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Tuscany
 
Stretching from Carrara marble quarries, to the Maremma wilderness; from Livorno's rugged coastline to the mountainous Casentino, through the wooded slopes of Monte Amiata, the Sienese craters, the Chianti hills and Mugello valley - Tuscany's evocative landscapes are a powerful mixture of the wild and the tamed. A land of swaying cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards, scattered with medieval castles and Medici villas. Tuscan towns have a special charme (Florence, Siena, Lucca, Arezzo, Pisa, San Gimignano, Volterra, Cortona etc). Their appeal  is that they appear to go against the current of modern homogeneity and internationalism and remain much as they were a few hundred years ago. Variety is also the secret of Tuscany's townscapes: from medieval hill-top towns to Etruscan villages: from the splendour of a Renaissance cathedral to a stark Romanesque church.

Around Florence

The province of Florence is full of natural and artistic attractions.

To the south of Florence is the Chianti area - one of the most spectacular and harmonious landscapes you can find in Tuscany. A land full of swaying cypress trees, olive groves, vineyards and oak woods, scattered with low stone houses, medieval castles and Medici villas. You should not miss a wine tasting in this area(we can book one for you) and a visit to the town of San Gimignano nicknamed the "Medieval Manhattan" for its skyline. In the 12th-13 th centuries the city had a total of 76 towers of which only 14 have remained. Our B&B, www.ilparetaio.it ,is just 20 minutes by car from this town. In this South direction you should not miss visiting Siena (one of the most beautiful cities in Italy) easily reachable from Florence both by bus (Sita lines) and by car. In this last case we recommend a stop on the way at Monteriggioni castle where you could have a nice lunch.

Just north of Florence lies the Mugello, the mountainous Appennine region.The best view of the mountains is a seat in the Roman theatre of Fiesole, a delightful hill town 8 Km (5 miles) northeast of Florence.

East of Florence there is the Valdarno area with the beautiful Patromagno hills and the monastery of Vallombrosa. The reward for making the journey is the the splendid beech wood that surrounds the monastery.Again to the East is the city of Arezzo, easy to reach by train from Florence. Arezzo is known for its gold art and antiques. It is rich in buildings and works of art of all eras. On the first Sunday of every month the main square, Piazza Grande, is the venue for an antiques market, the largest and oldest for its kind in Italy.

Not far from Florence and easy to reach also the city of Pisa with the iconic Leaning Tower and "Field of Miracles" and the city of Lucca where we recommend a promenade along the top of the walls encircling the city.

What you should not miss is at least a visit to one of the many beautiful Villas and Gardens on the city outskirts or easily accessible from Florence: Villa Medici, Villa La Pietra, VIlla Gamberaia, Villa Medicea Poggio a Caiano, Villa Demidoff and Parco di Pratolino.