Here's a list of other related guides that you may wish to discover.Tuscany
Cortona: What a place to visit! This little hilltop town, made famous by Frances Mayers’ book Under The Tuscan Sun, which was later made into a film, was chosen for a reason. The town itself is gorgeous to stroll around, stopping at welcoming cafes and peeping through the narrow streets out on to the unspoilt surrounding countryside. This is a magical place to relax and just enjoy watching the Tuscans go about their everyday life. But, if you are itching to go and explore some other lovely nearby towns, Arezzo and Orvieto will certainly tick those boxes.
Florence: The birthplace of the Renaissance, a historical centre registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most visited and admired cities in the world and a hub of history, art, fashion, literature, music, and cuisine. The list of things to do is endless and remarkable. From the Ponte Vecchio bridge spanning over the Arno River, to the architectural and historical beauty of Florence’s churches and cathedrals, there is no doubt that Florence is a special city. Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as Florence cathedral, is stunning. The Dome “duomo’ engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi, is the dominating feature of Florence. This is a beautiful city that can easily be explored on foot and walking from one piazza to the next, experiencing the sights and sounds can be a holiday in itself (indeed it is one of Italy's most popular short break destinations). The main square is a hub of activity throughout the year. Other famous and equally as popular points of interest included the Piazza della Signoria which includes a copy of Michelangelos’ David, plus works by Donatello and Cellini. The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest (of six) bridges in Florence, believed to date back to Roman times but with a marked history dating from the 15th century when the bustling fishmongers and so on were replaced by goldsmiths. A walk down the bridge today and one can still see modern day jewellers plying their trade. The rest of the city and the attractions possible could fill a guide book (in fact there are many that do!) but the prevailing feeling from this city is one that literally oozes history, romance and a feel of a bygone age. No visit to Tuscany would be complete without Florence on the agenda.
Lucca is a beautiful Tuscan town protected by imposing Renaissance walls, cobbled streets, handsome piazzas, with fine cuisine, antique markets, charming and attractive shops and with easy access to stunning nearby villas in the surrounding hills. There are plenty of sandy beaches less than half an hour away; Lucca is awaiting you and endears to everyone who visits. It is one of those Tuscan towns you should not miss. There is so much to see and do, you’re spoilt for choice. Duomo di San Martino, known as Lucca Cathedral, for example is one of the best of its kind you are likely to see anywhere and a perfect example of Pisan architecture. There are lots of museums for all tastes, the Italian Emigration Museum for example demonstrates what a huge part of the national story migration Spend some time in Lucca’s Botanical Garden with around 200 species or hire a bike and cycle the path on top of the ramparts. This is a lived in town wth a great local feel, just wander streets with an icecream (gelato) and soak up the great vibe.
San Gimignano is a spectacular medieval hill town where the churches and palaces showcase the best of Tuscan architecture. The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where a calm, tranquil atmosphere flows through the streets. Panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside would take even the most stiff-necked of tourists’ breath away. San Gimignano is, quite literally, the perfect tourist experience. As you make your way around the town, particularly the remote parts near the walls, you can’t help but feel you’ve walked back 600 years into medieval times, such is the preservation of not only the streets and buildings, but also the atmosphere with the tower bells easily dwarfing the sound of tourists, and a general feeling of everyone being un-rushed and un-concerned about the time. The cathedrals, food and activities around the town are varied and exciting, yet the stunning views of the Tuscan countryside from the outskirts of this hill town are what really make it so special. Take the east of the town for example. As you make your way up Via del Castello from the delightful Piazza della Cisterna, you’ll be met by that view – the lush green Tuscan hills slope up and down in a seemingly never-ending landscape, dotted with sparsely spread Tuscan villas, complimented by the bright blue skies. This elevated pathway, a mere 5 minute walk from the town centre, gives you both a breathtaking view and an insightful glimpse into Tuscan life with diners sipping on red wine outside the Dulcis in Fondo restaurant and an old lady re-arranging her plants in one of the idyllic gardens below the pathway. Piazza della Cisterna is what a Piazza should be all about - a place where you can sit down and relax, with a gelato in hand, and watch San Gimignano go by. Although surrounded by superb examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, this is, for those who enjoy it, the pinnacle of the art of ‘people watching’ – waiters and waitresses rushing around the restaurants, tourists taking in the scenery, locals going about their daily business.‘Tea with Mussolini’ was partly filmed on location here.Rocca di Montestaffoli. If ever there was a classic example of a medieval fortress, this is it. It is, however, not just an impressive local landmark for it also hosts an important annual tradition, La Giostra dei Bastoni, which involves horses racing around a pre-prepared course on the grounds of the fortress.
Siena really is a wonderful city to visit. The qualities of a relaxed people and a calm atmosphere are all the more evident as you stroll around the city on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As you make your way around the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo you’ll pass many restaurants with people tucking into delicious pizzas and pastas, sipping on ice cold beer or pouring a glass of red wine. Have a sit down and just watch the world go by. Siena is stunning. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has all the beautiful buildings you would expect of a classic medieval city. Santo Spirito church boasts Renaissance artwork from the likes of Giovanni Antonio Bazzi and Francesco Vanni. The Basilica of San Francesco contains medieval sculptures and paintings within an intriguing Egyptian layout. Its Duomo is a perfect example of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture in which important examples of European monuments can be found as well as notable associated sites including the Crypt, the Baptistery and the Museo dell’Opera. Siena isn’t just a list of beautiful buildings; it is about a people and a culture, and indeed a way of life. What really makes Siena so personal to its people, however, is its Contrade. All 17 of them, named after an animal or symbol and found in varying locations around the city, are based upon local traditions such as their principal forms of trade and ancient stories such as how the Bruco Contrada and its people helped defeat Charles IV. Don’t be surprised if you are walking down the street on a calm, sunny afternoon, and then suddenly hear drums in the distance becoming louder and louder, until eventually an entire parade is walking past you, most likely celebrations from the winning Contrada of the most recent Palio di Siena, and twice-a-year horse race that takes place in July and August.
Volterra boasts all kinds of fascinating sights and interesting things to do. It’s a visit that you can really make your own; the art galleries and museums, the cathedrals and ancient ruins, the Gelateria’s and restaurants. The list of things to do is long and varied.The Pinacoteca Art Gallery and Civic Museum for example are widely seen as some of the best of its kind in the region. Volterra offers great views of the Tuscan landscape, that makes it stand out from other similar towns. It is exceptional from all parts of the city, but sitting on the walls on Via della Pietraia to the south of the town is particularly special. With the light green hills of all shapes and sizes going on for miles, dark green trees breaking up the pattern every so often, the odd house dotted around in a burnt shade of reddish brown, and the bright blue sky with a small patch of white cloud that seems lower than ever, it’s hard to imagine a better view. Another key attraction of Volterra is the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral. As you make your way to this stunning complex, perhaps still with the savoury taste of free samples in your mouth from the nearby olive oil and cheese markets on Via Roma, you’ll see the rustic façade of the cathedral’s exterior built in the Romanesque style alongside an impressive rose window. The Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, one of the oldest museums in Europe with one of the most expansive collections of Etruscan artefacts in the world, is rather absorbing too. The Medici Fortress seems another great example of local power and history. Yet it also serves two very unlikely purposes; a high-security prison and a gourmet restaurant, the latter hopefully being of more interest to you. It is a greatly admired and highly popular restaurant in an extraordinary setting with a wide and delicious choice on the menu.
Pisa. This possibly has even more resonance as a symbol of Tuscany for the leaning tower. The tower is actually one of four buildings that make up the Campo dei Miracoli or field of Miracles. Designed as a circular bell tower, no one knows the true identity of the creator, suffice to say that even in modern times, efforts are still being made to stabilise the tower including injecting cement around the base. Pisa is a town to explore in its own right, plus having a close position to the coast, means sightseeing towards Forte dei Marmi is easily possible.