Tuscany - Travel Guide and Tourism Information for Tuscany, Italy

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Tuscany, Italy

TOSCANA
Provinces: Firenze, Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa, Pisa, Prato, Pistoia, Siena

This region stretches over the slope of the Apennines, in front of the Tyrrhenian Sea with a mainly mountainous and hilly landscape. There’s a flat area close to the sea, the Maremma. In front of the coast there are the small enchanting islands of the Tuscan archipelago.

FLORENCE


Santa Maria Novella - Begun in 1246 for Dominican friars, the church was completed in 1360. The white and green marble Gothic-Romanesque façade was completed by Leon Battista Alberti who designed the upper part. Inside the church there are splendid masterpieces including "The Trinity" by Masaccio, frescoes by Filippino Lippi and Ghirlandaio in the Tornabuoni chapel, a Crucifix by Giotto and a wooden Crucifix by Brunelleschi. Next to the church is the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, where perfumes, soaps and fragrances are made and sold.

Palazzo Strozzi - One of the finest expressions of Renaissance architecture.

Cathedral, Baptistery, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo - Santa Maria del Fiore, the Gothic cathedral erected over the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata, was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio who began its construction in 1296. Brunelleschi completed it in 1436 with the elegant dome, the inside of which was entirely frescoed by Vasari and Zuccari. The final phase in the construction of the cathedral, that is the completion of the façade, dates from the mid-19th century.
To the right of the cathedral rises the Bell Tower, or Campanile, designed by Giotto in 1334. The square tower is covered with red, green and white marble inlays, decorated with panels and carvings. Opposite the Cathedral stands the green and white marble Baptistery of San Giovanni (1128) with splendid bronze doors, a masterpiece of Florentine Romanesque architecture. The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo houses artworks from Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery and the Campanile, including sculptures that had been made for the cathedral façade. The most important works in the museum are by Michelangelo ("Pietà"), Donatello, Arnolfo di Cambio, Luca della Robbia.

Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria - This is the most important civil building in the city; construction, to plans by Arnolfo di Cambio, was begun in 1299. It was the seat of the Priori delle Arti, of the Signoria and the ducal residence; The 14th century courtyard, with the fountain with the "putto", a copy of Verrocchio's original, was later modified by Michelozzo. Inside, it is worth seeing the Salone dei Cinquecento, the study of Francesco I, the room of the Elements and the Sala dei Gigli. The Loggia della Signoria or "dei Lanzi" overlooks the square; here there are several important statues including "Perseus" by Cellini and the "Rape of the Sabine Women" by Giambologna.

Uffizi Gallery, Vasari Corridor and Ponte Vecchio - The Uffizi Gallery is one of the greatest museums in Italy and the world. It was founded in 1581 by Francesco I de' Medici, who collected numerous artworks in the building designed by Vasari. Today the Uffizi contains masterpieces by Italian and foreign artists from 13th to 18th century such as Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Caravaggio, along with Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya and many others. The Vasari Corridor that connects the Uffizi Gallery with the Pitti Palace hosts a rich collection of self-portraits by past and present artists. Built by Vasari in 1565, it passes above the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city, with its many jewelry shops.

Gallery of the Accademia - This is one of the best known museums in Florence, because it houses famous sculptures by Michelangelo, including the "David". There are also many paintings, collected by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold to help the young artists enrolled in the Accademia d'Arte, which is still next door to the gallery.

Opificio delle Pietre Dure - The Opificio was founded by Ferdinando de' Medici in 1588. It is an important center for the restoration of inlays and mosaics, and it has a fine display of inlays, studies and drawings.
Basilica of S.Croce and Museo dell’Opera di S.Croce
This Franciscan basilica was begun in 1295 to plans by Arnolfo di Cambio. It contains countless artworks, including Giotto's famous frescoes in the Peruzzi and Bardi chapels, and it is universally famous as the final resting place of several great Italians. The most important monuments include the tomb of Alfieri by Canova, the tomb of Leonardo Bruni by Rossellino and the tomb of Carlotta Bonaparte by Bartolini. The Museo dell'Opera contains renowned artworks such as the "Crucifix" by Cimabue, frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi and Andrea Orcagna and the graceful Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi.

Brancacci Chapel - This chapel is famous throughout the world for its frescoes by Masaccio, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting; it is located in the 13th century church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Masolino was commissioned to do the frescoes and he began work in 1424 with the help of Masaccio. When Masaccio left Florence, the frescoes were completed after 1480 by Filippino Lippi.

Palzzo Pitti and Giardini di Boboli - This palace was commissioned by Luca Pitti in 1448. The original plans, attributed to Brunelleschi, called for a much smaller building than the one we see now: it was enlarged in 1549 when ownership passed to the Medici family. The beautiful courtyard by Ammannati dates from that period. The Pitti Palace was enlarged and modified many times over the centuries: it was the seat of the Lorraine dynasty and, when Florence was capital of Italy, of the Court of Savoia. Today it houses several museums and galleries the most important of which is the Palatine Gallery, with masterpieces dating from the 15th to 17th centuries, including paintings by Titian, Giorgione, Raphael, and Rubens. Other museums are the Gallery of Modern Art, the Silver Museum, the Costume Gallery, the Carriage Museum, the Porcelain Museum, the Contini Bonacossi Collection, the Royal Apartments and the Apartment of the Duchess of Aosta. One of the most beautiful Italian gardens, the Giardini di Boboli, extends on the Boboli hill between the Pitti Palace and Forte Belvedere. It was designed by Tribolo in 1549 and then enhanced by Ammanati and Buontalenti. The 16th century fortress, Forte Belvedere, dominates the gardens and the entire city; it was designed by Buontalenti for the Grand Duke Ferdinando I.
 

Fiesole: This small town spreads over the hills 8km northeast of Florence. The views of Florence are unmissable, as well as the peace and silence you’ll get here. The central square of Fiesole, Piazza Mino, lined with shaded cafes is named after the fifteenth-century sculptor Mino da Fiesole. You may visit the Duomo, the Museo Archeologico and the Museo Bandini, Sant'Alessandro church, founded in the sixth century on the site of Etruscan and Roman temples and the Gothic church of San Francesco.

PISA


Campo dei Miracoli - Leaning Tower, Duomo and Baptistery - The Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of the Cathedral. Its construction began in August of 1173 and continued (with two long interruptions) for about two hundred years, in full fidelity to the original project, whose architect is still uncertain. In the past it was widely believed that the inclination of the Tower was part of the project ever since its beginning, but now we know that it is not so.

The Tower was designed to be "vertical" (and even if it did not lean it would still be one of the most remarkable bell towers in Europe), and started to incline during its construction.

Both because of its inclination, and its beauty, from 1173 up to the present the Tower has been the object of very special attention. During its construction efforts were made to halt the incipient inclination through the use of special construction devices; later columns and other damaged parts were substituted in more than one occasion; today, interventions are being carried out within the sub-soil in order to significantly reduce the inclination and to make sure that Tower will have a long life. In all this story it is possible to find a meaningful constant, the "genetic code" of the Tower: its continuing interaction with the soil on which it was built.

The Tower is situated behind the Duomo, which is considered to be the most important expression of Pisan Romanesque. Its construction was begun by Buscheto in 1064 and completed by Rainaldo in the 12th century. Inside the five naves are collected works of immeasurable value: paintings by Beccafumi, by Ghirlandaio, by Andrea del Sarto and by Sodoma. The mosaic in the apse is by Cimabue, the pulpit, a masterpiece of Italian Gothic art, is by Giovanni Pisano, and the central altar is by Giambologna.

Finally, in front of the apse hangs Galileo's lamp, which was used by the famous scientist to determine important laws of physics. In front of the Duomo rises the impressive circular Baptistery, with a grandiose dome 18 meters in diameter. Diotisalvi began the construction in 1152 but it was completed only in the 14th century.

SIENA


One of Italy's most enchanting medieval cities, Sienese identity is still defined by its 17 medieval contrade (neighborhoods), each with its own church, museum, and symbol. Look for streetlights painted in the contrada's colors, plaques displaying its symbol, and statues embodying the spirit of the neighborhood. The various contrade uphold ancient rivalries during the centuries-old Palio, a twice-yearly horse race (held in July and August) around the main piazza.

Piazza del Campo - This is one of the most famous piazzas in the world, noted for the descending half-moon form which goes from its upper side to its lower side. Twice a year the famous Palio of Siena takes place here. It is dominated on its lower, or western side, by the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall), a brilliant example of Tuscan Gothic architecture built between the end of the 1200’s and the beginning of the 1300’s in stone and terracotta. It was enlarged with the construction of the Salon of the Grand Council and the prisons. On the left side of the Palace is the Torre del Mangia, 90 meters high. Its construction was directed by Minuccio and Francesco di Rinaldo, in 1325. At its base is the Chapel of the Piazza, built between the 1300’s and the 1400’s. At the upper end of the piazza is the "Campanaria" (bell tower) Cell, built entirely out of stone. From the top of the tower one can enjoy a matchless view of the city and its surroundings. On the higher side of the piazza, above the Palace, one finds the Gaia Fountain, a rectangular basin built in 1419 by Jacopo della Quercia. It owes its name to the happiness with which the Sienese welcomed the arrival of water in the Piazza del Campo.

Duomo - a few minutes walk west of Piazza del Campo, Siena’s Duomo, with its multicolour marbles façade, is beyond question one of the finest gothic cathedrals in Italy. The interior with its coffered and gilded dome and the inlaid marble floors are striking. Among the numerous works of art contained here, the most notable is The Votive Madonna by Guido da Siena (over the altar), the wooden choral bench by Fra Giovanni da Verona (in the apse) and the marble bergamot by Nicola Pisano in (in the left transept). Then there are the works of Pinturicchio, Donatello, and Neroccio in the Chapel of San Giovanni Battista, and the Piccolomini Library in the first span of the nave on the left, which is a collection of the library of Pius II.
 

Abbazia di San Galgano: Between Siena and Massa Marittima, lie the remains of this abbey, once an important monastery with Gothic architecture. The abbey was destructed in the 13th century and eventually used for the construction of a farm in the 19th century. Now it is a really impressive site, as you can walk inside the ruins with high brick and travertine walls but without roof. The view you’ll get of the sky and the grass which act as the floor of this overwhelming building creates a stunning atmosphere – not to be missed.

Crete Senesi: South of Siena, the distinctive landscape of the Crete Senesi with the medieval town of Asciano and dominated by the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore (famous for its library with antique books).

Pienza: Visit the main square, Piazza Pio II, the Renaissance Palazzo Piccolomini, the Palazzo Comunale, Corso Rossellino, the Gothic Church of S.Francesco and the Cathedral, erected in 1460.

Chianciano-Val di Chiana: The area is rich with thermal mineral springs having curative power. Nearby there are numerous important spas which form a unique hot spring centre: San Casciano dei Bagni and Montepulciano, with Renaissance atmosphere in its streets and squares.

CARRARA


The biggest and most important world centre for the excavation , working and commerce of marble, is situated at the foot of the Apuan Alps, nestled in the middle of green hills. It has a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, the Malaspina building which houses the town's world-famous Fine Arts Academy and several 17th century buildings looking onto the central Piazza Alberica.

MASSA


To the north, amongst the Apuan hills, a 16th century dominion of the Malaspina family and dominated by its beautiful castle.The town is rich in valuable monuments: the Palazzo Ducale, Piazza Aranci, the cathedral and the gateways to the old walled city. Marina di Carrara, Marina di Massa, Ronchi and Cinquale, Montignoso are all atractive beach resorts which are suitable for family holidays.

PRATO


In the old town centre you may visit the castle of the Emperor, the only evidence of Swabian architecture in central -northern Italy, the Cathedral, Palazzo Pretorio, the Basilica of S. Maria delle Carceri, the Churches of S. Francesco and S. Domenico, which host the works of great artists as Agnolo Gaddi, Paolo Uccello, Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Donatello and other famous artists of the 13th century and of the Renaissance. The Museum of Wall Painting, the Museum of Opera del Duomo and the Gallery of the Alberti house art collections including works of art of XIX century. In the Museum of Cloth you can see samples from the 5th century up to the present day. The eastern part of town with its modern buildings and the Centre of Contemporary Art "Luigi Pecci" offer an interesting view of Avant-garde art.

LUCCA


The Renaissance Walls, the most significant monument of the city, form an intact circle of about 4 km in length, with a series of ramparts, an imposing complex of defensive works, ditches, gun outposts, barriers and large underground chambers, they lost their military value and were transformed into a beautiful public walkway.

Duomo of San Martino: opening onto the piazza of the same name, the Duomo is surrounded by beautiful buildings from various periods. The façade, designed by the Lombard master Guidetto da Como in 1204, is one of the most significant examples of Pisan/Lucchesan Romanesque. It is in white limestone and presents three levels of loggias, supported by richly decorated columns in polychrome marble with reliefs and intarsia (inlays). In the side chapels of the interior, there are many works of art, including paintings by Ghirlandaio, Tintoretto, Zuccari, and Fra’Bartolomeo, sculptures by Civitale, and the sarcophagus of Ilaria del Carretto, a masterpiece by Iacopo della Quercia (1408).Other attractions are the Churches of S.Frediano, with its colourful mosaics, and S.Michele in Foro.
 

San Gimignano: One of the best-preserved Medieval towns in Italy, it served as an important relay point for pilgrims on the Via Francigena to and from Rome. The patrician families, who controlled the city, built 72 tower-houses (up to 50m high) as symbols of their wealth and power. Only 14 have survived but San Gimignano has retained its feudal atmosphere and appearance. The city also contains masterpieces of 14th and 15th-century Italian art.

CHIANTI AREA


Known throughout the world, this famous area lies between two important cities, Florence and Siena and extends from the Arno basin to that of the Ombrone. It has always been a wine-producing area – in fact there is evidence of viticultural activity from Etruscan times on. Worth visiting both for the unmatched beauty of its landscape and for the many villages, castles and farms dotted around the area. Don’t miss Impruneta, where the famous cotto comes from, Greve in Chianti, Volpaia, Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti (headquarter of the Consorzio del Chianti Gallo Nero), Castello di Brolio (one of the largest wine estates).

AREZZO


An important centre for the production of gold jewellery. Within the old town lies the Duomo, decorated with 16th-century stained glass windows, and the Basilica di San Francesco, with a cycle of frescoes by Piero della Francesca. The Piazza Grande is a wonderful Medieval square, famous for its antiques market and overlooked by several impressive historic buildings, as the church of Santa Maria della Pieve and the Loggiato del Vasari, the home Vasari built for himself in 1540.
 

Cortona: A town the colour of the sandstone from which it is largely carved, clustered on steep slopes once enclosed by vast Etruscan walls, at the edge of the plain of Val di Chiana. The medieval past survives here, in the atmosphere and in the buildings.

ISLANDS OF GIGLIO and GIANNUTRI


On Giglio there are three developed areas: Giglio Porto (ferries from Porto Santo Stefano berth here), Giglio Castello (a fortified village built by a colony from the city of Pisa) and Campese (with the most beautiful beach).

On Giannutri you may visit the remains of an old Roman villa and small fishing villages. The island has a surface of just two square kilometres and a handful of inhabitants. Its coasts are ragged and full of fascinating coves. There are two landing places: Cala Maestra on the western side and Cala dello Spalmatoio, where the built-up area is developing.

MAREMMA


This is the name of the area in the province of Grosseto, one of the least populated areas in Italy which hosts the Parco Naturale dell’Uccellina. Cities on the coast at Punta Ala, Cala Martina and, of course, Castiglione della Pescaia, (with the castle Rocca Aragonese) are ideal for spending your holiday.

For hiking, the Monte d’Alma or Poggio Ballone are recommended. In small villages like Buriano, Scarlino or Gavorrano you may still feel the atmosphere of ancient times. The medieval town of Massa Marittima, developed as a mining settlement and hosts the Museo della Miniera. Follonica is a lively summer tourist resort with very active nightlife and many bathing establishments. Close to the lagoon of Orbetello, but in the inland, lie the small towns of Capalbio and Saturnia (famous for its hot sulphurous thermal springs). In Gorello, nearby, you can take a bath, free of charge, without having to enter the Terme di Saturnia establishment. Other interesting towns are the Etruscan Vetulonia, Pitigliano (built on a rock), Manciano and Vulci. Not to miss, a visit to the promontory of the Argentario, with beautiful landscape, rich vegetation and the exclusive summer resorts of Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano.

LIVORNO - PIOMBINO


The coastline between these two cities is called Costa degli Etruschi. In fact, in ancient times the Etruscans exploited the many resources, both mineral and agricultural of this area. Now tourism developed mainly in towns like Castiglioncello (the most known summer resort), Cecina, Bibbona, San Vincenzo, Vada and Castagneto Carducci all with equipped beaches. In Populonia you may visit the Etruscan Museum and some well-preserved Etruscan tombs.

PISTOIA


Visit Piazza della Sala, Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of S.Zeno which host a Renaissance masterpiece by Verrocchio, the Baptistery, the Ceppo Hospital constructed in 1277 and the frescoed Church of S.Bartolomeo in Pantano.

ELBA


Its sandy beaches and ragged crags make it the isle for everyone. Portoferraio is Elba's capital and largest city: you can explore the two Medici fortresses, the Forte Falcone and the Forte Stella, visit the Villa dei Mulini where Napoleon lived in exile, and the churches Santissimo Sacramento and Chiesa della Misericordia. South of Portoferraio lies the Villa San Martino, also home to Napoleon.

Tuscany, Italy - Travel Guide and Tourism Information
 
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