Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tuscany

TUSCANY

Tuscany is the most visited region in Italy, with good cause. Tuscany has everything representative of Italy! Every hill town and/or walled city has amazing history. The walls are a reminder of how Italy was before unification. Each area of Italy had its own government, army and institutions. There were natural enemies which required cities to construct walls and towers. Cities were constructed on hills to make them easier to defend. Today the rivalries are about cuisines, wines, traditions, and re-enactments of historic battles. These are times of festivities, parades and honors.

There are so many things to see and do that it is difficult to mention all of the cities and towns, and their highlights. Space requires that I can mention a few of the most popular, but I always recommend spending enough time in Tuscany to "wander" around and find your own favorites.

I will share some of my favorites for various reasons. 
Cortona: Lots of history, Etruscan influences, fantastic views, great restaurants, enotecas, shops, etc. You can roam the streets and alleyways for hours.
Arezzo: A fully functioning working city, two cities really, modern and commercial outside the walls and very interesting in the historical center. Arezzo also has great restaurants shops. It is the gold capital of Italy.
Montepulciano, Pienza and Montalcino: I put these together because they are a perfect threesome for a day/evening trip. First the wines in Montepulciano, Vino Nobile and Rosso Montepulciano, are consistently great wines, and the wine in Montalcino, Brunello and Rosso Montalcino, excellent wines as well. Pienza, designed as the perfect plan for a city by Pope Pio, whose name it bears,  is one main street with side streets and alleys opening up to great vistas of rolling hillsides and valleys. Pienza is known for its cheeses, and meats. 
Siena: Second in size only to Florence, it is a remarkable but large spread out city with lots of history and home to the Palio which is a horse race held in the main piazza twice in the Summer. Every "neighborhood" is represented in the race sporting their specific colors. It is a remarkable thing to watch particularly forom the vantage point of a hotel on the square.
San Gimignano: Built to defend itself at all times, the city once boasted 20+ towers. There are seven remaining and one can be climbed to the top for spectacular views. Great shops, restaurants, also present here.

There are so many more to see, including Florence, Fiesole, San Sepolcro, Luca, Pisa, Viareggio and Follonica, on the coast, Montecatini Terme, Montecatini Alto, and so many small and quaint villages. My advice is to get lost and the road will take you to wonderful places and you will meet warm, friendly people proud of their towns, their food and their wines.\
Enjoy it all!!



The Bell Ringer of Montepulciano





The famous towers of San Gimignano

Our favorite agriturismo in Tuscany