’s greatest wines – Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano, as well as Chianti Classico, undoubtedly the region’s most famous export.

Tuscany produces some of the world's finest wines
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Tuscany – For Families

The towers at San Gimignano
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Children are very warmly welcomed everywhere in Italy, from simple cafes to smart hotels, making a very relaxing and rewarding family destination. Depending on the age of and interest of your children, the great galleries such as the Uffizi may or may not appeal, but there are plenty of stunning squares and sculptures in Florence to enjoy a flavour of the Renaissance as you wander the city without ever having to go into a museum. San Gimignano, with its many towers and castles, is also very impressive simply viewed from the outside, and few kids can resist the wonky angle of Pisa’s famous tower.

If visiting Florence, head for the cathedral early in the day and climb the steps to the bell tower or the dome for fantastic views. The Boboli gardens are a good place to let off steam, with mazes and fountains set in a beautiful Renaissance landscape with great views back over the city. You can also take in an open top bus tour around parts of the city to see some of the sites without having to walk for miles, or take a tour by horse and carriage.  

 

Sienna also has a great bell tower for keen climbers, and you can follow it up with a coffee and gelato in the campo below while the kids chase the pigeons. While Pisa has the obvious attraction of its tower, Arezzo is one of the region’s less visited towns, with an excellent park with a play area, and the Ponte a Poppi Zoological Park. Other smaller historic towns with a handy pedestrian area are Pienza and Chiusi where you can also visit a spooky underground Etruscan tomb. There are several archaeological museums in the region based around Etruscan sites, which really help to bring ancient history to life.

At some point you will almost certainly want to head for the coast, and Tuscany has an impressive 18 Blue Flag-rated beaches. Grosseto is a good family choice, with both ‘free’ and ‘serviced/paying’ sandy beaches and the option to hire bikes to ride through the forests behind the beach. There are also water/amusement parks at Cecina Mare and at Marina di Castagneto. For older children there are reefs to explore along the coast between Antignano and Rosignano.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
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Tuscany – For Couples

See the museum complex in Sienna
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With its hilltop villages, sinuous ‘white roads’ and rolling green countryside, the painting-like vistas of Tuscany make it one of the most romantic landscapes on the planet. For art experts and enthusiastic amateurs alike, Tuscany offers unrivalled opportunities to enjoy some of the world’s most famous masterpieces in the environment that inspired them. Apart from the unmissable Uffizi, recommended highlights include the Palatine and Accademia Galleries and the Bargello and San Marco Museums in Florence. Also well worth seeing is the Santa Maria della Scala museum complex in the heart of Sienna, located just in front of the magnificent cathedral.

All four of the great Tuscan art cities (Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Sienna) are a pleasure to simply wander on foot, meandering from one exquisite piazza to the next, pausing for a jolt of espresso, a celebratory Prosecco or an indulgently long lunch.       

 

Even the greatest art lovers needs to get out of town at some point, and it’s easy to escape into the hills for pleasant hikes, long bike rides or a wine tasting or two . Head into the hills east of Lucca to Montecatini Terme, home to grand villas and a rejuvenating natural spa.

The Tuscan Mediterranean coast has a wide choice of beaches, from sandy to pebbly, most of which are equipped with sun beds, parasols and changing rooms with a daily charge for access. The smartest section of the coast is Versilia, a wide and very long stretch of sand running from Forte dei Marmi to Viareggio and famous for its trendy summer nightlife. If you prefer a more natural environment, the pine woods and extensive dunes of the Migliarino-San Rossore nature reserve are a better option. The little port of Castiglione della Pescaia offers something for everyone, with a medieval old town, serviced beaches and stretches of spiaggia libera where you can simply roll out your towel onto the sand.

Witness romantic landscapes
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Tuscany top properties