It is one of the most famous regions of Italy and attracts visitors from all over the world. A treasure trove of historical and artistic relics, it has seen the birth and operation of some of the most important artists of the Renaissance and beyond.
Much of its territory is hilly, but it is also rich in vast fields, protected parks, waterfalls and vineyards.
Bathed to the north by the Ligurian Sea and to the south by the Tyrrhenian Sea, it boasts 230 kilometers of coastline and also seven spectacular islands of the Tuscan Archipelago containing Elba, Isola del Giglio, Montecristo, Capraia, Pianosa, Giannutri and Gorgona, which offer many opportunities for those who love the sea.To the north of the Tuscan coast, Versilia, bordered by the Apuan Alps, offers wonderful views of the sea. To the South we meet the Etruscan coast, between Livorno and Piombino, with a clean, transparent sea and a rich history. To the south of the region lies the Maremma, famous for its seaside activities, trekking and Etruscan, Roman and medieval historical ruins.
The region is surrounded by the Apennine Mountains, but the hills are the true heart of Tuscany.
- Nature and Landscapes of Tuscany
- Cities of Art of Tuscany
- The Villages of Tuscany
- The Flavors of Tuscany
The enchanting Colline del Chianti (Chianti Hills) and its flourishing vineyards are a strong attraction for tourists from all over the world, for the sweetness of the landscapes, the history, the mild climate, good food and of course the excellent wine. They stretch for about 20 km, between the provinces of four of the most important and visited Tuscan cities, Florence, Siena, Pisa and Arezzo.
The Sweet Valley Between Florence and Siena
The gentle valleys that open between the slopes are jewels of nature and culture. The Val D’Elsa, which takes its name from the river that cuts through it, is located between Florence and Siena and is dotted with characteristic historic villages. In ancient times it was inhabited by the Etruscans, of which numerous testimonies remain and in medieval times with the construction of the via Francigena, it became an important economic, political and military hub.
Val di Chiana
The Val di Chiana is divided between the provinces of Siena and Arezzo and extends to some municipalities in Umbria between Perugia and Terni. Thanks to the fertility of its lands, it has always been considered il granaio dell’Etruria (granary of Etruria). Its importance in Etruscan times has been shown by the high number of archeological sites found in Arezzo. The historic artifacts discovered in this area range from prehistory to the period of the Roman Republic and subsequently to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Since ancient times the Val di Chiana has distinguished itself for the production of fine wines and now for chianina, a breed of white cow once used as a working animal and now raised for its meat.
South of Tuscany, between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, between hills, medieval villages, vineyards and olive groves, dotted with castles, abbeys and ancient bridges, lies the Val D’Orcia, recognized in 2004 by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site for its enchanting agricultural landscape and historical buildings linked to the ancient via Francigena. Pienza is a shining example of the region’s well preserved Renaissance character.
Is known to all as the cradle of the Renaissance. Thanks to the Medici family who built their legacy here, the city thrived over the centuries, becoming one of the most famous cultural and artistic centers in Italy. It is built around the Arno river which has brought fortune, being an excellent shipping channel for commercial traffic, but also ruin, due to the violent floods that have caused significant damage to the city and its priceless works of art.
Florence has kept its splendor and charm intact over the centuries, it offers occasions of amazement and wonder thanks to its innumerable treasures. Following a path that winds through the two poles of the city, the political one that has its center in Piazza della Signoria and the religious one that revolves around the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (whose extraordinary dome, the largest ever built, defies the laws of gravity and aspires to heaven), you can admire the majestic architectural works created by the most prestigious artists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Masterpieces loved the world over, including Michaelangelo’s David, are kept in the numerous museums among which the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti stand out.
A walk along the Lungarno will allow you a splendid view of Ponte Vecchio, with its colorful houses and goldsmith shops and, if you cross it, you can get lost in the winding alleys of the Oltrarno which maintains its historic character and is rich in splendid monuments.
Located in the heart of Tuscany, in the midst of rolling hills, it is considered the most beautiful medieval city in Italy. Its centerpiece is the airy Piazza del Campo, with its particular shell shape, where the Palio, the famous bareback horse races, takes place on July 2 and August 16 each year. Dominated by the red Palazzo Pubblico, its tower and other splendid fourteenth-century buildings, it showcases the marble Fonte Gaia at its center, a masterpiece by the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia. From here you can easily move through the various districts of the city (terzi), each of which boasts unmissable monuments like the two-colored Duomo, the work of the most important architects, painters and sculptors of the time including Donatello and Michelangelo among others.
Unmissable stop of a Tuscan holiday, it is mainly known for its leaning tower but is packed with incredible sights. The Piazza dei Miracoli is one of the most beautiful in the world, a Unesco World Heritage Site because of the amount of architectural masterpieces it houses. The Duomo, the Baptistery and the ubiquitous leaning tower are extraordinary examples of Pisan Romanesque, which combines Gothic elements, classical, early Christian, Lombard and oriental motifs. But Pisa boasts an older history, born as an Etruscan and then Roman port from the first century B.C. Thanks to its strategic position on the Arno and access to the Tyrrhenian Sea, it became a Maritime Republic in the 11th century, experiencing an extraordinary economic and consequently artistic development. For this reason, it is full of important monuments, from medieval churches to the more recent palaces and military architecture.
It grew in importance in the 6th century with the arrival of the Lombards who made it the capital of Tuscia, in the following centuries it maintained its relevance, so much so that Dante himself spent long years of exile there. Today Lucca is known above all as the city of a hundred churches. Its walls, which have remained intact since the 1500s, truly house one hundred churches. Just venture into the maze of its narrow streets and squares to find them. The best known is undoubtedly the Cathedral of San Martino which is home to the sublime funeral monument sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia in memory of Ilaria del Carretto.
Equally splendid and rich in history, are the countless villages scattered throughout the Tuscan territory, appreciated both for their artistic and natural beauties and for having given birth to illustrious personalities of our culture.
The birthplace of the famous Leonardo, is located in the lower Valdarno. It was the land of Etruscans and then the seat of a Roman castrum until it was dominated by the Counts of Guidi and subsequently subjected to Florence, then becoming a theater of many wars. Located on the slopes of Montalbano, rich in vineyards and olive groves, it was a source of inspiration for Leonardo who often painted its natural beauty. His first important drawing, dated 1473, is of this countryside and is considered the first representation of pure landscape in the history of art.
Is the birthplace of the famous author of the Decameron, Boccaccio. Last municipality in the province of Florence, located in the center of the Val D’Elsa, it is a village rich in history (Etruscan settlement, later Roman and later an important medieval center) and houses a museum dedicated to Boccaccio and his famous tale of a group of noble friends who go to the country and tell stories during the plague.
In the province of Siena, there is the splendid San Gimignano known as the city of a hundred towers, in whose heart stands the Duomo, a real jewel of the medieval era, full of extraordinary frescoes. Nearby Monteriggioni boasts an almost intact defensive wall dating back to the 14th century as well as a medieval castle which watched over the via Francigena, and today is one of the most evocative stages of the hiking route dedicated to it.
Montalcino and Montepulciano
Are two other wonders in the heart of this enchanted land. To reach them, go up the hills, along a cluster of vineyards, small country roads and colors ranging from yellow to green, to red. Here the palate is spoiled, as well as the eyes, thanks to the famous local wine: Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano. In the countryside near Montalcino, Gregorian chants can still be heard in a famous abbey founded by Charlemagne.
Meat is the real protagonist of Tuscan cuisine. Known as Chianina, because it is produced in the Val di Chiana, it is famous in all its forms: from Florentine steak, to sliced beef, to scottiglia, a hardy meat stew.
Cinta Senese e Lardo di Colonnata
Highly renowned is the Cinta Senese, a pork breed excellent for making cured meats such as lardo di colonnata a fatback salumi and finocchiona, salami flavored with fennel seeds and bathed in red wine.
The cheeses are no different, the pecorino toscano is famous, with its unmistakable yellow crust and the grande vecchio di Montefollonico, produced with sheep’s milk.
Among the most famous dishes, there are crostini di fegatini, eaten as an appetizer, pici al sugo or pici all’aglione (like a thick spaghetti with red sauce or garlic), pappardelle al sugo di cinghiale (wide pasta with wild boar sauce) or penne strascicate (shredded penne pasta). A typical seafood soup of the coast, caciucco alla livornese or caciucco alla viareggina will make you want to lick your bowl.
For vegetarians there is panzanella or zuppa di cavolo nero (black cabbage soup) or la ribollita (hearty bread soup).
Viticulture in Tuscany dates back to the time of the Etruscans and Romans. It was Florentine noble families who made wine a profitable activity, such as the Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli who still carry on a centuries-old wine making tradition.
With an area of 57,861 hectares of vineyards, Tuscany is one of the top Italian regions for the production of wine, 85% of which is red.
The whites produced include Empolese White, Pitigliano, and the famous Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the only wine to appear in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
But the reds are the pride of this region. Foremost, Chianti, 80% of which is produced with Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining 20% come from varieties such as Canaiolo Nero and Colorino, but also some international ones, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chianti Classico differs from Chianti wine because it is produced 70% from Sangiovese grapes, 15% from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, while 10% must be from white grapes, in particular from Malvasia, introduced by Bettino Ricasoli in 1870 to increase its flavor and make it lighter.
Then there are Brunello di Montalcino, a formula invented by Clemente Santi who obtained numerous prizes for this in 1850. But also Rosso di Montepulciano which Pope Paolo III was known to enjoy, or Vino Nobile only produced in Montepulciano.
Last, but not least, is the aforementioned vinsanto in which the almond biscuit cantuccio is dipped.
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