Tuscany is one of Italy’s top 20 regions, located on the west coast and bounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea. Starting from the north and working clockwise, the land borders are Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Umbria, and Lazio.
An idyll of olive groves, vineyards, hill towns, and frescoed churches, the Val d’Orcia, was chosen as the base for Cymon Taylor Workshops because there is no such thing as ‘typical’ Tuscan scenery. A diverse range of landscapes that change dramatically from north to south as well as east to west. Tuscany has been said to have had the greatest influence on Italian and European culture.
The Apennines, which run through the provinces of Florence, Pistoia, and Lucca, are mountainous and forested in the north. As we travel south, the mountains give way to hills, the woods thin out, and by the time we reach southern Tuscany, we have the rolling landscape of fields and cypress trees that many associate with the ‘typical’ Tuscan scene.
The Tuscan Landscape
Traveling south of Siena takes you through landscapes dotted with mediaeval hill towns. Montalcino and Montepulciano produce some of Italy’s finest red wines, and Pienza, mighty producer of pecorino sheep’s cheese, sits like a balcony overlooking the Val d’Orcia and is the only Renaissance town centre that has been perfectly designed.
Chianciano Terme has more spa waters, and you’ll enjoy the ancient Etruscan centre of Chiusi, with its tombs, cathedral, and archaeological museum. You will also come across remote monasteries such as Monte Oliveto Maggiore and San Galgano, as well as the Sulphur spa of Bagno Vignoni, which is conveniently located between San Quirico and Rocca d’Orcia.
These well-known inland hills of southern Tuscany showcase the region’s best features, an endless succession of olive trees and vineyards that encompass the depopulated Crete Senesi before climbing into the hills around Monte Amiata. The second highest volcano in Italy, dominating the landscape of Southern Tuscany. The lower slopes are densely forested with Beech and Chestnut trees, while the higher slopes are forested with the older forests that are spectacularly coloured in the autumn. These forests’ flora and fauna are unusually diverse, with a large number of endemic species.
Massa Marittima, a memorable but little-visited town southwest of Siena towards the sea, presides over marshy coastal plains. Magnificent monastic architecture can be found in the tranquil settings of San Galgano and, further east, Monte Oliveto Maggiore, which also has some wonderful frescoes.
Volterra, built on a high plateau surrounded by volcanic hills, provides a dramatic setting for a true Tuscan hill-town escape. Pitigliano, also known as Little Jerusalem, rises seamlessly from a tufa ridge as if carved from it, nurturing the amazing story and scant remains of what was once Tuscany’s strongest Jewish community. These are just a few of the many photogenic spots where tourism has yet to change the local character.
The Tuscan coast borders the Tyrrhenian Sea and is at its best along Maremma, the coastal strip and inland hills of Tuscany’s southernmost province Grosseto that run north into the province of Livorno. Grosseto is the provincial capital and a tribute to the Medici family, who built hexagonal walls and a fortress in the 16th century.
Monti dell’Uccellina, rises abruptly from the coastal plain, is pristine and protected as part of the Parco Regionale della Maremma. A vast national park that stretches from the sea inland and contains a diverse range of Mediterranean flora and fauna. This breathtaking landscape combines cliffs, coastal marsh, forested hills, pristine beaches, and the country’s most beautiful stands of umbrella pines. Other notable locations include the wooded peninsula of Monte Argentario and the old iron-mining island of Elba, where Napoleon reigned in exile.
The Apuan Alps, also found along the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea, kick off a series of mountain chains that ride across the northern edge of the provinces, separating Tuscany from Emilia-Romagna in the north. Protected within the preceding foothills, lie the little visited areas of the Garfagnana and Lunigiana, empty paradises of mountains where several worthy towns and photography opportunities await.
Prato, a mediaeval textile centre, is one of Italy’s fastest-growing cities, located in the valley below these mountains and is one of Tuscany’s friendliest towns. Its historic core is filled with Renaissance art treasures that are often overlooked by visitors who are unaware that a city only 10 miles from Florence can be so diverse and rewarding.
Neighbouring Pistoia is an ancient Roman town imbued with the art styles of the Romanesque Middle Ages. Relaxation can be found further along in the Valdinievole (Valley of Mists) at Montecatini Terme, Italy’s most famous spa, and Monsummano Terme, where a Dantean underworld of natural “steam room” caverns hides beneath an upscale hotel.
We truly believe that every region of Tuscany has something special to offer.
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