Where to Go: Chianti, Siena, and Central Tuscany

The top reasons why you should visit and when

from the travel experts at Fodors.com
Photograph: Bob_Garrigus, Fodors.com member

Midway down the Italian peninsula, Tuscany (Toscana in Italian) is distinguished by rolling hills, snowcapped mountains, dramatic cypress trees, and miles of coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea—which all adds up to gorgeous views at practically every turn. The beauty of the landscape proves a perfect foil for the region's abundance of superlative art and architecture. It also produces some of Italy's finest wines and olive oils. The combination of unforgettable art, sumptuous landscapes, and eminently drinkable wines that pair beautifully with its simple food makes a trip to Tuscany something beyond special.

Reasons to Go
-Wine tasting in Chianti: Sample the fruits of the region's many vineyards at either the wineries or the wine bars found in just about every town.

-The Piazza del Campo, Siena: Sip a cappuccino or enjoy some gelato as you take in this spectacular shell-shape piazza.

-San Gimignano: Grab a spot at sunset on the steps of the Collegiata as flocks of swallows swoop in and out of the famous medieval towers.

-Buying alabaster in Volterra: Watch the carving of this softly luminous milk-white stone at the shops belonging to local craftspeople.

-Cheering the Palio in Siena: Vie for a spot among thousands to salute the winners of this race, which takes over Siena's main square twice each year.

When to Go
You may not think of Tuscany as a beach destination, but its long coastline is popular with Italian vacationers. From June through August the resort towns of Viarregio, Forte dei Marmi, and Marina di Massa are packed with beachgoers. Bagni (bathhouses) open, and the sands fill with colorful umbrellas and beach chairs; you can rent your own for about €20 a day and upward. During the rest of year the beaches are sparsely populated. You can walk for miles along the sand, watching the waves lap against the shore and breathing in the fresh sea breeze.

Crossing the Tuscan border into the region of Liguria brings you to the Cinque Terre, one of Italy's most distinctive seaside locales. Here the main attractions are five isolated fishing villages and the beautiful hiking trails that run between them.

Plan your trip to Chianti, Siena and Central Tuscany with Fodors.com

Next destination: Naples and Campania

Related: They're Living Happily Ever After in the Italian Countryside

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First Published July 9, 2012

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