- Travel and Places
Tuscany, Italy: Beautiful Countryside, Art, History and Wine
Tuscany, Umbria and Chianti Regions of Italy
Tuscany is beautiful part of Italy; a favourite destination for British and American tourists. The many picturesque medieval hill towns are relatively close together, separated by beautiful countyside, rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards making the region and neighbouring Umbria ideal for a driving holiday. The bigger cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena are each, also worth visiting for a few days.
Map of Tuscany, Italy - Where are Tuscany and the Chianti Regions in Italy?
Getting to Tuscany
Getting to Tuscany: Pisa - A good place to start your tour
Many visitors to Tuscany from the UK or elsewhere in Europe fly into Florence or Pisa, but coming from the U.S. Or Canada involves flying to Milan or Rome first then getting a connecting flight or train to Florence.
Pisa, Siena or Florence all make a good starting point or base for a trip to Tuscany. There isn't a great deal to see in Pisa, except for the iconic leaning tower and beautiful Duomo. Florence however has enough art, architecture, excellent food and culture to keep you busy for days.
A good place to stay in Pisa is The Royal Victoria Hotel: old hotel with views of the river and antique furniture. An ancient tower. Good location a short walk from the main square in the historic centre. Pleasant small 4th floor roof terrace. No bar but drinks can be ordered at reception and served in the room, 'hall' or roof terrace
Duomo, Pisa, Italy
More About The Region
Places to Stay in San Gimignano: Hotel l'Antico Pozzo, Via San Matteo 87, San Gimignano: a 15th C palazzo once visited by Dante, with antique furniture Euro 110 to Euro 135 for doubles
Places to eat in San Gimignano: Dorado "the city's top restaurant": Euro 75 for starter and main course and a bottle of wine.
"The Manhattan of Italy"
Getting Around - Driving in Italy
It is possible to explore Tuscany and Umbria by train and bus and I have sucessfully travelled all over Italy by train in the past, as a student. Most trains go in and out of Florence, so you may get bored of Florence station after a few visits. A car is probably the best way to get around as distances are small and scenery very enjoyable to drive through.
Driving in Italy is relatively easy on the main Autostrade roads, although is more difficult on the small road. A small car is a good idea for some of the medieval towns. Driving in cities is more difficult. I rented a Fiat 500 - a modern version of the classic 1960s Italian Car
Fiat 500 - Classic Italian Car
The medieval hamlet Montepulciano is the highest hill town in Tuscany at nearly 2000 ft and has excellent views of the local vineyards. Famous for the excellent red wine of the same name. There are many places offering 'free' wine tasting
Places to Stay in Montepulciano: Mueble I'll Riccio Euro 116 a palace built in 1280 with a roof terrace overlooking Valdichiana Valley. Small to medium sized double rooms. Nicely decorated and wonderful lounge/breakfast room with high ceilings downstairs.
A nice easy drive from Montepuluciano to Cortona via Castiglione del Lago in Umbria (not much to see there apart from the castel on the hill and the lake Lago Trasimeno, but Cortona is another beautiful historic hill-town.
There is free parking on the way up the hill so it is easiest to dump the car and walk to the entrance of the walled town. Hotel San Luca just outside the town-wall, overlooking the lake in Umbria.
View from Cortona
The Chianti Road (Wine Region of Italy)
Chianti Wine Region
The "Chianti Road" to Greve In Chianti via Radda In Chianti is an excellent route to take through the Chianti vineyards of this famous wine region. Greve In Chianti is the biggest town en route, but staying at a vineyard could be a more pleasant experience.
e.g. Hotel and restaurant Fattoria di Montagliari where you can drink their wine (Fattoria di Montagliari Chianti Classico bottled in Italy by David Migliorini, Panzana www.montagliari.it)
I drove to Volterra via the rest of the Chianti Road and Strada in Chianti. Easy drive with beautiful scenery and parked in underground carpark just outside Centre Storica. Checked into hotel right next to carpark: Albergo Nazionale, for convenience.
Places to Stay in Volterra: Albergo Nazionale. Basic room, but with a balcony overlooking an excellent view down the hillside. No mini bar, fridge, or icemaking facilities, unpleasant staff and awful breakfast, but very close to lots of good bars, cafes and restaurants.
Places to Eat in Volterra: Web and Wine Cafe for lunch. Excellent pizza and wine at this internet cafe (although it doesn't feel like an internet cafe)
Volterra has Roman ruins inside the city walls and the usual piazza Duomo etc. Surprisingly large amount of traffic negotiating the narrow streets.
Roman Ruins at Volterra, Tuscany
Lucca is bigger than many of the other hill-top Tuscan towns and is the best place to go shopping, but still has the charm and history and big tree lines town walls and the famous tower with trees growing out of the top.
Places to stay in Lucca: Hotel: Alla Dimora Lucense, Via Fontana, 19 (0583 495722) guest house associated with La Luna Hotel (which was full) very comfortable room. Good decoration and bathroom.