Tuscany, a Mecca for tourists

Discovering its towns

Few regions in Italy can boast the profound artistic heritage that one can find in Tuscany.
The region is full of surprising cultural and historical treasures; its urban architecture and breath-taking monuments leave visitors in awe. Tuscany lends itself to visitors with the proud awareness that it was once the beacon of civilization for the western world. A trip to Tuscany during the third millennium still invites visitors to feel that same sense of beauty that people experienced during the Grand Tour.
It is a workshop of artistic experiences; from the stele statues of Lunigiani and the artifacts of Elba to Etruscan Necropolis and Medieval hamlets, there is something for everyone. Tuscany bears witness to the Gothic movement, the explosion of the Renaissance and the wealth of the Baroque era. It has inspired the colors of the Macchiaoli, and hosts many examples of the Liberty style and fosters the creativity of Contemporary Art.
Arezzo is a bright, hillside town in Eastern Tuscany. It was one of the area’s largest Etruscan settlements and later became a strategically important Roman city. Bustling center of economic activity, it is full of important monuments and its well known for its iron work and artistic workshops which produce ‘vasi corallini’, red vases made according to a Roman technique that later spread throughout the world. In Medieval times, Arezzo was a free municipality and the Ghibellina party was often in power, in contrast with neighboring Florence.
After the break of Campaldino in 1298, Arezzo was forced to surrender to Florentine dominion (1384), and thus became part of the Medici Grand duchy, along with the rest of Tuscany. Arezzo is located on a hillside that borders a plain formed by the flooding of the Arno. At the town’s highest point, the Cathedral, the Palazzo Comuale and the Fortezza Medicea were built. The town’s main roads developed from this central point, moving outwards, toward the city walls.
Florence boasts outstanding artistic heritage which bears witness to centuries of civilization. Many important historical figures lived in Florence, such as Cimabue and Giotto, the fathers of Italian painting, Arnolfo and Andrea Pisano, renovators of architecture and sculpture. The city was the birthplace of Brunelleschi, Donatello and Massacio, initiators of the Renaissance, and Botticelli, Paolo Uccello and the universal genius of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Their works are hosted in various museums throughout the city: the Uffizi is the most popular painting gallery in the world; the Galleria Palatina hosts paintings from ‘The Golden Age’; at the Bargello visitors can enjoy sculptures from the Renaissance or see the works of Beato Angelico in the Museo di San Marco. The Accademia, the Medici Chapels and the Casa Buonarroti, with sculptures by Michelangelo, are also noteworthy.
Don’t miss other museums like the Museo Bardini, the Horne, the Stibbert, Romano Corsini, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Silver Museum and the Opicficio delle Pietre Dure (gemstones).
Visitors will find wonderful, prestigious monuments throughout the city such as the Baptistery with its mosaics and the Duomo with its sculptures.
The city also hosts various Medieval churches with noteworthy fresco cycles and private and public palaces such as Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and Palazzo Davanzati. Guests can also visit many cloisters, convents, ‘cenacoli’ and La Certosa. In the Archeological Museum, history lovers will find a noteworthy Etruscan collection.
The historical center of Grosseto rises amid the sounds of a modern city; it is enclosed by the hexagon- shaped green of the bastions that Francesco I had renovated in 1574. After the Saracen invasion in 935, survivors from the Etruscan settlement of Roselle, sought refuge in the area, on the plains of the Ombrone, about a dozen kilometers from the sea.
The city’s history was married by malaria which was finally controlled and eliminated in the twentieth century. Siena conquered the city in 1336 and it surrendered to the Medici only in 1559, after Montalcino. Grosseto is the capital and main marketplace of the Maremma Toscana and it has a fertile agricultural industry. Visitors to Grosseto won’t want to miss the Duomo, built at the end of the 13th century, the Museo Archeologico e d’Arte, the ancient walls and the Chiesa di San Francesco. Nature lovers won’t want to miss the Maremma Natural Park and the Etruscan ruins of Roselle.
Livorno was constructed as the ‘Ideal city of the Renaissance’. Visitors will enjoy its neighbourhoods, characterized by channels and surrounded by fortified walls. Guests will enjoy a stroll through the ‘rione di Venezia’ and a walk around the Porto Mediceo, famous for its towers and fortresses. Designed by the architect Bernardo Buontalenti at the end of the 1500s, Livorno experienced a period of urban expansion at the end of the seventeenth century.
The city has a cosmopolitan soul; throughout its history it has gathered together people from far and wide. It is the land of painters and musicians including painter Amedeo Modigliani, Pietro Mascagni and Giovanni Fattori from the Macchiaioli school. Several important cultural institutions, museums and international music festivals are dedicated to the above-mentioned artists. Visitors won’t want to miss a day trip to Montenero, in the Livornese hills. Montenero is connected to a Sanctuary dedicated to Madonna delle Grazie, patron of Tuscany; it is a popular pilgrimage destination.
Lucca was the only Tuscan city-state to have kept its independence until 1847. Its walls bear witness to the zealous nature of the Luccans when it came to protecting their own independence. Its walls were built during the XVI-XVII centuries. Their perimeter stretches 4,250 km and the structure boasts 10 balustrades and a platform that has been partly preserved and restored.
The medieval nature of the walled city gave rise to historical and artistic monuments during various eras. Visitors will enjoy a visit to the Roman Amphitheater, the Basilica of S. Frediano and the piazza and Church of S. Michele. The Duomo of San Marinio with the ‘Volto Santo’ and the tomb of Ilaria del Carreto, sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia, are also noteworthy. Guests won’t want to miss the Torre dei Giunigi, via Fillungo and the Ducal Palace in piazza Napolone—one of the last works of the Principality of Lucca.
Carrara is the largest and most important world center for marble excavation, workmanship and commerce. It is nestled at the foot of the Alpi Apuane, in a valley of lush green hills. The name of the city derives from the root word ‘kar’ or stone. Historical documents bear witness to its ancient origins. What began as a small village built by the peaceful Liguri-Apuani population, became an important commercial emporium thanks to the ancient Romans who were the first to take advantage of the area’s rich marble quarries.
Thanks to its strategic position and to the economic wealth created by the presence of marble, the city has always been sought after by invaders. In medieval times, it was dominated by the Byzantines and the Longobards. In 1235, it became a free municipality and adopted a seal depicting a wheel; said seal is still used by the city today. In the period of the Signorie it was ruled by the Malaspina family and became a Principality with Cybo and Ducato under the D’Este family. It was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1859, thanks to plebiscite vote.
Known throughout the world for its tower, an extraordinary monument that looks over the Piazza del Duomo. The town boasts a millinery history and its period of grandeur was the era of the Maritime Republics. Pisa is a treasure chest of artistic treasures; from Roman and Gothic churches to piazzas and palaces, visitors will especially enjoy the neighbourhoods that line its ancient roads along the Arno. Pisa hosts a wonderful university which is well-known thanks to its numerous faculties and the Scuola Normale Superiore, located in Piazza dei Cavalieri. In addition to artistic, cultural and historical heritage, the area also boasts noteworthy natural treasures, such as the Migliarino Park, San Rossore, the Litorale and Monte Pisano.
Located at the foot of the Appenines, Pistoia hosts an enjoyable mix of history, art, folklore, monuments, natural treasures and fantastic cuisine. Tourists will enjoy a trip to the beautiful Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuorcivitas; its clean Roman geometry compliments the gothic feel of the Chiesa di San Paolo. The complex of San Bartolomeo in Pantano bears witness to the Longobard invasion. Guests can’t miss the Pulpit of Giovanni Pisano, located in the Pieve di S. Andrea—said work is truly a masterpiece.
The Cathedral holds one of the primary examples of sacred medieval gold-smith work, the silver altar of San Jacopo. This work, in carved silver, was created during various phases from 1287 to 1456. This precious treasure is well-loved by the citizens of Pistoia and the stories surrounding its history are referred to by Dante in his ‘Divine Comedy’.
From the Medieval to the A vanguard, Prato offers a historical, artistic itinerary that is extremely prestigious. In the historical center, visitors won’t want to miss the Castello del Imperatore, the only example of Swedish architecture in central and southern Italy. Tourists will also enjoy a trip to the Duomo, the Palazzo Pretorio, the Basilica di S. Maria delle Carcetti and the Churches of S. Francesco and S. Domenico, which host the works of great masters like Agnolo Gaddi, Paolo Uccello, Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Donatello and other artists from the fourteenth century and the Renaissance.
The Museo di Pittura Murale, the Museo dell’opera del Duomo and the Galleria degli Alberti host collections that showcase works from up until the 1800s. At the Textile Museum, guests can see samples of fabrics from the fifth century to modern times. The eastern part of the city hosts modern buildings and the Centro per l’Arte Conpemporanea ‘Luigi Pecci’ offers an interesting panorama of A vanguard art.
Siena is well-known for its high standard of living. In fact, it was the first municipality in Europe to close its downtown area to traffic in 1966. Siena is an international center of culture and its university is more than 750 years old. It hosts renowned institutions like the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, l’Università per gli Stranieri, the Accademia dei Fisiocriti, and the Accademia degli Intronati. It’s a city that has remained unchanged for centuries and its atmosphere is very unique. Its citizens work to preserve many ancient traditions including the Palio; its spirit is renewed annually with unforgettable power.