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.
Tuscany has two very diverse faces - the art cities such as Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa on one hand, and the countryside on the other. 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.
The wine growing region of Chianti
The ecogreen area of Casentino
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.
Florence, Pisa and Grosseto are important rail destinations. Florence has two major rail stations, Santa Maria Novella (SMN) in the city center 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:
From the central station of Florence you can easily reach most places in Tuscany, including:
Cathedrals, Every Tuscan city has a cathedral (**duomo**), each one prettier than the other.
David , Michelangelo's masterpiece is in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. Copies in the same city on Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Leaning tower, The instantly recognizable landmark is in Pisa on the square of miracles, **Piazza dei miracoli**.
Uffizi Gallery , The best collection of Renaissance art in the world is in Florence.
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
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 boasts 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.
Renting in Tuscany is a very popular way of staying in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Many Italian owners have renovated palazzos, castles, farmhouses, villas and barns that are dotted around the beautiful rolling countryside. Years ago, many of the rental properties were of questionable quality—some were dark, kitchens were old fashioned, bathrooms often had a shower nozzle on the wall, the drain in the floor, no curtain and the toilet right alongside. Now the standard of renovation is quite high. A property, if fully renovated, will usually have newly tiled kitchens, bathrooms with shower stall, and brand-new appliances. Simple renovations will often have large rooms with little furniture in them. There will be one main room with a dining table alongside an open kitchen and one sofa (even if the house sleeps 6!). The kitchen will have a stove top and no oven, and no TV or telephone. More elegant properties will have sponge-painted walls, artwork, and beds with high-quality linens. Bathrooms can have ornate fixtures.
Italian owners are learning they can go online and promote their own property. Finding a property that is located in the situation you want and that offers all the amenities you desire depends on how detailed and open each owner is. Clearly each traveler needs to evaluate her own willingness to risk dealing with an unknown owner. In addition to working with an individual Italian owner through her own website, there are many agencies that represent Italian owners and have offer a selection to clients.
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