There is nothing like the Tuscan morning to send your senses into overdrive.

Taking it all in from a hillside terrace, I watch the vibrant green of the vineyards in the valley below gradually come into focus as the mist burns off. The sky is already cobalt blue and the terracotta tiles below my feet are ready to soak up the heat of the day.

The dawn chorus is in full voice and, in the distance, dogs bark excitedly in anticipation of a wild boar hunt. There’s still a chill in the air as scents of lavender, thyme and lemon jostle around the nostrils. As for the tastes, well the coffee is predictably good and I’m about to bite into another of the sweet and juicy local peaches I’ve been devouring for breakfast every day.

The abundance of the Tuscan landscape is breathtaking, and you can taste it in every bite and sip of the produce. It’s no wonder the people here look so pleased – happy, rather than smug – when they serve it to you, whether at the local market or in a restaurant. Food and drink is everything in this part of Italy, encompassing nature and culture, history and memory, family and friends. It is how people express themselves and communicate, how they work, rest and play.

And it's why you'll never tire of visiting this region of Italy; every season has its own food and drink delights.

I’m here in autumn, staying in a beautiful old country house near the charming town of San Casciano, in the hills a 30-minutes drive from Florence, soaking up the art of Tuscan gastronomy and winemaking alongside the Renaissance masters.

The vineyards below produce the grapes that make Chianti, the most famous Italian wine of all, and it turns out our local winery is run by none other than Duccio Corsini, a Tuscan prince whose family has been making the stuff since the 14th century. It’s harvest time, and the prince, a jolly and welcoming presence, can be found with his sleeves rolled up pitching in. As well as the vineyards to manage, there’s the family home, Villa Le Corti, a grand mansion going back to the 1360s.

Visitors are welcome at the winery and the house, and there’s a friendly and informal restaurant where the whole experience comes together. Indeed, there is no better way to enjoy a top quality Chianti Classico or Rose (in this case the winery’s Principe Corsini) than with a quite wonderful lunch of courgette flowers stuffed with a local cheese, followed by breaded rabbit.

Perhaps the most relaxing way to enjoy the Tuscan countryside is to drive the winding hill roads with care, stopping at wineries whenever you need a break. With this in mind, the Rocca di Montegrossi estate, in the hills between Florence and Siena, is an absolute must.

Not only is the wine itself worth coming for – the estate produces some of the finest wines in the whole Chianti Classico region – but the Villa Vignamaggio and its gardens are straight out of a Renaissance painting. Indeed, legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci first spotted his Mona Lisa at this stupendously grand and romantic house, which visitors may recognise as the setting for Kenneth Brannagh’s 1993 film version of Much Ado About Nothing.

Following a delicious lunch and instructive tour of the winery, we leave laden with bottles for our next big gastronomic experience.

My colleague Isobel and her partner Giacomo, a chef and restaurateur in Florence, have promised to cook for us and some friends back at our house, a beautiful traditional stone villa complete with flag-stoned floor, shutters and a terracotta roof. Inside it is elegant, with all the mod cons you’ll need, including a proper cook’s kitchen (there’s also a private pool). This home-cooked meal is one of the things I’ve been most looking forward to on this trip. But first we have to find the ingredients. More specifically, we have to get out into the countryside and pick them.

To help us, we’ve teamed up with a local foraging expert. Franco used to work for the tourist board in Florence. But when he lost his job, he started going up into the hills and collecting the more unusual and exotic leaves and herbs that city chefs loved to use. It’s easy to see why the venture has become so successful for Franco, who often takes visitors with him.

We head out from the house before sunset into the surrounding scrub and woodland, and his immense knowledge, experience and charm shine through. Every bush, plant and root has a story, and although not every one is edible, many are. The scents and tastes of these leaves, shoots, roots and herbs - I can taste the calamint and wild fennel as I write this - are often unexpected. As the sun sets over the hillside we head back to the kitchen with a basket full of fragrance and flavour.

Giacomo has already made the pasta for the ravioli, which he rolls out thinly and fills with our foraged leaves and herbs, mixing with a local cream cheese and seasoning. Served with a lemon and butter sauce, it is quite simply the most delicious pasta dish I have ever eaten. The fact that it is enjoyed outside on the terrace, round a boisterous table in the Tuscan dusk, with the cicadas chirping all around, certainly helps.

After the pasta we toast the success of our foraging trip with Vin Santo, a deliciously sweet, fortified wine, served with pistachio-jewelled biscotti for dipping. The abundance of Tuscany, indeed. It doesn’t get any better.

Throughout our trip we have been told about Florentine steak in the most reverential of tones and before returning home we are determined to taste it. It’s mooted to be one of the world’s great food experiences, the very essence of what it is to eat to steak, so we decide to work up to the meal - and an appetite - with some art.

One simply cannot visit Florence, the home of Giotto, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael, without a visit to the Ufizzi - or “office” - headquarters of the influential Medici family, where many of the period’s masterpieces reside. Rather than just pointing out a few famous works, our guide Mario, an effusively friendly art academic, gives us a vibrant and thought-provoking introduction to Renaissance art as we negotiate the rooms and long galleries filled with paintings, going beneath the surface to explore the wider artistic and cultural impact of the pieces.

Afterwards we accompany him to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s statue of David, one of the most famous evocations of the human form. It is indeed overwhelmingly impressive. But it’s the master’s later, unfinished works, known as the Prisoners, seeming to emerge in front of your eyes from the stone, that move me most.

On emerging from the gallery, Florence seems all the more stunning and extraordinary, its streets, squares and passages even more teeming with history and culture.

At last, we feel ready to experience the Florentine steak. And what an experience it is. At iTuscani 3, a restaurant in the centre of town, this is an immersive meal where diners don’t just eat, but cook. And with that, it’s in to the kitchen with the chefs. Needless to say, this is not a place for vegans. The atmosphere is as hot, noisy and intense as you’d expect. But it’s also hugely exciting to watch their skill at the grill.

Then it is our turn. But first, our host, chef Alberto, tells us about the Chianina cows, specially bred in the hills above Florence for their flavourful, tender meat. Then the meat comes out, huge hunks of the stuff, cut a bit like a Porterhouse, with the bone left on. With the help of Alberto, we trim and season the steaks, then it’s time to flame-grill them to a strictly adhered-to point, checking with (gloved) fingers along the way. You don’t get asked how you’d like your steak done here.

Nothing is served with the meat except the juices and a few chargrilled vegetables on the side. And you don’t need another thing because the hunk of meat is the star, exceptionally rare, tender and full of flavour. My husband, a confirmed carnivore, sucks the bone and declares the steak “unbelievable”. I can’t disagree. To be clear, this is not a food experience for the faint hearted - an hour later we are out cold in our beds through sheer exhaustion. But it is, I suspect, definitive. Returning home, I find myself sneering at supermarket sirloins.

I also find myself depressed at much the food on offer back home. My head is still in Tuscany, smelling and tasting the abundance all around, savouring the skill, experience and love that goes into every mouthful, remembering the assault on the senses that hits you each morning.

Marianne Taylor stayed in Tuscany as a guest of ArtViva. The activities and experiences are available exclusively through ArtViva ( Prices for the wine experience at Principe Corsini are available on request. Wine tours at Vignamaggio start at 165 Euros (around £140) and include lunch and tastings. The country house can be booked as part of a Tuscany tour package or on an accommodation-only basis. It is available year-round from 150 Euros (around £130) to 500 Euros (around £430) a night, depending on the season, and sleeps eight. Marianne’s flights from Edinburgh to Pisa cost £89 return, including all charges. The one-hour train from Pisa to Florence is around £15 return.