Find your Place Under the Sun
Rail travel can be both romantic and elusive – and much more so while seeing the countryside filled with beautiful cypress and olive trees, lush vineyards and profound history. Explore quaint, hillside towns filled with antique tradition and modern-day opulence. Tuscany includes such famed cities as Florence and Pisa but its heart is in the hilltop towns, the coastal beaches, the historic relics left from the times of the Etruscans, the Romans and the Renaissance. Tuscany is a cacophony of all things ethereal, enchanting and peaceful.
You can create a perfect rail itinerary or let the train whisk you where the wind blows. Many "pilgrims" to the region head straight to Cortona, thanks to a divorcee who bought a villa here. (You know the movie.) The town is guarded by the walls and gates from the original fortress – Cosimo I. Enter through and travel the medieval, narrow streets to the center of town. As the day quickly passes, rest your feet and your soul in one of the local restaurants. Cortona is the seat of traditional Tuscan cooking and known for its fine metalwork.
In less than 90 minutes from Florence, if you can visit just one city for a day, make it Siena. Neatly compacted into one square mile, the city's medieval character is evidenced by the red brick wall surrounding the entire city. Begin your visit in the main public plaza, Piazza del Campo, a gathering place for residents and tourists alike. Restaurants, fountains, shops, churches, a clock tower, and more delight the senses. Don't miss the Duomo, truly one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. If here in the summer, the world-famous Palio draws thousands of spectators to this colorful tradition. The Corteo Storico, a magnificent pageant, precedes the race.
When ready to pull yourself away, head back on the train with your Eurail Italy Pass for the approximately one-hour journey to Montepulciano. Famous for its wines, particularly the Vino Nobile, a flowery red that is iridescent orange in color. It's a lovely contrast to the almost-always blue skies. The town is considered one of the most charming in all of Tuscany. Come during one of the lively festivals and soak in all in.
Oh, where to head next? Arezzo, considered one of the most important Etruscan cities. Head up the tower of Palazzo dei Priori for a panoramic view of the city, before heading down to the charming small alleys. Opera lover? Lucca is the home of Puccini, and in summer there are plenty of festivals bringing sopranos and tenors from around the world. Want to see a real "city?" The medieval skyscrapers of San Gimignano consist of 14 towers that have miraculously survived.
We could go on, but Tuscany is a place that must be seen, smelled, tasted. This region has inspired Renaissance artists, wine makers and travelers with its incomparable beauty.
Watch your daydreams come true as you roll over and through these magical hills.
Contributed by: Rachel, E-business Editor, who has experienced much more of Europe than she ever imagined, traveling by train.