Tuscany is one of the most
popular regions of one of the most visited countries in the world–Italy. Even
so, instead of exploring this beautiful region, most visitors will simply flock
to Florence for its tremendous art and culture and then maybe stop by Pisa or
Siena before heading off to Rome. These cursory visitors are missing out on
some of the region's greatest beauty and riches; to truly understand and enjoy
Tuscany, you need to get out into the gorgeous country side.
to Get Around
The best way to explore
Tuscany on your own terms is to rent a car. This allows for an open itinerary
where you can wander the back roads, stop at your leisure and really soak up
the countryside. However, driving in Italy is not always easy and starting your
trip out of Florence can be difficult.
If a car is too expensive or
too much of a headache, Tuscany also has a good train system with easy
connections to much of the region. Guided bike tours have also become popular
over the past few years.
You actually don't need to
venture too far out of Florence to get a taste of the Tuscan countryside. It's
possible to do a day trip from the city to Chianti (wine country), Val d'Orcia
(its landscapes were named a UNESCO World Heritage site) or Montepulciano and
If you've got the means to
venture further, consider basing yourself in Siena and exploring its famous
hill towns. Another option is Arezzo, which is full of gorgeous walking trails
and Etruscan historical sites.
Accommodations in rural
Tuscany range from bed & breakfasts to great Italian villas and everything
in between. Agrotourism is also very popular in the area and the most
entertaining option is to arrange a stay at a Tuscan farmhouse, where you can
often participate in the daily life of the farm.
Tuscany is one of the centers
of rich and hearty Italian cuisine. Often times a full meal will consist of a
first course of pasta or soup and a second course of meat, with a contorni or
side dish of salad or veggies. Italians eat late and it will be very difficult
to find any restaurants open between the hours of 2 pm and 7pm.
In Tuscany you'll find freshly
pressed olive oil, fresh meats and a huge variety of produce. When truffles are
in season they can also be found in many dishes as a delicious and aromatic
addition to already amazing meals. Many towns and regions have their own
signature dishes, but wherever you are be sure to try panzanella (bread salad),
ribollita (vegetable soup) and tagliatelle alla boscaiola (pasta with porcini
No trip to Tuscany would be
complete without sampling some of their famous deep red wines. Super Tuscan
wines are quite popular at the moment, they are extra forceful varieties mixed
with cabernet sauvignon. The most popular regions for wine tasting are Chianti,
Montalcino and Montepulciano.