When it comes to idyllic Italian experiences, Tuscany is unsurpassed. Equally rich in art, culture, fine cuisine and glorious countryside, few places on Earth can match it for the sheer choice of sights and experiences available in a single region. No wonder, then, that it’s a high demand destination for second homes, with visitors returning again and again to this tranquil corner of Italy. At Engel & Völkers we’re just as susceptible to Tuscany’s charms, so we’ve put together our top three reasons to explain why we can’t help coming back.
Whether it’s frescoed churches, mediaeval hilltop fortresses or ancient Roman monuments, Tuscany’s aesthetic heritage is simply breathtaking and there’s always so much more to discover. The region’s stunningly beautiful capital, Florence, has an unrivalled collection of churches, galleries and museums. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982, Florence particularly flourished in the Middle Ages and is most famous as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Long after you’ve exhausted the most celebrated tourist attractions, you’ll continue to stumble upon hidden gems of art and architecture throughout this fascinating city.
Less well known, and less busy, is the well-preserved mediaeval city of Siena with its scallop-shaped market square, home to the traditional bareback riding pageant known as the Palio. Pisa and Lucca complete the quartet of best-known cities, but it’s worth venturing out of town to explore the region’s rural hilltop settlements. San Gimignano has no fewer than 13 mediaeval towers and a whole host of other treasures, and the dramatic village of Volterra is home to world-renowned art, food and theatre festivals.
The hilltop fortresses form one unique aspect of Tuscany’s stunning and varied landscapes. This is a place that truly deserves the over-used accolade of “picture-perfect”. Its centre is filled with beautiful rolling hills, sleepy olive groves and magnificent cypress trees; to the north-west you’ll find the striking mountains of the Apuan Alps with natural springs, spas and the famous white marble of Carrara; and along the impressive coastline there’s a varied mix of rocky coves, tiny islands and the perfect sandy beaches of the Tuscan riviera.
The natural beauty of the land is well preserved, with three national parks and several regional parks within Tuscany’s boundaries, offering a host of wildlife and a diverse range of outdoor activities.
Tuscans are passionate about food and drink, which is prepared without any rushing, but with a fierce sense of tradition. Dishes use local, fresh and seasonal produce including beans, olives, beef, pork, truffles and porcini mushrooms. There are many mouthwatering regional specialities to choose from; try the spicy sausage from Garfagnana, Florentine style steak, and the seafood stew from Livorno. Several ingredients simply can’t be found anywhere else, which may well account for the number of visitors who can never bring themselves to leave!
All of this should, of course, be washed down with some of finest wines in Italy. The Sangiovese grape forms the basis for many quality Tuscan wines including Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Carmignano.
There’s a whole Tuscan treasure trove to explore, and like its cooking, this should be done at a slow and leisurely pace. Visit Engel & Völkers’ website to find your own Italian retreat and continue discovering this magnificent region.