Tuscany is an extraordinary, unique region and undisputed star in the world tourism firmament, with its landscapes, artistic heritage, and important Renaissance cities.
Its coastline alternates long, sandy beaches with rocky shores and promontories. The islands of the Tuscan Archipelago and the Argentario peninsula are a paradise surrounded by crystal-clear sea and rich underwater life. Inland lie the majestic Apuan Alps, wooded valleys, the famous Chianti hills, medieval hamlets and rural landscapes.
Not to be missed: one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s historic, religious and artistic centre is Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore topped by Brunelleschi’s majestic dome, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and Giotto’s bell tower. In Piazza della Signoria stand the 14th century Loggia dei Lanzi, the Fountain of Neptune and the Palazzo Vecchio. The stunning Uffizi gallery is home to one of the world’s most important art museums. Palazzo Pitti boasts the wonderful Boboli Gardens, with architecture, statues and fountains.
Dining out: The traditional cuisine, based on country fare, is made from simple ingredients: toasted savouries (crostini) topped with chicken livers and veal spleen; pappardelle pasta with hare ragout; panzanella sala; tomato soup or “pappa al pomodoro”; the famous Florentine T-bone steaks; stewed tripe or “lampredotto” tripe sandwiches; and boiled or casseroled beans are just some of the very tasty specialities. The wines are also excellent, and include Chianti Classico DOCG, Pomino DOC, Bianco dell’Empolese DOC, Colli dell’Etruria Centrale DOC, Toscana IGT and Vin Santo DOC.
Not to be missed: Pisa, on the banks of the River Arno, offers the visitor wonderful architectural treasures. On the Campo dei Miracoli, named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, stand buildings of inestimable value: the Cathedral and Baptistery, both in Pisan-Romanesque style; the Camposanto (Cemetery); and the famous Leaning Tower. The Piazza dei Cavalieri and San Matteo National Museum are both in the city centre, while the Church of Santa Maria della Spina, a Pisan Gothic gem, stands on the banks of the Arno.
Dining out: local recipes include San Michele white bean soup, bavettine pasta with fish sauce, clam soup, pork livers, eels Pisan style and salt cod.
The Versilia district owes its fame to the Sixties, when it became one of the most famous international holiday locations. Sunshine, sea and large, well-kept beaches made it a mythical holiday and leisure destination. In the evening, visitors thronged to famous venues like “La Bussola” or “La Capannina” to hear concerts by international artists including Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong, while literary celebrities of the likes of Montale, Primo Levi or Ungaretti could be seen enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail.
Today Versilia maintains standards worthy of its fame, and apart from the relaxation available on its beaches, resorts such as Marina di Pietrasanta, Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio offer a packed seasons of events and performances at trendy venues that attract an international audience.