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Toscana

There are mystical places in which time stands still that enchant you and transport you to another dimension. With its bucolic and fairytale landscapes, Tuscany is truly one of those places that isn’t just an ordinary holiday destination but a journey in which you’ll find your bliss. You’ll immediately fall for the region, enchanted by its exquisite cuisine, history, and masterpieces. You’ll never forget the people whom you’ve met and the adventures you’ve had. This ephemeral, momentary passion will quickly evolve into a true and lasting love. Tuscany emanates authenticity and a medieval and traditional charm. It’s a region that will never cease to surprise you. From the most popular destinations – Florence, Siena, and Pisa – to the lesser known villages, you may just find yourself enjoying a plate of pici (similar to spaghetti but larger) and a glass of wine and toasting to a life that can’t get better than this.

Tuscany retains traces of its Etruscan and Roman past as well as being the birthplace of the Renaissance. The region conserves a cultural heritage that is unrivalled worldwide.

Tuscany has countless museums containing the priceless masterpieces of some of the greatest artists of all time, from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, and Donatello, geniuses spanning styles and eras. You make the choice.

A love and respect for fresh, wholesome, and simple ingredients is at the heart of Tuscany’s varied and acclaimed cuisine. Traditionally, many typical Tuscan dishes stem from the deep-rooted principle that nothing should be thrown away. The result is savoury dishes that please tourists and residents alike, such as the soups ribollita and pappa al pomodoro, both made with leftover bread.

On this gastronomic journey, aromas will continually waft your way, whetting your appetite for pappardelle (large, broad pasta noodle) with wild boar sauce, a Florentine steak, tripe, and lampredotto (a local tripe sandwich). The dishes are paired with the region’s famous, distinctive breads that seem tasteless at first. But use a slice to clean the sauce from your plate and it will win you over.

Artisan goods typical of certain areas are the perfect gift for yourself or loved ones at home. Treat yourself to superb handmade products, such as ceramics from Montelupo Fiorentino, crystal from Colle Val d’Elsa, knives from Scarperia nel Mugello, precious alabaster sculptures made in Volterra and the distinctive orange wool of Casentino.

Food products from this culinary paradise will be much appreciated: Colonnata’s lard, Pienza’s pecorino cheese, Siena’s panforte (a chewy fruit and nut dessert) and macaroons, and Lucca’s pan buccellato (a sweet raisin bread). At least a few bottles of wine are in order: Chianti, Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Morellino di Scansano. Obligatory stops for vacation souvenirs that are delicious and nutritious are the prosciutto makers of Cormons and San Daniele del Friuli, the latter being the birthplace of the premium prosciutto bearing the same name. You can even take a guided tour and take home with you a sample of the world’s best prosciutto.

The peaceful, perfectly proportioned landscape in the Val d’Orcia inspired many Renaissance painters with its gently rolling hills that look as if they were drawn, the long, straight lines of cypress trees, delightful olive groves, and golden fields of wheat. In the Maremma area, the variety of views is mind-blowing, from the sea bordered by an endless beach or jagged cliffs to thick woods and land peppered with natural springs. The Chianti area unfolds in undulating hills covered in row after row of grape vines that seem to extend to the horizon. The incredible diversity of landscape has inspired artists and travellers of every era and from every culture.

Hiking allows you to explore Tuscany and admire its beauty from another perspective. Both expert and novice hikers converge on the many available trails particularly in areas such as Garfagnana, Casentino, Lunigiana, and the hills around Florence. There are also a wealth of bike routes for your two-wheeled adventures, suitable if you’re a recreational cyclist or on a cycling vacation. The predominately hilly landscape affords cyclists with plenty of steep climbs. In fact, legendary Italian cyclists Gino Bartali and Mario Cipollini trained on these very hills. The best months for cycling tours are from March through June and from September through October.

Tuscany, a land of a thousand surprises, is the Italian region with the most thermal baths. The highest concentration is in the Siena province where the gently rolling hills meet the green landscape at the foot of Monte Amiata. Petriolo and Saturnia meet all needs, from free soaks in outdoor springs and baths to luxurious spas. Bagno Vignoni is famous for its massive Roman-era bath right in the centre of town. Bagni San Filippo offers two types of therapeutic waters, sulfur baths and unique white mud pools. Make sure you visit Chianciano Terme on the border with the Valdichiana area.

Among Tuscan’s innumerable events, Siena’s Palio stands out. The traditional horse race pits against each other the various neighbourhoods, which decorate the medieval city for the occasion. In Viareggio, one of the world’s most famous carnival celebrations takes place with parades of enormous, allegorical floats made of paper mâché, fireworks, and masked revellers along the promenade. The Pistoia Blues Festival in the first half of July welcomes some of the world’s most esteemed blues artist who perform in the city’s main piazzas. Lucca Comics Games is Europe’s most important festival for fantasy content, from comics to animation and video games. It takes place in October or November.

Prato’s cathedral safeguards the sacra cintola, a girdle believed to have been given to St. Thomas by the Virgin Mary. Ceremonies are held five times a year during which the wool, gold-brocaded relic is paraded through the streets and shown to the crowd packed in the piazza.

In Florence, in turn, the highlight of the Easter celebrations is the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), a tradition that began more than 300 years ago. A wagon is loaded with virtually an arsenal of fireworks that are set off when it’s struck and ignited by fuse in the shape of dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The life of Saint Catherine of Siena, one of Italy’s patron saints, is celebrated 29 April. Visit her birthplace in Siena and the places where she fulfilled her calling. You’ll understand better this beautiful region where “tutto è santo” (everything is holy)!

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toscana

Excellences of the region

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