Ancient villages surrounded by beautiful unspoiled nature, ancient festivals and timeless traditions: here are some tips for those who love to travel off the usual routes.
Nestled in the pine and chestnut woods on the eastern slopes of Mount Pisano, Buti is the ideal destination to spend a day immersed in nature, but there is no shortage of places of interest to visit such as the Villa Medicea, the Tonini Castle - which towers over the village - the Romanesque church of St. Francis and the Church of the Ascension.
Every year in January the village is brought back to life by the Palio, one of the oldest in Tuscany.
The Palio of Buti traces its roots back to the 17th century when, during the celebrations of St. Anthony the Abbot the village's stables were blessed.
The celebration is not limited to the day of the race; in fact, in the days leading up to it a religious service is held in each of the churches representing the contrade (districts), followed by a dinner of local specialties. During the days of the race you can taste in the streets of Buti the famous trippa, which differs from traditional tripe because it involves the addition of ground meat.
An area rich in streams and vegetation, situated on the great bend of the Bisenzio river and a few steps away from Prato: the municipality of Vernio includes several hamlets and villages suitable for spending a few hours relaxing in touch with nature.
In Vernio every year, on the first Sunday of Lent, one of the oldest typical products of the Valle del Bisenzio is celebrated: sweet polenta made with chestnut flour.
Now in its 400th year, the festival is above all an important historical re-enactment: in the early 1500s, in fact, the entire Prato area and the Bisenzio Valley were sacked by mercenaries and the population was saved by the generosity of the Counts of Bardi (lords and feudal lords of the county) who distributed free chestnut polenta, herring and codfish.
During the day a solemn historical procession, moments of performance and entertainment and stalls with typical products.
One of the most characteristic places in Lunigiana, Pontremoli seems to have stopped in a bygone era: surrounded by hills and lush nature, it preserves characteristic views, medieval bridges and numerous relics - collected in the Museo delle Statue Stele Lunigianesi (Museum of Lunigiana Stele Statues) -from prehistoric times.
Every January the Disfida dei Falò (Joust of the Bonfire), an ancient medieval ritual with two major bonfire-related events, the Falò di San Nicolò and the Falò di San Geminiano, is celebrated.
The festivities of the "God of Fire" are celebrated at the beginning of the year to invoke his vital presence against the cold winter months: the highest fire wins the challenge and thus the winning parish will have a very fertile harvest year.
This custom has its roots in the past and harks back to medieval conflicts between Guelphs and Ghibellines.
Today, during the event, hard-working volunteers prepare huge stacks of wood and dry bushes, piled strategically so that the fire and flames can be as high as 30 meters.
Not far from Arezzo, at the foot of Pratomagno, the picturesque medieval town of Castiglion Fibocchi is rich in history.
Its very name comes from the family of the Counts of Guidi, who had their castle built here, later passed on to their son Ottaviano Pazzi, known as "Bocco": precisely because of this nickname that the town was first called "Castrum Filiis Bocchi" and then Castiglion Fibocchi.
In February, the streets and alleys of the center come alive thanks to the Carnevale dei Figli di Bocco (Carnival of the Sons of Bocco), a Venetian-style festival enriched by two hundred figurants dressed in fairy-tale costumes and with their faces concealed by precious papier-mâché masks.
Street performers, theatrical performances and food stands join in the show, too. To purchase tickets click here.
It seems that already around the year 1000 there were carnival days, which were very special and renowned throughout the surrounding area.
Perched on the tuff, these are three jewels of the upper Maremma.
Sorano is an ancient town that flourished during Etruscan times and is characterized by the striking Vie Cave, paths carved into the tuff hills.
Visiting it is like taking a trip back in time: a typical and charming village with picturesque alleys where you can breathe a unique atmosphere.
Sovana traces its roots back to the 7th century B.C. when the first inhabitants, mostly farmers and shepherds, settled on the heights at the edge of the Fiora river. Just then the foundations of ancient "Suana" were built on a tuffaceous spur protected by the Folonia and Calesine streams. The center developed in the vicinity of the pre-existing Etruscan necropolis, under the control of the powerful Aldobrandeschi family: even today the Rocca Aldobrandesca is among the main attractions of the place.
Pitigliano, also called Little Jerusalem because of its historic Jewish community, has a magical atmosphere with ancient stone streets and a truly unique view.
Don't miss the cellars carved into the tuff and the ancient Etruscan tombs.
Those who love winter sports can quickly reach the peaks of Mount Amiata for a day of skiing or snowshoeing through the woods.