It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Tuscany, or Italy for that matter! My love affair with Tuscany began more than two decades ago. I think it started the moment I had my first meal at a cosy trattoria in Florence. The food was absolutely divine. Simple, fresh and cooked with a passion that was almost tangible. Since that first trip, I’ve explored many areas in Tuscany, from its northern border near the Cinque Terre, through the glistening peaks of the Alpi Apuane north of Pisa, to the historic towns of Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano and right down to the quaint villages of the Maremma and the Etruscan sites in the south. It’s hard not to love Tuscany – I always feel like a happy soul each time I visit! The whole province is simply one big Velvet Escape!
When I received an invitation from Gloria, a good friend who lives in a charming Tuscan village, to participate in the Italy Blogging Roundtable by writing about “Gifts” from Italy, I didn’t have to think twice about accepting the invitation and coming up with a topic: Tuscany of course! To me, Tuscany is a chest of wonderful gifts to the world. If you’re looking for reasons to visit Tuscany, the ‘gifts’ listed below will hopefully convince you to book that ticket!
Florence steals the show with its glorious architecture, historic monuments and world-class museums. Other popular towns include Siena, with its breathtaking square, the Piazza del Campo; San Gimignano, the world’s first ‘Manhattan'; Pisa, with its iconic leaning tower; the ancient hilltop town of Volterra; and Montepulciano, Montalcino and Pienza in the heart of one of Tuscany’s main wine producing regions. My advice is to hire a car or use public transportation as this will give you many opportunities to explore the province at your own leisure and avoid the day-trippers. It’ll also allow you to discover many smaller towns and villages and immerse yourself in Tuscan life.
Anyone who’s been to Tuscany will undoubtedly gush about the dreamy landscapes: gentle rolling hills, expansive fields of sunflowers, cypress tree-lined country lanes and vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see. The landscapes, settlements, weather and light collude to make Tuscany a photographer’s dream! The best areas to view the quintessentially Tuscan landscapes are in the Chianti (the region between Florence and Siena), the Maremma and the Montepulciano-Montalcino axis.
My love affair with Tuscany started with a simple plate of spaghetti aglio e olio peperoncino (olive oil, garlic and peppers) in a small trattoria in Florence. Since then, I’ve explored a wide array of Italian cuisine (and I still have much more to discover). It amazes me each time how such seemingly simple dishes can taste so beautiful. Some of my best foodie experiences were in Tuscany, like the sublime pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup) and the succulent vitello arrosto (roast veal) I had in Siena; or that heavenly pizza layered with lardo di colonnata (pig fat made in a white marble vat with garlic and herbs/spices) in Ristorante Lo Zenzero just north of Pisa; or one of the juiciest sirloin steaks I’ve ever had sprinkled with fresh black truffles in a Paganico; or the time I stayed at an agriturismo where the lady of the house served us bread soaked in red wine and topped with sugar! Oh, and then there’s the ice-cream, in particular the excellent gelato in Pisa! Tuscan food is simply a precious gift that I’ll accept with open arms, any time! If you’re interested in Tuscan cuisine, I highly recommend attending a cooking course, like the ones offered by Cuoche in Vacanza.
Art & Design
Widely recognised as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany is home to some of the most priceless art treasures on the planet. Many of the most famous artworks by the likes of Michelangelo and Donatello can be found in Florence’s museums, such as the Uffizi, but look further and you’ll discover much more art and design. Simply pop into one of the many stunning churches, monasteries, villas and farmhouses to admire and feel inspired by Tuscan art. From the magnificent Charterhouse in Calci to the Piaggio Museum (the home of the Vespa scooter), there’s something for everyone.
Festivals in Tuscany are a true delight. Many of these festivals and events can trace their roots back to medieval times and the Tuscans proudly uphold this heritage right down to the smallest details. One of the most exciting experiences is watching the Palio horse race in Sienna’s Piazza del Campo every July and August. The Viareggio Carnevale (in February and March), with its massive paper-maché floats, is fun for the whole family. The Volterra medieval festival and the Bravio delle Botti, a fun barrel-rolling event in Montepulciano (both take place in the last week of August) are other must-see events.
There are several things I vividly remember from my first venture into the Tuscan countryside: the rolling landscape, the cypress trees and sunflower fields, the rustic farmhouses and the stunning villas. I soon discovered that it’s possible to stay at some of these farmhouses or in a historic villa such as the grand Villa di Corliano. Both offer an authentic Tuscan experience. I’ll always remember my stay an agriturismo where the owner spoiled us silly with heaps of fresh fruit, jams, biscotti, olives, wines and limoncello (lemon liquor) produced at his estate; or my stay in a luxurious villa in Tuscany overlooking mile after mile of vineyards with the hilltop town of Montalcino in the distance. These are wonderful experiences which no one will easily forget.
These are amazing gifts from Tuscany that we can all experience. What are you waiting for?
About the Italy Blogging Roundtable
The Italy Blogging Roundtable is an initiative of five Italy-based travel bloggers. Each month, the bloggers publish an Italy-related post on a specific theme. The Italy Blogging Roundtable bloggers are:
- Gloria (At Home in Tuscany)
- Alexandra (Arttrav)
- Jessica (Italylogue)
- Melanie (Italofile)
- Rebecca (Brigolante)
Note: this post was brought to you in partnership with Paradizo.