Few destinations in the world are as closely linked with romance as Italy's spellbinding Tuscany region. Beloved for its breathtaking scenery and exquisite food (we'd happily spend our days wine-tasting and pasta-making here!), it offers plenty for couples. Not sure where to even begin? Add these five wonderful locales to the itinerary for a fantastic escape!
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Ah, Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance. While it may be a popular destination for travellers, it's defeinitely worth adding to the must-visit list. Obvious spots for any self-respecting selfie addict include the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio (there have been shops on the “Old Bridge” since the 13th century), but be sure to cross the Arno River to the Oltrarno district and head up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo. From this vast square, the whole of Florence spreads out before you in a spectacular panorama – amazing!
Be sure to: Buy tickets before visiting the Uffizi, or else you’ll be in for a very long wait to get in. Ditto the Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery), home to Michelangelo’s David. You have been warned.
Okay, so Cinque Terra (“five lands”) might not officially be in Tuscany, but this part of the Italian Riviera is an easy train ride away, and makes for a magical day-trip. Clinging to steep terraces, the centuries-old seaside villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are so colourful and jaw-droppingly beautiful they look like a film set. That alone is enough to entice us to make the trip! Top everything off by feasting on mouthwatering seafood and sipping on limoncello for dessert.
Be sure to: Jump aboard one of the many boats offering tours from the Vernazza pier. For a very affordable cost, you can cruise up and down the coastline for an hour or two and admire the ‘famous five’.
Most of us know the Disney version of Pinocchio (complete with talking cricket), but the story was actually written in 1883 by Italian writer, Carlo Lorenzini, whose pen name was chosen in honour of the town where he spent his childhood: Collodi. A good chunk of Collodi – which lies midway between Florence and Pisa – is dedicated to the long-nosed one (a park dedicated to Pinocchio opened in 1956), plus it’s home to one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy, the garden of Villa Garzoni (villa pictured above).
Be sure to: Make the effort to explore Collodi Castello, the ancient quarter that winds up the hillside behind Villa Garzoni. The charming medieval fortified town is steep and only accessible by foot, but totally worth it once you get there – we promise!
This famous walled medieval hill town lies smack-bang in the heart of Tuscany, 56km south of Florence in the province of Siena. Its skyline is unforgettable, thanks in no small part to the towers that rise high above (the town’s full name is: San Gimignano delle belle torri or “San Gimignano of the beautiful towers”). Once there were 72, but today just 14 survive, soaring above the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site like ancient skyscrapers, and surrounded by countryside so gloriously Tuscan you expect to see Diane Lane at any moment.
Be sure to: Drive a little further and visit San Gimignano’s less-famous medieval neighbour, Volterra, which sits on a rocky hill 540m above sea level. With humbling cathedrals, fascinating museums, sun-drenched piazzas and ancient ruins, it's an excellent day-trip spot.
Lovely, lovely Lucca. This is a city where gorgeous things seems to happen at every ancient corner: music fills the air as tango dancers take to the cobbled stones of a piazza late at night; brilliant outdoor antique markets spring up regularly; and quite possibly the best gelato in Italy (try the hazelnut) is served in a shop with a swing (because, why not?) at Gelatarium. Then there’s the Lucca Summer Festival, a world-famous event that sees huge names perform throughout July (2015 acts included Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams and Elton John). But the greatest pleasure is simply cycling around the cobbled streets of the delightful Old Town, and on the imposing wall that encompasses it. Yes, you cycle on the wall. Did we mention it’s massive?
Be sure to: Attend the “Puccini e la sua lucca” festival – year-round concerts dedicated to Lucca’s favourite son, held in the Church of San Giovanni (where Puccini was baptised). The programme changes with every concert, but even non-opera-lovers will know just about every piece.
Planning your next romantic getaway? Find plenty of dreamy accommodation and amazing destinations here...
Image credits: Unsplash and www.visittuscany.com/