homeItaly travel guide > Tuscany
Italy guide
Regions
Traveler café 
Travel directory
 
Last updated : Nov 2007
Tuscany
Tuscany - TravelPuppy.com
This fertile region is located between the northern Appennines and the Mediterranean Sea. The landscape is, typically, one of vine-covered hills, cypress woods, fields of sunflowers and remote hilltop villages.

Chianti, the best-known Italian wine, is made in the area north of Siena, and several wine cellars are open to the public. There are a number of volcanic spas, most notably Monsummano Terme and Montecatini Terme. On the coast, the Versalia, to the north, offers a 30km- (18-mile) stretch of organised bathing establishments, while the beaches located to the south are less exploited.

Florence

The principal Tuscan city, Florence (Firenze) is the world’s most celebrated storehouse of Renaissance art and architecture. Situated on the banks of the Arno below the wooded foothills of the Appennines, this beautiful city has long been the focus of Italian arts and letters. Alberti, Boccaccio, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Dante, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Petrarch and Vasari are among the many associated with establishing the pre-eminence of the city. Brunelleschi’s revolutionary design for the dome of the Duomo (Cathedral) is generally accepted as the first expression of Renaissance ideas in architecture. This dome still dominates the city’s roofscape, just as the great Piazza del Duomo at its feet dominates life at street level. The square is ringed with cafés and is a popular meeting place. Between there and the river are many of the best-loved palazzi (palaces), whilst close by to the north are the churches of San Lorenzo and Santa Maria Novella. The shop-lined Ponte Vecchio bridge scans the river to arrive at Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens.

The Uffizi Gallery is home to one of the world’s most celebrated art collections including masterpieces such as Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus, Caravaggio’s Young Bacchus, Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, Michelangelo’s Holy Family and Titian’s Urbino Venus. Some of the country’s most important sculptures are found within the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, including works by Michelangelo and Donatello. Michelangelo’s famous statue of David may be viewed at the Accademia di Belle Arti close to the University.

Siena

Siena’s most prosperous era pre-dated the Renaissance and therefore much of the fabric of the city is in the older Gothic and Romanesque styles. While most buildings are of reddish-brown brick (hence the colour ‘burnt sienna’), the stunning Cathedral is constructed of alternating stripes of black and white marble, said to be one of the best examples of Italian Gothic architecture. The labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets that make up the historic centre converge at Piazza del Campo. Overlooked by the giant campanile of the Palazzo Pubblico, this is possibly the most complete Medieval piazza in Italy. Twice during the year, on 2nd July and 16th August, a notorious bareback horserace known as the Palio is held here. It has been a special event since the 13th century and attracts crowds from all around the world. The 700-year-old university holds a summer school in Italian.

Pisa

Located north of Siena, Pisa is famous for its Leaning Tower, a free-standing campanile or bell tower. Closed to the public since 1990, the tower has now reopened following a lengthy restoration project.

Next to the tower, on Campo dei Miracoli, stand the elegant 11th-century Gothic Cathedral and the Baptistry. Nearby, the 13th-century Camposanto is a cemetery contained within a unique collonaded courtyard, said to have been built to enclose earth brought from Jerusalem by the Crusaders.

Arezzo

Arezzo is made up of an old upper town and a modern lower town, and also is an important centre for the production of gold jewellery. Within the old town lie the Duomo, decorated with 16th-century stained glass windows, and the Basilica di San Francesco, containing a highly esteemed cycle of frescoes by Piero della Francesca depicting the Legend of the True Cross. The Piazza Grande is a beautiful Medieval square, famous for its regular antiques market, overlooked by several impressive historic buildings, notably the church of Santa Maria della Pieve and the Loggiato del Vasari, the home Vasari built for himself in 1540.

Lucca

The walled town of Lucca is famed for its elaborate churches, which include the Cathedral of San Martino with its asymmetric façade and campanile, the striking San Frediano decorated with colourful mosaics, and San Michele in Foro, built on the site of the Roman forum. The main shopping street, Fillungo, is noted for a number of early-20th-century, Liberty-style façades.

San Gimignano

This city known as the city of beautiful towers, San Gimignano is one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in Italy. During the Middle Ages, when the height of one’s tower was a symbol of prestige, families vied to build the tallest structure. Currently, 14 of the original 76 towers remain, creating a truly spectacular skyline.

The Tuscan Archipelago

The Tuscan Archipelago is a group of scattered islands located between Tuscany and Corsica. The best known is Elba, which is linked to Piombino on the mainland by regular hydrofoil and ferry services. Famous as the place where Napoleon was briefly exiled before his final defeat at Waterloo, it has lovely beaches and campsites shaded by pines. Napoleon’s two homes, Palazzina Napoleonica dei Mulini (created out of two windmills) and Villa Napoleonica di San Martino and are both open to the public.

Elsewhere

Other places of note in Tuscany are Volterra, a beautifully preserved Medieval hilltown, Livorno, the principal commercial port and Carrara, where high-grade white marble has been quarried since Etruscan times.