The region of Tuscany
The Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany has remained much as it was since the ancient Romans were using the sturdy oak trees of the zone to construct the Empire.
The river also offered a convenient way of transporting the timbers all the way to the capital.
Notwithstanding this activity, the first permanent towns only rose in medieval times thanks to the presence of various monasteries.
Indeed, the monks of the St. Romualdo order set about regulating the zone by controlling the traffic on the river and issuing contracts for land cultivation.
Today, the woods and country walks are as wild as they used to be and visitors can enjoy the rare flora and fauna in special protected zones, as well as the more common deer, badgers and foxes without too much difficulty.
Do head to the artificial Lake Montedoglio in the centre of the Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany where bird spotters can see a range of water birds from herons to the fabuously named ‘Knights of Italy’.
Read on about the individual towns of the valley, but do make a note of the following areas to explore further: the thick woods of Germagnano and Montecasale, the chestnut and beech tree forest of Caprese Michelangelo and the green meadows of Badia Tedalda and Sestino.
The Palio of Siena first took place in 1555 as an act of defiance by the 17 armies based the town. They came together to ride for the prize of the 'Drappellone' and to also demonstrate their independence from the forces of the Medici. In the 460 years of the event the 'contrada' with the most victories is 'Oca' or Goose who claim 65. Their colors are green and white with a red trim and their motto, fittingly enough, is 'clangit ad arma' or 'call to arms'.
The whole event is more colorful and lively than you can possibly imagine and a genuinely ruthless race both before, during and after, assuming you are the losing jockey. Of all the annual 'feste' throughout the year the Palio of Siena truly gives a glimpse of how life and entertainment must have been all those years ago.
This page celebrates the Butteri, the so called Tuscan cowboys from the territory of the Maremma in Tuscany. But their presence is also equally felt in Lazio and the Pontine marshes which, until the 18th century, were full of mounted cowboys with their disticntive blue trousers herding flocks of buffalo and cattle.
La Strada del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is more than just a simple tourist route map.
If you follow it closely you'll realise that the very fine wine is just a suitable excuse for getting close to the food, culture, nature and historical attractions of this famous wine growing area in province of Siena. Nevertheless, the wine producers, cellars, restaurants and cantinas are central to the experience.
There are 80 such stopping off points in a rural zone between the historical centre of Montepulciano and Montepulciano Stazione.
The Tuscan city of Colle Val D'Elsa in the province of Siena once flourishing medieval town along the Via Francigena pilgrim route, is worth an extension as they say in trade. Firstly, because the city is built on three gradients or hills and is formed of a borgo, castle and plain. It looks like a Hollywood film set ready for a Saracen attack.
If you arrive in Impruneta from one of the country backroads you might just come across a number of the smaller workshops producing the famous terracotta. Roughly translated that's cooked earth, and the dark brown clay pots, statues and atistic objects are just that.
Synonymous with Tuscany, Impruneta is the capital of terracotta manufacturing in Italy, at least historically since 1098 for a number of documented reasons: the local clay is waterproof and resistant to cracking at very low temperatures; an abundance of woodlands feeding the kilns; the vicinity of Florence as a market