By James Bentley, Photographs by Hugh Palmer
Thames & Hudson, $26.95, 216 pages

There are a plethora of beautiful books out there about Tuscany. What makes The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany unique is that it goes well beyond the standard Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa and Genoa. Instead, this lovely book is divided into three regions: “Around Florence and Lucca”, “Around Arrezzo and Siena” and “The South,” and within those regions focuses on the surrounding villages instead of the larger towns themselves. It is a marvelous education for anyone who has yet to travel to Tuscany or for those who have been but have not explored beyond the more touristy locations.

Hugh Palmer’s photography captures medieval fortresses, complex architectural details, ancient frescos, the pastoral beauty of the landscape and the simple beauty of the village residents. James Bentley’s text gives the historical background as well as a bit of flavor for each. So, while this is not a travel guide per se, it is a useful addition to anyone planning travel to the Tuscany region. And if your travels are only from a comfortable chair at home, The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany is a wonderful way to wile away an afternoon.

Reviewed by Catherine Gilmore