The wonders of Tuscany are many: the magnificent architecture of the cities of Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and Siena, the nearly endless collection of medieval and Renaissance art, the timeless beauty of the silent countryside, where for three thousand years man and nature worked hand in hand, and, of course, there is our food and wine.
But what fascinates many is the simple majesty of the region’s medieval hill towns. Part fortresses, part ideal habitation, they are the soul of Tuscany. The narrow winding streets, small houses, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees wedged in between, personable shops of the butcher, baker, and greengrocer, these villages have provided a dignified and nurturing life to their people for centuries. A stroll through any of them imbues one with a sense of belonging, of home. And romance. It’s easy to fall in love here, and to live. And when you have to go? Oh well… at least you stayed a while.
Pienza is the ideal city. Commissioned by Pope Pius II—a humanist poet of the fifteenth century—as the epitome of Renaissance town planning, it’s set in unspoiled landscapes with magnificent views. Built around a perfect town square with 1,000 inhabitants, it is a visitor’s heaven for drives, bike rides, or country walks.
Montechiello is a respite for the soul, a secluded, ultra-romantic version of Pienza, and a perfectly restored village in a fifteenth-century landscape. Visiting the village is like being in your own kingdom. Take a pastoral walk, or venture to the nearby music and theater festival of Montepulciano if you ever want to leave this romantic bubble. Though you may well not.
A long neglected charmer close to the sea, Massa Marittima features mysterious Etruscan ruins and the esteemed wine district of Bolgheri. The central piazza is wonderfully irregular, and the restaurants unpretentious and friendly. The nearby metalliferous hills are as wild as any hikers or mountain bikers can ask for. And its inhabitants love wine.
A tiny fishing village, Talamone is a sea lover’s dream. Located on a spur of land with magnificent views, the10,000-acre Parco D’Uccelina, and a sprawling river delta next to it, are filled with wild life from boars to herons. Ideal for trips on foot, horseback, bikes, or canoes, it’s just a short ferry ride to the beautiful island of Giglio.
A barely known trio of villages, Sorano, Savona, and Pitigliano are picturesquely set in the wildest, most unvisited corner of Tuscany, full of baffling Etruscan ruins. Sorano is the true lost jewel, steep and dramatic, surrounded by a river and riddled by caves, a hideaway of artists and musicians.