Tuscan Escape
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Various Images of Tuscany
Clockwise, from top left: Piazza del Campo, Siena; Florence; Lighthouse, Livorno; Cevoli; Pisa
Ripoli is rural, but not isolated – a quiet hamlet, not a field. Just across the road there’s Villa Arianna (
www.villarianna.it), a B & B which offers hearty Tuscan cuisine in its huge garden, with copious quantities of good local wine. A 10-minute walk down the road on the other side, there's Cevoli, the medieval village you can see from the bathroom window. Here you can find a couple of bars, where you can get excellent coffee, pastries or the tipple of your choice and a shop stocking local Tuscan specialities and freshly baked bread to eat with your coffee by the pool. And in a few minutes in the car, you can get to the beautiful hilltop town of Lari, or to Casciana Terme, a small town with a picture-postcard pretty square and a thermal spa, famous since the 12th-century for its healing powers.

Often dwarfed by Florence and Siena, Pisa (32km away) is truly lovely. It was good enough for Byron and Shelley, who both lived there, and its Piazza dei Miracoli, with its cathedral, baptistery and infamous leaning tower is, indeed, miraculous. And you couldn’t possibly not go to Florence (72km), Lucca (50km), Volterra (35km) or Siena (70km). Unless, that is, you had a severe allergy to culture, beauty and art.

More sporty types can play golf (at the Cosmopolitan Golf & Country Club,
www.cosmopolitangolf.it , or the spectacular Castelfafi golf course, www.castelfalfi.it), or ride horses
www.sanrossore.it). Less sporty types could opt for a spot of wine-tasting, the famous passeggiata or a gentle amble with an ice-cream.

And, of course, there’s the food. Pretty much everywhere.
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