This is the perfect region to spend your spare time in many different ways, whether you’re energetic or feeling lazy, an art or nature lover, super-frugal or shopping addicted. We’d like to give you some examples of how you can have fun and relax here in winter.
If we start our tour from the northwest, we’ll encounter Zum Zeri – Passo dei due Santi in Lunigiana (Massa Carrara), 1.200 meters high, with 9 ski slopes with different levels of complexity, three ski lifts and a children’s park. An ideal place for family holidays, the major pro of this ski resort is its panoramic view of a breathtaking landscape of snowy mountains and the Ligurian sea.
Moving southward we could visit Monte Amiata (1.738 meters high), a volcano placed in the largest beech forest in Europe, within the province of Grosseto and Siena. 12 ski slopes extend over 10 kilometers, conquerable via 8 ski lifts. In addition, if you prefer Nordic skiing to downhill, there are 10 kilometers of slopes dedicated to this discipline. At the top, you can enjoy the beautiful view of Sienese hills, Maremma and even a small bit of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Just an hour away from Florence is one of the most important ski resorts in Italy: Abetone, on the Pistoia Mountains (1.288 meters). It offers 60 kilometers of ski runs with 21 modern systems of lifts. Its four valleys – Val di Luce, Valle dello Scoltenna, Valle del Sestaione and Val di Lima – are the perfect location for winter sport lovers at high altitude. Further illustrating its distinguished status, Abetone has been the site chosen for various European challenges and even the World Championship cup.
On the Pistoia Mountains we find Cutigliano, too. From there we can reach the Doganaccia ski resort by funicular railway. Perfect for skiing and snowboarding, it provides 15 km of slopes with 6 lifts to transport guests. The winter sport area is situated between 1.446 m. and 1.795 m.
The magnificence of white Tuscany extends up to the Garfagnana valley, connecting the Apennines to the Apuan Alps. This area offers a set of hamlets and natural views that show the immense historical and cultural patrimony of our region. The Garfagnana resort includes Careggine, Casone di Profecchia and Passo delle Radici, with 15 kilometers of ski runs for Alpine discipline and 30 kilometers for downhill.
Our tour must start from Montecatini Terme (Pistoia), considered the leading spa town in Italy. Its spring waters are rich in precious minerals, used in therapies since the Roman Empire. Today it is well equipped for relaxing holidays with its nine thermal centres, 200 hotels, 460.000 square metres of parkland and extremely elegant shops. The first establishments were built between the 14th and 15th centuries but the actual structure dates back to the second half of the 18th century. Thanks to its curative waters, Montecatini reached the peak of fame during the 20th century. The Belle Époque period also helped define the look of the thermal baths, decorated in the Art Nouveau style.
Going south, we’ll find Gambassi, in the heart of Tuscany, near the Valdelsa region, among the hills covered with cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards. This ancient town – also famous for its glass production – was inhabited by Etruscans and Romans before becoming a stop-over destination for pilgrims on the Via Francigena in the Middle Ages. In Gambassi we’ll find a beautiful resort with a recently restored building where the pools dispense curative Salsa di Pillo waters.
Along the Via Francigena, you’ll also find Bagno Vignoni, at only 50 kilometers from Siena. Its thermal baths were first enjoyed by the Romans and then became popular, thanks to their position, with Christian pilgrims who travelled towards Rome and used to stop there for a rest. At the centre of Bagno Vignoni, in piazza delle Sorgenti, there’s a 49-metre-long rectangular basin of steamy water. You can’t actually bathe in it, but it’s a wonderful sight and evidence of the area’s past. The volcanic spring of Bagno Vignoni offers a wide range of therapies, including mud baths, for various degenerative forms of arthritis and rheumatism.
Not far from there, we’ll find Chianciano Terme, located between Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia. It combines centuries of tradition with avant-garde technologies focused on health. The thermal parks of Fucoli and Acquasanta boast water that is often used to treat liver diseases. During Roman times the curative powers of Chianciano waters became a good reason for setting and many villas were built there along the way. Today Chianciano Terme is considered one of the best health resorts in Italy, with more than 12.000 visitors on a given day, hosted by 200 different accommodation structures.
Walking through the Val d’Orcia we’ll end up in Bagni San Filippo, in the province of Siena, not far from Monte Amiata. Here the natural thermal springs are on record since the Middle Ages. The greenery all around is luxurious and the “Fosso Bianco” (White Moat), a white and calcareous stream that flows into many waterfalls and natural pools, is both hot and cold: its waters measure from 25° to 52°. These baths are recommended for respiratory diseases and the natural mud you find there works well against skin diseases.
In the Maremma area of Tuscany, between Monte Amiata and the Albegna hills, we’ll find one of nature’s beautiful gifts, a place called Terme di Saturnia. Its thermal baths, with 37° hot water, natural pools and the Cascate del Mulino waterfalls, are made up of five different areas: hydrotherapy, beauty, stress management, nutrition and fitness. After a bath we invite you to see various sites like the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, built during the Middle Ages on the remains of a Roman temple.
�Starting from Florence, Palazzo Strozzi presents Italy’s first major retrospective dedicated to one of the world’s most celebrated and influential contemporary artists: Ai Weiwei. This exhibit – titled Libero (“Free”) and open until January 22nd, 2017 – includes monumental installations, sculptures and objects, as well as videos and photography series produced throughout Weiwei’s career. Ai Weiwei is the first artist to exhibit across the entire spaces of Palazzo Strozzi, including the façade of the building and the Strozzina gallery. Known for his political activism and artistic research, the Chinese artist has also become a symbol of resistance against censorship.
In Florence you can also visit the Museo Novecento, dedicated to the 20th century Italian Art. It offers a selection of 300 works located in 15 different areas. You’ll also find a study room, a cabinet for drawing and a hall for conferences. The museum is located in the ancient Spedale di San Paolo in Santa Maria Novella Square.
If you’re going to Prato you cannot miss this: Centro Pecci just reopened with “The End of the World”, a must-see exhibition that features the works of over 50 international artists, running until March 19th, 2017. Curated by the centre’s director Fabio Cavallucci, in collaboration with a large group of experts, this exhibit reflects not on an impending catastrophe but rather on how we’re never completely capable of comprehending the world we live in. You’ll find works by Pablo Picasso, Lucio Fontana, Umberto Boccioni, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and many others, embracing many different languages from paintings to sculpture, from photographs to video and so on.
Regarding the renovation of the building, Dutch architect Maurice Nio has added an ultra-modern extension to the original building, first planned in the 1980s by Italo Gamberini.
Our tour could go on longer, but for now the last stop is Pisa. Until February 5th, 2017, Palazzo Blu hosts over 150 major works by Salvador Dalí. The exhibition “Il sogno del classico”, curated by Montse Aguer i Teixidor, highlights the influence of Italy, of the Renaissance and of Michelangelo in particular, on Salvador Dalí’s work. His trip to Europe marked the transition toward a “new era of mystical painting” in which his greatest passions – science, religion and the great masters – blended together. During this period, he drafted the manifesto he later published in 1951 under the title of the Mystical Manifesto.
In addition to paintings, the exhibit shows his complete series of wood engravings illustrating The Divine Comedy and some watercolours.
If you need more ideas to enrich your vacation plans, take a look at our article on Christmas markets.