Tailor-made for a fly-drive holiday, or a short break, the stunning scenery, artistic heritage and delicious cuisine of Tuscany and neighbouring Umbria truly enchant. Of course, the food and wine are special highlights, experienced everywhere from sprawling wine estates to city trattorias. And, the accommodation is just as spectacular, with the likes of converted palaces and homely farmhouses providing unique insights into each region's historic and gastronomic delights. Best of all, each one has been tried and tested by our Italy specialists, so you'll be sure of the most up-to-date advice when planning your Tuscany holiday.
Most introductions to central Italy are made in Florence – the birthplace of the Renaissance. Here, a rabbit warren of medieval laneways and multi-tiered bridges link grand piazzas lined with centuries-old basilicas and movement-defining art galleries. It’s all centred around Brunelleschi’s giant cathedral whose elegant brick dome – the world’s largest – descends onto a marble façade of pearl whites, accented reds and soft greens.
Moving out of the regional capital you’ll quickly lose yourself in the Tuscan ideal. It’s a land where slender cypress trees silhouette horizons, near-ancient farmhouses overlook bright green valleys and hills roll as lazily as afternoons spent visiting its vineyards. There’s even a stunning coast. And, given this perfectly fertile aspect, it’s no surprise that Tuscany has become something of a gastronomic centre.
There’s everything from Michelin-starred eateries to homely kitchens dishing up simple recipes perfected over generations. But, among the rural beauty, there’s a certain handsome urbanity. In the likes of Volterra and San Gimignano, walled medieval towns cap its hills while sad old Pisa’s fading merchant houses still dream of their maritime republic riches, a contrast to Lucca’s Renaissance good looks and Siena’s Gothic wealth.
To its south, Umbria lies as a Tuscany in miniature. The same penchant for Renaissance artwork and precipitous medieval fortresses has tumbled down with matching undulations of winery-lined beauty. The difference? Umbria swaps headline-grabbing names for more off-the-beaten-track charm. Young children sit side-saddle on their mother’s bicycles and the pasta is always hand made.
Gualdo Cattaneo in Umbria