I was amazed to discover, on my first day in the Tuscan countryside, that the painters of the Italian Renaissance had not been painting (as I had assumed) idealized landscapes, with their lines of cypress trees vanishing on perfectly rounded hillsides in demonstration of the newly discovered system of scientific perspective. Instead, as I soaked in the magnificent views, I realized that they had simply been recording what they saw and that the very same landscape portrayed in those wonderful paintings still exists in all its striking and often austerely complex detail throughout Tuscany today.
Traveling along virtually any Tuscan road or rail line reveals a never ending variety of twisting hills and dales, all covered in an intensely nurtured patchwork of vineyards, olive groves, woods, fields of grain and rows of stately cypresses, darkly and stiffly silhouetted against dramatic skies. The special magic of Tuscany lies in its seemingly paradoxical feeling of natural, organic beauty in what must be one of earths most carefully tended gardens.
Each season offers that beauty in its own key. In winter, the many delicate shades of green of winter wheat and evergreens mix with the raw umbers and sienas of the plowed earth tones in low, misty, foggy skies. By spring, the greens have brightened and wild flowers begin to appear, "crescendo-ing" to bright red carpets of poppies by late May. (We picked 26 varieties of wild flowers on one walk!). Birds’ songs in spring were so striking that I got a tape recorder to capture them (the nightingale and many others). In summer, the twisted black frames of the olive trees are etched against bright, sunny fields of golden grains, the vineyard slopes teem with the purple and green of the grapes. The colors deepen into autumn as the grapes are cut, their falling leaves burned and the olives plucked, still by hand
The Tuscan cities too have managed to preserve a severe and highly refined elegance in what was primarily the battlement origin of most of their buildings. Beginning of course with Florence and Siena, but present in surprising amounts in most of the towns, the treasures of architecture, sculpture and painting of the Renaissance are everywhere to be seen and appreciated for their enduring grace and beauty
Beauty is to be found at the Tuscan table as well. Shopping for the days food is still a lively occupation in small towns in Tuscany where local garden vegetables and fruits of superb flavor from family gardens are sold in tiny shops and delis offer a vast array of fantastic olives, cheeses, salamis, etc. Cafe/bars serving espresso and delicious local Chiantis which never make it to the U.S. provide extra pleasures on the shopping route. Of course, if you are short of time, you can also find giant, highly-sophisticated supermarkets with everything you need under one roof
Finally, the people of Tuscany well deserve their reputation as generous, charming and gracious hosts.
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Thanks for your interest.