What wildlife can you expect to see on your Tuscan holiday?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What wildlife can you expect to see on your Tuscan holiday?
Posted by Ruth (18/12/2015)

Whether you’re going to Tuscany for the rolling hills and mountains, olive groves and vineyards or rocky coastline, you’re sure to witness some rich and varied wildlife. Tuscany has always attracted visitors for its beautiful scenery, yet its flora and fauna are often forgotten until you see it for yourself. Before you go on a Tuscan holiday, it’s worth researching and finding the best spots for viewing the wildlife so here are a few pointers.

Tuscany’s mountains provide a glorious backdrop to any picturesque view, as well as great fun for walking and hiking. To make the most out of the mountainous terrain, visiting one of the highest points in the area such as the Garfagnana region is well worth doing. Situated between the Apuan Alps and the Appennines, Garfagnana is home to the largest Italian National Park which stretches over 50km. Wolves, golden eagles, eagle owls, mouflon mountainous sheep and boars are to be spotted here.

The coastline of Tuscany is popular for its fine, sandy beaches. However, if you’d rather get off the beaten track, the small island of Capraia offers unspoilt coves and clear waters with an abundance of marine wildlife. Other creatures to be seen include gulls, migratory birds and even the occasional visit from whales and dolphins. The large dark butterfly, named the Foxy Emperor, is often found amongst the flora on the rocky coastline.

Vineyards and farms
Tuscany is most renowned for its relaxing countryside, rolling vineyards and Mediterranean olive groves. You won’t have to walk far to see the wildlife around the outside of any sleepy village. Foxes, deer, sheep, mouflon, hares, porcupines, stone martens and weasels are to be seen amongst the woods and forests.

For a villa in Tuscany to relax in when you’re not discovering the wildlife, take a browse on our site. To-Tuscany can help you to find your perfect holiday accommodation.
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Florence’s Best Frescoes

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Florence’s Best Frescoes

Posted by Sonia (11/12/2015)

Florence is a truly spectacular city with a rich and varied history and culture. One of the city’s best known features is the wonderful quality of its artworks, with its magnificent frescoes being one of the key talking points for most visitors. There are literally hundreds of different frescos to see in the city’s many buildings that are open to the public, but there are several which stand out from the rest and are really not to be missed.

Magi Chapel
Part of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, the interior walls of the Magi Chapel are almost entirely covered with frescos by the Renaissance master Benozzo Gozzoli. The paintings are all related to the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
The three main frescos portray the journey of the three magi (or ‘wise men’) on the way to Bethlehem to honour the birth of Jesus. Many people believe that the depictions of the magi were based on the likenesses of members of the Medici family who owned the palazzo and paid for the frescos. There are further smaller frescoes in the apse showing various saints and angels and there are also three vertical frescos showing the shepherds who visited Jesus.

Santa Maria Novella
The first great basilica constructed in Florence, Santa Maria Novella’s frescoes offer fantastic examples of both Gothic and early Renaissance artwork. The Filippo Strozzi Chapel contains Filippino Lippi’s depictions of the apostles Philip and James which were completed in 1502. The chapel also contains frescoes of St John the Evangelist, Adam, Noah, Jacob and Abraham.
The Cappella Strozzi di Mantova features frescoes inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and in the Della Pura Chapel there is the wonderful 14th century fresco of Madonna and Child and St. Catherine.

Il Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral)
More properly known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower), Il Duomo is one of the best known and most visited sites in Florence. Its most recognisable feature is the 45 metre wide dome that crowns the building, the underside of which is home to a truly spectacular fresco.
The work, carried out under the supervision of Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari took 11 years, starting in 1568 and ending in 1579. The gigantic painting covers 3,600 square metres and represents the Last Judgement. Vasari died in 1574, meaning he never got to see the work completed, however Zuccari and others finished the fresco and, following restoration work that ended in 1995 this magnificent artwork is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

To Tuscany has a fantastic range of villas in Florence offering the perfect place from which to explore this beautiful and historic city.
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Top 5 Flight Essentials

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Top 5 Flight Essentials

Posted by Dympna (04/12/2015)

When you’re travelling to Tuscany, you want to be reassured you’ll have a comfy flight. A typical flight journey will take roughly 2 hours from the UK so we’ve come up with some flight essentials that will help make the journey fly by.

The number 1 flight essential has to be a good book, wherever you’re travelling to. Make sure your book of choice isn’t too heavy as you’ll have to be carrying it around with you at the airport, before you board the flight. Or if your book is on the larger side, why not invest in a kindle? Kindles are fast becoming a handbag staple as they’re lightweight and practical.

If you’re a regular flyer, you’ll be aware of the ear popping situation when taking off and landing. This can be slightly uncomfortable if you’re not expecting it but easily avoided with some sucking sweets. Plus, you’ll have a tasty treat for the flight.

Head and Neck Pillow
When preparing for an overnight flight, remember your pillow. You can get small fold up ones to take up minimal room in your hand luggage and they can be a life saver if you’re after some shut eye.

Comfy Clothes
If you’re planning on taking an early flight, or flying in the middle of the night, then make sure that you take some comfy clothes so that you can nap on while flying. Remember that though you may feel hot in the airport, your plane will definitely have the air con on, so packing a jumper is a must.

Lastly, you’ll want some headphones and music with you. An iPod or music player come in really handy if you’re too tired to read, but can’t sleep, and may just help you drift off. Headphones also prove useful to drown out any particularly loud passengers!

You are now prepared to board your flight. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay after you land in Tuscany, then look at our selection of Tuscan villas. We have a variety of villas near to the airport or further afield, to cater to any family. 
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Florence’s Best Open Air Swimming Pools

Friday, November 27, 2015

Florence’s Best Open Air Swimming Pools

Posted by Mikolaj (27/11/2015)

Nothing says luxury when you are on holiday like relaxing in a truly great pool under the sun. Fortunately, Tuscany has a number of really spectacular open air pools to choose from, meaning you are spoiled for choice. Florence in particular has a great variety of these pools, making it the ideal city for those looking to spend some time splashing about in the sun. Here are three of our favourites which are all open to the public from early June to mid-September.

Located near the Artemio Franchi Stadium in the centre of Florence, Piscina Comunale Costoli is the biggest and best known of the city’s pools. It has two outdoor pools, one Olympic-sized and perfect for serious swimmers, the other smaller and best suited to families and more casual swimmers. The complex also contains a bar/restaurant where you can grab a coffee and a bite to eat and outside there is a large grassed area perfect for picnics.
Entrance to Costoli will cost you €7 (€5 for concessions, kids 6 and under go free) making it pretty good value for money. The pool is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 6pm (except Thursdays when it stays open until 8pm) and on Mondays from 2pm-6pm.

Le Pavoniere
A short walk from the city centre, La Pavoniere is a popular pool located within the beautiful Parco delle Cascine. The pool is open to the public but you do have to pay and at around 10 Euros per person (depending on which days you go and what time) it’s not the cheapest. However, the setting is wonderful and there is a bar serving drinks and food to help you make a day of it.
The pool is open every day from 10am-7pm and between Wednesday and Sunday is also opens for evening swimming between 8-12pm.

Piscina Goffredo Nannini sits beside the River Arno that runs through the centre of Florence opposite Parco delle Cascine. It also offers both an Olympic-sized pool and a smaller pool, making it suitable for a wide range of users. There is a restaurant onsite and a large lawn at the front with both shaded and sunny areas where you can enjoy some food and work on your tan or take a break from the hot sunshine.
Entry will cost you €7 (€5 for concessions) and the pool is open Monday-Friday from 10am-6pm while on weekends you can visit from 9am-7pm.

We offer a wide range of luxury villas in Tuscany and are happy to discuss your requirements both for your villa and the local area to help you have the perfect Tuscan break.
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Tuscan Honeymoon

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tuscan Honeymoon

Posted by Virginie (20/11/2015)
Honeymooning in Tuscany is a chance to see some amazing culture and soak up the romantic atmosphere of the region, all while spending some much earnt alone time together as newlyweds. When honeymooning, you may simply want to stay at your luxury villa and relax, but if you do feel like exploring there is a wealth of romantic locations in Tuscany.
Hiring a car and exploring the local area surrounding your villa will be sure to find your some picturesque landscapes that are perfect for photo opportunities and gentle walks, but if you want to plan some real sightseeing into your trip, you may want to consider the following.

Watch the Sunset/Sunrise in Pisa
If staying near Pisa it is worth staying out late, or getting up early and visiting the Leaning Tower to watch the sunset or sunrise. You’ll find that the Piazza del Duomo is quieter then than during the middle of the day, so you can really soak up the atmosphere and take in the beauty of these world famous pieces of architecture.
Combining this experience with going for breakfast or making dinner plans means that you can experience the cuisine that Pisa has to offer.
It is also worth visiting the complex during the building’s opening times, as you can climb the Tower for breathtaking views of the city, and see the spectacular interior of the Duomo.

Head to the Beach – or Spa!
Tuscany’s coast has plenty of amazing beaches that newlyweds can relax on. With many private beaches you can almost guarantee luxury with sun loungers and some wonderful bars. If looking for a pampering experience, then head to one of the natural spas Tuscany is known for. There’s a range of thermal spas that are perfect for unwinding while on honeymoon. Head to The Saturnia for an amazing experience.

Visit a Botanical Garden
Taking a trip to a botanical garden during your Tuscan honeymoon can be a beautiful way to escape the crowds. With plenty of green space available throughout most communes.
The Orto Botanico dell'Università di Siena is a university botanical garden and is open throughout the year. Located inside Siena’s city, you can visit the gardens for free and escape the often busy centre of Siena and explore a wonderful range of plants.

If you’re planning your honeymoon and want a truly relaxing escape, then take a look at our selection of romantic Tuscany villas on our website.
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Tuscany’s Best Castles

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tuscany’s Best Castles

Posted by Ruth (13/11/2015)

Tuscany has some of finest surviving castles in the world, many of which have a distinctive style reminiscent of the classic ‘fairy tale castle’. Whether you are planning a romantic holiday, a history lovers’ tour or a family vacation, the castles of Tuscany are wonderfully atmospheric, conjuring up over a thousand years of Italian history. The following are our top three picks from the region (although there are so many to choose from we could have easily picked twenty!).

Located on a ridge overlooking Arezzo, this walled village (known locally as Civitella della Chiana), is steeped in history. Its fortifications date back to the Kingdom of the Lombards in the early mediaeval period, sometime between the 6th and 8th century AD. Before that the site was home to settlements going all the way back to pre-Roman times.
Today, the original fortifications have survived mostly intact, however the main fortress (or Rocca) was heavily damaged by bombing during the Second World War and has not been restored. However, Civitella still provides an excellent example of a mediaeval Tuscan walled town and offers fantastic views across the surrounding area.

Brunella Fortress
The exact date of the construction of this impressive fortress is not known, although most educated guesses place it at some time during the 15th century due to the architectural style. The castle occupies a strategic position overlooking the nearby town of Aulla at the junction of the Aulella and Magra rivers.
The squat, square shaped castle is in excellent condition having been used as a private residence during the early part of the 20th century before being bought by the state who carried out a complete restoration. It is currently home to the Natural History Museum of Lunigiana and sits within a wonderful natural park.

Castello Malaspina – Fosdinovo
Malaspina Castle dominates the Tuscan town of Massa and has a rich and varied history. The earliest recording of a keep on the site comes from 1164, however this was levelled by an army from nearby Lucca in 1269. Construction of the new castle was begun in 1340 by the Malaspina family and incorporated surviving elements of the original fortification.
During the Renaissance, the castle was updated into a more elegant fortified home in line with the fashions of the day. Legend has it that Dante’s vision of the descending circles of Hell from the Divine Comedy was inspired by a funnel shaped cave near the castle. During the 17th century, the fortification fell into the hands of the military and it was subsequently used as a prison until 1946.
After many years of refurbishment, the entire complex is now open to the public and contains a fantastic collection of antique furniture and paintings, a torture chamber and, allegedly, a ghost!

To Tuscany are one of the top providers of independent Tuscany villas, with a wide variety of accommodation options on offer throughout the region. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements and we will help you find the perfect place to stay.
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Give Your Kids a Taste of Tuscany

Friday, November 6, 2015

 Give Your Kids a Taste of Tuscany

Posted by Sonia (06/11/2015)

One of the great joys of any holiday abroad is getting to try out the local cuisine. However, we know that kids can sometimes be fussy about trying new things and that they often need a little encouragement. The following are our top picks to get your kids excited about going on a food adventure and (hopefully) turn them into budding foodies!

The Perugina Chocolate Factory
Anyone who has ever read or seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has no doubt dreamt of visiting a real life chocolate factory. Baci Perugina offers just that. Located on the outskirts of Perugia, the company has been making sweets since 1907 and now has locations in New York and Chicago as well as their Italian home. Visitors get to see chocolate being made, take a tour of the factory museum and even try out some of the chocolates fresh from the production line! Take a look at the Baci Perugina website to find out more.

Gelato Tour
At the risk of stereotyping, most children love ice cream so when in Italian it would be foolish not to indulge them! Florence is well known for the high quality and variety of its gelato (the Italian name for ice cream) with a wide range of gelato bars (or gelateries) to choose from. Booking a gelato tour is a great way to see the city and a real treat for the whole family. Alternatively, you can make a list of the best local gelateries that you want to visit and organise your own tour.

Pizza Making
One of the best ways to get kids excited about new foods is to get them involved in making them. Pizza is a relatively safe place to start as most children are already familiar with it. Italy offers the perfect chance to introduce them to more traditional kinds of pizza and more adventurous toppings than they might be used to at home. Located just to the south of Florence in the hills of Chianti, Ciao Laura offers pizza making classes which children are very welcome to attend.

To Tuscany has a number of villas in Florence, Perugia and throughout Tuscany available for rent, many of which are perfect for families. We are also happy to advise you on the best activities for whatever kind of holiday you are planning.
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Pecorino – A Truly Tuscan Cheese

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pecorino – A Truly Tuscan Cheese

Posted by Dympna Docherty (30/10/2015)

Like the rest of Italy, Tuscany is well known for its range of fabulous foods. For tourists, sampling the local cuisine is normally a top priority, but with so many tasty treats to choose from, where do you begin? Cheese is a staple part of the Tuscan diet and something the locals excel at producing. Pecorino is probably the cheese most closely associated with the region, so we wanted to let you in on the action.

What is pecorino
A hard cheese made from ewe’s milk, there are four main varieties of pecorino which all have Protected Designation of Origin status. This means only cheese made in certain specific places in Italy can truthfully be called pecorino. The cheese is still made to an original method which dates back thousands of years, having been a staple part of the diet of Roman legionaries and being mentioned in the writings of ancient authors such as Pliny the Elder. This means, when you bite into a piece of pecorino, you are tasting a piece of Italian history.

Romano or Tuscano?
The most popular variety is Pecorino Romano, one of the officially recognised areas of production for which is the Grosseto Province of Tuscany. There is also a local variety, Pecorino Toscano, which is very popular throughout the region. Pecorino Romano tends to be harder and saltier, while the Toscano variety often has a more buttery texture and nuttier flavour. However, this does vary from producer to producer, so the only sensible option is to try as many different varieties as possible!

How to eat it
As a hard cheese, Pecorino is easy to grate or shave and is often used as an alternative to parmesan on pasta and salads. It can also be used at the end of a meal where it is frequently paired with figs, pears and walnuts and drizzled with honey. The Toscano variety is also sometimes incorporated into desserts where its less salty flavour is an advantage.

Where to get it
Pretty much all delis and markets in Tuscany will sell at least one type of pecorino, but it is also worth heading direct to a producer if you can. Corzano e Paterno is a pecorino producing farm halfway between Florence and Siena which also offers tours of their facilities and cheese tasting sessions.

Many of the To Tuscany team are based right here in Tuscany, giving us a fantastic insight into all that’s best about this wonderful region. We are always happy to advise our customers on the best things to do, see and, of course eat, so once you’ve found the perfect Tuscan villa to rent feel free to pick our brains about the rest of your trip. 
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Visiting Pietransanta

Friday, October 23, 2015

Visiting Pietransanta

Posted by Mikolaj (23/10/2015)

Renowned as a hub of artistic creativity, those taking a holiday in Tuscany may want to consider visiting Pietransanta. Situated 3km from the coast, 32km north of Pisa, and lying at the foothills of Apuan Alps, the comune is easy to access by car or train and offers plenty to do and see.

Bozzetti Museum
Follow the creative process from start to finish at the Bozzetti Museum. Filled with examples of how sculptures are developed and made, it is a treat for lovers of art history and theory, as well as newcomers to the artistic world. The museum is based in the 16th century former convent S. Agostino, is free to visit, and is open throughout the year.
The museum includes a park filled with contemporary sculptures by international artists that show how much sculpture has progressed and evolved since the times of Michelangelo.

Piazza Duomo
This Piazza is home to Pietransanta’s Duomo and a number of small cafés that are perfect for relaxing with a coffee and a light bite. Visit the church of S. Agostino to see an inspiring church that has a beautiful stained glass window, a marble pulpit, and frescoes.
The piazza also frequently showcases contemporary sculpture so expect to see unique artwork throughout your visit.

Marina di Pietrasanta
Just 3km from Pietrasanta is a coastline of golden sands. The beach’s beauty has given it the reputation of one of Italy’s best beaches and it is a great location for an afternoon of fun in the sun. Go to a private beach and pay for the luxury of using sun loungers, restaurants, and their other facilities.

To Tuscany provide a selection of handpicked luxury Tuscany villas for those looking for a bespoke Italian experience. Browse our website to see our selection of villas where you can relax and unwind or use as a base to explore everything that Tuscany has to offer.
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Truffles Tasting in Tuscany

Friday, October 2, 2015

Truffles Tasting in Tuscany

image from: aromaweb.it
Posted by Virginie 02/10/2015

Truffles are one of the world’s most expensive foodstuffs, ranging in price from hundreds to thousands of pounds per kilo. For food-lovers, they are often seen as one of the ultimate gastronomic delights. Tuscany is one of the world’s top truffle-producing regions, so if you’re planning a holiday in this part of Italy, it’s well worth fitting some truffle tasting in while you’re here. Read on for our beginners guide to this most delicious of delicacies.

What are truffles?
Truffles are a type of fungus usually found around the roots of trees. Traditionally farmers have struggled to cultivate truffles, meaning that the only way to produce them was by heading out into the woods to find places that they grow naturally. In recent years, however, growers have had some success with mass producing truffles, but this industry is still in its infancy and many feel the naturally harvested variety are far superior to farmed truffles.

Types of truffles
There are a number of different types of truffles on the market, but the two most common are white and black truffles, both of which can be found in Tuscany. White truffles are generally the more expensive of the two, with the current record being set by businessman Stanley Ho, who paid £165,000 for a 1.5 kilo specimen in 2007. Black truffles, by comparison, are relatively cheap, but will still set you back anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand pounds per kilo.

Where to find them
Fortunately, the flavour of truffles is so strong that even the tiniest amounts can transform a dish, so you can easily sample their delights in many Tuscan restaurants without having to remortgage your home. Rather than trying to buy truffles yourself for home cooking, we recommend finding a restaurant with the expertise to make the most out of this precious ingredient. Tuscany’s top truffle hot spot is found in the hills around the town of San Miniato near Pisa, with many of the local eateries featuring the fantastic fungus on their menus.
The team here at To Tuscany can help you find the perfect place to stay while you sample all the delights that Italy has to offer. With villas in Pisa, Florence, Siena and through the entire region
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Tuscany’s Best Beach Resorts

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tuscany’s Best Beach Resorts

Posted by Ruth (18/09/2015)
Italy has over 280 Blue Flag beaches and more than 60 Blue Flag marinas, many of which are found along Tuscany’s 250 miles of coastline. These beaches are a mixture of private beaches and free beaches (known as “spiaggia libera”) so it’s important to know which kind you are visiting in advance to make sure you aren’t hit with an unexpected charge when you get there. Here are our picks for some of the top beaches in Tuscany. 

For those looking for a more high-end beach experience, Versilia is ideal. The beach here is very wide and long and is well served by various bathing establishments who provide deckchairs, umbrellas, changing rooms, showers and bars. All of this comes at a price, however, so if you’re looking for somewhere you can relax and work on your tan for free, you will need to look elsewhere.
On the plus side, both the sand and water at Versilia tend to be very clean and there is fantastic nightlife in the surrounding area during the summer months, making this a great place to spend the whole day.

One of Tuscany’s best-known spots, the seaside resort town of Castiglioncello has inspired painters such as the Macchiaioli and was once the favourite beach destination of top Italian film stars like Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi. Head to the north of the town for a series of beautiful sandy beaches or head to the Bagno Lido or Le Forbici beach club with its stunning infinity pool for a more luxurious experience.

Cala Violina
Anyone looking for a classic white sandy beach could do a lot worse than Cala Violina. One of the most beautiful beaches in Tuscany, it has also been rated the top beach in Italy. If that isn’t enticing enough, Cala Violina also has the advantage of being a free beach, meaning you won’t have to pay for the privilege of sunning yourself here.

With that in mind, Cala Violina is actually surprising quiet much of the time and its location within the heart of a nature reserve helps to keep this spot wonderfully unspoiled.
Whether you are looking for a beach holiday, city break or any other kind of vacation, Tuscany has so much to offer. Our villas in Siena, Florence, Pisa and more are the ideal place to stay while getting to know this fantastic part of Italy. If you have any questions about how to make the most of your trip, please feel free to email us
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Take a Look at Lucca

Friday, August 28, 2015

Take a Look at Lucca

Posted by Dympna Docherty (28/08/2015)

Lucca often gets overlooked by visitors to Tuscany, but the small city tucked away in the north of the region has a lot to offer, especially for those looking for somewhere a little less touristy to stay.

Why choose Lucca?
Located about 12 miles North East of Pisa, the city dates back to Roman times, a legacy which can still be seen it the grid layout of its streets. The remains of the ancient Roman amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro which sits at the heart of the city and occupies the same space where the amphitheatre once stood.

Lucca can easily be reached from Florence and Pisa by public transport, making it highly accessible even if you don’t have a car and is only a half hour drive from the coast, including the famous beaches of Versilia. The city is also famous as the birthplace of legendary Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and there is a festival held in his honour every year in nearby Torre del Lago.

Things to see
Like many Tuscan cities, Lucca underwent a massive transformation during the Renaissance. One of the most prominent and unusual reminders of this period are the city walls which once protected the city. Unlike other cities in the region, Lucca’s walls were never demolished and are still completely intact, separating the old town from the more modern parts of the city. The walls now form a tree-lined promenade around the old town which provide a fantastic way to see the city.

Besides its walls, Lucca is stuffed full of historic architecture. The Torre Guinigi is a 130ft tower with a hanging garden at the top featuring an ancient oak tree. Tourists can climb the tower, providing the perfect vantage point. One of the most impressive buildings in Lucca is the Ducal Palace. Dating from the 14th century, the palace was destroyed by the people of Lucca in 1370 before being rebuilt by Paolo Guinigi in 1401 before being restored again in 1578 by architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati.  Duomo di San Martino a.k.a. (St Martin's Cathedral) is the seat of the archbishop of Lucca, the oldest parts of which date back to 1063. It is famous for the Holy Face of Lucca, a wooden crucifix and image of Jesus Christ supposedly carved by Nicodemus who lived at the same time as Jesus and the labyrinth embedded in cathedral’s portico.

We have a fantastic range of villas in Lucca for you to choose and are always happy to advise you on the best ways to make the most of your trip. If you have any questions we would love to hear from you, so please email us or call +44 121 286 7782.
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A daytrip to Monte Argentario

Friday, August 21, 2015

A daytrip to Monte Argentario

Posted by Mikolaj (21/08/15)
A rarely talked about but breathtakingly beautiful area, the Monte Argentario peninsula is the perfect place for a daytrip or two. Offering fresh sea air and stunning views, visitors can expect to find an atmosphere that is far more relaxed that the busy cities of Northern Tuscany.

Monte Argentario is approximately an hour away from Grosetto and the area makes the perfect day trip if you’re staying in a Tuscany villa in the area. If you like the idea of visiting some Tuscan beaches and visiting the coast while away, then here’s where to go.

 Porto Santo Stefano
The largest town on the Monte Argentario peninsula is Porto Santo Stefano. The picturesque seaport was once prone to attacks from pirates. A Spanish Forte was built in the 16th century to protect the town and is now home to a permanent exhibition called Submerged Memories.
The town is also perfect for nature lovers, especially those who are interested in marine biology, as there are many diving excursions and opportunities to explore the coast. It is best to book these trips in advance and get there early for morning departures.

Porte Ercole
Porte Ercole is smaller than Porto Santo Stefano yet still has lots to offer. With stretches of beach that are great for sunbathing and swimming, you can split your visit to Porte Ercole between activities and relaxing. A visit to Forte Stella provides some spectacular views and another glimpse of 16th century history.

As you drive to visit either Porte Ercole or Porte Santo Stefano, it’s worth stopping off in Obetello. The town is situated in the middle of two lagoons, which offers a beautiful landscape. Visit Laguna di Orbetello for a mesmerising panorama and to see the round windmill that sits in the water, making for a wonderful view.

Whether you’re planning on spending your entire holiday lounging around by the pool or beach, or whether you want to explore everything the region has to offer, To Tuscany has a great selection of villas to choose from. Take a look at our website, or browse our blog for inspiration for your trip.
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Fall in Love with Mount Amiata

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fall in Love with Mount Amiata

Posted by Virginie ( 14/08/2015)
Dominating the landscape of southern Tuscany, Mount Amiata is the second largest volcanic peak in Italy. It is home to a number of natural and man-made attractions making it the perfect spot for a day-trip or for a longer stay. Located about 50 miles south of Siena, Mount Amiata is easily accessible and had something for all types of holiday makers.

Nature lovers
As well as offering excellent views across southern Tuscany, the old volcano is covered in trails, rivers, springs, rocky outcrops and more, making it a great place to go for a stroll or do some more serious hiking. Mount Amiata is also known for the quality of its chestnuts and mushrooms, so for those that prefer to experience nature through their tastebuds there are plenty of opportunities to do just that in local cafes and restaurants.

History fans
Mount Amiata’s history is strongly connected to mercury mining and the Parco Museo delle Miniere del Monte Amiata allows visitors a wonderful insight into the volcano’s mining past. On the mountain’s eastern slopes you will find the Benedictine Abbey of San Salvatore, one of the oldest monasteries in the region. The surrounding town, Abbadia San Salvatore, which grew up around the abbey is considered to have one of the best preserved medieval town centres in Europe.

Sports enthusiasts
Anyone looking for some healthy exercise and excitement will be in luck as Mount Amiata is a popular destination for a range of sports, including skiing, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and caving. The volcano has over 15 miles of ski trails and slopes, and a stunning 17.5 mile long hiking trail known as the Ring of the Mountain that takes you around the entire mountain providing unrivalled views of the entire surrounding region.

Those in need of relaxation
When you are worn out from all the other delights of Mount Amiata, or if you would rather just skip to some serious relaxation, you can head to one the mountain’s several natural thermal spas. You can choose from modern spa complexes offering a full range of beauty and relaxation procedures or simply head to one of the natural hot springs which are available to the public completely free of charge.

Mount Amiata is just one of the many beautiful natural wonders to be found in Tuscany. Our villas in Siena provide the perfect place to stay while you get to know this stunning and diverse region, and if you have any questions please feel free to email us and we will be happy to help.

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8 things to do and see with the children in Tuscany

Friday, July 24, 2015

8 things to do and see with the children in Tuscany

Posted by Ruth (24/07/2015)
Planning a family holiday to Tuscany means trying to balance sightseeing, relaxation, and keeping the kids entertained. Though you may be eager to spend hours gazing at Botticelli’s artwork or visiting every city’s Duomo, your children may need something else to keep them amused. Avoid tantrums and boredom by doing some of the following during your Tuscany trip.

See the Dinosaurs at Parco Preistorico
With 2015 seeing the release of the blockbuster film Jurassic World, it’s likely that parents are going to be toting children obsessed with prehistoric creatures. If your children can’t stop talking about dinos, then a trip to Parco Preistorico is perfect.
Created by landowner Erado Ghironi after he discovered fossils onsite, the park is an educational space that allows children to engage with their imagination and nature.
For more information, click here.

Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Florence
Children will love the interactive exhibitions in the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Florence. The informative and fun museum looks into Da Vinci’s inventions and his life. With special focus on his ‘flying machines’, children are likely to be inspired to come up with their own inventions and even attempt creating their own artworks. 
Alternatively, you could head to Vinci, near the birthplace of Leonardo, where there is another museum.

Pinocchio Park
Celebrate one of the greatest characters of all time by visiting Pinocchio Park, which has sculptures based on the artwork in the original book The Adventures of Pinocchio by Florentine writer Carlo Collodi. Whether you and your family have read and loved the book, or whether you regularly enjoy the Disney adaption, the park provides an excellent way to get outside and play while in Tuscany.
Find out more about the park here.

Pistoia Zoo
A day at the zoo is always a great day out wherever you are. At Pistoia Zoo, visitors can expect to see a huge variety of animals, and partake in a range of activities. With cafes and restaurants, along with a gift shop onsite, families should plan to spend the whole day at the zoo, rather than just a few hours.
You can visit the zoo’s website here for further information.

Ice Cream Tasting
Gelato is a big deal in Tuscany, and you’ll never be far from an ice cream shops. One of the best things about the many shops dotted around is that Italian gelato comes in a huge variety of flavours, from traditional pistachio, to modern bubble gum, and most flavours are delicious.
A simple way to keep children enthusiastic and cool during a day of sightseeing in the Tuscan heat is by planning ice cream tastings around your sightseeing. Share small tubs of ice cream in different flavours throughout the day to find out which flavour is your favourite, and to keep children entertained. 

Use Mus.e and visit Palazzo Vecchio
Before choosing which museums and galleries to visit with your children, check out Mus.e Firenze’s website. They organise special tours to help adults and children engage with the art and history of the city. Their website shows how they can create an exciting museum experience, including a Turtle Kit that includes some fantastic activities.
To find out more about their events, email info@muse.comune.fi.it

Play in the Pool
Planning a day or two spent playing and relaxing in your Tuscan villa is always a good idea when on holiday. Boredom on rest days can easily be avoided by making sure that your holiday accommodation has a pool that children and adults can play and swim in.
Pack some rubber rings, or get creative with your poolside games for a days’ worth of play.

Acqua Village
If a day spent by the villa pool isn’t enough for your little ones, then perhaps a trip to Acqua Village should be added to your itinerary. Situated on the coast, these water parks include water slides, wave pools, and tons of play areas.
Visit their website for maps of the sites and directions.

If you’re planning a Tuscan adventure for your children, then why not take a look at our Tuscany villas for families. We’ve got a beautiful selection of hand-picked villas for you to choose from, most which come with a pool, so take a browse today and start planning your Tuscan family getaway.
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Where to shop in Florence

Friday, July 17, 2015

Where to shop in Florence

Posted by Sonia (17/07/15)

Florence is not only home to magnificent artworks, history, and architecture but also houses some of the best shopping opportunities Tuscany has to offer. From high-end fashion brands, to picking up souvenirs from market stalls, there are plenty of local boutiques and gift shops to stumble upon in the city. Here’s our pick of where to shop while in Florence.

The traditional market
Tuscan cities are ideal for traditional market experiences, with Florence having countless markets to offer its visitors. Head to Porcellino market (Loggia del Porcellino) for a small but bustling market experience, where you can buy leather goods, scarves, and tourist trinkets. Here, you can also see a bronze copy of a statue by Pietro Tacca of a wild boar. Tradition has it that rubbing the nose of the boar will bring good luck. Those inspired by the statue can also plan a visit to the Palazzo Pitti to see the original marble sculpture.

For a larger market in Florence, head to San Lorenzo Market, which is just a few streets from the Duomo.

Looking for Luxe? Head to The Mall
For high-end designer goods and serious shopping sprees, heading to The Mall is a must. The clothing sold here definitely won’t suit every budget, with Italian brands like Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, and Fendi all having outlet shops there. Open throughout the week, the modern shopping centre is welcoming to tourists and has multilingual information points, and at just 30 minutes from Florence, is fairly easy to get to.

If you feel like visiting The Mall to purchase luxury Italian goods, you can get directions and opening hours from their website.

Beautiful Jewellery
Another great shopping location that combines sightseeing and shopping is Florence’s Ponte Vecchio. Probably the most famous bridge in Italy, the Ponte Vecchio was originally home to butcher’s shops, but is now home to a range of jewellery shops, specialising in gold pieces and souvenirs.

Here, you can purchase pendants that replicate Michelangelo’s David, the city’s coat of arms, and ancient coins, which make for a tasteful reminder of your trip to Tuscany. Shops also sell more valuable gold and silver goods, so there really is something for everyone at the Ponte Vecchio.

The Department Store
For a more budget-friendly shopping experience, you may want to head to Coin. The Italian department store has a mix of branded goods, including Italian fashion labels and beauty products. Alternatively, you could visit La Rinascente, which is small distance from Coin and not far from the Porcellino market either.

If you’re planning your Tuscany trip and are looking for luxury accommodation to stay in, then check out our selection of Tuscany villas. We’ve got a wide range of villas that are perfect for relaxing in after a long day of shopping.

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What to Wear on your Holiday in Tuscany

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What to Wear on your Holiday in Tuscany

Posted by Dympna Docherty (10/07/2015)

Tuscany has always been a stylish place to holiday, as like the rest of Italy, there is a culture for finely crafted clothes and elegant Italian style. Those who are planning a trip to the cultural hotspot of Tuscany are likely to be interested in what to wear during their break and whether there are any style faux pas to avoid.

Be Prepared
Tuscany during the summer sees dry weather and hot days, but there can be the occasional bursts of stormy weather and heavy rain. Stay dry and cool by packing a lightweight waterproof coat.
If you know that you’re going to spend a lot of time walking around the beautiful Tuscan countryside, or will be heading into city and commune centre to view the beautiful architecture, then be sure to wear sensible shoes. Sturdy footwear will mean that you can view Tuscany in comfort and won’t be spending your evenings tending to your blistered feet rather than dining out or watching the sunset.

Layer Clothing
It is a good idea for women and girls to pack some lightweight cardigans and a few pashminas and carry them with you whilst out and about. Should you decide you want to view a church or religious relic, which is highly likely, then you will find yourself getting turned away if your shoulders are bare and your hemline falls above the knee. Temporarily cover up with a cardigan and a scarf or sarong tied around your waist so that you can view the beauty of Tuscan church interiors. The same rules apply for men, so avoid wearing vests and short shorts whilst sightseeing. Instead, opt for a t-shirt and longer shorts, or trousers.

Swimwear Etiquette
Much like the rest of Europe, Italian public swimming pools sometimes have particular rules about what swimwear you have to wear. Some only allow you to swim if you are wearing a swimming cap, and men can be required to wear speedos if wanting to use the pool. Although this isn’t a strict rule like in France where speedos are required in all public swimming pools, it is best to be prepared and take a range of swimwear.

Evening Wear
While there isn’t technically a strict dress code for dining out, if you want to go out for a fancy evening meal, then it is best to dress well. Avoid shorts and t-shirts and instead wear summer dresses, chinos or linen trousers with a smart shirt when eating out in the evening. Heels, smart shoes, jewellery, and other accessories can and should be used to spice up an outfit you’d usually wear during the day.

If you don’t fancy ‘dressing up’ then do not worry, you’ll find plenty of restaurants that are more than happy to seat those dressed more casually, particularly in areas that are visited by many tourists.

If you’ve yet to book your Italian holiday, then why not take a look at our selection of beautiful Tuscany villas. Our handpicked selection caters for all, with family friendly villas, and villas for those looking for a romantic getaway. Take a look and start planning your relaxing break today.
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