From Andrew Harper:
The only thing I don’t like about Tuscany is going there with a return ticket. There are few more agreeable ways to spend time than strolling through the great cities of Lucca, Pisa, Siena and Florence. But for me, the supreme pleasure is puttering along country roads through one of the most distinctive and civilized landscapes in the world. A patchwork of wine and olive estates dominates the Chianti district, a romantic 40-mile swath between Florence and Siena. Memorable sights include the historic picture-book wine villages of Castellina, Radda and Volpaia, plus the 13th-century fortress hamlet of Vertine; the ancient abbey/wine estate of Badia a Coltibuono (five miles east of Radda); and majestic Castello di Brolio (10 miles southeast of Radda near San Regolo). Outside the Chianti Classico area lie Monteriggioni (described in Dante’s “Inferno”) and the picturesque medieval city of San Gimignano. The Val d’Orcia wine region of southern Tuscany begins 45 minutes southeast of Siena, its vineyards producing celebrated reds such as the full-bodied Brunello di Montalcino and the refined Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Generally, we choose September for our Tuscan rambles — when the summer crowds have gone home — but I also enjoy traveling in late spring, when mornings see the mist dissolve to reveal groves of silvery olives stirred by a gentle breeze, and pale green vineyards with newly unfolded leaves.- Andrew Harper