Tuscany

Tuscany in Italy.

Tuscany (Italian: Toscana) is a region on Italy's west coast, on the Tyrrhenian sea. It is one of the most popular places to visit in a country that is itself one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. There are several reasons to visit Tuscany: some of the most important ones are seeing Renaissance art in Florence, eating Tuscan food and tasting the excellent local wines, and after all this enjoying a day at the beach in Viareggio.

Regions

The 10 provinces of Tuscany.

Provinces

Other regions

Cities

Other destinations

Except for the recent introduction of large-scale sunflower cultivation for oil, the Tuscan countryside in many instances looks quite similar to what you see in Gothic Florentine and Sienese paintings

There are many hot springs in Tuscany, which have been prized since ancient Roman times, if not earlier.

Understand

Tuscany has three very diverse faces; the art cities such as Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa, the countryside, and the coastal and islands region.

The small towns, villages, castles, villas and vineyards of Tuscany make a welcome change from the traffic and noise of some of the larger Tuscan cities.

Get in

The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, at dusk

By plane

International flights commonly come in to Milan or Rome, where one can rent a car and do the three-hour drive to Tuscany.

Florence and Pisa have important airports. Every major city has a railway station.

Do note that Delta Airlines (US carrier) now has a direct flight from New-York JFK to Pisa, offering a cheaper, alternative to flying into Florence.

By train

Florence, Pisa, and Grosseto are important rail destinations. Florence has two major rail stations, Santa Maria Novella (SMN) in the city centre and Campo di Marte (CdM) a bit further away.

Connections from Florence to the rest of Italy by train are generally fast and frequent and EuroStar Italia services are available. Easy connections can be found to:

Night train services are available from Florence to:

and others.

Get around

Adoration of the Magi by the Florentine Gothic painter, Gentile da Fabriano, on display at the Uffizi in Florence

By train

From the central station of Florence you can easily reach most places in Tuscany, including:

By bus

Toscana Mobilitá has a useful website for bus routes and schedules in Tuscany. The site is mostly in Italian, but is simple to use. (The Tuscan bus companies Siena Mobilitá, Tiemme, and Toscana Mobilitá seem to be affiliated.)

Siena Mobilità has bus schedules (orari) for and between a number of popular towns in Tuscany including Florence (Firenze in the schedule), Siena, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Cortona, Montepulciano and Chiusi among others. Local services for several cities are marked urbano. The interurban services are all under the tab servizio extraurbano.

Google maps identify bus stops throughout Tuscany for both local and interurban routes. If you click on the bus stop symbol, you can get a list of bus routes serving that stop. Using Google Streetview, you can often identify which side of the road the stop is situated and hence which direction of travel is served by the stop.

Bus users should purchase their bus tickets before boarding the bus. Most Tabacchi-shops (tobacconists) sell bus tickets. Sometimes newsstands and bars may also sell tickets. You must tell the ticket seller your destination so that your ticket will be valid for the correct fare zones. After boarding the bus, stamp your ticket in the machine located behind the driver.

Be aware that many routes have either reduced or no service on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Schedules indicate reduced service as festivo while the regular work day schedule is feriale. Many bus stops have posted schedules.

Blue-coloured buses are for interurban service while orange-coloured buses are for local service. Interurban buses can serve local stops along the route.

See

Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa

Tuscany is world-famous for its churches, including the Duomo and Baptistery, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, San Miniato al Monte and several others in Florence; the Duomo and Baptistery in Siena; and the Duomo and Baptistery in Pisa.

Tuscany is also known for its great museums, especially the Uffizi in Florence but also the Bargello and Accademia, the Musei dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence and Siena, the museum in the Palazzo Pubblico and the Pinacoteca in Siena, and the Museo Archeologico in Arezzo, among many others.

The small town of San Gimignano deserves special mention because while none of its churches or museums are very large, it contains so much beauty in such a small area. The town of Pienza is itself practically a museum in the round, as its foremost claim to fame is its architecture. There are many other beautiful small towns with great art, including Cortona.

Which segues into the other great draw of a trip to Tuscany: The beauty of the countryside. In order to understand Tuscan painting, you need to see the Tuscan countryside, which except for the relatively recent introduction of sunflower cultivation is still similar to what you can see in paintings by great Gothic painters like Giotto (Florentine), Simone Martini and Duccio (Sienese).

Parks

Medici Villas and Gardens, Fiesole

Do

Besides wandering in beautiful cities and looking at Renaissance art, there are many other things you can do in Tuscany. For example, you can learn to cook or just taste Tuscan food, do trekking, golf or go to a health spa.

See also: Wine tourism#Italy

Most of the important traditional wine producers are located along the axis formed by Florence and Siena. The most famous region is Chianti along with neighboring Montalcino and Montepulciano. The white wines are less famous than the reds, but as an exception the Vernaccia of San Gimignano is recognized as a DOCG wine. The Tuscan wine industry has evolved a lot during the last 30-40 years, and the result is what is called Super Tuscan wine, famously produced in Bolgheri but also in Maremma and many other parts of Tuscany.

Tuscany offers great biking opportunities, especially the central part. The hills and small cities give a pleasant variation, but it is rather strenuous, as July and august can be very hot.

Eat

The Duomo of Lucca and the hills beyond

Tuscan food is known for its relative simplicity and its reliance on the high-quality ingredients from its many farms.

A small selection of the rich regional Tuscan cuisine comprises:

In addition, Tuscany has its own traditional cheeses, including Pecorino Toscano, a much milder cheese than the better-known Pecorino Romano and a great accompaniment to prosciutto and melon or just to eat with fresh bread, and Pecorino di Pienza, perhaps an even better appreciated local sheep cheese.

Drink

DOC, DOCG, IGT?

Tuscany has over 30 wines with a Denominazione di origine controllata certificate, some of which have also obtained the Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita certificate. The denominations witness to the strong dedication of the people of this land to vine-growing, and their deep knowledge of wine-making techniques. But some of the best Tuscan wines are labeled with the less strict Indicazione geografica tipica designation, often a sign of a more modern, "international" wine.

The question about what to drink in Tuscany is easy to answer. The region is famed for its wines, most notably the sangiovese reds Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the white Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Of these, Chianti can be anything from inexpensive, drinkable plonk to, when it comes to the best examples of Chianti Classico, a world class wine. The wines of Montalcino and Montepulciano are generally of a high standard, and in particular Brunello regularly receives lots of awards (something reflected on the price as well). If you are not prepared to pay a fortune for your wine but would still like something a bit nicer, both Montalcino and Montepulciano have the common man's version of their wines, Rosso di Montalcino and Rosso di Montepulciano.

Of these traditional wines perhaps only Brunello has the power to accompany a big Florentine steak, bistecca alla fiorentina. For something fleshier, you have to turn to the Super Tuscan wines. These commonly use cabernet sauvignon to complement or to completely replace the traditional grapes. Famous examples are Sassicaia and Tignanello.

Sleep

Piazza delle Erbe, San Gimignano

There are loads of hotels in the cities that are major tourist attractions, including Florence and Siena, and there are also plenty of agriturismo spots and villas in the countryside. If you are seeking less expensive accommodation, you are more likely to find it closer to railway stations in cities like Florence, but some other cities' railway stations are outside the city walls, and some major destinations such as San Gimignano don't have any railway station at all. You may also try your luck at local tourism agencies, which may have a list of relatively inexpensive accommodations, such as apartments for rent by the day or week and pieno pensioni (boarding houses that provide 3 meals a day).

Go next

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