Even in Italy, spoiled by sights, the historical region of Tuscany (Toscana) rightfully occupies a special place. More than half of the Italian monuments under the protection of UNESCO are concentrated here. The architectural ensembles of Florence and Pisa with the famous tower, the city of “medieval skyscrapers” San Gimignano and the untouched walls of Lucca, as if descended from the paintings of the Renaissance masters – all this is Tuscany. See ANDYEDUCATION.COM for education and training in Italy.
It is also the birthplace of Dante and Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci… and Chianti, whose popularity still brings the region a steady income. Ecotourism lovers have chosen the countryside of Tuscany, while fans of beach holidays and diving have chosen the coast of the region and the island of Elba, famous not only for the residence of Napoleon, but also for the clear sea with coral reefs.
Tuscany borders on Liguria in the northwest and Emilia-Romagna in the north, in the east it borders with Umbria and the Marche, and in the south with Lazio. The length of the Tuscan coast is 320 km, and all of it is washed by the Tyrrhenian Sea. Along the coastal strip there are many pretty resorts and beaches, more about them on the Tuscan Riviera page.
Most of Tuscany is hills and mountains, and the flat terrain, located in the Arno Valley, occupies less than 10% of the entire territory of the region. To the north and east Tuscany is surrounded by the Apennines, in the provinces of Lucca and Massa Carrara are the Apuan Alps, which are the source of Carrara marble, in the center of the region are the Metaliferous Hills, and between Pisa+ and Lucca are the Pisa Mountains.
Cities of Tuscany
Volterra is a former Etruscan settlement, “hovering” over the surrounding area on a steep hill. The gates, the Medici fortress, the ruins of a theater, baths with mosaic floors, the remains of fortress walls and an incredible amount of grave goods in the Etruscan Museum have been preserved there.
In Siena, the giant cathedral, Piazza Capmo and the multi -towered San Gimignano, located 42 km to the north, are of interest. To the south is the Abbey of San Galgano, where Tarkovsky filmed Nostalgia.
Arezzo is an elegant white-stone town with a cathedral square and a castle, a gold factory and an antique fair on the first Sunday of every month. The national pride of the Italians, the film Life is Beautiful, was also staged here.
A medieval fortress in the middle of vineyards where they make amazing Brunello wine is Montalcino. There is an enoteca in the castle: a snack is served with a drink – sausage and cheese. You can continue the tasting directly at the surrounding winemakers. In the same region is the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, one of the most ancient and beautiful in all of Tuscany.
Pienza was completely invented in 1458 by Pope Pius II. In just 3 years, a cathedral, a town hall, a papal palace and the palace of Cardinal Rodrigo de Borgia (the future Alexander VI) were built on the main square.
The town of Lucca is chock-full of absolutely incredible churches. Not a single repeating detail can be found on the white-green-marble facade of the cathedral; inside there are frescoes by Tintoretto. Also of interest are the Roman amphitheater and the fortress walls with a shady promenade for 4 km.
Finding accommodation of any class in Tuscany is not a problem – it is much more difficult to do it for reasonable money, because not everyone wants to pay up to 150-220 EUR per night, albeit in a beautiful villa. Even in cities far from the coast, prices rise by a third during the holiday season, and by half in the vicinity of elite beaches. There is only one recipe here: long before the holidays, start “monitoring” Tuscan hotels and catch discounts that are frequent in the off-season – then you can count on a price of 50-80 EUR for a double room in an average hotel.
Tuscany has a developed system of hostels – for 35-50 EUR you can find good options. Most owners provide free (or inexpensive) Wi-Fi, in some cases a small breakfast may be included in the price.
Families with children should pay attention to apart-hotels – the price in them is comparable to traditional hotels, and there is more space in the room. The obligatory kitchen in such establishments makes it possible not only to create a “children’s menu” by yourself, but also to save a lot on food for adults. Fans of “rural” tourism will be interested in renting former farms turned into mini-hotels – for only 40-70 EUR per day you can stay in a separate house with all modern amenities.
The popularity of Tuscany beaches has long crossed the borders of Italy. The fashionable beaches of Versilia are especially famous – famous for both the level of service and inhumane prices. During the holiday season, which lasts almost half a year on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea (from May to October), the influx of tourists to the beaches of Viareggio or Forte dei Marmi is so great that even for 35-50 EUR a day it is not always possible to find a place with a sunbed and awning.
Less prestigious, but noteworthy beaches are located in the southern part of the coast, from Livorno to Monte Argentario. It is especially worth highlighting Rosignano – the only beach in Europe with white sand, reminiscent of the Caribbean. It owes its unusual color to the nearby soda plant: it does not cause environmental damage, but it colors the local sand and gives the coastal waters a hazy hue.
Lovers of the crystal-clear sea go to Elba – a ferry from the continent delivers to the island in an hour. In addition to the clear waters, the beaches of the Elba are famous for their colors – from white and pink shades of sand to almost black pebbles. Another indisputable advantage of most island beaches is that they are free.
Thanks to the long ribbon of continental coastline and the island coves of the Tuscan archipelago, the region is quite popular among divers of all skill levels. Most of the elite resorts of the Tuscan Riviera have their own diving centers. They are mainly designed for beginner divers and those who combine their favorite hobby with family vacations. The Elba attracts more experienced athletes, the water is cleaner there, and the marine fauna is richer. However, there are all conditions for family holidays.
The price of one dive usually does not exceed 55 EUR, and the rental of full equipment is 25 EUR (prices may vary, depending on the chosen dive center). Beginners in scuba diving need to take specialized courses before diving, which are usually held there.
True enthusiasts and solo athletes prefer the islands of Gianutri and Giglio. The first is distinguished by a healing climate and an abundance of rocks, reefs and hidden grottoes, and the second is absolutely untouched nature (the central part of the island is still uninhabited) and the cleanest water in the archipelago.
Giglio owes its current world fame to a terrible disaster: near this island in January 2012, the famous Costa Concordia was hit and overturned.
Tuscany is considered to be the ideal place for shopping. In any more or less large city of the region, the entire range of shops is presented: from boutiques of world brands to democratic supermarkets and tiny souvenir shops. Adherents of gastronomic tourism are simply obliged to visit local markets and enotecas; olive oil is especially popular.
Most travelers start from Florence: in addition to mono-brand stores and a dozen outlets located near the city, tourists are attracted by the local exotic – the San Lorenzo leather market. The Ponte Vecchio Gallery is also popular – an interesting hybrid of an exhibition and a store where you can buy products from the famous Florentine porcelain. Pisa is unofficially considered the souvenir center of Tuscany. On the Square of Miracles near the famous tower, souvenirs of all kinds, shapes and colors are sold. Many tourists traditionally carry magnets, decorated dishes and other popular souvenirs.
Summer sales start in July, winter sales start in the first half of January. As a rule, the maximum discounts are caught in Florentine outlets.
It is customary to go to Lucca for antiques – every third Saturday a flea market unfolds in the central square, where, with luck, you can grab unique items at bargain prices. For example, the Italians have long been known for the art of puppet shows, so old dolls are often sold in such markets – such a souvenir will not only be a very unusual and valuable acquisition, but will also perfectly convey the spirit of Italy.
Cuisine and restaurants in Tuscany
The cuisine of Tuscany can be safely attributed to the monuments of the cultural heritage of the region – after all, local culinary traditions date back to the Middle Ages and have changed little since those times.
Tuscan cuisine is not distinguished by an abundance of spices, especially “newfangled”. More traditional garlic, parsley and celery are used, but in very small quantities – so gourmets accustomed to spicy dishes may find local food bland.
The most famous is the “Florentine steak” – it is cooked over an open fire and seasoned generously with olive oil. Once it was considered a dish of the aristocracy and today it is not cheap – in authentic Florentine restaurants they will ask for at least 50 EUR for it, and a bottle of the famous Chianti can easily double the bill. Dinner in an Italian restaurant can cost 50-80 EUR per person.
For original peasant dishes, you should go to local markets, where seafood dishes are also prepared on an open fire, as well as simple but hearty soups based on legumes – according to classic recipes, they are boiled for several hours. For takeaway, you can take local olive oil and traditional Tuscan bread, considered the best in Italy since the time of Dante.
As fast food, small slices of pizza and a variety of stuffed rice balls are the most popular – within 10-15 EUR you can have a good bite. The edals of world chains are also presented.
Entertainment and attractions
The indigenous people of Tuscany, without false modesty, consider their region rich in sights to be the cradle of European civilization – it, like a sponge, has absorbed the best achievements of mankind over 2500 years. In the small town of Fiesole, founded in the time of the Etruscans, to this day you can visit the well-preserved Roman amphitheater and ancient baths; the famous monument of the era, the “city of skyscrapers” San Gimignano, can tell a lot about the turbulent times of the Italian Middle Ages. Ancient Pisa is known not only for its super popular tower among tourists, but also for the role of the local native Galileo in the development of European science.
The countryside of the region is an attraction in itself. For several centuries, it has not changed much, gentle slopes of hills covered with vineyards, groves along the roads and small cozy towns have been attracting tourists from all over the world for many years.
The capital of the region, Florence, will equally captivate lovers of painting, history and literature – the collection of the famous Florentine Uffizi Gallery is quite capable of competing with the famous Louvre. The palaces and squares of the city are so recognizable that they have long become the hallmark of the country. Connoisseurs of the Divine Comedy will not be able to pass by the Dante House Museum, and music lovers will like the oldest theater in Europe – Pergola. The small town of Certaldo became famous thanks to another famous writer – Giovanni Boccaccio.
Located in the Chianti Valley, Siena is famous for its authentic medieval look, and the coastal Livorno is famous for its maritime flavor and the indescribable atmosphere of a port city. The island of Elba is known not only thanks to Emperor Napoleon, but also as an ideal place for a family vacation, the “island of 130 beaches” and the “capital” of the largest natural reserve in the Mediterranean – Tuscany National Park.
The best periods to visit Tuscany are from May to June and from September to October – during this time the temperature range is most favorable.
It is quite hot in summer, during July and August the temperature constantly rises above +30 ° C, and in autumn the rainy season begins, gradually weakening by January. Winter is quite cold by Italian standards, but even in the mountains it rarely comes to frost. On the coast, the climate is milder. Due to the fact that it is protected by the mountains from the cold northern winds, the heat brought by the African winds is stored here throughout the year.