Tuscany - Orlando / Florida Guide
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It is home to some of the country’s most romantic cities – Florence, Pisa and Siena – and the surrounding countryside is among the most visited in Italy. This central Italian region is known for its hilltop villages, cathedrals (often filled with world-class art), and rustic farm-to-table menus. But really it’s the landscapes that visitors return for: the surprisingly wild Chianti region, stretching from Florence to Siena; the vineyards near Montalcino; the Carrara marble quarries close to the fortified city of Lucca. West of Chianti, there’s a tangle of towns set on top of mini-mountains, such as the picturesque San Gimignano. Eighth-century Volterra is a lesser-known day trip – built on a plateau surrounded by a stunning volcanic landscape. Montalcino (most famous for its Brunellowine) and Pienza (once home to Pope Pius II’s summer residence) are also still the real deal. South of Siena lies a patchwork of rolling fields dotted with ancient farmhouses and strands of cypress. Further south again, the Val d’Orcia has become a destination in itself. And while most people don’t associate Tuscany with the coast, Forte dei Marmi fills up each summer with Northern Italian movers and shakers who flock to the beaches covered in pretty umbrella’d stabilimenti (private sections of the beach with admission fees). Maremma, further south, is just as chic while being a little more discreet, its beaches framed with pine trees and low-slung hills. Home in Italy has villas throughout most of Tuscany. We love Travertino in the sweeping countryside outside Siena’s Montepulciano, which mixes minimalist design with its farmhouse stone walls and sleeps up to 20 people. Also on our favourites list is La Tenuta, which is situated on a hilltop dominating one of the most beautiful valleys of the Val d' Arbia. In the Val d' Orcia is Armonia, with vineyards, olive groves and wheat fields visible from all over the house, while Lucina is walking distance to Montalcino
For a long time, Umbria was known as the lesser-visited sibling to neighbouring Tuscany. It’s the only Italian region in the centre of Italy that doesn’t border the sea, or another country, and it’s this isolation that ensures Italy’s oldest traditions and charm are still at play here. It is largely unspoilt, with towns set in undulating landscape stuffed with architectural treasures. And while it’s one of the only spots in the country outside Piedmont where you can find truffles, the food is traditional rustic simplicity at its best: homemade pasta with wild boar ragù, or local sausages and lentil stews. To the east, the countryside is pastoral, giving way to the higher mountain scapes of the beautiful Monti Sibillini national park, which straddles the border with Le Marche. Most people head straight to Umbria’s capital, Perugia, or Assisi (where St Francis was born), but the Gothic cathedral in Orvieto should not be skipped. For a taste of the region’s quieter charms, we love Todi, located on a two-crested hill with views of the river Tiber, and medieval Gubbio. Castelvecchio, a 12th-century castle in the countryside outside Perugia, is on the road to Gubbio with spectacular views of the Tiber valley. Inside there are velvet curtains, antique furniture and renaissance tapestries as well as fireplaces, making it equally perfect for hunkering down in off season.
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