In the northeast province of Tuscany rise waves of pristine white and blue-gray marble. Famed since ancient times, from the quarries of Carrara come the canvases for the world’s most astonishing art, architecture, and sculptures, including those of Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and Bernini. And the marble mountains themselves are every bit as captivating. 2 hours.
Perhaps Tuscany's most exclusive beach destination, Forte dei Marmi is a landmark destination for the well-to-do, rich with sumptuous cafes, sophisticated galleries and chic boutiques. The beaches are all kept in pristine condition, painstakingly raked and maintained daily. And they're all private, lined with tony beach clubs. As a place to see and be seen, Italy has few better beaches.
Ah, the narrow streets of Lucca! Here, one can visit the rich medieval basilica churches, sample what are perhaps the world’s finest olive oils and discover the home of an exiled Dante. Of course, no day is better spent than walking under the chestnut trees atop the famed red-brick walls, dreamily gazing to town within and countryside beyond. 90 minutes.
Certainly, its leaning tower is the most lauded attraction. But it is but one of many architectural and artistic wonders in the city's Campo dei Miracoli, or Field of Miracles. And to the surprise of many who visit this charming seaside town, it is but one of at least three leaning towers in Pisa.
Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its artistic and architectural heritage attracts millions of visitors each year who come to see the world-famous museums such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace.
While the Chianti region formally includes all of Tuscany, a favorite sojourn just a few minutes from the Castello begins just north of Monteriggioni. From here, a series of Tuscany's favorite towns is like a string of pearls along scenic mountain roads. Begin in Castellina in Chianti and set out east for Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti (being certain not to miss Badia a Coltibuono), or north to Panzano or the quaint triangle square and famous meat market in Greve. They're all within a comfortable one-hour drive from the Castello.
Throughout the walled towns of medieval Tuscany, families of wealth and nobility clashed on an architectural battlefield. And while the reaching spires of these towers have fallen in towns like Bologna and Florence, here, in San Gimignano, they stand en masse. Indulge with a bottle of the area's famed white wine, and see if you can choose the winner.
Casole d' Elsa, our close neighbor to the north, is a quiet village defined by antique Etruscan brick buildings and a captivating panoramic view over the ridge of the hillside. The picturesque hamlet is a most charming place to visit for a few hours, if only to explore its 15th century cathedral.
If ever there was a city that rewarded exploration by foot, surely it is Siena. The treasures of this town, forgotten by time, simply cannot be told to those who have never been. They must be experienced, and that means a day spent walking its network of intimate, narrow gothic streets - eventually chancing upon the Piazza del Campo and Siena's Duomo.
The 130 km of coast just west of Grosseto plays an ideal foil to the posh beach resort area of Forte dei Marmi and its sophisticated shops and smart cafes. This is the less developed coast, a comfortable drive from the Castello via Volterra. Peaceful beaches, soaring cliffs, all far from the maddening crowd. The perfect place to picnic and take a stroll.
The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, it was to here that Napoleon was first exiled. Even so, he could not help but to fall in love with the island. So influential were Napoleon's contributions to the island that the people of Elba celebrate his reign with an annual festival to this day. And if Elba holds such an enchanting power for one forced upon its shores, it is nothing in comparison to its appeal for the willing.
The spectacularly intimate Montepulciano. More of a village than a city by any standard. Perched atop a hill and affording breathtaking views over much of the region, it towers as one of Tuscany's highest towns. However, the town's main attractions include the local Vino Nobile wines and a host of art, jazz and historic festivals.
One of the oldest towns in Tuscany is also one of its most captivating. At once it is both bucolic and regimented. Seeming to spread as though part of the hillside it clings to, yet boasting massive Etruscan walls and a fascinating layout. Visitors may recognize Cortona as the setting for the Oscar-winning film "Life is Beautiful."
The capital city for the region of the same name, Arezzo is quite a curious town. Without question its greatest attraction are the festivals. Most notable is the annual Joust of the Saracen, a grand Renaissance festival featuring 'knights' on horseback competing for the crowds. Arezzo is also home to fantastic annual music and jazz festivals - and on the first weekend of every month, Italy's most celebrated antique market.
The Castello di Casole estate is ideally located in the most favored region in all of tuscany. Those that know the region treasure this particular locale for the Castello is central to the most desirable Tuscan destinations. Idyllic Siena is just 20 minutes east, and Florence 45 minutes north. The coast is a scenic hours drive. The walled fortress of Monteriggioni is a comfortable bike ride. Our nearby neighbors are the hill towns of Mensano, Radicondoli and the namesake, Casole in the distance, the legendary towers of San Gimignano rise on the horizon.