Florence, cradle of the Renaissance. Or rather, a promoter of a new concept of man, no longer restricted to Medieval darkness, but projected with the help of the classical world towards reason, light, justice and beauty.
Sixty percent of major art works present in the world can be found in Italy.
Florence, alone, holds around half of these: Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci are waiting around every corner of the historic centre and lead to an inevitable Stendhal Syndrome. A spiritual centre: Piazza del Duomo, with a cathedral with a large dome by Brunelleschi, the bell tower of Giotto and the Baptistery. A civic centre: Piazza della Signoria, with Palazzo Vecchio and a little further on is the Ponte Vecchio, where trade had made a bridge between cultures. An artistic centre: the Galleria degli Uffizi, perhaps the richest and most famous wealth of art in the world. And then there is the Medici Chapel, Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, San Lorenzo and Santa Croce and much more.
The city’s charm also incorporates the surrounding area, to begin with there are the hills on which the Fiesole and the Certosa del Galluzzo stand, and also the nearby Chianti, Mugello and Valdarno, contain a wide variety of surprises such as ancient castles, churches and villas.
Piazza dei Miracoli is the emblem of Pisa all over the world: white marble buildings play on contrast and harmony, union and separation, on start and finish.
The whole of one’s existence is covered in the Piazza: birth is celebrated in the Baptistery, the Tower celebrates intellectual audacity, the Cathedral requires confrontation with the spirit and the Cemetery concludes the parable.
In the historic centre, in Piazza dei Cavalieri we find amongst others the Church of Saint Stephen, the Town Council and the Clock Tower: part of the latter is known as Torre della Fame (Tower of Hunger), quoted by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy (“Thereafter, more than the pain, he could fast”).
As a pleasant walk, the Arno embankment with its palaces, Medieval tower-houses and Chiesa della Spina, that has held a thorn from the crown of Christ since 1333, is an ideal destination.
Amongst the areas in the territory of Pisa, Volterra stands out, with its atmosphere from the ancient Republic of the Municipal era, enclosed within thirteenth century walls. Amongst the principal monuments that stand out are the Duomo, the Palazzo dei Priori and the imposing Renaissance Fortress.
Grosseto and Maremma
Grosseto lies on the plain crossed by the Ombrone River and its oldest part is still bound by the original walls, dating back to the time of the Medici family.
It is a few kilometres from the coast, the beaches are perfectly equipped and the sea is rewarded for its cleanliness year after year with the Blue Flag. The Marina di Grosseto and the Principina a Mare are popular tourist destinations known for wide beaches looking out over the Tyrrhenian Sea, and for the vast pine forests that frame them.
Gresseto is the “capital” of Maremma, a territory that extends between south Tuscany and Lazio. The nature is wild and there are ancient traces of human presence. These days the areas are not well populated, but every town and little village is proud of its origins in the journey through Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance civilisations.
From Massa Marittima to Capalbio, including Monte Argentario and the islands of Arcipelago Grossetano, up to Saturnia, Tufi di Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano.
Seven sisters in Blue. The Island of Elba, with five centuries of Etruscan domination, then the Romans were attracted by deposits of iron...
And then there was Cosimo de’ Medici who built the Portoferraio surrounding it with colossal walls to guard against pirate attacks. The Spanish, Austrians, Germans, English and French all passed through here, until it was given to Napoleon Bonaparte, who built road, reorganised the economy and increased the production and export of wine.
Today Elba is mainly dominated by tourism. Giannutri, however, is mainly frequented by divers, for the appeal if its underwater charm. In ancient times, the attraction of Giannutri was felt my the Romans who built a port and beautiful villas. It is not unheard of to see dolphins, whales and turtles. Although no beach, only inaccessible rocks.
Also, on the island of Giglio the land is still 90% wild, only the high ground near the port is covered with vineyards. But one if the distinctive characteristics of the island is the variety of the coastline, with smooth granite cliffs, coves, bays and sandy beaches. Campese, the enchanting bay, is framed by Faraglione on the one side and the imposing Medici Tower on the other.
Located in the heart of Tuscany, Sienna revolves around the cultural and especially economic, centre of the Piazza del Campo.
The same where twice a year the famous Palio (horse race) is run, surrounded by 16 buildings and dominated by the Palazzo Pubblico and by the Torre del Mangia. But Sienna was not and is not only about business: it is in fact also famous as the birth place of Saint Catherine. Saint Catherine in Fontebranda, the Santuario Cateriniano, San Domenico and San Francesco are the churches that tell the story of the saint’s life. Spirituality and artistic magnificence find their triumph in the Cathedral of the Ascension, that houses priceless treasures, and in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which in turn houses many masterpieces, such as “Maestà” by Duccio da Buoninsegna.
In the Siennese territory, from the reflections of ochre and straw, stands in the South of the Val d’Orcia, with the Medieval centre of Asciano, Montalcino (place of production for the exquisite Brunello), the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, Pienza (the cherished ideal city of the Renaissance) and San Quirico of Orcia. Not far from there, Montepulciano offers a very noble wine.
The Siennese region of Chianti is home to small town such as Castellina, Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti and Castelnuovo Berardenga, and also shapely hills with dense vines, smelling of work and passion.
Also highly recommended is Val d’Elsa, it is one of the gems that stand out from San Gimignano, with its turreted architecture and unexpected artistic heritage.