The allure of Tuscany.
You may have heard me say that it was not love at first sight between Italy and me. Perhaps this was because I so expected to love all of Italy—and I didn’t. Italy is an extremely diverse country made up of differing attitudes, dialects, political views, culinary traditions, and—frankly—opinions on cleanliness. Even today, having re-visited Italy several times and possessing a far better sense of her diversity, I don’t daydream about chaotic Rome or stifling Pompeii.
Tuscany, however, is a region I could visit 100 times more and never tire of. No, it isn’t home to my favorite wine (you’d have to head north to Piemonte for that). Nor is it my favorite place to eat in Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Sicily, or Napoli por favore). There are times I would even fancy trading her hills for more colorful coastal cliffs (as in her neighbor Liguria). But Tuscany remains like no other place on earth.
Here’s why I love Tuscany:
1. Tuscany really is that stunning.
Let’s be real here. Most of Italy is—to say the least—picturesque. But those rolling hillsides, miles of vineyards, and thousand-color sunsets are the essence of Tuscany. This is a place to really slow down and catch your breath. Perhaps nowhere on earth is more stimulating to the senses than enchanting Toscana.
2. Magical hilltop Tuscan villas are like home away from home.
Allow me to dispell two common myths about Tuscan villas. First, they are not unaffordable, especially if you are traveling with some friends or extended family. In this case, you will find far more comfortable and spacious accommodations at a significantly lower price point than hotels offer.
Second, many Tuscan villa rentals are quite luxurious. Someone asked me the other day if a Tuscan villa was the equivalent of “glamping”. Uhhhh…..no! Maybe if you just hop on the internet and book whatever pops up on your search engine! My clients stay in villas with air conditioning, a pool, full staff (including chef), and all the modern amenities and appliances (and more) that you would expect in a vacation property.
photo credit: luxury retreats
3. Tuscany is totally worth visiting all on its own.
One of my biggest hurdles as a travel designer is persuading my clients to give themselves “permission” to just visit one European destination. This is a rant for another day. But, folks who want to go to Tuscany are usually content to just go to Tuscany. And they should be.
Tuscany isn’t one city, one town, or one landscape. The region of Tuscany is home to at least a dozen notable towns (and countless villages). You need at least a week there in my opinion to dig in, so unless you plan to stay in Italy for 14 days or more, you probably won’t be traveling elsewhere.*
*I refuse to plan a trip to Tuscany for fewer than 5 days. The exception is for travelers who really only plan to visit the great city of Florence and not spend time in the countryside.
4. Tuscany has great wine!
I’ve made no secret of my personal preference for Piedmontese wines to Tuscan wines, but Piemonte as a tourist destination isn’t for everyone—and I totally get that. Tuscany, however, is.
For the red wine lover, Tuscany is probably one of the best travel destinations in the world, if for no other reason than the breadth of opportunity for exploration. The Brunello of Montalcino are worth the visit alone, but the Chianti Classico zone is exceptional—and that only leaves 5 or 6 other zones to visit along the way! Local foods are made to pair with the wines, providing a superb dining experience at every meal. Winemakers are hospitable and welcoming. Guides are knowledgable and able to create personal tours that match your desire to learn, taste, and enjoy.
And then there’s the scenery. There’s wine…then there’s wine with a view.
5. Tuscany has soooo much more than just great wine.
If you want to go somewhere to eat, drink, and relax, go to Tuscany. I’m happy to organize your meals, tastings, and private chef…
Perhaps you want to get in on the action. Cooking classes are the ultimate souvenir! Mine include full-meals or you can select a specific focus (perhaps one per day) such as pizza, gelato, pasta, bread, organic, and vegan. My expert teachers include master chefs and local nonnas who will take you to the markets, the vineyards, and the farms to procure the necessary ingredients (as well as give you a sense of the soul of Italian cooking). Whether you want a couple of hours in the kitchen, or to complete an entire cooking course, Tuscany is a fantastic place to sink your teeth into Italian cuisine.
Want to get your hands a little dirty? Have no fear: the Tuscan farmers will put you to work! Join the dogs on a truffle hunt (only a couple of select areas outside of Piemonte make this possible). Spend a half-day assisting with grape harvest. Go saffron picking. Cold press olives from the grove. Work up an appetite just so that it can be satisfied!
Are you concerned that not everyone in your crew will be as into the “foodie stuff” as you are?
Ask about how we can customize activities that meet everyone’s needs. Fishing, wild boar and peasant hunting, sailing, sporting events, hiking/trekking, golf, and (of course) sightseeing tours can all be arranged!
6. It is possible to get off the beaten path.
There is a reason why they’re called “main attractions,” right? But some of the best places to visit aren’t the ones in the guidebook. Tuscany is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. You can stay up in the hills and be a short commute to beautiful Florence, home to the greatest treasure of Renaissance art in the world. Conversely, 30 minutes in any different direction may take you to a tiny village where multiple dialects of Italian are spoken at area antiques market…or to a town straight out of the Medieval era where cathedrals function as much like museums as houses of worship…an archaeological park where locals may be enjoying a picnic lunch…an active monastery…even a busy alabaster studio where artisans invite you in to watch them do their thing.
Tuscany is stunning, forgiving, perfectly imperfect, and genuinely hospitable. Long on adventure and easy on indulgence, this is where you go to find the good life.