Few places inspire the imagination quite like Tuscany. Stretching from the west coast to the center of the Italian peninsula, its countryside is characterized by sienna-colored hills, sinuous rows of cypress trees, and hill-top villages spiked with campanili and domed cathedrals.
Florence is the cradle of the Renaissance – busy and crowded with tourists but irresistible all the same. It is a treasure trove of outstanding museums and works of art, remarkable architecture and creative genius.
Siena, Florence’s longstanding rival to the south, sits majestically on three hill tops and preserves an incomparable mix of architectural and cultural traditions. While it too is a popular destination for travelers, the Sienese live for themselves, and the fabric and traditions of daily life are every bit as authentic today as they were 400 years ago. The Palio, its famous medieval pageant, inspires ancient passions to this day, culminating in a rowdy horse race in the main “Campo” piazza before crowds of thousands. Each race is preceded by street parties where neighborhoods gather for communal dinners, and the horse for each contrada (city district) is blessed in the parish church.
Arezzo, south of Florence, hosts Italy’s largest antique fair the first Sunday of every month. Noted for its gold and jewelry making, Arezzo is also home to some treasured art by Piero della Francesco.
Chianti and the wine regions around Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino offer a portrait of the classic Tuscan landscape – rows of cypress trees punctuate the vineyards, and the brilliant hues of the earth distinguish the stark landscape of the crete. The vistas are spectacular, the wines are renowned - who could ask for anything more? There are even a number of spa towns where you can indulge yourself – San Casciano dei Bagni, where the bagni have been appreciated since Roman times, is one of the most charming (and pampering). Don’t be surprised if you recognize a scene from any number of film classics, like Portrait of a Lady or A Room with a View. Or visit the area around Cetona and Cortona to discover the setting of Frances Mayes’ popular books, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany.
Gateway airport: Florence or Rome
From Rome by car on the autostrada approximately 1.5 hours (to Chiusi area) or Florence, about 1–1/4 hours either by autostada or train (to Chiusi)