Thinking Tuscany one cannot think of Florence, a place that deserves a visit all for itself.
Visiting Tuscany beyond Florence:
Low lying hills with clean, graceful curves under a limpid light, plains, forests and vineyards join with the serenity of cypress and pine to make this country a temple of beauty. By some mysterious influence, sometimes called “the Tuscan miracle”, this harmony has gifted the Tuscan people with great artistic sense.
The region has a variety of soils. The Tuscan Archipelago, with the mountainous Island of Elba and its rich iron-bearing deposits, faces a shore which is sometimes rocky (south of Leghorn), sometimes flat and sandy as in the area around Viareggio, known as Versilia.
To the north of the Arno the Apuan Alps are quarried for marble. In the heart of Tuscany the Arno Basin lies fertile and beautiful, an ideal setting for Florence. Festoons of vines and silvery olives come to meet fields of wheat, tobacco and maize. Peppers, pumpkins and the famous Lucca beans grow among the mulberries. The old farms, with their nobly designed buildings, often stand alone on hill tops.
Southern Tuscany is a land of hills, soft and vine-clad in the Chianti district south of Florence, quiet and pastoral near Siena, dry and desolate round Monte Oliveto Maggiore and massive and mysterious in the Collli Metalliferi (metal-bearing hills) south of Volterra. On the borders of Latium, Maremma, with its melancholy beauty, was formerly a marshy district haunted by bandits and shepherds. Much of the area has now been reclaimed.
This is where Italian cooking was born, at the court of the Medici. Florence offers its alla fiorentina specialties: dried cod (baccala’) with oil, garlic and pepper, costata grilled steak fillets with oil, salt and pepper, fagioli (beans with oil, onions and herbs); Leghorn produces triglie red mullet and cacciucco (fish soup) and Siena offers the panforte, a sugar cake containing almonds, honey and candied melon, orange or lemon.