Enjoy wandering around Castiglion Fiorentino
a lovely walled Tuscan town with narrow streets, a lovely piazza and many hidden delights. Or spend the evening there having dinner by the piazza, watching the world go by.
Cortona is a must
This gorgeous hilltop town is so picturesque it will take your breath away. It is full of interesting shops selling art and crafts, and local produce. Lots of events are held over the summer months, so ask at the tourist office for what's on during your stay.
Whilst in Cortona, follow the Roman road called Strada Basolata
which starts from the Chiesa del Torreone (at the top of Cortona) and climbs up towards il Monte S.Egigio, following the ridge of the mountain/hill. Fantastic views!
Seek out the books 'Under the Tuscan Sun' and 'Bella Tuscany'
Much of the content of these novels is set around Cortona. Read them on holiday and visit the places mentioned in the books to let the stories really come alive!
The Tuscan Sun Festival
takes place in Cortona during the middle two weeks of August. Concerts, art exhibitions, and readings take place in the various churches and theatres, as well as many outdoor settings.
Experience the 'passeggiata'
No, it is not an Italian dance! In any town or large village, especially on a weekend or holiday, the inhabitants of the town will congregate in the main square in the early evening, to have a stroll around, talk to their friends, have an aperitif or ice cream, before dispersing for dinner. It is the perfect time to people watch!
Go to market!
The local market in Castiglion Fiorentino is held every Friday morning in Piazza Garibaldi, and is a good opportunity not only to find fresh produce and specialities but also to mix with the locals and soak up the atmosphere of Italian village life.
Anghiari and Sansepolcro
Anghiari (40 mins) is a very pretty well-preserved medieval hilltop town. And nearby Sansepolcro (50 mins) is the birthplace of the artist Piero della Francesca and a couple of his masterpieces can be seen in the Museo Civico.
The city of Arezzo is about 30 minutes away by car. Its famous residents have included the poet Petrarch and the painter Piero della Francesca. In more recent times, it was the setting for the film 'Life is Beautiful' by Roberto Benigni. The hub of the city is the red-brick Piazza Grande, surrounded by many beautiful buildings. Do not miss the Basilica of San Francesco to see Piero della Francesca's largest and finest work, 'History of the True Cross'. A famous antique fair is held in Arezzo on the first Sunday of every month. Dealers come from all over Italy to attend. See if you can find a bargain!
Enjoy the Giostra del Saracino
which takes place in the Piazza Grande in Arezzo in June and September. People from the town dress up in medieval costumes and parade through the town, which ends with a jousting competition.
Make a splash!
The 'Acquapark Crocodile' in Arezzo offers numerous slides, swimming pools and whirlpools. You can also play beach volleyball, visit the aqua-gym or take a swimming class (all ages). Drinks and refreshments available in several bars or the restaurant, or take your own food to enjoy in the picnic area.
Parco Zoo della Fauna Europea
This animal park at Poppi, near Arezzo, occupies 50 hectares and specialises in common European animals. The zoo is open all year round and offers free parking, two bars and a big restaurant with lake views, a playground for your children and a botanical garden.
Spend the day by the lake
Lake Trasimeno, to the south, is central Italy's alternative to the sea! There are eight public beaches around the lake, and various water sport activities are on offer or you can take a boat trip to the islands in the centre. There is also a cycle trail around the lake. The main town is Castiglione del Lago, but there are waterfront restaurants all round, many specialising in fresh fish. If you are holidaying at the end of July, you could attend the Palio of the Boats - a big boat race on the lake.
Take a tour of the Chianti vineyards
This world famous wine region is just an hour's drive to the west, with plenty of opportunities to taste and purchase excellent wines. Either go at your own pace stopping where you want to, or ask at any of the tourist offices for information on organised tours.
Hunting castles in Chianti
There are lots of castles, towers and fortified abbeys in the Chianti region. Go exploring and get the kids imagining who used to live in these impressive (sometimes ruined!) places. Pick up a leaflet in Gaiole in Chianti; there are six different itineraries to choose from.
Discover Tuscany’s olive oil
Olive oil is widely used throughout Italy in cooking and as a condiment. Most families with a patch of ground grow their own olives for oil - and if you are visiting, you can buy direct from the grower. This is quite easy, as almost every wine producer also produces olive oil so that oil can be bought at any of the very numerous “Olio”, "Vendita Diretta" and "Degustazione" places dotted along the country roads of Tuscany.
Go a little further afield
and visit the wonderful historic cities of Siena (1h 15m) or Florence (1h 30m), whose cultural wealth and architectural beauty is world renowned.
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