Gentle rolling hills, stretching for miles in all directions, dominate the seductive landscape of Tuscany. A haven for flora and fauna, the region’s countryside is dotted with castles and terracotta farmhouses, dutifully watching over the agricultural land.
Tuscany is split into ten provinces, each with its own distinct traditions, customs, food and history. Two of those provinces – Siena and Florence – are brand new to Lakes & Mountains for Summer 19, and have car hire included. This means you can jump in the driver’s seat and explore the winding rural roads to your heart’s content. Here are just a few things to look out for…
Neat rows of silver olive groves, golden wheat fields and flourishing vineyards all stand to attention, bordered by flame-shaped cypress trees protecting them from the wind. For an afternoon of wine tasting, stop off at one of the many cantinas in Chianti, where you’ll take a tour of the cellars and sample time-perfected produce.
Etruscan walls – historically used to shield communities from violent invasions – encircle thriving hilltop towns and villages, where ancient buildings reign and modern structures are non-existent. Take a day trip to the romantic town of Montaione, and visit its oval-shape castle, or make your way to Sam Gimignano to see its skyline of imposing towers.
You’ll also find some of the most famous cities in the world here, from Florence – the cradle of the Renaissance – to Pisa, the home of the notorious leaning tower. Siena, too, is full of photo-worthy UNESCO sites, and if you drop by in July or August, you may even witness the infamous Palio Run – a prestigious horse race around the grand Piazza Il Campo.
Florentine and Sienese cuisine, like all Tuscan cooking, is known for its peasant roots, meaning that many meals are based on meats and beans. In Florence, make sure you order the ever-popular Bistecca alla Fiorentina. This large T-bone steak, cut from a Tuscan breed of cow, is cooked over hot charcoal and served rare. In Siena, Panforte is a must-try – a delightfully sweet yet spicy cake of nuts and candied fruits.
Gentle, lapping waves and golden sands aren’t out of reach either. Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio, in the Province of Lucca, are driveable in 2 hours or less from all of our accommodation in Florence and Siena. With designer boutiques and fashionable beach clubs, Forte dei Marmi is ideal for celeb-spotting. Traditional Viareggio, however, with its shallow waters and freshly caught seafood, is more popular with families.