Text by Martin Novak
Travel Tuscany and experience nature in all its diversity: sea breeze, mountain air and the scent of pines; brunello, olio extra vergine and bruschetta. And even more so in terms of culture, you couldn’t ask for more.
A cultural city break, a seaside holiday complete with sandy beaches or a week exploring the hills on foot or by bicycle? Travellers in Tuscany don’t need to choose, for this central Italian version of paradise has all conceivable holiday options in just one region. Just a few minutes from the fashionable beaches of northern Tuscany’s Versilia and their popular promenades, and you’re at the foot of the Apuan Alps ready to scale the peaks. In the evening, mountaineers are best heading for the Locanda al colle Guest House. Nestled in an olive grove, this hotel is the perfect place for a well-deserved rest in a private atmosphere.
Locanda al Colle
The next morning, it’s back on with the hiking boots to explore the region that gives us Chianti. Take in a local wine-tasting session before continuing on to Florence, where you can delve into the long-gone world of the Medici. Artists including Michelangelo, Giotto and Botticelli all produced important works in Florence – and not just the world-famous Adonis named David. Discover the very best of Florence on a walk from the Cathedral to Santa Croce Church, the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi. At the heart of the city, just 50 steps from the River Arno, weary tourists can spend the night in a quite exceptional house: the Hotel Home Florence. The flair of the original palace can still be felt today in the spacious bedrooms, magnificent in white and gold. Spectacular views of Florence are to be had from the roof terrace.
«Visiting Tuscany you don´t need to choose between a city tour with cultural program, bathing fun on the sandy beach or a mountain week.»
The Middle Ages, marble and Manhattan
Florence is by no means the only Tuscan city well worth a visit. Discover Lucca with its Puccini Museum, and Pisa with its cathedral of Carrara marble including the world-famous leaning campanile on the equally fascinating «Piazza dei Miracoli», as the locals call the Piazza del Duomo. Another urban gem is Siena. Siena’s town centre is almost fully pedestrianised, and is the perfect place for a stroll and windowshop, then there’s the Biblioteca Piccolomini, the majestic sloping piazza del campo …
The art nouveau buildings of the spa town of Viareggio on the northern Tuscan Versilia, Fiesole above Florence with its Etruscan and Roman archaeological sites, and the town of towers, San Gimignano or the «Mediaeval Manhattan», all make a holiday in Tuscany simply unforgettable. A must-see is the typical Tuscan postcard image: five kilometres of cypress-lined avenue from the Via Aurelia to the centre of the village of Bolgheri.
If you then need to rest your weary eyes and feet, you can find ultimate relaxation in the Maremma in southern Tuscany. Saturnia, not far from Manciano, is the source of the healing springs that run over the white cliffs in the Cascate del Mulino – every second, Mother Nature produces 800 litres of sulphurous water at a lovely 37 degrees. One dip in these springs and you will feel as good as new.
Back on dry land, why not explore the amazingly diverse countryside of Maremma Natural Park on the Tyrrhenian coast to the south of Grosseto. This includes a magical coastline, part cliff and part sandy beach with wonderful pine woods, and the neighbouring marsh area of Trappola. Above it all rise the Uccellina mountains with their extensive network of streams, where hikers can venture up to 417 metres for romantic sea views. Mountain bike and canoe trips to the mouth of the Ombrone are the perfect way to experience the Tuscan landscape up close – and with a dash of adventure.