Tuscany's rolling countryside, Italy
Holidays to Tuscany, Italy
If you are looking for an experience which encapsulates everything typically Italian – wine, food, laid-back countryside, neck-craning architecture and gasp-worthy art – you’ll find it in Tuscany. A veritable playground of refined treasures, from Michelangelo’s David to a glass of Chianti Classico, this is a region of sensory overload.
Starting with the artistic powerhouse of Florence, there’s enough to last a year – the Uffizi is unmissable, and Ill Duomo di Firenze is iconic. At the Mercato Centrale you’ll find vendors selling wine, produce and olive oil from the entire region, and of course, the Galleria dell’Accademia is home to the 17-foot-tall, 500-year-old David. Moving along to Pisa, it’s worth a stop to see the peculiar architecture of the Leaning Tower; see if you can resist the classic ‘push pose’! In Siena, wander around the city’s iconic mediaeval red brick buildings, relax in the Piazza del Campo and climb the Duomo di Siena or the Torre del Mangia for views across the city. Moving away from the cities, the mediaeval hill town of San Gimignano, or Town of Fine Towers, dominates the Tuscan countryside with its ancient version of the Manhattan skyline.
If the winding streets of the Tuscan cities become too much, make your way to Val d’Orcia. This UNESCO protected area stirs up images of romantic countryside dotted with rustic farmhouses and arrow-straight cypress trees. Here, stay in a local farmhouse where you can wake up to classic rural views and taste the rustic food so well known to the region. Hop on a bike and explore the vineyards, which are experiencing a renaissance with locally produced Orcia DOC wines. For the real buffs, save the date in April for the Orcia Wine Festival, held in San Quirico every year.
Finally, you’ll want to taste the best food that Tuscany has to offer. Fresh, homegrown ingredients will fill every meal, punctuated by wines to die for. Take a food tour in Florence to fill your boots with coffee, truffles, cured meats and cheese, or make your way to Lucca for a seat in centuries-old, rustic restaurants where you’ll dine on generous plates of hearty local food. Throughout the region there’s plenty of opportunities to try delights like the porchetta pork sandwich, life-changing pistachio or hazelnut gelato, and long aperitivo ‘hours’ filled with finger food. Head to Livorno on the coast for plates of fresh fritto misto and stewed cod. If you want to get hands-on, Tuscany is full of cooking classes – learn how to make pasta or focaccia in a farmhouse, or whip up your own gelato. Go truffle hunting in San Miniato, which you can follow up with a gourmet truffle tasting. You’ll go home satisfied, making promises to cook more, and not caring about using that extra hole on your belt.
Visit the art centres of Florence, Pisa and Siena
Cycle through the rolling hills and cypress-lined roads of Val d’Orcia
Take a cooking class to learn the art of pasta making
Sample Tuscany’s spectacular wines on a vineyard and cellar tour
Stay in a local farmhouse and wake up to idyllic countryside