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Tuscany Travel Guide

Farmhouse at sunrise near Pienza and San Quirico d┤Orcia in Tuscany, Italy (© Luboslav Tiles - iStockphoto.com)
Farmhouse at sunrise near Pienza and San Quirico d┤Orcia in Tuscany.

Introduction

Tuscany (Toscana in Italian) is the fifth largest and ninth most populous region of Italy. With a land area of 23,000 km▓ (8,900 sq mi) and 3.75 million inhabitants, Tuscany is about the same size as Israel or the US state of New Jersey, though half less populous than either of them. The region corresponds roughly to the original core of ancient Etruria, the cradle of Etruscan civilisation.

Tuscany is regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and has been home to some many influential people in the history of arts and science (see below).

Tuscany has more World Heritage Sites than any other Italian region. The UNESCO list includes the historical centre of Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano and Pienza, as well as the Renaissance landscapes of the Val d'Orcia.

The Vespa, the iconic Italian brand of scooter is manufactured by Piaggio in Pontedera, in western Tuscany.

Famous people from Tuscany include (chronologically): the poet Dante Alighieri, the humanist and poet Petrarch, the humanist Giovanni Boccaccio, the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, the sculptor Donatello, the painter Sandro Botticelli, the statesman Lorenzo de' Medici, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, the polymath Leonardo da Vinci, the explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, the politician and philosopher Niccol˛ Machiavelli, the artist Michelangelo, the pysicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, the children's writer Carlo Collodi (author of Pinocchio), the composer Giacomo Puccini, the painter Amedeo Modigliani, and the fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.

The first modern ice cream was developed at the Medici court in Florence in the 16th century.

Cuisine

Tuscan cuisine is characterised by its simplicity and the use of fresh, high-quality fruits, vegetables and herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme) from the Tuscan countryside, which also produces Italy's finest olive oil. Tuscans are proud of the Chianina and Maremmana cows, two of the world's oldest cattle breeds, whose meat is used for the famous bistecca alla fiorentina. Wild game, cured meats, and sausages are also widely consumed.

Tuscan culinary specialties include bistecca alla Fiorentina (thick T-bone steak grilled very rare and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and olive oil), casseruola alla Fiorentina (pasta and diced chicken breasts covered with a sauce of spinach, mushroom soup, garlic, cheese, herbs and sausage), lampredotto (cow's stomach served with tomato, onion, parsley and celery, and eaten in a bread roll), panzanella (salad of bread, tomatoes and olive oil, sometimes also with onions and basil), pappardelle sulla lepre (very broad flat egg noodles in a wild hare sauce), ribollita (potage made with bread and vegetables), and trippa alla fiorentina (tripe fried with vegetables and topped with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese).

The history of viticulture in Tuscany dates back to the Etruscan civilisation, starting in the 8th century BCE. The region produces some of most appraised Italian wines, such as Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Tuscany has 6 Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), and 35 Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC), the second most after Piedmont. 55% of Tuscan wines have a DOC(G) label.

The region's most famous biscuits are the cantuccini, also known as biscotti di Prato, twice-baked hard almond oval-shaped biscuits typically served with a glass of vin santo, a sweet dessert wine. The city of Siena is renowned for its ricciarelli (almond biscuit made with sugar, honey and egg white) and its panforte (a dense almond fruitcake), both dating back to the Middle Ages. In Florence, try the zuccotto (a chilled, dome-shaped dessert made with brandy, cake and ice cream) and schiacciata Alla Fiorentina (an orange-flavoured cake made for the Carnival).



Attractions

Attractions are listed geographically, from west to east (left to right) and north to south (top to bottom).

West

Collodi
Gardens of the Villa Garzoni, Collodi, Tuscany (©  Circumnavigation - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Collodi, Pescia.
Lucca
Piazza dell'anfiteatro, Lucca, Tuscany (© kubais - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Lucca.
Pisa ※
Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, Tuscany (© MasterLu - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Pisa.
Livorno (Leghorn)
Port of Livorno, Tuscany (© mamaphoto - Fotolia.com)
very good Livorno.
Massa Maritima
Massa Maritima, Tuscany (© Marcel Sark÷zi - Fotolia.com)
very good Massa Maritima.
Tuscan Archipelago National Park
Enfola beach, Elba island, Tuscan Archipelago (© MasterLu  - Fotolia.com)
outstanding The Tuscan Archipelago National Park is composed of the islands of Gorgona, Capraia, Elba, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio, and Giannutri.
Portoferraio
Portoferraio, Tuscany (© Luciano Mortula - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Portoferraio.

Other attractions

very good Barga
very good Castiglioncello
good Forte dei Marmi
very good Grosseto
very good Piombino
good Pontedera
very good Porto Santo Stefano
outstanding Tuscan-Emilian Apennines Regional Park
very good Viareggio

Central

Pistoia
Cathedral of Pistoia, Tuscany (© avorym - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Pistoia.
Prato
Imperial castle, Prato, Tuscany (© Quanthem - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Prato.
Florence (Firenze) ※
Sunset on Florence, Tuscany (© Fyle - Fotolia.com)
best in Europe Florence.
San Gimignano ※
San Gimignano, Tuscany (© LianeM - iStockphoto.com)
must-see San Gimignano.
Volterra
Volterra, Tuscany (©  AndreasEdelmann - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Volterra.
Monteriggioni
Monteriggioni, Tuscany (©  franc100 - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Monteriggioni.
Siena ※
Siena, Tuscany (© fotowinnie - Fotolia.com)
must-see Siena.

Other attractions

good Castellina in Chianti
very good Fiesole
good San Galgano Abbey
very good Greve in Chianti
good Radda in Chianti
very good Montalcino

East

Anghiari
Anghiari, Tuscany (© Alexandra Berezina - iStockphoto.com)
very good Anghiari.
Arezzo
Piazza Grande, Arezzo, Tuscany (© avorym - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Arezzo.
Cortona
Cortona, Tuscany (© cristapper - Fotolia.com)
very good Cortona.
Montepulciano
Well on the Piazza Grande, Montepulciano, Tuscany (© maurosessanta - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Montepulciano.
Val d'Orcia
Valley D'Orcia between Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia in Tuscany (© Lesley Jacques - iStockphoto.com)
must-see Pienza and the Val d'Orcia.
Pitigliano
Pitigliano, Tuscany (© Jules_Kitano - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Pitigliano.

Other attractions

very good Camaldoli Monastery
very good Casentinesi Forests National Park
very good Chiusi
very good Sansepolcro

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Eupedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

  • : Moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
  • : Recommended - to visit if you have time
  • : Outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
  • : Best of the country - shouldn't be missed
  • : Best of Europe

Natural attractions

  • : Moderately interesting
  • : Recommended
  • : Highly recommended
  • : World-class natural attraction
  • ※ : UNESCO World Heritage site


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