Tuscany is a legendary region in central Italy that stretches from the Apennine Mountains
to the west coast, meanderingthrough endless vineyards, medieval townsand the impossibly beautiful
cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa. In todays modern world, defined by alarm clocks, deadlines and traffic jams, Tuscany lures travelers with the promise of
a warmer, gentler way of living. Here, high art mingles deliciously
with warm sunshine and fragrant wine. History seeps through the cobblestones and small occasions are transformed into the greatest of pleasures.
Around six hundred years ago, Tuscany changed the world forever when economic, cultural and political forces collided, sparking the Renaissance. It was a new way of thought in which art and
education were highly prized and the search for happiness, a noble goal. Although the world has changed much since then, Tuscanys values hold firm and visitors to this region can happily spend
days and weeks slowly rediscovering them. At the epicentre of the Renaissance
was the capital city of Florence.
For centuries, powerful families competed
with each other and with the church
to create the grandest buildings and commission the finest artworks
of their time. The patronage of writers, artists and thinkers bought prestige for the wealthy
and under this system, geniuses such as Michelangelo
and Leonardo Da Vinci thrived. Other greats such as Botticelli and Rafael also walked these streets and you can still
see their work in the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery, which is one of the oldest art museums
in the western world. Florences architecture also flourished
under this system and many of the great buildings
from that time remain.
With its historic piazzas, beautiful churches
and ornate palaces, Florence feels like a living, breathing museum. Florence isnt the only part of Tuscany
that echoes with the gilded footsteps of history. During the Renaissance, the province of Siena competed fiercely
with Florence and commissioned many of its own beautiful works
to lure wealthy Florentine families. Visit medieval hill towns, such as Monticchiello and Montalcino which played a strategic role
in generations of power struggles.
Sit high on the timeless ramparts of these
towns which have remained almost unchanged for 1000 years. Pisa, known around the world for its famous tower, is a wonderful place to discover on foot. A couple of hours’ drive away is the hilltop
town of Volterra. Skilled alabaster craftsmen have been turning
this luminous stone into pieces of art since the days of the Romans.
But perhaps Tuscanys greatest artworks, are those created by mother nature. With its warm thermal springs, unspoiled beaches
and wildflower-filled national parks, Tuscanys natural beauty has been seducing visitors
since the days of the Romans. Head to Tuscanys west coast to discover
coastline that stretches for hundreds of miles and visit ancient ports that feel as if
they have been here forever. A little further south is a wilder part of
Tuscany where you can enjoy rolling hills, wildflowers and a warm appreciation of the
good things in life, including of course, wine.
Follow your palate along winding roads and
sun-warmed olive groves to the vineyards of Chianti. This area is world-famous for its earthy style
of wine and many of the vineyards are associated with castles, each producing a wine
that bears the castles name. The beautiful towns of Cortona and Arrezzo are also famous for their wines. Pair your wine with Tuscanys famously simple food and linger over picnics
created with seasonal ingredients, cheeses and cured meats.
Tuscanys abundant hills are full
of locally grown produce whose flavours capture the very essence
of the land. In the rest of the world, the Renaissance may now be a chapter in
the history books but in Tuscany, traces of that noble time remain. They linger in the gentle hills,
the warm traditions, the grand art and in the regions never-ending
search for happiness..