A Portrait of Tuscany

Tuscany’s historic treasures are considered one-of-a-kind worldwide: the region is full of art cities and little picturesque villages with a huge cultural heritage, but is also extraordinary because of its fascinating landscape with its bucolic countryside and rolling hills. Not to mention its amazing islands and coastal areas and last but not least, its food, simple with authentic flavors.

We landed in Milano, discovered a little, then hired a car and went on a road trip with main stops at Genoa, Lucca, Pisa, Manarola, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Florence, Rimini and Venice.

Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region. Directly behind Pitti Palace are the marvellous Boboli Gardens. The Medici family established the layout of the gardens, creating the Italian garden style that would become a model for many European courts. The vast green expanse with a regular layout is a real outdoor museum, populated by ancient and Renaissance statues.

The Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa was one of my most awaited destinations. It’s a true open-air museum and it is considered one of the most fascinating and important in Europe. It is famous for its extraordinarily delicate & lifelike mourning sculptures.

Another famous place I was hoping to spot while on the road was the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta. It is located in the hills of the Val d’Orcia on the road between San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza. I almost missed it as it very tiny and far away. The small chapel, framed by two rows of cypress trees was built in the spot where legend says the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherdess. Today, the chapel is one of the most photographed locations in all of Tuscany because its light colours standout against the surrounding countryside.

Cinque Terre is a rugged coastline on the Italian Riviera and consists of the five beautiful hillside towns Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Manarola was built on a high rock 70 metres above sea level. It is one of the most charming and romantic of the Cinque Terre villages. The tiny harbor features a boat ramp, picturesque multicoloured houses facing the sea, a tiny piazza with seafood restaurants. Along the main road the boats are pulled onto dry land every time the sea is rough.

Venice, an island city, was once the centre of a maritime republic. It was the greatest seaport in late medival Europe and the continent’s commercial and cultural link to Asia. Venice is unique environmentally, architecturally, historically and in its days as a republic the city was styled la serenissima (“the most serene” or “sublime”). It remains a major Italian port in the northern Adriatic Sea and is one of the world’s oldest tourist and cultural centres.

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