Tuscany (Italian Toscana) is a region in central Italy, bordering on Latium to the south, Umbria to the east, Emilia-Romagna and Liguria to the north, and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. It is often regarded as among the most beautiful parts of Italy.
Tuscany was the region in which the Italian Renaissance produced its first results. The unique artistic patrimony of this region includes architecture, painting and sculpture, collected in dozens of famous museums like the Uffizi in Florence and in situ in even quite small cities.
Tuscany is also known for its wines (most famous of which are Sassicaia, Chianti, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino) and has 120 protected regions (natural reserves).
Notable tourist destinations in Tuscany include Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Maremma (in Grosseto province), Crete Senesi and Siena. Though it is famous for its villas, Tuscany is currently promoting "agritourism" (Agriturismo), in which visitors stay on working farms
The provinces of the region are: Florence (regional capital), Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena.
To be visited:
There are several amazing places in this region awarded by Unesco as World Heritage sites, starting from Florence.
Famous all over the world, the ancient Signoria of the Medici is the pre-eminent cradle of culture and art. It is a real open air museum that contains countless monuments, including the Duomo with Giotto's Tower Bell, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery with unique masterpieces. However, the charm of Florence is also given by the Armo embankment, the picturesque Ponte Vecchio, and the workshops of artisans that liven up the lanes of the old town.
Another extraordinary destination is Siena, with its medieval town centre – included in the list of Unesco sites, too – that culminates with the peculiar Piazza del Campo, the theatre of the famous Palio.
Pisa gathers its main monuments in Piazza dei Miracoli, among which is the well-known leaning Tower, creating an incredibly valuable artistic area, protected by Unesco.
Pienza is the "ideal town" that was wanted and created by Pope Pius II following Renaissance standards. The spectacular arrangement of the spaces and the richness of the buildings make this town an artistic treasure, inscribed on Unesco's list.
San Gimignano stands out among the small towns of the region, a medieval town characterized by its towers and "tower buildings", recognized as a World Heritage site.
There are many other aspects in this region, and the Orcia Valley deserves to be mentioned as it is protected by Unesco for the beauty of its fields and landscapes that have inspired many Renaissance artists.
To eat: The origins of Tuscan food are rustic and folk, as we can see from its basic ingredients: bread, even stale bread, spelt, legumes and vegetables. Some typical appetizers are crostini (toasted bread) spread with a cream of chicken liver and spleen, panzanella salad, and sausages, including finocchiona, a fennel flavoured salami.
The typical first course is soup, like the famous ribollita or bean soup, spelt soup, pici (a type of spaghetti from the area of Siena), or pappardelle with hare.
A famous fish dish is cacciucco soup, followed by mullets and the stockfish stew of Livorno.
Among meat dishes, the fiorentina steak (grilled T-bone steak) is the most popular; guinea-fowl meat, pork and game are very common, too.
The typical desserts are castagnaccio (chestnut cake), buccellato (anise cake) and cantucci.
Wine production is excellent for its variety and quality: Tuscany produces the finest wines in Italy, from Chianti to Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and many more, up to Vin Santo, a sweet and liqueur-like wine to taste with cantucci.
Florence (Firenze) (935,000 inhabitants) is the capital of the Tuscany Region.
It is a city which bustles with industry and craft, commerce and culture, art and science. Being on the main national railway lines, it is easily accessible from most important places both in Italy and abroad. The Florence "Vespucci" airport, where both national and international airlines stop, is located 5 Km. from the city centre. The main motorway, A1, connects Florence with Bologna and Milano in the North and Rome and Naples in the South.
Founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., Florence began its rebirth after the decadence of the barbaric ages, in the Carolingian period, and reached its highest pinnacles of civilization between the 11th and 15th centuries, as a free city, balancing the authority of the Emperors with that of the Popes, overcoming the unfortunate internal dispute between Guelfs and Ghibellines. In the 15th century, it came under the rule of the Medici family, who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. This in fact was the period when the city was at the height of its glory in art and culture, in politics and economic power. The Grand Duchy of the Medicis was succeeded, in the 18th century, by that of the House of Lorraine, when in 1860 Tuscany became part of the Kingdom of Italy of which Florence was the capital from 1865 to 1871. In this century, the city has once more taken up its role as an important centre for culture and the arts.
Art and Culture:
Florence keeps an exceptional artistic heritage which is a marvellous evidence of its aged culture. Cimabue and Giotto, the fathers of Italian painting, lived in Florence as well as Arnolfo and Andrea Pisano, renewers of architecture and sculpture; Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio forefathers of the Renaissance, Ghiberti and the Della Robbias , Filippo Lippi and Angelico ; Botticelli , Paolo Uccello and the universal genius of Leonardo and Michelangelo . Their works, together with those of many other generations of artists up to the artists of our century, are gathered in the several museums of the town : the Uffizzi, the most selected gallery in the world, the Palatina gallery with the paintings of the "Golden Ages" . The Bargello Tower with the sculptures of the Renaissance, the museum of San Marco with Angelico's works, the Academy, the chapels of the Medicis , Buonarroti' s house with the sculptures of Michelangelo , the following museums: Bardini , Horne, Stibbert, Romano, Corsini, The Gallery of Modern Art, The museum of " Opera del Duomo",the museum of Silverware and the museum of "Precious" Stones. Great monuments are the landmarks florentine artistic culture: the Baptistry with its mosaics; the Cathedral with its sculptures, the medieval churches with bands of frescoes; public as well as private palaces: Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Palazzo Davanzati; monasteries, cloisters, refectories; the "Certosa". In the archeological museum you will find plenty of documents of Etruscan civilization.
Santa Maria Novella Train Station
Stazione Centrale di Santa Maria Novella (PHONE: 8488/888088) is Florence's main station and is centrally located. The Train Station is in the center of the city, near S. Maria Novella place. In this place there are many bus stops of the ATAF bus Lines. A lot of them crosses the center in all directions, and many ATAF bus lines stop around the station.
For detailed bus stops location and time table, ATAF on Line. L inks: FirenzeSantaMariaNovella.it
ATAF bus stop: ataf.net Address:
FIRENZE S. MARIA NOVELLA STATION - piazzale della Stazione - 50123 Florence - Italy.
When traveling to Florence, be sure to avoid trains that stop only at the Campo di Marte or Rifredi stations, which are not convenient to the center.
Phone #: +39 055 30615 Airport Code: FLR Location: The airport lies 4km from Florence and 80 kilometers from Pisa Address: Aeroporto Amerigo Vespucci - Via del Termine 11 I-50127 Florence, Italy
Taxi - Taxis are available Bus - Ataf-Sita "Vola in bus" service links to the city centre and the central railway station (S.M. Novella) 66 times a day. Rail - Passengers can take the Ataf-Sita "Vola in bus" to the central railway station (S.M. Novella).
From Florence the airport is reached by taking the Viale Guidoni to the road leading to the Firenze Nord/Firenze Mare superhighway (A1 and A11). Pisa can also be reached via the A1 or the A11 motorway.
Situated in the East of Tuscany and bordered by the Apennines, the province of Arezzo encompasses the areas of Casentino, Valdarno, Valtiberina and Val di Chiana. Each of these, comprising unique landscapes where natural beauty blends harmoniously with historical heritage and masterpieces of art.
The Casentino Valley is surrounded by high hills with long-standing woods. Along the Tosco-Emiliano Apennine there is the Foreste Casentinesi Monte Falterona Campigna National Park, where among steep cliffs and thick vegetation two important spiritual locations are well worth a visit: the sanctuary of La Verna and the monastery of Camaldoli.
The Valdarno natural reserve holds many surprises; its characteristic landscape is dominated by the spectacular "Balze", yellow rock formations made of stratified clay, gravel and sand that rise up in diverse shapes, creating a fantastic scenery.
The Val di Chiana landscape is a breathtaking succession of hills and valleys that are home to some real jewels of art such as Monte San Savino, Lucignano and Cortona.
Situated near the border of Tuscany, the Valtiberina preserves an unspoiled environment with castles, parish churches and historic villages such as Anghiari, Caprese Michelangelo and Sanseplocro. There are still many unspoiled spots to explore, including the forests of the Pratomagno range and numerous protected areas of local interest.
The great Italian poet Petrarch was born in Arezzo as well as outstanding artists like Piero della Francesca, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Luca Signorelli, Pietro da Cortona and Vasari who all left signs of their creativity and genius in Arezzo and in other towns nearby. A blend of artistic itineraries, ranging from Piero della Francesca to the Della Robbia family, offer a chance to admire the paintings, sculptures and architecture that make even the smallest hamlets of this region unique. In this area nature and a thousand years of man's labour come together creating an assembly that never ceases to astonish and enchant.
Arezzo is an extraordinary city of art and renowned for its goldsmiths and antiques traders.
The old town is home to valuable monuments including the imposing Medici Fortress, the Cathedral and the Diocesan museum. The Archeological museum, showcases many valuable finds, recalling the city's importance in the Etruscan period, while the State Museum of Medieval and Modern Art provides an overview of the artistic production in this area from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
The heart of the city is Piazza Grande, surrounded by buildings of various periods and styles, among them the medieval towers and the Renaissance style "Loggiato Vasariano".
Casa Vasari is well worth a visit, too. It has been converted into a museum where you can admire decorations made by the artist himself, a family archive and some paintings. The San Francesco Basilica is the ideal starting point for an itinerary to discover the 14th century painter Piero della Francesca, as it preserves the "Leggenda della Vera Croce" (Legend of the True Cross), one of the greatest masterpieces of early Renaissance art. The itinerary leads then to Monterchi where you can admire the stunning fresco of the "Madonna del Parto" and to Sansepolcro where four of the master's most important works are displayed in the Museo Civico.
Another place to visit in Sansepolcro is the central Piazza della Torre Berta with the cathedral and historic buildings and home to the Palio della Balestra, a historic event dating back to the fifteenth century. Do not miss a visit to the small town of Caprese Michelangelo, the birthplace of Michelangelo Buonarroti, with a museum dedicated to the artist situated within the old castle.
Of great artistic as well as religious value is the Sanctuary of La Verna in the Casentino forests, today a popular place of pilgrimage. Perched on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by age-old fir and beech trees, the complex includes several buildings decorated with magnificent works by Andrea della Robbia. Another of Casentino's religious destinations is the Camaldoli Monastery, where monks still live today. Two more interesting small medieval towns deserve a visit: Bibbiena, with valuable churches and architecture, and Poppi, dominated by its magnificent castle.
Among the many villages of the Val di Chiana, Cortona is particularly fascinating having preserved its heritage sites, including various Palazzi, the Cathedral, the Museo Diocesano and the Church of San Francesco. Moreover, at Cortona you can visit the Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca e della Città (MAEC) as well as a some Etruscan necropolises not far from the city centre.
San Giovanni Valdarno, the birthplace of Masaccio, has an old town with many fine buildings, including the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Palazzo Pretorio.
Evocative medieval parish churches are scattered all over the province, immersed in the greenery: Santa Maria Assunta in Stia, San Pietro in Romena and San Pietro in Gròpina, a genuine Romanesque jewel, to name but a few. There are also many castles and religious locations, among them the Romanesque Abbey of Farneta near Cortona.
The area also offers a fascinating tour to discover the wonderful works of the Della Robbia artists: from the magnificent altarpiece in the Arezzo Cathedral, to the masterpieces in the La Verna sanctuary, in the Camaldoli monastery, in the Santa Maria del Sasso sanctuary at Bibbiena and in the castle at Poppi. Examples of their art can also be found in Montevarchi and in the small parish churches along the Valdarno.
The cuisine of Arezzo is genuine, tasty and varied, based on rural traditions and produce of the land.
Typical products include mushrooms and cheeses from the Casentino area, ham from Pratomagno, truffles from the Tiber Valley, and other cheeses, especially "abbucciato".
Among the first courses soups and "bringoli" from Valtiberina stand out, the latter is a sort of thick hand-pulled spaghetti.
Second courses include "Chianina" steak, typical of Val di Chiana, game and eel "al tegamaccio" and dishes made with chestnuts are also prevalent.
The speciality of Casentino is "tortello alla lastra", stuffed with cabbage, potato, ricotta and "Acquacotta alla Stiana", prepared with stale bread, broth, sausage and tomatoes. Another typical dish is stewed "grifi", the lean and callous part of a calf's muzzle, cooked with tomato and herbs.
The production of local wines is also notable, including Colli dell'Etruria Centrale, Chianti dei Colli Aretini and Bianco della Val di Chiana.
The province of Grosseto lies in southern Tuscany and reaches from the slopes of the Colline Metallifere to the border with Latium, comprising the multifarious landscapes of Maremma.
The coastline, between the Gulf of Follonica and the mouth of the river Chiarone, presents sceneries of singular beauty dominated by pine forests and crystal clear waters. It is home to famous resorts such as Marina di Grosseto, Principina a Mare, Castiglione della Pescaia, Punta Ala and Punta Talamone.
Tourist destinations of international renown include Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, the two pearls of the Argentario, the green headland that stretches out into the sea, surrounded by a high and rocky coastline and connected to the mainland by the long sandy beaches of Giannella and Feniglia, nicknamed "the necks". Pristine landscapes and magnificent views are the characterizing features of the islands of Giglio, Giannutri and Formiche di Grosseto, favourite diving spots thanks to the population of colourful flora on their seabed.
The hinterland is also rich in possibilities. In the Monterondo Marittimo area of the wild Colline Metallifere the Parco Naturalistico delle Biancane (nature park) is waiting to be discovered. An area noted for the emission of hot, white steam from the depths of the earth, creating extraordinary landscapes and a surreal atmosphere.
Another typical environment, of this area is Maremma Grossetana, where the wide plains of Ombrone, Fiora and Albegna are interspersed with hills. Maremma is the land of the "buttero" (the typical cowboy from the area), of authentic local products, rural traditions handed down over the centuries, of pure, wild nature.
There are numerous protected zones in the area, including the Parco Naturale della Maremma e Monti dell'Uccellina (wildlife park), the Riserva Naturale Laguna di Orbetello (Nature reserve) which is an immense mirror of water that welcomes many species of birds every season, and the Burano Lake, a magnificent coastal saltwater lake and WWF oasis.
In the southeastern corner of the province the so-called "Tufo area" is characterized by erosive phenomena, where beautiful villages lie and the most important Etruscan necropolises in the area.
Apart from its natural beauty and the variety of its environments, the province of Grosseto is home to a considerable artistic heritage, art settlements, small and fascinating centres of medieval and Renaissance material and archeological sites that conserve Roman and Etruscan finds.
The first stop of any tour of the area should be Grosseto itself, with its old town hemmed in by the hexagonal sixteenth century wall and dominated by the impressive Medici Fortress.
Monuments of particular importance are the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, with an abundant collection of artworks, the Church of San Francesco and the Museo Archeologico e d'Arte della Maremma (Museum of Archaeology and Art) that collects paintings and archeological finds from the area.
The golden beaches of Giannella and Feniglia, the thick Mediterranean vegetation, the stunning sixteenth century fortifications and unique panoramas define the Argentario peninsula, making this an alluring tourist destination for a seaside holiday among cliffs, coves and scuba diving. In two little natural inlets located on opposite sides of the peninsula, lie Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, two sophisticated and mundane villages that are also enchanting and rich in history. Porto Santo Stefano is a typical location with its seafront, the Old Port, the New Port and the majestic Spanish Fortress. Porto Ercole is also striking. Its coloured houses are scattered around the bay, the village is surrounded by mighty walls and overlooked by the Fortress.
In the heart of the Colline Metallifere there is a town of considerable artistic value considered among the most important of the province: Massa Marittima; its medieval splendour has been preserved intact. A stroll through the centre allows one to admire its fine monuments, among them the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, the Praetorian Palace and the Fortezza Senese castle connected to the Candeliere Tower by a unique bridge with flying buttress. Outside the city Lake Accesa. This is an area of great natural value; the Parco Archeologico is evidence of the original Etruscan civilization.
Traditional villages are still abundant in the area, like Scansano, homeland of the Morellino wine; Civitella Marittima with its narrow streets and small Renaissance buildings; Capalbio, the romantic Medieval village; Castiglione della Pescaia, fascinating tourist resort on the sea and Manciano with the neighbouring thermal spa complex of Saturnia.
The "Città del Tufo" is well worth a visit, three beautiful villages that lie on rocky outcrops surrounded by the striking valleys of Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana, rich in Etruscan, medieval and Renaissance remains. Do not miss a visit to the Parco Archeologico Città del Tufo (Archeological park), which has its hub in the Etruscan necropolis of Sovana and includes the "vie cave", ancient roads dug into the rock.
Other archeological sites of particular note are the necropolises of Vetulonia which constitute the greatest evidence of Etruscan funerary architecture, the Ruins of Cosa, the ancient Roman colony and the Ruins of Roselle, ancient Etruscan and later Roman settlement.
Equally not to be missed is an excursion to the Island of Giglio, and a visit to the typical fortified village of Giglio Castello, located on the peak of the mountain and offering a one of a kind view of the islands and unforgettable sunsets.
Cuisine in Maremma is based on products from the land and ancient traditions.
Typical dishes are fettuccine with different accompaniments, mushroom soup, pheasant broth and above all, "Acquacotta", a soup with lightly fried onion, celery, tomato and chilli.
A typical second course dish from Maremma is "scottiglia di cinghiale", a wild boar stew, while the speciality of the Island of Giglio is wild rabbit chasseur, cooked with tomato, spices and a little chilli.
On the coast and in seaside localities popular dishes include fish soup, "mare e monti" preparations which mix products from the land and from the sea, "caldano", a soup of mixed fish, octopus, cuttlefish, tomato and bread. Maremma, so rich in forest and wild areas, also offers game and dishes made with boar, hare and pheasant. Bruschetta is also very common, giving you a chance to taste the excellent olive oil, cheese and cold cuts.
As far as desserts go, "cavallucci", a kind of biscuit from Massa Marittima, "castagnaccio", a tart made with chestnut flour, "pagnottella di Natale" typical of Porto Santi Stefano, "scarsella orbetellana", an Easter cake in the shape of a ring with a whole egg is wrapped up where the ends meet.
Wine production is also noteworthy, Vino Colli di Maremma, Binaco di Pitigliano, Morellino di Scansano, Ansonica Costa dell'Argentario, Ansonaco di Isola del Giglio and Bianco di Pitigliano to name but a few.
The province of Livorno runs along the coast of central Tuscany, from Piombino to Livorno and extends for a brief stretch inland, an area alternating between plains and hills.
It also includes some islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, the best known of which is Elba, a very popular tourist destination, with varied attractions and enchanting landscapes. The other islands that are part of the province of Livorno are Capraia, Gorgonia, Pianosa and the wild Montecristo which is a nature reserve. The coast, known as the "Etruscan Coast" for the abundance of traces left by this ancient civilization, seamlessly fuses natural and cultural aspects.
Among pinewoods, long beaches, and cliffs, stand well known tourist spots such as Castiglioncello, Rosignano Marittimo, Marina di Cecina, Marina di Bibbona and the captivating Gulf of Baratti and Populonia, all rich in history and precious archaeological artefacts. Val di Cornia has a particular conservational value covering as it does a vast network of protected areas, including the Parco Costiero della Sterpaia (Coastal park) which encompasses the typical coastal scenery of Maremma; the Parco Costiero di Rimigliano, rich in Mediterranean vegetation and, further inland, the Parco Forestale di Poggio Neri and the Parco Naturale di Montoni with magnificent oak forests.
The entire territory, from the coast to the inland areas, shows signs of the age-old presence of man and his work, from the Etruscan necropolises in the Gulf of Baratti, to the evidence of ancient mineral extraction in the Colline Metallifere, to typical medieval villages such as Campiglia Marittima, Suvereto and Sassetta whose artistic treasures add to the uniqueness of this land rich in colours, fragrances and flavours.
References to the area abound, from the memoirs of the great poet Giosuè Carducci in the hamlet of Bolgheri, to those of Napoleon who spent a brief period in exile on Elba, and of the painter Giovanni Fattori, originally from Livorno.
The first stop of any tour of the area must be Lucca itself, a city of ancient origins, surrounded by its boundary wall dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
This great work of military engineering, with its ramparts and bastions, is today a unique and scenic public area. Particularly evocative is the old town, which has kept intact its medieval appearance with typical narrow streets and squares overlooked by stone towers and tower-houses as well as brick houses with arcades. Among the most typical streets, Via Fillungo stands out, main axis of the medieval village, surrounded by noble buildings and ancient towers including the famous Torre delle Ore; Via Guinigi is worth a note too, where the complex of medieval buildings built by rich families is concentrated.
Religious architecture of particular importance includes the Cathedral of San Martino with its magnificent facade and interior rich in precious artworks; the Cathedral Museum that houses paintings, sculptures and liturgical furnishings; the church of San Michele in Foro, a unique example of Pisan-Lucchese architecture and the splendid Basilica of San Frediano.
Outstanding examples of civil architecture are: Villa di Paolo Guinigi (15th Century), site of the Museo Nazionale showcasing Etruscan and Roman archeological finds and several painting collections; Palazzo Mansi with its priceless furnishings and site of the second Museo Nazionale of Lucca; the seventeenth century Palazzo Moriconi-Pfanner, a magnificent example of Lucchese baroque, surrounded by a spectacular garden.
The birth house of the musician Giacomo Puccini is not to be missed too. It has been converted into a museum showcasing the maestro's documents and mementoes.
The countryside around Lucca offers the opportunity to visit the wonderful villas, built from the late-sixteenth century to mid-nineteenth century as country residences and holiday homes for rich gentlemen, all set in the middle of picturesque parks. Among them two particularly stand out: Villa Torrigiani with its characteristic gardens and Villa Mansi, a splendid sixteenth century construction, with frescoed rooms and a grand garden designed by the architect Juvarra.
Among the historic sites, Altopascio was of great importance in medieval times thanks to its position along the Via Francigena. The village preserves Romanesque-style buildings, churches and the famous thirteenth century bell tower, which once guided travellers with its tolls.
From the slopes of the Apuane Alps to the Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli National Park, the splendid Versilian coastline is a very attractive tourist destination, thanks to its enchanting scenery, rich vegetation and fascinating places, such as the romantic Torre del Lago Puccini with the villa-museum of Giacomo Puccini who here found inspiration for his Madame Butterfly.
Other tourist centres of Versilia are Viareggo, famous for its carnival but also for its beaches and nightlife, the elegant Forte dei Marmi, Pietrasanta with a rich artistic heritage and Camaiore with its Romanesque architecture. Do not miss the valleys of Serchio and Garfagnana with heir characteristic villages, among them Borgo a Mozzano, famous for its spectacular Devil's Bridge, and Barga, an enchanting medieval village with fine architecture.
Other towns typical of Garfagnana are Castelvecchio Pascoli where you can visit the house-museum of the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli along with the chapel that guards his remains and Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a village with cathedral and fortress nestled in a spectacular and inspiring landscape.
The gastronomy of Lucca is rooted in ancient traditions.
Of the first courses, soups have an important place, especially the "garmucia" (a soup with artichokes, peas, broad beans and asparagus).
Local specialities include roasted pork, pork with chestnut polenta, lamb with olive, spit-roasted thrush, and spit-roasted Serchio trout.
Recommended deserts: "buccellato", a typical donut-shaped desert; "castagnaccio", a tart made with chestnut flour; and "necci" also made with chestnut flour.
Among the flavoursome local wines try Montecarlo white or red; Biadina is a typical liquor from Lucca.
The province of Massa-Carrara is situated on the border with Liguria and Emilia Romagna and is characterised by an extensive coastal area rich in tourist accommodation structures and modern bathing establishments.
A short distance from the sea, the Apuane Alps are a paradise for nature lovers and excursionists, both in summer and in winter, offering the possibility to stay in comfortable mountain huts.
The spectacular white marble caves in the heart of these mountains are unique in the world and reveal themselves as a lunar vision before the visistor's eyes: thus entering the mountain's heart. One can touch with hand the precious stony elements that artists like Michelangelo and Canova preferred.
Arriving from north we reach Lunigiana, embedded by two natural parks (Apuan Alps and the Tuscan-Emilia Appennine). Lunigiana offers many interesting culinary itineraries and holidays in prestigious farm-holiday structures, engulfed among the green hills, among castles, romantic pievi and elegant towns like Pontremoli, Fivizzano and Aulla.
On the coast, Carrara, with its Cathedral entirely built out of marble and Massa, dominated by the Malaspina fortress. Both old town centres are ideal for walks during which one can admire the local art while shopping.
All this is just a few kilometres from the wide beaches on the Apuan Coast, an ideal continuation of Versilia with the areas of Cinquale di Montignoso, Poveromo, Ronchi, Marina di Massa and Marina di Carrara.
Within the old town one finds the medieval part, made up of little, narrow, winding streets and the sixteenth century part, built by Cybo Malaspina, a lord of the city at that time. The Cathedral and the Palazzo Ducale of Cybo Malaspina (sixteenth - seventeenth century) are of particular interest.
Another centre of major historical and artistic interest is Carrara, known internationally as the city of marble, surrounded by the white frontline of the Apuane Alps where intense mining and stonework is carried out. As well as valuable monuments such as the Cathedral with its Romanesque-Gothic façade, the sixteenth century residence of Cybo Malaspina and the majestic Palazzo delle Logge, Carrara also offers the possibility of taking an interesting trip to learn more about marble by means of a visit to the Museo Civico del Marmo (marble museum) and artist's workshops in the city. The tour must then continue outside the city for a visit to the impressive quarries, such as the Cava Museo di Fantiscritti. In the village of Campocecina you can admire the Parco della Memoria and the Cava dei Poeti, where phrases from famous people and poets were engraved into the walls for the 2002 Biennale.
Lunigiana offers a unique tour to discover enchanting villages, beginning with Fosdinovo which is dominated by a medieval castle. At Aulla the majestic Fortezza della Brunella can be visited. It was built at the beginning of the XIV century and takes its name from its distinctive colour; and there is also the Museo di Storia Naturale (natural history museum). Crossing the Passo del Cerreto you reach Fivizzano, with its ancient walls andcan visit the Museo della Stampa (print museum). Do not miss the parish Church of Sorano, near Filattiera, a treasured Romanesque monument with a striking apse, set in a pristine environment.
Pontremoli is found in high Lunigiana and has a notable artistic heritage, from the magnificent Castello del Piagnaro, which is home to the Museo delle Statue Stele (Statue Menhir museum), the Cathedral and the village's characteristic alleys. Finally, nestled among luxuriant nature and dense woods lies Zeri, famous for its gastronomy, especially the typical Zerasco lamb.
Taglierini with beans, meat tordelli and lasagne intordellate are all typical of Massese cooking.
Lard from Colonnata is an exceptional local product, matured for at least six months in Carrara-marble basins with many spices.
Other specialities are the rice cake and the herb cake, with egg, cheese and wild vegetable stuffing. The Lunigiani "testaroli" are also famous, made with a sheet of thin pastry, cooked in a cast iron "test", then topped with pesto and pecorino.
The most typical desert is "spongata", a puff pastry tart stuffed with jam and dried fruit.
Wine production in the area is also notable, among which the Candia.
The Campo dei Miracoli complex, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, consists of a plaza of monuments of inestimable value and great appeal for tourists, which brings together the most representative structures of the city. The white structures of the Cathedral and the Baptistery, both in Romanesque-Pisan style, the Camposanto Monumentale and the Bell Tower, known as the Leaning Tower, are defined against a green lawn. The inclination of the bell tower, due to subsidence, has made this monument famous the world over and it is now the symbol of the city.
The old town encompasses Renaissance architecture and churches and the central Piazza dei Cavalieri is a magnificent sight, home to elaborate sixteenth century buildings such as the Palazzo dei Cavalieri, today home of the Normale Superiore school. Of all the sights do not miss the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, housed in the former monastery of the church, which holds a valuable collection of paintings on wood with gold background, sculptures and other works; and the church of Santa Maria della Spina, a real jewel of the Gothic-Pisan style.
The most popular seaside resorts are Marina di Pisa, with its typical Art Nouveau villas and Tirrenia, immersed in greenery. The scenic complex of Certosa di Pisa, near Calci is worth a visit. The small town of San Miniato is also very typical, located upon a hill overlooking the Valle dell'Arno.
Towns and villages with a rich history are abundant, above all Volterra. Of ancient origin, it has preserved interesting Etruscan and Roman archeological finds and a striking old town of medieval appearance. Among its main monuments the Cathedral, Palazzo dei Priori and an imposing Renaissance style Fortress stand out.
Among the particular recipes are San Michele's haricot bean soup, bavettine with fish and clam soup.
Worthy of mention are products from the earth such as mushrooms, chestnuts, corn and truffles.
Second courses include several special dishes such as pork liver, eel and stockfish.
There is a high production of cold cuts such as sausages, buristo toscano (black pudding) and pancetta.
Typical deserts include the "torta coi bischeri", made with pine nuts, chocolate, raisins and candied citron, perhaps with an excellent Vin Santo del Chianti.
Local wines include Chianti Colli Pisani, Rosso di San Miniato and Trebbiano.
Pistoia & Prato:
Visiting Pistoia's old town is like making a journey back in time. In fact, Pistoia, is a city with many amazing facets thanks to its elegance and refined beauty. In fact, the evidence of the city's Roman origin appears immediately upon entering it: an unexpected series of churches, cloisters, palaces and art treasures not only dating back to the past but even to more recent times. Among narrow medieval streets and irregular shaped squares, prestigious palaces and small tower-houses, a surprising city emerges with an innate, discreet charm, perfect for lovers of the quality of slow-paced tourism. Not far from Pistoia, one reaches Pescia, a town that has a lot to offer to those who love art and nature.
The city has medieval origins and was born on both banks of the river from which it has taken its name: on the right of Pescia the centre develops with the characteristic great, elongated Piazza and on the left the religious centre. Among the things to see, coming from Porta Fiorentina, one reaches the Cathedral, rebuilt at the end of the 17th century and, almost opposite, the church of San Giuliano. Next to the cathedral, is the Chiostro del Seminario and the nearby Church of the Oratory of S. Antonio Abate that preserves the wooden sculpture dated back to the 13th century called "The Ugly Saints". The Civic Museum and the plaster collection Gipsoteca Libero Andreotti. Waterways, and chestnut forests, mills and paper mills, remains of ancient walls and picturesque views open onto the valley, offer lovely visits and walks among history and nature: this is the Svizzera Pesciatina, located to the north of the town of Pescia, also called Valleriana but best known by the name of Svizzera Pesciatina in honour of Giovan Carlo Sismondi, historian and economist from Geneva, who rediscovered the landscapes and colours of the valleys so similar to his own homeland Switzerland.
he tourist itinerary that leads visitors to discover the territory begins in Prato, a city rich in art, such as the Duomo that holds prestigious frescoes. The Emperor's castle makes a great impact. It is a massive white stone construction, with angular towers, built for Frederic II of Swabia in the 13th century.
Visitors must not miss the exquisite collections in the Civic Museum, which include works from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and the precious contemporary artworks on display in the "Luigi Pecci" Contemporary art centre.
First-hand accounts and documentation on traditional textile production, especially of woollens, are gathered in the Textile museum, hosted in the former Via Santa Chiara factory. It takes visitors through the history of textile in Prato up to the city's important present-day international role.
South of the city, the hilly Mount Albano area holds interesting art attractions such as the famous and sumptuous Medicean villas in Artimino and Poggio a Caiano. Artimino, which is a small village in Carmignano, is a fortified borough that guards the Romanesque pieve (medieval rural church) of St Leonard and the majestic Medicean Villa La Ferdinanda, designed by Buontalenti for the Medici. The magnificent structure, also known as "the villa with a hundred chimneys", is home to the Etruscan archaeological museum, which gathers together important remains found in the surroundings and in the nearby Etruscan necropolis in Prato Rosello.
Even the historical borough of Poggio a Caiano keeps a magnificent Medicean villa, which is abundant in frescoes and dates back to the 15th century. Villa Ambra, with its fresco-covered and decorated interiors, was a product of Lorenzo the Magnificent's wishes and was designed by G. da Sangallo.
There are numerous historical centres in the province of Prato, such as Carmignano, the St Michael and St Francis's Church, Cantagallo with the Rocca di Cerbaia and Montemurlo with its Rocca.
Situated in the centre-south of Tuscany, the province of Siena extends over some of the most famous and fascinating Tuscan territories, such as the southern hills of Chianti, Val d'Elsa and Val di Merse, Val d'Arbia, Val di Chiana and Val d'Orcia, right up to the slopes of Mount Amiata.
The province's capital, Siena, is a magnificent city of art with characteristic alleys, wards (rioni) and towers, handicraft shops and buildings that make it a not-to-be-missed tourist destination for Italians and foreigners. Moving through Siena's lands and immersing yourself in this atmosphere is a magical adventure, a trip through many landscapes, from dense woodland to old farms, from clay hills to stupendous paths.
Furthermore, the territory preserves numerous remains from the Middle Ages, springing out along the Via Francigena, the great pilgrimage road to Rome that crossed Val d'Elsa, the city of Siena and Val d'Orcia.
Walking through this countryside, you can admire impressive abbeys such as Sant' Antimo, Romanesque parishes (pievi) and characteristic small towns (borghi) such as San Quirico d'Orcia or San Gimignano, which preserve their original appearance to this day.
The Chianti area, home to the famous wine, is also an enchanting piece of Tuscany that hosts tucked away towns such as Castellina and dense vineyards, such as those of Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti or Castelnuovo Berardegna, as well as delicious wine and food itineraries.
The landscape south of Siena leading towards the medieval centre of Asciano is dominated by the typical Crete, clayey land where erosion has created crevices, openings and cracks. It is an impressive area where the imposing Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore stands out. Val d'Elsa is also very impressive with its characteristic towns Colle di Val d'Elsa, Poggibonsi and San Gimignano, which cherishes an inestimable artistic heritage.
Val di Merse presents solitary but fascinating places, such as the ruins of the San Galgano Abbey, dating back to the 13th century. Also Val di Chiana grants emotions and wellbeing thanks to its thermal spa centres in Chianciano, Montepulciano and San Casciano dei Bagni.
Hills and gullies, Tuscan cypress trees, the river, olive groves and vineyards: this is the landscape offered by Val d'Orcia and protected by UNESCO. Here there are magnificent towns, including Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino and Castiglione, while to the west, stand Mount Amiata and the solitary Rocca di Radicofani.
The historical centre is dominated by Piazza del Campo, one of the biggest medieval squares. It is shell-shaped and is the stage for the famous Corsa del Palio (Silk banner horserace). Here stand monuments of great value, such as the 13th-14th century Palazzo Pubblico (the town hall), a true jewel of Gothic art and home to the Civic Museum; the Piazza Chapel, upon which stands the bell tower, Torre del Mangia, and Jacopo della Quercia's marvellous Gaia Fountain (in actual fact, the Piazza holds a copy, while the remains of the original are preserved in the Museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala).
One of the city's numerous art treasures is the Duomo (12th-14th century), one of the highest expressions of Romanesque-Gothic art, abounding in sculptures, paintings and works of architecture, also home to the Opera Metropolitana Museum, which showcases masterpieces by famous artists such as Duccio di Buoninsegna, Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Taddeo di Bartolo.
Two other of the city's art treasures are the imposing Medici Fortress in red bricks, commissioned by Cosimo I in the mid 16th century and the elegant Loggia della Mercanzia, a transition architectural work from Gothic to Renaissance style. A place of great devotion is the House and Sanctuary of St Catherine of Siena, the patroness of Italy and Europe. The structure, created around the house, comprises of chapels and cloisters richly decorated by various artists.
Not to be missed is the Pinacoteca Nazionale housed in the elegant Palazzo Buonsignori, which showcases a collection of 13th-16th century works of the Sienese school.
In addition to the marvellous city of Siena, not to be missed are the Crete and the Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Val d'Orcia, listed as world heritage by UNESCO for the beauty of its landscape, which inspired many Renaissance artists. Here stands a city of particular importance, Pienza. It too is recognised by UNESCO as world heritage for the wealth of its monuments and its rational organisation of space and perspective. Pienza is the "ideal city", created upon the wish of Pope Pius II, according to Renaissance canons.
In the Valdichiana area stand other delightful towns. Montepulciano is located upon a hill from where it dominates the valley, with its rising and falling slopes in a typically medieval atmosphere. Chianciano Terme is important for its beneficial waters, which were famous as far back as in Etruscan times, and is home to the beautiful Museo Archeologico delle Acque (Water archaeology museum).
Chiusi is a small town with a worldwide reputed Etruscan museum.
In Val d'Elsa, a charming place is San Gimignano, also called the "city of towers" because of its numerous towers and tower-houses, which make its skyline unique; it was the symbol of medieval mercantile power. This characteristic medieval borgo, world heritage listed by UNESCO, guards a remarkable artistic heritage including the marvellous Collegiata (13th century), the Romanesque-Gothic style St Augustine's church and the Palazzo del Popolo, home to the Civic Museum, upon which stands the Torre Grossa (Big tower).
There are many other characteristic towns in the territory, such as Montalcino, home to the famous Brunello wine, and the nearby St Antimo Abbey, a splendid example of Romanesque-Tuscan style with Lombard influences.