|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.
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
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’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.
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 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.
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,
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
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.
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.