Ahh, sweet Tuscany: gentle, rolling hills, wide plains, fascinating mountain villages, endless white beaches, glowing olive groves, intriguing vineyards, awe-inspiring metropolises, palpable history and rich cultural heritage. Still, as ever, this region radiates an unbroken aura attracting tourists of all sorts. Most of all, there’s so much to see and discover in Tuscany. You have no idea where to start? ZAINOO has compiled 10 of the most beautiful sights in Tuscany for you:
Piazza del Campo / Palio in Siena
Life in Siena happens around the Piazza del Campo in city centre. The Campo is one of very few market squares in Italy without a single church. Fonte Gaia, the “Fountain of Joy”, is located on the higher end of the slightly downward-sloping square, while the lower end is lined with the town hall Palazzo Pubblico and its richly adorned interior. Twice a year the Piazza is home to the legendary Palio. Representatives of the city wards (contrade) race three times around the square on horseback – a spectacle you mustn’t miss!
Uffizi Gallery in Florence
During the second half of the 16th century, the Uffizi in Florence were originally intended to accommodate the Florentine magistrates (the Italian word “uffici” means “offices”). Bureaucracy has long since left the building. It is now known all around the world for its collection of paintings on the third floor. Legendary pieces by Botticelli (“The Birth of Venus”), da Vinci (“The Annunciation”), Michelangelo (“Doni Tondo”) and Raphael (his self-portrait) take you on a journey to the heyday of Italian art.
Collegiate Church in San Gimignano
The historic, medieval centre of San Gimignano was declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1990. You might have already noticed that this quaint little town on the hills is not only known for its multi-award-winning ice cream. Said centre is home to the Collegiate Church. The church of the Ascension of Mary might seem rather non-descript from the outside, but once you step inside, you’ll be wowed by masterfully crafted cycles of frescoes depicting various scenes from the Old and the New Testament.
Siena, too, has an ecclesiastical building dedicated to the Ascension of Mary. The cathedral is one of Italy’s most important gothic pieces of architecture. Just the ostentatious face made from black and white marble alone will amaze you. If you’re impressed already, wait until you enter the cathedral. The entire floor is covered with more than 50 mosaic panels depicting biblical and ancient scenes. High marble pillars captivate with their black-and-white look. The adjacent Piccolomini Library will wow you with its majestic ceiling alone.
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
Today’s town hall of Florence was originally called Palazzo della Signoria and served as the centre of the ruling body housing the city parliament. The 94-metre high Arnolfo Tower dominates the cityscape. Use it as a reference point during your sightseeing tours. Replicas of Michelangelo’s David and Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus “guard” the main portal. You need to see the Salone del Cinquecento inside the Palazzo. It was originally supposed to be lined with wall paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, but those were never finished.
Piazza dei Miracoli with the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Actually called Piazza del Duomo, this site is known among the public as the “Square of Miracles”. This city centre in highly unusual peripheral location is home to several masterpieces of medieval architecture that were declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. You will marvel at the largest baptistery of the world, the cemetery Camposanto Monumentale and the cathedral with its renowned Leaning Tower. Legend has it that Galileo Galilei tested his laws of gravitation on this tower. You can see for yourself whether there’s any truth to this urban myth.
You must be wondering why on earth you’re supposed to visit a quarry. Simply put, the town of Carrara in the northernmost part of Tuscany is home to one of the most famous types of marble in the entire world. Predominantly used these days for flooring, stairs and natural stone tiles, it was once unrivalled for making monuments and sculptures. Carrara marble was already used for several remarkable buildings in Roman times, such as Trajan’s Column. Probably the most famous piece of art ever made from this valuable material is Michelangelo’s David, which can be seen in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.
Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Have you ever shopped or dined on a bridge? You can do just that in Florence on the legendary Ponte Vecchio, one of the oldest segmental arch bridges in the world. Both sides of the bridge have been lined by numerous small shops ever since 1345. Initially, they were mostly occupied by butchers and tanners. Visiting the Ponte Vecchio, you’ll now find lots of jewellers, several lovely small shops and restaurants serving characteristic Italian delicacies high above the Arno River. The only place to enjoy a view down the river is through the three arches in the middle of the bridge.
The Cathedral of Saint Martin is located in close proximity to the four kilometres long city walls of Lucca. It was built during the turn of the 12th to the 13th century modelled on the distinctive Romanesque cathedral in Pisa. The three ranges of open galleries with their countless arcades, animal heads and geometrical figures are particularly breath-taking. Notably, it was a conscious decision to have an inconsistent pillar design. A small temple built in 1484 houses the “Holy Face of Lucca”, a cedar-wood crucifix that, according to legend, was carved by Jesus’ contemporary Nicodemus.
Let’s round this list off with a very special treat – the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower in Florence. It is home to an abundance of architectural feats lead by Brunelleschi’s dome. With a diameter of 45 metres, it is highly regarded as a technical masterstroke of Early Renaissance. The dome’s interior was painted with the largest Christian fresco in the world. It was originally supposed to trump Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment”. Feel yourself being put under the spell of Giotto’s Campanile and the monumental church organ.
You see, it is easy to get lost amidst the numerous breath-taking beauties and sights in Tuscany. ZAINOO hopes you’ll have a great time during your sightseeing tour!