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Montepulciano in Tuscany

Location of Montepulciano

One of the most beautiful hilltowns in Tuscany, MontepulcianoMontepulciano, known as one of the most attractive hilltowns in Tuscany, is located in the Val di Chiana and within easy reach of the Val d’Orcia.

Montepulciano is built on a limestone ridge of Monte Poliziano in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany with an elevation of 605 m.
The nearest bigger town is Pienza, located at about 13 km distance, Siena is 70 km away and Florence even 134 km.
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Volterra in Tuscany

Volterra is still almost untouched by the stress of contemporary life

View of city of Volterra in TuscanyVolterra, a jewel of Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance art, dominates the whole valley of the river Cecina from its birth to the Thyrrenian sea, from a hill 550 m above sea level.

History has left its marks in Volterra from the Etruscan period to the 19th century with artistic and monumental traces of great importance.

Today Volterra is still almost untouched by the stress of contemporary life and visitors to the city get the immediate impression of stepping into the past as they walk through the narrow Mediaeval streets; here they can find craftsmen working at their ancient crafts which have been passed down directly from Etruscan times.

Alabaster art from Volterra TuscanyThe tourist can admire them simply strolling on the streets of the historic centre or visiting the three city museums: the Etruscan Museum, the City Art Gallery and the Museum of Sacred Art. Besides the cultural aspect Volterra’s charm is due to the uncontaminated landscape, a way of life still moulded on a human scale, and an artistic handicraft unique in the world: the manufacture of Alabaster.

Volterra is a town to live intensely, to discover little by little with its atmosphere, its contrasts, the pulse of a civilisation and a culture that makes it unique and unrepeatable.

How to reach Volterra

From Pisa, direction east Florence, take the SGC. Exit Pontedera and follow direction for Volterra which is 40 Km far

Palazzo Pretorio at Piazzo dei Priori in Volterra Tuscany

San Gimignano in Tuscany

The long history of San Gimignano

San Gimignano Tuscany Piazza CisternaSan Gimignano was founded as a small village in the 3rd century BC by the Etruscans. Historical records begin in the 10th century, when it adopted the name of the bishop Saint Geminianus, who had defended it from Attila’s Huns.

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance era, it was a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican, as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city’s development also was improved by the trade of agricultural products from the fertile neighbouring hills.

In 1199, during the period of its highest splendour, the city made itself independent from the bishops of Volterra. Divisions between Guelphs and Ghibellines troubled the inner life of the commune, which nonetheless, still managed to embellish itself with artworks and architectures.

Saint Fina, known also as Seraphina and Serafina, was a thirteenth century Italian saint born in San Gimignano during 1238. Since Saint Fina died on March 12, 1253 her feast day became March 12. Her major shrine is in San Gimignano and the house said to be her home still stands in the town.

On May 8, 1300, San Gimignano hosted Dante Alighieri in his role of ambassador of the Guelph League in Tuscany.

The city flourished until 1348, when the plague that affected all of Europe, compelled it to submit to Florence. San Gimignano became a secondary centre until the nineteenth century, when its status as a touristic and artistic resort began to be recognized.

Main sights

View of 2 medieval towers in San Gimignano TuscanyWhile in other cities, such as Bologna or Florence, most or all of their towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes, or urban renewal, San Gimignano has managed to conserve fourteen towers of varying height which have become its international symbol.
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Lucca in Tuscany

General information about Lucca

Lucca Tuscany. Bridge in Lucca ItalyLucca, one of the most famous Italian cities, located on the left-hand bank of the river Serchio. Rarely has a city identified itself so closely with its ring of walls as Lucca has done, especially as its monumental defences were never taken by siege!

Lucca was founded by the Etruscans (there are traces of a pre-existing Ligurian settlement) and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical center preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient forum. Traces of the amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Lucca was the site of a conference in 56 BC which reaffirmed the superiority of the Roman First Triumvirate.
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Florence in Tuscany

Florence: Renaissance capital of the world

The Duomo in Florence by Brunelleschi in Florence TuscanyBuild along the Arno River in a natural basin surrounded by stunning hills. Florence, or Firenze as it’s called in Italian, is THE city of the Renaissance, of Italian culture and art. The most famous places in Florence… The Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo, but also many other gems, attract millions of visitors from all over the world every year.

As mentioned earlier, Florence truly is the Renaissance capital of the world, with his famous sons like Leonardo, Dante, Machiavelli and Michelangelo. The world-famous Duomo with Brunelleschi’s cupola and the marble clad baptistery are simply breath-taking, but not all the monuments are like this. A lot of streets of the historic town centre are often narrow and dark and still breathing that medieval feeling. The palaces are often robust and intimidating, but then you find yourself wander onto one the amazing squares in Florence: wonderful Mediterranean places where you will like spending hours sitting down, having a few beers and just watching people passing by.

A view at the bridges crossing the Arno in Florence from one of the viewpoints surrounding the cityTo get a great overview of Florence, you have plenty of choices: climb the “Cupolone” of the Duomo or the Giotto Tower, head for Piazzale Michelangelo in Oltrarno (South or literally “other” side of river Arno) or go a bit further, up to the church of San Miniato.

Recommended things to do in Florence

If you really want to get a taste of the town, it’s best to travel on foot with a city map in your hand and just take your time. For a more in depth look at the city and background information on the historic wealth of Florence we can only advise you to book a guided tour or even take an entry class in art history for 3 days including visits to the Uffizi, important churches and some Medici-villas. The best place to do this is at arthistoryflorence.com. A professor in art history will tell you all about the famous Medici-family, important paintings and buildings in Florence. Also highly recommended is the guided tour of the Medici gardens

Recommended Hotels in Florence

Hotel Price Range User Score
*** Hotel Rosso 23 € 117 per night per room 9,3
**** Grand Hotel Baglioni € 261 per night per room 8,1
**** Kraft Hotel Florence € 130 per room per night 8,8
Search all 375 hotels in Florence

Getting to Florence

Florence has it’s own airport, Amerigo Vespucci International Airport (IATA: FLR). The airport is pretty close to the town centre so you won’t loose much time there. With a bus or taxi it takes about 15 minutes to get to the centre of Florence.

Modern high-speed Eurostar Italia trains from Milano to Rome or Napels stop right in the town centre at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station. There are also overnight trains from Paris and some German cities like Munich. These will get you in Florence in the morning and you’ll have the whole day ahead of you exploring this wonderfull city.

Driving your car to Florence is not really recommended. It can be quite expensive to park your car for the whole day and on some days it’s not even allowed to drive in to the city centre due to possible smog in the summer. Best place to park is under the central train station Santa Maria Novella or at the other side of the Arno in Oltrarno.

Getting around in Florence

By Bus
Visit Google Transit for the updated timetable of Florence town

You can also take a look at the following bus companies that operate in and around Florence

ATAF for Florence town
FLORENTIA BUS for Mugello, Valdisieve and Valdarno
LAZZI for Lucca, Pistoia, Empoli
SITA For the Chianti area or Val di Pesa
Florence to Siena by bus or Siena to Florence by bus every hour, departure near the Santa Maria Novella train station.

Pictures of Florence

A small collection of images of the beauty of Florence can be found on the page Pictures of Florence

Arezzo in Tuscany

Arezzo, an important Etruscan town. and known to the Romans as Arretium

Main square in Arezzo TuscanyThis town stands 296 m. above sea level on a hilly slope near a wide plateau on which open the Valdarno, Casentino and Valdichiana valleys. Of Etruscan origin, it was an important Roman Municipium in the Imperial period; after the fall of the Empire it came first under Goth then Byzantine, Lombard and Frankish rule. Between the 9th and 11th centuries it was governed by the Bishop-Counts before becoming a free municipality (late 11th century). This was the town’s period of greatest splendour.

Old rivalry with Siena and Florence, marked also by defeat at Campaldino at the hand of the Florentines (1289), gradually sapped its power until, in 1384, it was definitively joined to the Florentine State, sharing its fortunes until unification with Italy.

The principal monuments are to be found in the old town centre, which has a Renaissance appearance. Just like in the city of Cortona, most houses on the main square are decorated with shields diplaying the coat of arms of famous families of Arezzo.

On this page you can find a full list of the main sights in Arezzo

Fresco Work by Piero della FrancescaThe fresco cycle of the Legend of the True Cross, the masterpiece which the Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca painted for the Franciscan church between around 1452 and 1466 can be found at The Bacci chapel in the Basilica of San Francesco.

Arezzo is an important market for agricultural and animal products from the fertile surrounding districts, and trades in textiles and clothing, shoes, olive oil, antiques, and gold and jewellery crafts.

Arezzo’s historic old town is small enough to explore on foot. Arezzo is atop a steep incline, and you will feel as though you are walking uphill pretty much everywhere.

Parking is possible for the whole day for about 10 euros

Cortona in Tuscany

La Vita é Bella in Cortona

City of Cortona, Tuscany by nightFrom a high Tuscan hill, fifty miles from Florence between Arezzo and Perugia, rises the equally ancient and nobile city of Cortona. The history of Cortono, the city that has became famous among millions due to “La Vita e Bella” (Life is Beautiful) by Roberto Benigni, dates back to Etruscan times.

Once you’re inside this beautiful town you get some magnificent panoramas to every point of the compass including views of Lake Trasimeno.

Aerial view of city of Cortona in TuscanyThe best way to discover Cortona is on foot as the town is pretty small and parking or driving is close to impossible. The narrow lanes and alleys winding up and down the slopes within Cortona can be confusing; it’s a good idea to get a street plan before you start exploring this inviting town.The town is small enough to make it your destination for a day-trip including a nice glass of wine and fine meal in one of the small bars or restaurants on the charming squares.

Outside the city walls parking areas, some even free, are available.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun in Cortona Umbria ItalyOne of the best-selling books about Italy in recent years, Under the Tuscan Sun is set in Cortona, and is a new tourist attraction for the town. There is also a film with the same title that is loosely based on the book by Frances Mayes.

To give you an idea about the book, we’ll provide you with the details as printed on the jacket of the book:

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN is one woman’s enchanting account of her love affair with Italy and the home that changes her life.

Frances Mayes – widely published poet, gourmet cook and travel writer – opens the door on a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. She finds faded frescoes beneath the whitewash in the dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles – and even a wayward scorpion under her pillow. And from her traditional kitchen and simple garden she creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes, all included n this book.

In the vibrant local markets and neighboring hill towns, the author explores the nuances of the Italian landscape, history and cuisine. Each adventure yields delightful surprises – the perfect panettone, an unforgettable wine, or painted Etruscan tombs.

Frances Mayes’s sensuous memoir takes you into the heart of Italy and tells of a renewal, not only of a house, but also of the spirit.
(© Chronicle Books)

Best Holiday Stays in Tuscany

Don’t settle for just any hotel. Enjoy the full experience of a real Tuscan villa

Best holiday stays in TuscanyWhen looking for a nice place to stay in Tuscany I stumbled across this site with the most amazing accommodations. It’s called La Vera Toscana, the real Tuscany, and looking at the pictures of the villas and agriturismos I must agree with the name. I will personally check out one of them this summer: Casa Sola

Most agriturismos or locations have the option to follow a wine course or to learn some italian cooking as well.

Check out the high class villas and historic residences in Tuscany.

Excellent choices for your visit of all the beauty that Tuscany has to offer like Florence and Siena.

 

Update:

Casa Sola was brilliant. Nice quiet house in the middle of the Chianti vineyards. Some great Chianti from the estate for a fair price. Lovely hill towns near the estate. The real Tuscan life. Florence, Siena and the Chianti wine route are just around the corner.