Perfect places to live: Tuscany, Kefalonia, Rome... and Burford?

<i>Forbes</i> magazine ranks Cotswolds town sixth most idyllic place in Europe

48 Hours In: Siena

Ancient traditions are part of everyday life in this medieval Tuscan town. See it at its best, bathed in spring sunshine, before it is invaded by tourists &ndash; and horses.

Property abroad: Tuscany

Forget boring new-builds &ndash; Tuscany's the place to find character and history

Ribollita

Serves 6-8

24-Hour Room Service: Four Seasons, Florence, Italy

Some first-time visitors to Florence have been known to suffer from Stendhal syndrome – often referred to as Florence Syndrome – which is named after the 19th-century French novelist. As a result of prolonged proximity to such "sublime beauty", he was overcome with an extreme case of nerves and palpitations.

Madama Butterfly, Floria Tosca &ndash; they all came from Lucca

Visit this Tuscan city as it marks the 150th birthday of its son, Puccini, says Adrian Mourby

Andrea Bocelli: Voice of the people

He has sold 50 million records, but the blind tenor Andrea Bocelli is hoping his latest release will finally win over the critics. Peter Popham meets the singer at his Italian home

The Conversion, By Joseph Olshan

From Henry James via Mavis Gallant to Edmund White, stories about innocent Americans being undone by encounters with wicked Old Europe are a well-used literary trope. US writer Joseph Olshan seems well aware that his latest novel, The Conversion, sits on the tassel on the end of this tradition; he name-checks James early on. His plotting, however, is most unJamesian in its candour.

The hip hop guide to Tuscany's treasures

The half-term holidays are fast approaching. But how do you keep all the family entertained?

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Tuscan temptation

See Italy &ndash; from the wheel of a Ferrari

The Grand Tour of Europe was a rite of passage for the well-bred Englishmen in the 1800s. It's a great trip for the 21st-century traveller, too. And, as Peter Victor discovers, one company is offering an exciting new way to explore the Continent

A Death in Tuscany, By Michele Giuttaritrs Howard Curtis

The case begins with the discovery of the scantily-clad corpse of a teenage girl, and Supt Michele Ferrara's investigation soon turns up another murder, a kidnapping, a drugs racket and a paedophile ring, plus the involvement of the Freemasons, the Mafia and a gang of psychotic Albanians.

School's nearly out, but there's still time to book a bargain before it's too late

Still haven't decided where to take the family for a summer holiday? Simone Kane rounds up the best deals

Paperback: Love Falls, by Esther Freud

It's just a week before Charles and Diana's wedding when Lara, a north London teenager, is invited on holiday to Tuscany with a father she barely knows. Soon she is luxuriating by the pool in long lunches and pool side siestas, and about to encounter the Willoughby family – a clan of dissolute toffs staying on the hilltop next door. Readers of Freud's previous novels will spot some familiar refrains – Lara's father is a German Jew, her mother a veteran of the hippie trail. This sultry coming-of-age story captures the cool shock of emerging into the adult world, and discovering that even royal romance is dead.

24-Hour Room Service: Castello del Nero, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa

The old adage that it takes money to make money certainly rings true at the Castello del Nero. It's clear for all to see that no expense has been spared in renovating this 12th-century castle turned luxury hotel.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
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Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
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