Tuscany
Some powerful forces have called Tuscany home, from the days of the ancient Etruscans, who left a significant artistic and cultural legacy, to the era of the House of Medici, a wealthy banking family whose influences were felt in everything from politics and religion to art and architecture. In the 13th century, Florentine poet Dante Alighieri developed what many consider the basis of the modern Italian language, while in the 15th century, the Renaissance ideals that took root in Florence soon spread to the rest of Italy, heralding an era that celebrated artists, craftsmen, and progressive thinking. Meanwhile, a multi-century rivalry between the regions of Florence and Siena resulted in ode-inspiring epic battles and patriotic traditions that are still honored today. With all this in its history, it’s no surprise that Tuscany is a hotbed of museums, cultural attractions, traditional festivals, and historic sites. Every town has something of note, whether an ancient fresco discovered on a palazzo floor, a monument to a native saint, a world-renowned tilted tower, or a work by a famous artist hanging casually in a church. Florence is the main cultural hub, where you can spend days wandering through museums, palazzos, and gardens, while Siena delivers with a roster of notable art and religious sites, and the thrilling, biannual Palio horse racing festival. The smaller towns are worth a visit for their medieval charm and religious and harvest festivals, the latter offering a great look at Tuscan traditions.