Looking at Tuscany’s classic landscapes, you might think the hills were arranged on purpose. Take in the best sights, restaurants and more in this Italian region’s medieval hilltop towns and along its snaking roads. SIGHTS Collegiata £ (duomosangimignano.it; Piazza del Duomo, San Gimignano) San Gimignano’s Romanesque cathedral houses frescoes depicting episodes from the Old and New Testaments. Look out, too, for the Cappella di Santa Fina, near the main altar – a Renaissance chapel adorned with naive and touching works by Domenico Ghirlandaio. 7KHVH IHDWXUHG LQ )UDQFR =H UHOOL·V ÀOP Tea with Mussolini. Palazzo Pubblico ££ (comune.siena.it; Piazza del Campo, Siena) Built to demonstrate Siena’s huge wealth, this 14th-century Gothic masterpiece is the visual focal point of the Campo – the city’s main square. Inside, the Museo Civico showcases rooms richly frescoed by artists of the Sienese school. Commissioned by the city’s governing body rather than by the Church, some of the frescoes depict secular subjects. Highlights are Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegories of Good and Bad Government (c. 1338–40) and Simone Martini’s Maestà (Virgin Mary in Majesty; 1315). Pitigliano (comune.pitigliano.gr.it) Sprouting from a volcanic rocky outcrop towering over the surrounding country, this hilltop town is surrounded by gorges, constituting a natural bastion. Within the town, stairways disappear around corners, cobbled alleys bend out of sight beneath graceful arches and reminders of the town’s once-considerable Jewish community remain in the form of a 16th-century synagogue and a unique Jewish local cuisine. Museo Etrusco Guarnacci ££ (museivaldicecina.it; Via Don Minzoni 15, Volterra) In the ridge-top town of Volterra is one of Italy’s most impressive collections of Etruscan art, from the civilisation that preceded the Romans. The Urn of the Sposi is a realistic terracotta rendering of an elderly couple. Other highlights are a crested helmet from the Tomba del Guerruccia, and L’Ombra della Sera (Shadow of WKH (YHQLQJ D EURQ]H QXGH ÀJXUH that resembles the work of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Santuario della Verna (laverna.it; Chiusi della Verna) This remote Franciscan monastic complex is where St Francis of Assisi is said to have received the stigmata and is a major pilgrimage destination. The Corridoio delle Stimmate, decorated with modern frescoes recounting St Francis’ life, leads to the Cappella delle Stimmate, built in 1263 on the spot where the saint received the stigmata two years before his death, aged 44. The monumental &UXFLÀ[LRQ by Andrea della 5REELD KHUH LV PDJQLÀFHQW ACTIVITIES Bagni San Filippo Those who like hot-water frolics can head nine miles south of Bagno Vignoni along the SR2 to this village, where there are thermal cascades in an open-air reserve. <RX·OO ÀQG WKHVH MXVW XSKLOO IURP Hotel le Terme, the village’s only hotel – follow a path marked ‘Fosso Bianco’ for about 150m to limestone outcrops and you’ll come to a set of warm tumbling cascades that get more spectacular the further downhill you walk. Cave di Marmo Tours £££ (cavedimarmotours.com) *HW VHW IRU WKH RՖ URDG ULGH RI your life in a Land Rover Defender along the perilously steep gravel tracks used by lorries to zigzag up and down Carrara’s famed marble mountain, transporting blocks between the quarry and the workshops. Guided tours start by the motorway exit in Carrara town, last 2Ω hours and must be reserved in advance. Via Panoramica (monteargentario.info) Signs point you towards this narrow route that encircles the entire Monte Argentario promontory. It RՖHUV VZHHSLQJ VHD YLHZV DFURVV to the hazy whaleback of the Isola del Giglio. The road can get dangerously busy in summer. EATING Gelateria Dondoli GELATO £ (gelateriadipiazza.com; Piazza della Cisterna 4, San Gimignano) Think of it less as ice cream, more as art. Sergio Dondoli is a member of Italy’s Ice Cream World Championship team and among his most famous creations are Crema GL 6DQWD )LQD VDՖURQ FUHDP gelato and Vernaccia sorbet.
A road through the vines in the northern Chianti region