With its lyrical landscapes, world-class art and a superb cucina contadina (farmer’s kitchen), the Tuscan experience is perfectly in symbiosis with the land.
An Artistic Powerhouse
Then there’s the art. And, oh, what art! The Etruscans indulged their fondness for a classy send-off with exquisite funerary objects, and the Romans, always partial to puffing up their own importance, left their usual legacy of monumental sculptures. But it was during the medieval and Renaissance periods that Tuscany really struck gold, with painters, sculptors and architects creating world-class masterpieces. Squirrelled away and safeguarded today in churches, museums and galleries all over the region, art in Tuscany is truly unmatched. Edgy street art in Florence and countryside sculpture parks bring the art scene right up to the 21st century.
Tuscany has a timeless familiarity with its iconic Florentine cathedral dome, gently rolling hills dipped in soft morning mist and sculptural cypress alleys. But then, this regione in central Italy is postcard material. Golden wheat fields, silver olive groves and pea-green vineyards marching in sharp terraced rows on hillsides form a graceful prelude to soul-soaring medieval hilltop villages, mountain ranges and fecund forests in the north, and a garland of bijou islands beaded along the coastal south. Get out, explore, hike and ding your bicycle bell, as this rousing landscape demands.
Sensational Slow Food
No land is more caught up with the fruits of its fertile earth than Tuscany, a gourmet destination whose residents spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about, discussing and consuming food and wine. Local, seasonal and sustainable is the Holy Trinity and Tuscans share enormous pride in the quality of their produce. Tuscan travel is grassroots: to wineries to taste blockbuster wines like Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; to a family-run pastificio tradizionale where artisan pasta is cut by hand; and road trips in quest of the best bistecca alla fiorentina (chargrilled T-bone steak). Buon appetito!
Ever since the Etruscans dropped by to party and stayed, Tuscany has seduced. The Romans stocked their grain silos here, Christians walked stages of a medieval pilgrimage route, and Napoleon plundered art (and suffered terribly in exile in a beautiful neoclassical villa with fig trees and sea view on the paradisiacal island of Elba). Florence’s historic churches and monuments were a key stop for British aristocrats on the Grand Tour in the 19th century – and remain so. And at sundown when the River Arno turns pink, whether you like things old-fashioned and simple or boutique chic, know that this handsome city will oblige.
Home to many of the world’s greatest works of art, architecture and gastronomy, Italy elates, inspires and moves like no other.
Epicentre of the Roman Empire and birthplace of the Renaissance, this European virtuoso groans under the weight of its cultural cachet: it’s here that you’ll stand in the presence of Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel frescoes, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera and da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In fact, Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Should you walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in Pompeii, revel in Ravenna’s glittering Byzantine treasures or get breathless over Giotto’s revolutionary frescoes in Padua? It’s a cultural conundrum as thrilling as it is overwhelming.
It might look like a boot, but food-obsessed Italy feels more like a decadently stuffed Christmas stocking. From delicate tagliatelle al ragù to velvety cannoli, every bite can feel like a revelation. The secret: superlative ingredients and finely tuned know-how. And while Italy’s culinary soul might prefer simplicity, it’s equally ingenious and sophisticated. Expect some of the world’s top fine-dining destinations, from San Pellegrino ‘World’s Best 50’ hotspots to Michelin-starred musts. So whether you’re on a degustation odyssey in Modena, truffle hunting in Piedmont or swilling powerhouse reds in the Valpolicella wine region, prepare to loosen that belt.
Italy’s fortes extend beyond its galleries, wardrobes and dining rooms. The country is one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, with extraordinary natural diversity matched by few. From the north’s icy Alps and glacial lakes to the south’s fiery craters and turquoise grottoes, this is a place for doing as well as seeing. One day you’re tearing down Courmayeur’s powdery slopes, the next you could be galloping across the marshes of the Maremma, or diving in coral-studded Campanian waters. Not bad for a country not much bigger than Arizona.
In few places do art and life intermingle so effortlessly. This may be the land of Dante, Titian and Verdi, but it’s also the home of Prada, Massimo Bottura and Renzo Piano. Beauty, style and flair furnish every aspect of daily life, from those immaculately knotted ties and seamless espressos to the flirtatious smiles of striking strangers. The root of Italian psychology is a dedication to living life well, and effortless as it may seem, driving that dedication is a reverence for the finer things. So slow down, style up and indulge in a little vita all’italiana (life, Italian style).