By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: We are going to Italy at the end of June and will be renting a house with some friends in a town called Castellina in Chianti near Siena. Any suggestions on things to do would be appreciated. Also, if you can please provide some contact info for the tourism office.

A: This area of Tuscany, once home to the ancient Etruscans, today has literally hundreds of archeological sites that are still being discovered and excavated. Along the roadsides through this region of rolling mountains and breathtaking views, travelers can spot an Etruscan tomb or two around here. In fact, outside your home base of Castellina in the direction of Greve, there is an impressive archeological site dating back to 7 BC.

Called Monte Calvano, this burial ground built from mammoth-sized cut limestone boulders stretches 53 meters wide and houses four tombs, reminiscent of the ancient Etruscans.

Like many of these hill towns in this area, Castellina's history is fascinating and is a perfect town to have as a homebase. It's situated smack in the middle away from cities like Florence and towns such as San Gimignano, located 30 km west, famous for its medieval skyscrapers and Siena situated 24 km south and known for its horse race "Palio."

On the other hand, Florence is 45 km north from Castellina. Because of the scale of Florence with its rich history in art and architecture, Firenze certainly warrants many return day trips.

If shopping is your interest, Ferragamo and Gucci are a couple of the design houses with roots here. Since the list of must-sees in Florence is far too long to include here, I'll only list a couple of them.

The Duomo, designed by the genius Brunelleschi continues to astound engineers and architects worldwide. Beside the Duomo, the gilded bronzed Baptismal doors designed by Ghiberti are another fine example of the Renaissance.

To assist in your travel planning, here are a few recommended web sites. Supported by the Association Chianti Classico, Chianti Net has an English version and is packed with travel tips, cultural events, and products.

The Province of Siena's Official Web site is It too has loads of info in English concerning events, museums and information offices. The Italian Tourism office has three free vacation guides available to North American residents only. To obtain your copy, visit or call 416.925.4882


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