Becca Eutis tells of the beauty and excitement of Tuscany in this issue ‘Passport’.
With its lush rolling hills, sapphire skies and golden farmhouses, the Tuscan countryside is rightly famous for its beauty. However, if the rural idyll is not for you, a city break in one of the great towns is equally enthralling. But which one? Pisa, Siena, Florence – all are celebrated for different reasons and choosing can be impossible, but with a bit of careful planning, you can soak up the charms of each one in a long weekend.
The committed culture vulture will already have a long list of things to do in the home of the Renaissance, but even the culturally clueless will know that a great place to start is everybody’s favourite architectural cock-up, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After the ubiquitous posing pictures, the city can be best appreciated by a walk along the river Arno at twilight, the time for a passeggiata, when the locals all come out to stroll, see and be seen.
This is a fabulous thing to do in Florence as well, though the best views of the city come from a trip to the amusingly-named Boboli gardens south of the river. After a long day exploring the cultural treasures of the city home to Dante, Da Vinci and Michelangelo, a picnic in the shade of the gardens is the ideal way to unwind.
The city of Siena is perhaps the least famous of the trio, but not to be overlooked. The historical centre of the city is a warren of twisting streets surrounding the magnificent central square, the Piazza del Campo, where the crazy bareback horse race, the palio, takes place twice a year. Spend a few hours getting lost in the winding side streets before heading to the stunning gothic cathedral or the church of San Domenico for great views across town to the elegant bell tower.
No trip to Tuscany is complete without gorging yourself on the amazing food. As well as the national classics of pizza, pasta and ice-cream, the best things to look out for in the region are the meat dishes (especially steak or wild boar) and beans. Better yet, in a place famous for its red Chianti wine, it would almost be rude not to enjoy a glass or two!
If a long weekend is all you can spare, the cities of Tuscany are a relaxing, eye-wateringly beautiful place to spend your holiday, but don’t be surprised if you are seduced into returning again and again to discover more!