Tuscany is located in the central western part of Italy, a few hours’ drive north of Rome. All though the landscape is dominated by mountains and hilly country, the region also offers many kilometres of wonderful beaches along the Tyrrhenian Sea. Less than 10 percent of the total area is made up by plains, but as you drive through Tuscany you will encounter one beautiful landscape after another. Tuscany is a wine producing region, which is best known for the Chianti wine district.
Another distinguishing feature is the beautiful artistic legacy which becomes apparent every time you visit one of the old cities in the region. As of 2009, no less than six localities have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO: The historic centres of Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Pienza, the cathedral square of Pisa and the beautiful Val d’Orcia south of Siena.
For first time visitors to Tuscany, those six localities are more than enough for a great holiday – and even more, if you also plan to spend a few days on the beach. For families with children, a stay in a holiday home near Pisa makes an excellent compromise. During any stay in Pisa it is simply a must to experience the beautiful cathedral square, Piazza dei Miracoli, where the world famous Leaning Tower is located. As Pisa is located fairly close to the sea, a stay here makes it possible to combine a breathtaking cultural experience with having fun on the beach with the children.
However, Florence, is the first choice of many of those visitors who go to Tuscany each year. The city is the capital of the region with a history stretching back to 59 B.C., where it was founded by Julius Caesar. Several centuries later, the European Renaissance emanated from the city. Scientists and artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were born in Tuscany, where both of them spend parts of their careers creating great works of art on behalf of the wealthy Medici family.
Be sure to visit the Uffizi Gallery, which displays the family’s vast art collection. The main seat of the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany was the Pitti Palace, which is surrounded by the Boboli Gardens. Over the years, the Gardens have developed into an outdoor museum with wide avenues, beautiful sculptures and impressive fountains. Don’t miss the opportunity to go here during your stay in Florence.
A few hours’ drive to the south of Florence, is located the nearly 3000 years old city of Siena. The city’s central square is the Piazza del Campo which, along with the cathedral of Siena “the Duomo” is among the attractions you just can’s miss when visiting the city. A trip into the countryside will bring you into a hilly yet fertile terrain, due to the wine yards located here.
The picturesque Val d’Orcia extends from the southern outskirts of Siena to Monte Amiata, a large and very impressive lava dome, created by volcanic eruptions several hundreds of thousands of years ago. The drive through the fertile valley, which is a World Heritage Site is in fact not a very long one, but as you will surely make several stops to enjoy the beautiful landscape, it will probably take you several hours nonetheless.