Italian Adventure: Get to Know Tuscany

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Get to Know Tuscany…We’re continuing our Italian Adventures in Tuscany – home to the beauty and majestic of this heavenly region of hills, pristine coasts and even a desert.

Tuscany is one of Italy’s fifteen provinces and the second most visited area in Italy. Not only is Tuscany beautiful with a mix of mountains (Appennine) and rugged pristine coastline – the area is arguably one of the most important culture centers of Western History.

Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, was the birthplace of The Italian Renaissance and home to famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Michelangelo, Botticelli and so many more.

Add in masterminds like Dante (author of ‘The Inferno’) to Galileo and well you can see Tuscany has is part of the world’s cultural and historal heartbeat.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be Getting to Know Tuscany from Florence to Pisa to Siena to the coasts and beyond. We’ll cover history, art, good food, wine and of course shopping (Florence is the birthplace of Gucci, Ferragamo and other fashion icons after all)

Today we’re going to start with some fun facts and must see spots in Tuscany.

I was blessed to visit the region in January. Parts of the mountains snowed but it was generally a damp 45 degrees Farenheit in Florence. April through October are good times to visit weather wise but if you want to avoid crowds and have the museums to yourself I recommend January.

  • Pro-Tip:
    • If you plan to book your own travel to Florence (DIY) I recommend checking out some of the day trips and city tours by companies like City of Wonders. You’ll learn a lot and avoid the hassle of figuring things out all on your own.
    • If you prefer to join a group tour, I recommend EF Tours (I went to Italy with them) or Trafalgar. My only call out is that on my tour The Uffizi and for the art lover in me – two days in Florence was simply not enough…but other tours are longer and more tailored towards your interests.
  • Helpful Resources: I hope American Nomad Traveler provides useful travel tips for your own Italian adventures – but if you want a good guidebook I recommend:
    • DK Florence and Tuscany
    • Rick Steves Tuscany
    • I used both heavily on my trip as a quick reference guide.

Let’s start with a little history:

  • Tuscany is ancient…the region was settled thousands of years ago first by the Apennine, then Proto-Villanovan and Villanovan culture before…
  • The Etruscans lived and thrived in the area…the town of Fiesole near Florence is an ancient Etrusan settlement we’ll be visiting soon.
  • In fact, Tuscan comes from Etruscan
  • The Romans took over and things were unifed for a while until the Fall of the Western Roman Empire
  • in The Middle Ages, Tuscany gained wealth for being on the Via Francigena between Rome and France.
  • Dante was one famous (or at the time infamous) Florentine who was sadly exiled to Verona and died in Ravenna Italy. Dante was a famous scholar and author who’s Divine Comedy is still read in most college classrooms today.
    • What’s interesting about Dante is the fact that he chose to write in his own Florentine dialect. Up to that point most in Italy wrote in Latin as Italy was made up of so many different dialects…Latin might have been dead conversationally but it was alive in books and official documents.
    • Dante’s Divine Comedy became so popular that it actually helped make the Florentine dialect become the most commonly used dialect across Italy for trade and is the foundation of modern Italian
  • The Black Death hit Tuscany hard, with over 70% of the population perishing…
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  • Tuscany was the birthplace of the Renaissance, with Florence being the epicenter. Brunelleschi’s Florence Dome remains an architectural marvel nearly 600 years later!
    • Brunelleschi invent linear perspective and was the first to rediscover how to build a large domed structure since The Roman times…learn more here
  • During The Renaissance, Tuscany was a thriving center of trade and banking. The powerful Medici Family’s lives certainly was a soap opera, but their support of the arts helped ignite The Renaissance.
  • Historically Tuscany (Florence especially) was a center of leather making and goldsmiths.
  • With Florence a banking and trade center it was deemed necessary to pave the roads. The first paved roads we funded by bankers in Tuscany.
  • Beloved children’s story Pinnocchio was written by a Tuscan, Carlo Collodi
  • Opera first debuted in Florence
  • Tuscany is for wine lovers from their amazing Chianti and Vin Santo wines and beyond. Touring a winery is a must on your Tuscan adventure
  • Ice-cream was first invented in Tuscany (Gelato). The oldest gelateria in Florence is Vivoli
  • Tuscany is known for it steaks – especially the Florentine steak
assorted flavor ice cream in display shelf selective focus photography
Photo by Lukas on

Must-SEE in Tuscany:

It would take an entire book to get through all the things to see in glorious Tuscany but here is a short list

Must-See Cities:

  • Florence – the seat of The Renaissance
  • Sienna – one of the prettiest Cathedrals in Italy
  • Pisa – You’ve heard of the Leaning Tower, but have were away of the Piazza of Miracles or amazing Pisa Cathedral?
  • Arezzo
  • Lucca
  • Pistoia
  • Livorno
  • Carrara – the marble capital of Italy (the marble of Michelangelo’s David was from here)
  • Grosseto

Must-SEE in Heritage

  • Tuscany is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites including:
    • The ENTIRE city of Florence
    • The city of Pisa: The Piazza dei Miracoli (and it’s Leaning Tower)
    • San Gimignano: The best preserved Medieval town in Tuscany. My group enjoyed a day trip there to see the towers of Gimignano and also discover Tuscan food and wine
    • Siena’s historical center
    • Pienza – another city in the cradle of the origins of The Renaissance
    • Valdorcia: One of a kind landscape with rolling Tuscan Hills and villages
    • The Medici Gardens and Villas (12 in all)

Must-TASTE in Tuscany:

  • Florentine steak
  • Gelato
  • Tuscan wine
  • Vin Santo (Holy Wine) with Biscotti
  • so much more…

Are you excited to start our Tuscan tour?

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