Hidden Gems of Tuscany

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Image source: gelateriademedici.com

Hidden Gems of Tuscany

When millions of holiday makers flock to their villas in Tuscany every year, there are a few things that will be high up on all of their lists. The fantastic leaning tower of Pisa, the iconic statue of David and the classic vineyards of Chianti will always pull in the big crowds but they are just the tip of the beautifully formed iceberg when it comes to what this region has to offer.

Something is always more enjoyable and tends to stick in your mind more when you weren’t expecting much from it. So while these famous attractions are definitely well worth a visit, why not check out a few of these hidden Tuscan treats while you’re at it.

Cala Violina – In English it means ‘violin cove’ and is so called because of the sound the sand makes under your feet as you walk along the most picturesque beach you will ever see. This amazing spot lies on the road between Follonica and Punta Ala, near Grosseto in the south west of Tuscany and involves a drive down a long winding track and a walk through a wooded area. However, the crystal clear water and powder white sand of a place that some locals don’t even know exists are sure to make your venture out of your Tuscan villa a worthwhile trip.

A city in miniature – This fantastic piece of intricate architecture can be found off one of the back streets in the city of San Gimignano, Siena and would not look out of place on the main street. It is a scaled down model of what the city would have looked like in medieval times and is narrated by commentaries in both English and Italian. It took five craftsmen three painstaking years to build and over a ton of clay was used to create the 800 buildings that are on display.  There is a lovely little gift shop and entry is completely free.

Gelateria de Medici – This is a shop entirely dedicated to ice cream. Not just any old ice cream though because every last drop is made on site using a mixture of artisan techniques and modern creative ideas. There are over forty different flavours to try, made from locally sourced natural ingredients and providing an effective reprieve from the warm weather. The emporium is located in Florence, close to the Giardino della Fortezza and mustn’t be missed by anyone with even the slightest hint of a sweet tooth.

The mystical baths of Bagno Vignoni – About thirty miles south of Siena lay the ancient baths of Bagno Vignoni. Dating back to the 12th century and beyond, these thermal waters were dedicated to the Nymphs by the Romans and are thought to heal a variety of ailments. They are still sanctioned by Italy’s national health care system today and patients are provided with prescriptions to use them. During your visit you can get involved in some reflexology or different kinds of massage that use water from the baths, or simply enjoy the surrounding scenery and the magical vapours that can be seen escaping from the water.

Sant’Antimo abbey – This is definitely one for all the lovers of beautiful buildings. The abbey is situated in a valley just 7 miles south of Montalcino and offers breath-taking views of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, a town set into the hillside. Its Romanesque architecture puts it among the finest religious buildings in Italy and it is used by the monks that live nearby to practise their prayer chanting. It is definitely worth doing some research and coinciding your visit with these chants that take place throughout the day as it can really add to your experience.

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