The twin cities of Florence, the Renaissance capital, and Siena with its wonderful Gothic cathedral, rightly attract visitors to Tuscany. However, outside of these cities the region holds much more of interest to the traveller who wants to explore a little further. The towers of San Gimignano, for example, bear testament to a more violent time in Italy’s history when many towns had these strange constructions which were designed to demonstrate not only the owners’ power and wealth but also acted as a place of refuge.
For the wine lover, Tuscany is a truly wonderful destination. Probably the most prestigious of Tuscan wines, Brunello, is produced in the area around the charming hilltop town of Montalcino. Climb the castle’s tower for a fabulous view of the rolling hills that characterise this part of Tuscany. While you are there, do not miss the opportunity to also taste the Rosso di Montalcino, an easy drinking red, perfect to accompany pasta at lunchtime.
Crossing the UNESCO World Heritage landscape of the Val d’Orcia and the Val di Chiana, some of the most beautiful countryside in Italy, you arrive in Montepulciano.This is one of the prettiest towns in Italy and just outside stands the Tempio di San Biagio. Built on a Greek cross design, it is a miniature version of what St. Peter’s in Rome would have looked like had Bramante’s original plan been carried through to conclusion. This town is famous for its two eponymous wines, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montepulciano,
Possibly the most well-known of all Italian wines is Chianti, another Tuscan delight, and no review of the region would be complete without suggesting a couple of the best vineyards where you can sample Chianti Classico. If you are in the mood for a steak (and we mean a proper one) while you are there, visit Ponzano where you can eat a bistecca fiorentina, a T-bone steak of truly gargantuan proportions, at the butchery and restaurant belonging to Dario Cecchini.
From the south west of the region, in an area called the Maremma, comes Morellino di Scansano, a wine much appreciated inside Italy and increasingly outside the country as well. While you are there, be sure to visit the town of Pitigliano, breathtakingly beautiful and relatively undisturbed.
Whilst justly renowned for its red wines, Tuscany also offers something for the white wine enthusiast so when visiting the towers of San Gimignano, try the Vernaccia di San Gimignano.