Tuscan treats: A brief guide to Florence, Siena, Pisa and more
With its picture-postcard scenery of rolling hills peppered with castles and age-old villages, Tuscany has long been a popular holiday destination. Visitors flock to Tuscany to visit its historic towns jam packed with art (the region alone has more classified historical monuments than any other country) and its vine-clad hills. Then there's the hearty cuisine, a real delight for meat lovers. In this brief guide we highlight the region's unmissable attractions, from its medieval hilltop villages to its less trodden coastal areas.
Tuscany does, indeed, conjure romantic images of the Italian countryside, and as you'll see it's also home to some of the country's most famous and noteworthy attractions. Book your Tuscan break with TUI* this summer, and you can explore these historic destinations all the while enjoying the value and comfort from a choice of TUI resorts.
The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is everything it's hyped up to be: it's home to beautifully preserved medieval streets, churches harbouring magnificent frescoes, and museums displaying some of the world's greatest works of art. Dominating the skyline is Brunelleschi's cathedral dome, to this day the largest masonry dome ever built.
Some of the most important works of the Renaissance are housed in the Uffizi Gallery, while among the city's decorated chapels and churches are the Cappella Brancacci, which harbours frescoes by Masaccio, and the Medici Chapel, with marble statuary by Michelangelo.
Surrounded by 13th century walls, this medieval town is one of Italy's most visited - and understandably so. Its gorgeous medieval centre, among the best preserved anywhere, provides a real sense of history, while its rural setting amid rolling vineyards only adds to the enchanting atmosphere.
It's easily recognisable from a distance, its lofty towers constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries dominating the skyline. The 72 constructions were built by feuding nobles who sought to display their wealth and power; today, 14 still stand. Don't miss the Collegiata, or Duomo, one of the region's most beautifully frescoed churches.
Tourists head to Pisa in droves to gawp at the Leaning Tower, although the rest of the city deserves as much attention. Beautiful Campo dei Miracoli, home to the Duomo, Baptistry and Camposanto (cemetery) was built in the Pisan Gothic style in gleaming white marble when the city was a major maritime power.
Begun in 1173, the Leaning Tower began to tilt when only three of its eight storeys had been built. Stones were placed to rectify the problem, but it was only between 1990 and 2001 that the tower was stabilised. Climb 294 steps up a steep spiral staircase to the bell chamber for panoramic city views.
Beautiful Siena is a must on any trip to the region. The core of this medieval city is impeccably preserved. Siena flourished during the 12th and 13th centuries, becoming one of Europe's major cities, with strong mercantile and banking traditions (the city is home to the world's oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which has been operating since 1472).
Lying at its heart is the shell-shaped Piazza Il Campo, undoubtedly one of the country's most beautiful squares and setting for the biannual Palio bareback horse race, the country's most thrilling festival event. For spectacular city views climb the 503 steps to the top of Torre del Mangia.
To most foreigners Tuscany doesn't evoke images of sun-kissed beaches, but with over 400 miles of coastline, there's plenty on offer. Italians flock to the seaside in July and August, with sun worshippers vying for sunbeds and parasols.
If you're eager to escape the crowds for a more rugged coastal experience head to Maremma, a chunk of coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea that stretches into neighbouring Lazio. Much of its 160km are natural parks home to abundant flora and fauna, with secluded bays and coves that are a far cry from the crowded shoreline of the rest of the region. Maremma is ideal for outdoorsy types, with plenty of activities including windsurfing, water skiing, scuba diving and spearfishing.
Pretty little Lucca, surrounded by Renaissance defensive walls, is worth visiting for its laid back welcoming atmosphere. It's home to gorgeous piazzas and narrow streets that are a pleasure to wander around - and while it gets busy in summer, it's nowhere near as crowded as Florence or Siena. The highlight is probably Piazza Anfiteatro, an oval circuit of medieval buildings that was once a Roman amphitheatre; today, it's lined with bars and shops.
Chianti wine tasting
Lying between Florence and Siena, the Chianti Classico area is home to fabled scenery, with hills carpeted in vineyards, cypress trees and olive groves. Castles and hilltop villages are sprinkled here and there, and there are plenty of wine tasting opportunities in the numerous estates that produce fine reds. As well as visiting wine-makers, you'll be able to overnight in traditional agriturismi (farm-stays) and sample local cuisine at an authentic trattoria.
These Tuscan treats can be yours to explore this summer if you book a great value break with TUI. Fly from a number of London airports as well as Manchester and Bristol, and remember you will find the best deals on holidays to Tuscany with TUI right here at Weather2Travel.com. You can also see what the weather in Tuscany is like, and when we think is the best time to go for top holiday conditions.
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