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When you dream of Italy, whether you realize it or not, you often visualize the rolling hills and roads lined with cypress trees of Tuscany.
The central region in Italy is about 9,000 square miles and encompasses many famous destinations, including the region's capital, Florence. Some of the region's top places to visit are recognized World Heritage sites, including the entire historical centers ofFlorence, Siena, San Gimignano and Pienza as well as the Square of Miracles in Pisa with its Leaning Tower and the entire valley in southern Tuscany known as the Val d'Orcia. In addition to these wonders, visitors should not miss the walled town of Lucca nor the medieval hilltop village of Volterra.
Tuscany is rich in culture, history and arts. All are intertwined: Tuscany, and Florence in particular, were the birthplace of the Renaissance. Tuscany is the birthplace of greats such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Donatello in the arts, Dante Alighieri, Boccaccio and Petrarch in literature, Puccini, Guido d'Arezzo (invented modern musical notation) and today's present day tenor Andrea Bocelli in music. Everywhere you visit, from Piazza del Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, to the Duomo andCivic Palace in Siena, you will be able to see the lasting landmarks and masterpieces this period in history has left for us to marvel at today.
While most of the postcards from Tuscany show soft, rolling hills, the region is also distinguished for the variety in its landscape including its coastal seaside beaches and towns, its mountains and the many valleys with stunning hilltop towns on every gentle peak in between. The magnificent island of Elba offers clear, blue waters and reefs that remind one of other destinations across the globe.
An essential part of your visit will include enjoying the delicious food and wines produced in Tuscany. The region brings life to the finest Italian red wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and numerous modern-day "Super Tuscans". Enjoy your wine with great Tuscan specialties: a plate of tagliatelle with white truffles from San Miniato or pici with Pecorino di Pienza cheese sauce, a fine Florentine steak of locally-bred Chianina beef or a panzanella bread salad with a drizzle of high-quality Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.
Tuscany's two international airports, in Pisa (PSA) and Florence (FLR), connect the region to the rest of Europe and the world. From there, you can easily move around the region using the excellent rail system, although some areas - including Chianti and Val d'Orcia - are better explored with your own means of transportation. The port city of Livorno (Leghorn) welcomes hundreds of cruise ship travelers every day.
Tuscany is beautiful year-round, with generally mild temperatures. The warmest months are July and August, and January and February the coldest. Only the highest peaks get enough snow to attract skiers. The best months for visiting are from March to June and from September through early November.
Tuscany offers great treasures for all. Whether you're on your first visit or returning again to enjoy a longer vacation, you will marvel at the magnificent masterpieces this region has inspired in all who have visited and lived here over the course of centuries.