The wine soaked villages of Tuscany are some of the most heavily visited by tourists each year. It comes as no surprise, especially since the picture perfect vision of its lush rolling hills is dotted with rich, red hued architecture, lovely vineyards, and swathes of olive groves. Known as the birth place of the Renaissance, Tuscany is an Italian slice of heaven, and an art lover’s paradise. Quintessentially Italian, culture is the root of everything here, though the locals are friendly and welcoming. Plan to spend several days in this lovely region; you’ll be captivated by its beauty and its charm.
No visit to Tuscany would be complete without a stop in the romantic city of Florence. Stroll down the banks of the Arno River and soak in the city’s impressive history. As a stage of inspiration for some of arts biggest names (Michelangelo, Galileo, Di Vinci, Brunelleschi, etc.) the collection of masterpieces will seduce you, just as it has many of the local street artists who line the area, eager to share their craft. Wait times can be quite long at the most popular museums, so be sure to reserve tickets to both the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia in advance. Florence is best explored on foot, and most of the attractions are easily walkable from the city center. Take a walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge, on your way to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, the perfect place for a glass of wine and a picnic lunch. From this vantage point, you will have a great view of the Duomo and city skyline below as your backdrop.
Escape the fast paced city and head for the hills toward San Gimignano, the medieval walled wonder. This Unesco World Heritage Site is like taking a step back into time to experience life as it once was. The Old City stands just as it did in the 13th century, and this enchanting rural setting calls day trippers and weekenders alike, who are ready to explore its impressive towers. 7 of the remaining 14 towers are perched underneath the Tuscan sun, right next to the Piazza del Duomo. You can climb the Torre Grossa, the only one of the towers open to the public. Your reward at the top will be a spectacular panoramic view of the lush green valley. Be sure to sample Vernaccia, the local white wine, and a wild boar sausage baguette for a lovely picnic lunch.
Gothic architecture is exemplified throughout the medieval city of Siena. Divided into historic contrades, each with its own unique, characteristics, this vibrant collection of artisanal crafts, charming boutiques, and sweet smelling pastry shops is full of Italian charm. Il Campo, the central piazza is home to the famous Palio horse race, and the cathedral that drapes the square is one of the most impressive. For the best views of the city, walk up the 505 steps at the Torre del Mangia, the second tallest medieval bell tower in Italy. You can also take a hands on cooking class here, where you will use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a gourmet, multi-course masterpiece.
The Chianti wine region is likely what you imagined when you planned your Tuscan adventure. Tiny towns and picturesque villages pop up throughout the hills draped with vineyards and olive groves. Consider Greve as your home base for the region. The small local population is friendly and welcoming, and eager to please your palette with their local specialties. There is a weekly farmers market and a chance to taste a variety of wines, meats, olive oils, and cheese. Take a wine tour at your favorite vineyard, but don’t forget to schedule an appointment beforehand. Keep in mind that a slow pace is the best way to really enjoy the region (and the wine). Savor this experience under the beautiful Tuscan sun.
Tuscany is truly the heart of Italy. Visitors are drawn here for a variety of reasons. Whether it is the tasty cuisine, the sweet wines, the rolling hills, or the artistic masterpieces, this extraordinary destination is one where memories are made. Each distinct area has its own personality, and each is certainly worthy of your visit. Though this top rated destination is never going to feel like Italy’s best kept secret, the treasures it offers and the beauty of its hills will always have something left to give. The spirit, culture, and Italian lifestyle will forever be on your mind and occupy a permanent place in your heart.