With its huge diversity of landscapes, ranging from the hilly and lush Lunisiana to the classic region of Chianti or the south with vibrant green or deep brown hillocks with sentry like cypresses silhouetted strikingly on the crest against a blue sky, this is Tuscany - a vista that has not changed for centuries. Few landscapes anywhere are more ancient or civilised: in the paintings of the Renaissance, the background of rolling hills, cypresses and vineyards are often more beautiful than the more important religious subject and, even in the 14th century, Gozzoli and Fra Angelico painted the same scene you see today.
To the north, historic Lucca and the nearby golden beaches of Versilia. In the small province of Liguria, the stunning coastline and towns of the Cinque Terre, easily accessed from all of our houses in the area. It is Chianti, however, the area between Florence and Siena with its green hills, undulating rows of vines, olive groves and swathes of pine and ancient oak with mediaeval villages that is perhaps the best known of all Tuscany’s varied panoramas, and for many it is here that they can continue their enduring love affair with Italy.
See Florence, the majestic Duomo immortalised by Brunelleschi, with his good friend Donatello, the greatest sculptor since the ancient Greeks, leaving his legacy of breathtaking beauty to the awed visitor of today. The magnificent treasures of Siena, and the fabled towers of San Gimignano are all easily reached by fast road, or at a more leisurely pace, taking smaller roads through medieval hamlets – perhaps stumbling across a small church with a divine fresco. The centres of Arezzo, a ‘must see’ for those on the ‘Piero trail’ and Cortona, close to the border with Umbria, the ‘green heart of Italy’ are also within easy reach.
The Tuscan coast, where we have many beautiful villas, washed by the Tyrrhenian sea is only a short drive for a day trip to the sea, offering a complete contrast, and separated by the plains of the Maremma, where the last herds of buffalo still roam. The wild and beautiful coastline of Monte Argentario, reached by a causeway from the ancient Roman town of Orbetello, is the haunt of the Roman ‘beau monde.’ Here, the pleasures of eating in the pretty and lively Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole can be combined with admiring the glamorous yachts in their marinas – or taking a boat trip to the lovely Isola del Giglio with its sparkling clear waters.
But it is to the panoramic open agricultural landscapes of the ‘senese’, the area of Tuscany south of Siena that most return to, highlights including the Abbeys of Sant’Antimo and Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Delight in sampling the local wines in ‘enoteche’ of the wine centres of Montalcino and Montepulciano, enjoy the classic vistas from Pope Pius II’s Renaissance jewel, Pienza or bathe in the thermal springs at Bagno Vignoni with its view over abandoned hill top fortifications.
All these places are easily accessible from one of our villas in the ever changing landscape of the Val d’Orcia, and located not far from our villas at Cetona, an atmospheric and undiscovered jewel of a hill town, the retreat of the literary and artistic. Orvieto, the meeting point of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, is within easy reach, with its majestic cathedral dominating the skyline for miles. As in all parts of rural Italy, the pleasures are simple ones: attending open air concerts and operas in a mediaeval fortress, dancing in village squares, riding through the countryside on horseback, walking or cycling along ‘strade bianche’ from hamlet to hamlet, enjoying the spontaneous charm of the Tuscan people.
Tuscany is more diverse than any other region in Italy, and its first time visitors will be enchanted by the plethora of all things Italian.