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Tuscan villas by the score

The Bed and Breakfast scene in Tuscany is booming. For good reason, since it offers something considerably different from its counterparts in other countries. Here, one can stay in a huge castle over 1,000 years old, or a tiny villa a 'mere' 100 years of age. Add in the surrounding countryside with its million and one things to see and you've got some very impressive numbers.

You can find accommodations near Lucca, offering a great location from which to explore Puccini's childhood home or the excellent art collection at the Villa Guinigi. Only an hour from Florence, visits to Siena, Cortona and other towns are a short trip away. Or, those planning a trip to Tuscany may want to get something close to the spa resort of Montecatini Terme.

Near Pistoia and not far from Lucca, the Residence Le Coloniche offers great rooms and outstanding food. The Villa Gamberaia is set among the hills above Florence, not far from Fiesole in Settignano. Here one can get a superb view of the Arno and visit the famed Renaissance Gardens. Completed in the 17th century, the topiary art alone (trees trimmed into animal shapes), makes the stay well worthwhile.

For those looking for an authentic Tuscan farmhouse experience there are many choices. One of them is the Villa Dianella. Nestled next to olive groves and vineyards, the surrounding area makes for a peaceful place to stay.

To visit the Chianti area of Tuscany, one could do no better than a stay at the Villa Belfiore. Only a few miles from Florence, one gets a view of the Chianti hills, along with centuries-old vineyards and a modern swimming pool. For those who want more than just a view of the vineyards, Rocca delle Macie near Castellina, or San Felice near Siena offer wine tasting tours along with the accommodations.

Don't miss seeing the nearby Castello di Uzzano, an 11th century castle that dominates the hilltop. Some of the villas are museums, rather than places to stay. But they too are worth the trip. The Villa Castello was already built when it was acquired by the Medici in 1477. The masterpieces by Botticelli that once hung here are now in the Uffizi. But the villa itself is such a work of art one hardly misses them. The Villa Petraia, once part of the estate on which resides the Villa Castello, offers several interesting sights. This medieval-era tower was once a summer residence of the Medici. With 17th century frescoes by Volterra and a 19th century ballroom enclosed in glass, it offers sights the tourist to Tuscany won't want to miss. If that isn't sufficient enticement add in a stroll in the multi-level gardens. With its oak woodland and numerous flower beds lovers of human and nature's art will both be satisfied.

Investigate the options, book early and then relax and enjoy your stay in a Tuscan villa.