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Presenter : Ian Wright

Tuscany

Traveller Ian Wright makes the cultural pilgrimage to the extraordinary Italian region of Tuscany – a finely made combination of cultural wealth, beautiful landscapes, quality food, fashion and passion.
image: The leaning tourist of Pisa: Ian experiences a new travel angle in Tuscany
Ian starts his journey in Florence, a massive, beautiful monument to the Renaissance. It’s a cultural treasure trove as Ian discovers touring the Piazza della Signoria, theAccademia and the Uffizi Museum, coming face-to-face with priceless works like Michelangelo’s David statue and Caravaggio’s Medusa shield. Inspired, he tries his hand at painting himself, at the Palazzo de Catalonithat’s been teaching art since 1975 – amazingly he’s not too bad!

No visit to Florence would be complete without a tour of its dominating cathedral the Duomo which is so big there’s nowhere in the city where you can see in all its entirety. A climb into its dome takes his breath away. As does the Palio, a crazy version of football combined with wrestling, boxing and rugby, dating back to the fifteenth century. He’s had his fill of Florence, but not before he tucks into two city favourites, ice-cream and a Florentina steak.

In Carrara, Ian meets an American artist who gives him the lowdown on the area. Its marble has been quarried since Roman times and 40 per cent of US marble comes from here. Michelangelo even spent five years up in the mountains here, such is the quality of its stone. Then it’s off south to the home of another Renaissance master, Leonardo da Vinci, where he visits a museum showcasing the designs of his great scientific mind – he not only invented the bicycle but even an underwater diving suit!

Chianti is synonymous with its fine wines – Ian meets the owner of Castello de Brolio whereChianti Classico was invented in the 19th century. Next he visits Castello di Cafaggio to visit a beautiful old farmhouse near the village of Impruneta. The farm house is owned by Enrico Benci and is part of the Italian agriturismo home-stay movement. But… Ian soon finds out he has to sing for his supper by helping Enrico pick olives for his award-winning extra virgin olive oil. From outdoor beauty it’s onto the medieval history of San Gimignano, the ultimate Tuscan hilltop town, with its 14 graceful towers.

Moving southwards, Siena is another fabulous Tuscan city full of Medieval palaces and towers.The Campo is a stunning square, crowned by the 14th century Duomo, filled to the brim with artistic treasures including four Michelangelo statues. Once a year, the Campo goes wild at the arrival of the Palio, a hair-raising horserace that attracts the entire city.

For a dip in the great outdoors, Ian takes off to the Maremma, home to Italy’s cowboys. At theimage: Michelangelo's David statue in Florence Boratto ranch he watches a wild horse being tamed and hitches a ride across the valley. And for a little beach action he takes a ferry from the Italian mainland to Elba, place of Napoleon’s exile in 1814 and now one of Europe’s most popular destinations, attracting 2 million sun-seekers every year.

Rounding off his trip, he visits Pisa, home to perhaps Italy’s best-known building, the Leaning Tower on the Field of Miracles. Pisa was a maritime superpower in the twelfth century and two of its biggest festivals celebrate its historic eminence with great shows of costume, pageantry and pride. The Gioco del Ponte is the biggest with a massive military march culminating in a heart-stopping competition of strength between two teams trying to push a mighty chariot into the opposition’s side of the bridge. This seems like a perfect way to end Ian’s trip which has been full of history, culture and lifestyle but perhaps, most of all, passion. And the Tuscans have it by the bucket-load!

Places Mentioned - Italy

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