Located in central Italy, Tuscany is the Italian dream. It’s a land visitors envision, one many long to see in person. Reaching from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea, this region of Italy is characterized by its art rich cities, medieval hilltop villages, rolling landscapes, hearty cuisine and fine wines. It is the Italy of imaginations, harboring some of the country’s and arguably the world’s best art and architecture. Sprinkled into the scene are olive groves, vineyards and snow-capped mountains. Due to Tuscany’s idyllic nature, it is a popular spot to vacation, honeymoon, wed and even a place where businesses are starting to flock for retreats and meetings. If you are headed under Tuscany’s famous sun, here’s your guide to find the best eats, drinks, sleeps, cities and scenes of Tuscany.
What To Eat
It can be quite difficult to have a bad meal in Tuscany. Tuscan cuisine is rich in pure and fresh ingredients, prepared most simply. While you might find dishes in Tuscany that are simple, that doesn’t mean they aren’t tasty. Paired with wine and olive oil from the land, typically you will encounter several Tuscan staples. If you are visiting during the winter months, nothing is more stomach warming than ribollita, literally translated as re-boiled. It is a chunky soup composed of cabbage, beans and vegetables, all combined with stale bread. Those venturing to Florence will no doubt come across bistecca alla fiorentina, another simple yet tasty meal of steak served very rare. While in Tuscany, you might also come across plenty of dishes with cinghiale, wild boar. Florence is also reportedly the birthplace of gelato so having a few scoops a day is basically mandatory.
What To Drink
Drinking in Tuscany boils down to wine and more wine. Tuscany has made a name for itself in terms of producing some of the finest bottles known the world over. Chianti Classico is easily Tuscany’s most famous and well-known type of wine. This variety hails from the hills in between Siena and Florence. If you are in the mood for a more powerful red, Brunello di Montalcino is considered one of Italy’s best. The white wines of San Gimignano have also garnered acclaim.
What Cities To See
Tuscany has some of the most prized cities in Italy for art and architecture. In the Tuscan pocket, Florence resides as the region’s capital. Perched in northeastern Tuscany, the Renaissance city is very much like an open-air museum. Landmarks like the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo and Santa Croce bring in the busloads. Within the walls are some of Italy’s most prized art like at the Uffizi and the Bargello. Toward the center of Tuscany, more to the south, visitors flock to Siena, mostly to sit in its inspiring Piazza del Campo. And perhaps most recognizably, a trip to Tuscany isn’t complete until you had played tourist and posed next to the Leaning Tower in Pisa.
What Landscapes to Traverse
Tuscany is a vision of rolling hills sprinkled with vineyard and olive groves. However, there is much more under this Tuscan sun. The area known as Chianti is where you will see stereotypical Tuscany. Those who head up to northern Tuscany are rewarded in Mugello, another area of the region with a countryside flowing with mountains, hills and yellow plains. A number of caverns can be found in northern Tuscany, specifically around the Apuan Alps. The area known as Maremma boasts an even more surprising mix of Tuscany landscapes, one that includes hilltop villages, dense woods, rolling hills and even a few beaches for good measure. As if you thought Tuscany wasn’t enough in terms of countryside, the region also has islands. Elba is one of the most well known, the small floating piece of land where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled. Today, it attracts visitors for its snorkeling, hiking and frankly the chance to be on an island in Tuscany.
What Events To Experience
No matter the time of your visit to Tuscany, most likely there is a festival or event occurring. Tuscany fills up the calendar year with events, many of which have been a tradition for centuries. In Florence, the Calico Storico event is one of the city’s most important festival in which the traditional neighborhoods of the town divide into teams. It then becomes a duel for top honor in games that are deemed part rugby, soccer, American football and part unexplainable. It is also worth it to schedule your visit to Tuscany around the Palio di Siena, a horse race through the city’s medieval streets and famous Piazza del Campo. For carnival, Viareggio takes the cake with one of the biggest celebrations. Large and often political floats march down the seaside town’s promenade.
Where To Stay
Tuscany doesn’t have to live in your imagination when it comes to accommodations. Vacation villa rentals pepper the region, inviting guests to truly immerse themselves into the landscape. Whether you are looking for a vacation rental or a major event site, Il Palagio is one of Tuscany’s most prestigious villas for hire. The romantic and private villa perched in the hills south of Florence in Chianti was once manned by Duke Simone Vincenzo Velluti Zati di Clemente. Today it is owned by none other than Sting and Trudie Styler. The main villa is available for rent for family occasions, weddings or even a corporate retreat for the whole company. Il Palagio also offers vacation villa rentals for travelers and honeymooners.
For more of a hotel experience but with the villa ambiance, guests can check into Borgo Santo Pietro in the picturesque Valle Serena. The boutique hotel occupies a villa from the 13th century. Guests can appreciate en suite fireplaces, hand painted wall murals, private courtyards and gardens to explore. Just one hour from Florence, Borgo Santo Pietro offers a Tuscan experience but also the privacy many couples on honeymoon are seeking.
How To Get Around
If you want to stick to the major cities of Tuscany and avoid its hilltop villages and rolling countryside, going by train is best. Regional trains make stops in major Tuscan cities like Florence, Lucca, Siena and Pisa. If you do want to reach those medieval towns set on hilltops and the many vineyards in Tuscany, a rental car is best. Many parts of the region are hard to reach on public transport. Bikers will also delight in Tuscany. There are countless biking tours offered in the region, geared toward however difficult or easy you want the ride to be. The reward for bikers is often those breath-taking panoramas and the ease of being able to get up close and personal with Tuscany without the restrictions a car can present.
What are your favorite eats, drinks, sleeps, events and scenes of Tuscany? Share your tips with us in the comments below.