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Art, culture and history abound in Tuscany, the home of the Renaissance.
  T'uscany epitomises Italy's long-standing reputation for art, architecture and food. Florence is often regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance; works by artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael are on display throughout its museums. The most notable of these is the Uffizi. Allow yourself a day to marvel at the masterpieces in this worldrenowned gallery, from Botticelli's The Birth of Venus to Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation.
  Other artistic must-visits in Florence include the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Museo degli Argenti and Galleria dell'Accademia. The latter is home to Michelangelo's David, one of the most famous statues in the world.
  Just over an hour's drive from Florence is Siena. The medieval city is a work of art in itself: its majestic cathedral (known locally as Duomo di Siena) is the result of a centuryspanning collaboration between Italy's most prestigious architects and artists; while the Piazza del Campo provides a stunning spot to grab coffee or aperitivo while admiring the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia.
  The Palio di Siena is an event that carries the full weight of Tuscan tradition. This urban horse race dates back to 1644, with ten bareback horses and riders representing Siena's numerous contrade (city wards). Although the race lasts less than 90 seconds, its worldwide appeal means hotels become booked up months in advance. Plan your visit ahead of time if you want to witness the spectacle, which takes place twice every summer.
  Tuscany offers some of Italy's very best food and drink. Local specialities are often based on peasant traditions, and epitomised by the concept of 'cucina povera making the most of the best locally grown ingredients to produce hearty and affordable plates of food. Foodies should tour the region in search of signature dishes associated with each city, town and village. Look out for Bistecca alla Fiorentina steak in Florence, pici pasta in Siena, pecorino cheese in Pienza, and world-renowned Tuscan extra virgin olive oil wherever you go.
  Looking for a postcard-perfect photo of a world-famous landmark? A trip to Tuscany is incomplete without stopping in Pisa, the city synonymous with its iconic Leaning Tower. The skew-whiff structure draws crowds throughout the year, so buy tickets in advance if you plan on climbing to the top. Don't forget Pisa's other architectural triumphs - the Piazza dei Miracoli also includes a cathedral, baptistery, cemetery and museum, which are well worth a look.
  For a quieter escape, the picturesque Monti Dell'Uccellina (Mountains of the Little Bird) are hard to beat. Wooded mountains meet pristine beaches in a stretch of coastal scenery that remains largely unspoiled by tourism. Enjoy nature while wandering between landmarks, such as the ruined Abbey of San Rabano and the towers of Castel Marino. If you're lucky, you might spot some deer and wild boars.
  The lifestyle in Tuscany tends to be laid back and friendly. Many Italian shops and businesses take a pausa pranzo' in the middle of the day (roughly between 1pm and 3.30pm), closing for a couple of hours to spend time with friends and family. To make up for lost profits, many shops stay open later in the evening, until about 8pm. Then, you can grab a nice evening meal.
  Weather-wise, Tuscany experiences blazing heat in July and August. If you plan on visiting outside the summer, bring layers to equip yourself for varied temperatures and the cooler climes of Tuscany's hills and mountains.