Insider's Guide: Tuscany

In the first of a new series, we ask the experts how to get the best out of some favourite holiday destinations. This week Graham Wickens, operations manager of villa rental company Tuscany Now (tuscanynow .com), gives his tips on one of our favourite parts of Italy.


1 After admiring the view of Florence from Fiesole, visit the gardens of the Villa Medici, then admire the view again with a glass of prosecco from the terrace of Villa San Michele. The cost of the prosecco will be as breathtaking as the setting (this palazzo, now a five-star hotel, was designed by Michelangelo), but the view and the wine together are worth every cent.



2 If driving, be prepared to get lost unless you have, or have hired, a satnav. Never choose the "quickest" option on a GPS in Italy – it will send you down strade bianche, "white roads", often better suited to goats than cars. A key shortcoming of satnavs here is that they overlook the restricted traffic areas within the medieval towns, called ZTLs. These are clearly marked and rigorously monitored by cameras. Ignore the signs and your car-hire company will eventually send you a ticket for €200 or more.



3 In summer, Italians flock to the beaches and tourists flock to the main cities, including Florence and Siena. So, avoid the "big" cities and coastal areas at the weekend. If you have to travel, try to avoid the very busy motorways and main routes at these times.



4 Once upon a time, a visit to Arezzo was a cultural exercise with the emphasis on exercise – all its best bits are at the top of a steep hill. Now there's an escalator from the Pietri car park straight up to the duomo.



5 In 2009, Lucca sparked an international controversy by banning the sale of non-Italian food. The move was presented as an initiative to protect the city's culinary heritage, echoing the philosophy of the Italian-founded Slow Food. Check out slowfood.it for where to eat. These restaurants all have a snail logo over the words Slow Food.



6 The region is sprinkled with natural, mineral-rich thermal springs, where hot water bubbles from the ground at around 37C. My favourite is the Terme dei Papi in Viterbo, which offers various treatments at reasonable prices.



7 Weekly markets in main piazzas operate from 7am to 1pm or so. In villages, everything is sold at the alimentary; opening times vary, but typically they do business on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (8am to 1pm and 4 to 7pm). Bakeries often open Sunday mornings, and supermarkets tend to open seven days a week.



8 Il Giardino dei Tarocchi (the Tarot Garden), in Capalbio, is a fun, colourful and unique place. French artist Niki de Saint Phalle took 17 years to build this collection of towering tarot figures. The Gaudi-like statues appear whimsical yet are inspiring. I've never left here without a smile on my face.



9 The best wines of Montalcino and Montepulciano are among Italy's most highly regarded. Their second-tier wines, rosso di Montalcino and rosso di Montepulciano, aren't bad either. Red Montalcino, made from a local variety of the sangiovese grape, is not to be drunk young. Red Montepulciano is a blend of 70 per cent sangiovese and is ready to drink far earlier.



10 Buongiorno and cappuccinos are only for mornings. After lunch, switch to buonasera and black coffee (or macchiato with a dash of foamy milk).







For more information, visit the website of Abtoi (Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy) at loveitaly.co.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project