Lay of the Land
The largest region in central Italy, Tuscany is bordered to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the north and east by the Ligurian coast and the Apennine mountain range, and to the east and south by the regions of Umbria and Lazio. Florence, the regional capital, is in the northeast, in the lee of the Apennine foothills. West of here, in the central plain formed by the lower course of the Arno and its confluents, lie the historic towns of Prato, Pistoia, Lucca, and Pisa. South of Florence is wine territory, with the vineyard-strewn Chianti hills leading down to Siena, a springboard for the beautiful southeastern part of the region. East of Siena are the art-rich towns of Arezzo and Cortona, while to the south and southwest the wild Merse and Ombrone valleys lead down to Grosseto—a nondescript provincial capital that is the gateway to the Maremma, Tuscany's southern coast and hinterland, with its beaches, Etruscan ruins, and Morellino di Scansano vineyards. From south to north, popular summer resorts include chi-chi Capalbio, the rocky promontory of Monte Argentario, yachty Punta Ala, and the Napoleonic island of Elba. Beyond the working port of Livorno, the northern Tuscan coast takes in family-oriented Viareggio and stylish Forte dei Marmi. Just inland from here rise the lofty Alpi Apuane, famous for their Carrara marble quarries.
WHEN TO GO
Tuscany is a year-round destination. If art is your priority, come in winter, when reduced visitor numbers make fresco-gazing and museum-trawling a real pleasure. But be aware that it can get bitingly cold here, especially in January, when the average temperature in Siena is just 4.6°C (this is when you realize why Tuscany is so big on soups; the red wine helps, too). Spring and fall are lovely times of year for touring the countryside, but if you want to avoid the rain, don't leave it too early or late in the season: The second half of May into the first week of June and the second half of September into the first or second week of October usually offer the best balance of warm daytime temperatures, cool but pleasant evenings, and low risk of rainfall. In July and August, it can get seriously hot inland (temperatures all over the region touched 39 degrees during the 2003 heat wave, though average July temperatures are in the 23°C to 26°C range). If you don't have a villa with a pool or an air-conditioned hotel, the only remedy at such times is to head for the coast—along with everybody else.
HOW TO GET THERE
Delta flies from New York JFK into Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport (www.pisa-airport.com). Eurofly also flies nonstop from JFK to Bologna, which is only an hour away from the border with Tuscany (39-051-647-9615; www.bologna-airport.it). Otherwise, the choice is between Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport at Fiumicino (www.adr.it)—a good hopping-off point for southern Tuscany—and Milan Malpensa (www.sea-aeroportimilano.it/en). Domestic Italian flights also run out of Pisa, as well as flights to and from London and other European destinations. There is a smaller airport in Peretola, west of Florence, too: Amerigo Vespucci Airport (www.aeroporto.firenze.it), with a reduced range of European and domestic connections. All the major car rental agencies operate out of these terminals.
Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html) has an excellent website for finding train connections. The high-speed Eurostar runs frequently from Rome to Florence and takes a little over an hour and a half. There is no direct connection to Siena, however: From Rome, you need to take a slower Regionale or Intercity train in the direction of Florence and change at Chiusi; allow at least three hours for the whole trip. There are regular trains between Florence, Lucca, and Pisa; from Pisa, the coast line runs south to Rome via Grosseto and north to Genoa via Viareggio and the Cinque Terre. Several bus companies serve the region. Connections between Siena and Florence, Montepulciano, and Montalcino are provided by TRAIN (Siena: 39-0577-204-111; www.trainspa.it). Other bus companies serving various parts of the region include SITA (www.sitabus.it) and Lazzi (www.lazzi.it). It is essential to have a car to visit the countryside, valleys, abbeys, monasteries, and hill towns of Tuscany. Car rental offices are located in airports and major train stations. To get an idea of pricing, to rent an Opel Astra in Florence from Avis for a week would cost around $457.
The official regional tourism website can be found at www.turismo.toscana.it
Arezzo city and province: 28 Piazza Repubblica, 52100 Arezzo; 39-0575-377-678; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.apt.arezzo.it
Grosseto city and province (incuding the Maremma): 206 Viale Monterosa, 58100 Grosseto; 39-0564-462-611; email@example.com; www.lamaremma.info
Lucca city: 2 Piazza Guidiccioni, 55100 Lucca; 39-0583-919-920; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.luccaturismo.it
Massa Carrara province: 24 Lungomare Vespucci, 54100 Marina di Massa; 39-0585-240-063; email@example.com; www.aptmassacarrara.it
Pisa city and province: 6 Via Silvio Pellico, 56125 Pisa; 39-050-929-777; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.pisaturismo.it
Pistoia city: 4 Piazza del Duomo, 51100 Pistoia; 39-0573-21622; email@example.com; www.pistoia.turismo.toscana.itSiena city: 56 Piazza del Campo, 53100 Siena; 39-0577-280-551; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.terresiena.it Versilia (Tuscan riviera): 10 Viale Carducci, 55049 Viareggio; 39-0584-962-233; email@example.com; www.aptversilia.it View Italy Factsheet