From the first Etruscan settlements in about 750 B.C., through the thrilling genius of the likes of Giotto, Donatello, Michaelangelo and da Vinci in the high Renaissance, right up to the present day fine craftsmanship and unparalleled natural beauty Tuscany has always represented the very heart and soul of Italy. It is said that when Steindal first saw Florence he was so overcome by its beauty that he fell ill, and today when tourists from all over the world have a similar reaction they are diagnosed with the "Steindal syndrome."

Surprisingly through, for all its historical magnificence and graceful beauty much of the countryside in Tuscany remains peaceful and serene even in the height of the season. D. H. Lawrence once said "It's queer that a country so perfectly cultivated as Tuscany…still has so much room for wild flowers" and, indeed in the spring entire fields are alive with sunflowers, poppies, vivid yellow Spanish broom and cornflowers.

Crammed with sleepy hill towns, abandoned medieval castles, natural hot springs where many of the original Roman baths are still intact, as well as beautiful Mediterranean beaches Tuscany is a feast of natural wonders. And speaking of feasts, the Tuscan food, from the white truffles to the peci and riboletta-not to mention the famous Brunello and Barolo wines are considered among the best in the world.

Then there are the bustling medieval yet modern towns of Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Lucca and Pisa where the shopping is sublime and the art and architectural treasures simply take your breath away. If ever there were a place with something for everyone it has to be bella Tuscany.