In a recent interview, Alexander McCall Smith calls his relationship with Italy “a rather long love affair,” so we were thrilled to learn his new novel is set in Tuscany. Because this novel is classic Alexander McCall Smith—charming, warm, and a little silly—the protagonist, Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, travels the Italian countryside on a rented bulldozer. Inspired by Paul’s misadventures, we decided to take a closer look at the things to do and see in Tuscany. Lucky for us, Alexander McCall Smith was recently in the area, so we have some lovely photos, taken by his daughter Emily, to share with you as well!
Tuscany is a region in central Italy best known for its diverse landscapes, rich history, and excellent dining. Below are a few must visits on any trip to the area.
The capital of the region, Florence’s iconic architecture and world-renowned art make this city an ideal palce to spend a few days. Take a stroll through one of the amazing art galleries in the city: the Accademia Gallery has Michelangelo’s David sculpture and the Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and da Vinci’s Annunciation. You also can’t miss Il Duomo di Firenze, the great Gothic cathedral in the city.
Like much of Italy, Tuscany’s food and wine alone are worth the trip. Bread and olive oil play a starring role in many Tuscan dishes. Natives of Florence call their traditional bruschetta—a slice of toasted bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil—and sprinkled with salt—fettunta. There’s also panzanella, a summer bread salad with cucumbers and tomatoes. Finally, there’s Pappa al pomodoro, a bread and tomato soup whose exact recipe varies town to town. Don’t forget to enjoy a local wine with your meal! Chianti is from Tuscany.
You’re certainly already familiar with this place: its infamous Leaning Tower has been attracting visitors for centuries. But there are many other lovely sights there including the Arno River, which runs through the city itself.
Castiglione is the most popular city for sun-seekers in Tuscany. Built around a medieval fortress, the city slopes down to beautiful beaches. Looking for a little history with your sun bathing? The Island of Elba was the first place of exile for Napoleon. He escaped, but was eventually exiled again, this time to the island of Saint Helena.