Like the English and their Cotswolds, Italians jealously preserve Tuscany’s historic rural character. Picture sprawling vineyards, medieval towns, and rustic villas on rolling hills - the ultimate "la dolce vita" daydream. The region has a rich history. Three centuries ago, Etruscans brought olives and grapes and a love of Greek art. Two centuries ago, Romans added road systems and cities. When the empire fell, five centuries passed before the rising city-states revived urban and rural life, culminating in the Medici-financed renaissance. Today, art lovers find Italy’s greatest masterpieces in its museums and churches. Gourmets savor exceptional wines, cheeses, breads and sweets. And visitors marvel at the stunning pastoral landscapes.