Tuscany is one of Italy’s most popular destinations. You’ll find some of Italy’s most beautiful towns and cities here as well as wonderful food, people and culture. Here’s a little guide to some places which are definatley worth a visit in Tuscany.
The first town, and perhaps most famous Tuscany town, is Pisa. Everyone will know about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but there is so much more to the town that that. The Tower is found in the Piazza dei Miracoli, which is known as one of the main centres for medieval art in the world and where you will also find the Duomo, the Baptistery and the Camposanto.
Other areas of Pisa that you should visit include Piazza dei Cavalieri (aka Knights Square), which used to be the political centre of the medieval city; Santa Maria della Spina, which is a small gothic church which houses one of the thorns from Jesus’ crown; La Cittadella, a fortress built to guard the sea access by the river Arno (the city is no longer next to the sea); and a lot more.
The next stop on our tour of Tuscany is the city of Florence. It is located about 90 kms to the east of Pisa which you can drive quickly on the A11 Toll Road or on the Strada Grande Firenze-Pisa-Livorno which will take a little longer but its not a tolled route.
Once you get to Florence (Firenze) you will have so much to see and do. The city sits on the same river that flows through Pisa, the River Arno. Florence is best known for being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. This made Florence on of the richest and most culturally important cities in the world during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. The evidence of this period is still very much visible in the city today, especially in the architecture.
One of the most notable places to visit in the city would be Santa Maria del Fiore (aka Duomo di Firenze), which is a very beautiful cathedral with a dome that was a remarkable feat of engineer during the Renaissance. While at Santa Maria del Fiore, be sure to head to the top of Giotto’s Tower and enjoy unparalleled views over the city.
The Uffizi is one of the most famous art galleries in the world. In the Uffizi you will see many works by Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Rapheal; but the most popular piece in the museums is probably The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. There is a load more to do in the city you may definitely need a few days to see it all.
Moving south, you will be heading towards Arezzo on the A1 toll road. The journey is about 80 kms and will take you close to the Chianti region of Tuscany which is famed for its fine wines. On your way you might make some time to have a look around here but remember not to over indulge on the wine when you are driving.
When you get to Arezzo you will discover a fascinating town that had a great history. The town was called Arretium by the Romans and it was a major centre of Etruscan culture in a time before the Roman Empire. This town is not as big as either of the previous two, so the main sights of the city are mostly within walking distance of each other. These sights include the Piazza Grande, which is a charming town square which hosts the Giostra del Saracino (Saracen Joust) festival twice a year.
To the west of Arezzo is the town of Siena. You will have to rejoin the A1 toll road south for about 30kms, before turning west on the Raccordo Siena-Bettolle. The whole distance covered is about 90kms.
In Siena you will step into a medieval city that has a long history dating from before the founding of Rome. In fact the city is said to have been founded by Senius, son of Remus, of Romulus and Remus fame. The Siena Duomo is a must as it is one of the finest examples of Italian Romanesque architecture.
Don’t forget to make some time to visit Piazza del Campo which is the location of the biannual Palio horse race. Overlooking the square is the Torre del Mangia adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall).
San Gimignano is located about 45kms further west of Siena, just off the Raccordo Autostradale Siena-Firenze, close to the town of Poggibonsi.
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval town which is very much the hidden gem of Tuscany. The town is perhaps best known for its towers which were an unusual fashion trend in the 13th century, and they were designed to keep rich people safe if the town was ever sacked. There were originally 60 of them dominating the town but today only 14 remain.
The rest of the town has many fine attractions such as the Collegiata, with frescos depicting the Old and New Testament.