Revered for its natural beauty, world- class wines, incredible history, dedication to arts and heritage, and a general sense of all things romantic, the central region of Italy known as Tuscany is a popular destination. And rightly so – there is no shortage of inspiring places to visit that will please every one of the senses.
Tuscany, or the Regione Toscana, as it’s better known, is made up of ten provinces with a population of more than three and a half million people. The landscape is varied, including everything from mountainous regions and the rugged shorelines of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the neatly kept fields and vineyards that are the foundation of Tuscany’s famous wines. History buffs will love the fascinating city of Florence, the capital city of the Tuscany region, where the past mingles smoothly with the modern present. The art and architecture found in Florence are truly stunning, and the historic centre of the city has been designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Tuscany is known for its simple yet delicious cuisine. Regional specialities are delightful, and can be enjoyed in all but the most remote locations. For a real taste of the area, take part in a locally hosted Tuscan cooking course.
Wine Lovers: Tuscany’s many fine vineyards are a must- see attraction for anyone who enjoys the deep flavours of a glass of wine. Perhaps the most well- known wine- producing area of Tuscany is the Chianti region. Winery tours abound, but the region also offers a great deal more, including picturesque sights such as the Chianti hills and wonderful castles such as the ancient structure found in Verrazzano.
Shopping: Florence is home to a tremendous variety of shops and boutiques, sure to appeal to anyone from art enthusiasts to those searching for the latest Italian designer fashions. For a more relaxed experience, take in one of the many spas that dot the city and surrounding area.
Art & History: Museums such as Uffizi Gallery, built as a palace for Cosimo De Medici in the mid 1500s are a popular treasure throughout the Tuscan region. Many museums, in fact, are such well- loved destinations that it is wise to secure reservations ahead of visiting in order to avoid long line ups. Despite the attractions of Tuscany’s museums, many of the region’s most famous pieces of art are visible from the street – ornate structures, sculptures and fountains, many of which are very old, are common sights in Tuscany.
Many group tours can be had for as few as 8 guests and are personalized with translators. There are other specialty offerings such as week-long bike trips through the Tuscany area, or the Lombard Church-in the D’Elsa Valley-which may be acquired for Catholic weddings of up to 80 guests between April and October.
To visit Tuscany, a visitor may fly into Milan or Rome and take a train to Florence; from there a car may be rented to drive into the area. Otherwise, a flight into the Florence airport may be arranged. (Connecting arrangements from Pisa may also be available).
When packing for this trip, remember that temperature in Tuscany rarely drops below the mid-30’s (F) in winter, or rises above the mid-80’s (F) in summer. However, evenings are usually significantly cooler than days, and tile floors in most accommodations may increase the chill.
Guidelines that apply for Rome and other Italian cities are the same for Tuscany. When on tours of churches and museums, wear conservative attire that covers shoulders, back, chest and knees. Do not ignore shop owners upon entering their establishment and place money on dish instead of in their hands. Take great caution when driving, which is really the only way to see most of Tuscany. Don’t depend upon the local telephone service, either-a cell phone is probably the most efficient and economical method of communicating with overseas friends and family.
Since the wine industry and tourism have created a multitude of adventurous opportunities, Tuscany offers much to visitors. Chianti, in particular, offers lovely, natural beauty around dwellings which are centuries old. The mixture is remarkable, and should not be missed while visiting this wonderful part of Italy!
Some of Tuscany's main sightseeing cities include: