The rolling hills of Chianti are adorned by leafy vineyards and stately cypresses, all breath-taking to admire. Equally as stunning are the stone castles that watch over many of the vineyards. This is a region that produces some of the world’s most famous wines. You don’t need to love wine to appreciate the beautiful countryside, however. You could simply admire the Tuscan landscape and you’d be happy enough.
If you do enjoy wine, though, you’re in luck. I made my way to Castle Vicchiomaggio, where I enjoyed tasting the vineyard’s select Chianti Classicos, They were perhaps even more tasty than they might have been elsewhere because of the beautiful setting.
Siena’s age-old buildings mix with open-air cafes and narrow winding streets. The ancient city sits on a hill and its entire historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Siena’s well-preserved medieval buildings were homes for the city’s aristocratic families.
The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, home to Siena’s famous medieval horse race, Il Palio, features original 13th century palaces and a 300-foot-tall bell tower. If climbing the tower is not your thing, head to the Piazza del Duomo. Situated on Siena’s highest hilltop, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is built in stunning black and white marble.
Siena is best seen on foot so prepare to do a lot of walking in order to fully absorb the wonderful character of this ancient hilltop city.
[Click for full size photo]
San Gimignano is another walled medieval Tuscan town with a few notable differences from Siena – well make that about a dozen notable differences. San Gimignano is famous for its unique tower houses, around a dozen of them that pierce the skyline. The towers were built by families so that they could live out of harm’s way as wars and conflicts raged down below. There were 72 of these towers by the end of the Medieval period, with some rising more than 20 stories.The towers and the historic city center make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to visit the piazza della cisterna
, where you will find a well that was the main source of water for the town’s residents. You can climb to the top of the town’s highest towers, or you can do as I did, make your way to the top of the town walls for beautiful views overlooking Tuscany.
[Click for full size photo]
No trip to Tuscany would be complete without visiting the leaning tower of Pisa. Building began here in 1173 and continued despite the tower’s tilt. Today the imperfect icon attracts thousands of visitors daily. It’s the perfect place to snap your own iconic photograph.
Pisa is also the perfect place to begin or end any journey to Tuscany. Our journey ended here, an appropriate stopping point to a wonderful trip available to cruise passengers calling on Livorno.
Livorno is the gateway port to cypress-studded landscapes, rolling hills draped in vineyards and cities crowned by some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. I enjoyed my time in Tuscany. We spent only four days in the region, capturing wonderful sunsets, lush landscapes and charm cities such as Siena and San Gimignano. We enjoyed an afternoon of strolling through lovely Lucca and a whole day in Florence itself. The region is as rich as it gets for cruise passengers.