San Gimignano is one of the best known sites in the world and it has been acknowledged as International Heritage by the Unesco Organization, due to the medieval architecture characterizing its city centre.
San Gimignano’s typical medieval setting has been preserved as it was in the 13th and 14th.centuries and can be considered one of the best specimen of urban organization during the communal time in Europe. The town is mainly known worldwide for its medieval towers that nowadays still characterize its landscape and have given it the nickname “Medieval Manhattan”. Seventy two were the towers/tower houses during its Golden Age; only twelve out of them were left .The most ancient of all is the Torre Rognosa, whereas the highest the Torre del Podestà is, either called Torre Grossa (Big Tower).
San Gimignano’s main sights are: San Giovanni and San Matteo Streets, the Cistern Square, the Duomo Square, Piazza delle Erbe (Market Square), Pecori and Sant’Agostino’s Squares, the Cathedral (Collegiata), Sant’Agostino’s church, the Torre Grossa and the Montestaffoli fortress (Rocca). Typical products: Vernaccia wine and saffron.
Volterra is an ancient hill town under the Pisan administration, but only about 20 Km. from San Gimignano away. The town is famous for the alabaster mining and processing and still preserves a relevant city centre of Etruscan origins. Some of the buildings dating back to the Etruscan times are: Porta all’Arco (the Arch Gate), very well preserved; Porta Diana (Diana Gate), and remnants of the city walls. Volterra also shows Roman ruins and medieval buildings, such as the Cathedral and the Palazzo dei Priori (Palace of Justice) on the homonymous square, that also represents the heart of the town.
Worth a visit is the Guarnacci Museum in via Don Minzoni, an incredibly rich collection of Etruscan art.
Certaldo lies in the province of Florence, at about 11 Km. from San Gimignano away. The most interesting part of it is the Upper Town, called Certaldo Alto, and easy to reach by means of a cableway from the Town Hall Square (Piazza Boccaccio). The town has perfectly kept its original medieval setting, characterized by narrow streets and tiny squares.
On the way to Siena, passed Colle di Val d’Elsa, is Monteriggioni, a little town on the top of a hill. Monteriggioni, like San Gimignano, dates back to the Middle Ages and is very famous in Italy as a hamlet completely surrounded by walls. The main sight in the area is the Romanesque Abbey at Abbadia a Isola, which dates back to 1001, and is situated at about 3 Km. away towards Colle Val d’Elsa.
Siena is the province main town. It is known in the world for its cultural and artistic heritage and the Palio, the famous horse race. Siena’s old town is one of the Unesco’s World Sites. On July 2nd and August 16th. the Palio race takes place on the central Piazza del Campo: a race where the jockeys run on the horses’ bare back. The jockeys represent only ten of the 17 town quarters, which still bear very picturesque names (Leocorno, Lupa, Giraffa, and so on).
The main sights are: the Duomo, Piazza del Campo, the Town Hall, the Mangia Tower, the Gaia Fountain, the Santa Maria della Scala Museum.Typical products: panforte (flat rounded cake with raisins and almonds), ricciarelli (almond cookies), pan pepato.
South of Siena lies the typical Val d’Orcia area, characterized by soft hills and green valleys, unpolluted nature and picturesque villages.
Montalcino is the home town of one of Italian best wines, the Brunello. The main sights are: Sant’Egidio’s and Sant’Agostino’s churches, the Cathedral. A couple of kilometers away you can visit Sant’Antimo’s Abbey.
This little town is a spa famous for its “Vascone”, a large bath dating back to the XVI° century. Here thermal water flows out from a nearby volcanic spring.
Worth a visit is the Rocca degli Aldobrandeschi, a Renaissance fortress, from which it is possible to relish a breathtaking view over the valley.
Pienza is a Renaissance town. The main sights are the central square, the Duomo, the Borgia and Piccolomini Palaces, the walls pathway.The main product is the “Pecorino”, sheep cheese that can be purchased in three different ripening times.
The town has a unique style with its elegant Renaissance palaces, the ancient churches, the splendid squares and tiny hidden spots. A walk through its streets is the best way to discover it. Its main manufacturing is the Vino Nobile (a full-bodied red wine).
The CHIANTI is a beautiful countryside area that stretches itself between Florence and Siena. This is the land of the famous red wine that is being exported all over the world. Other typical manufacturing are: ham and salami, wild boar, meat from the Chiana Valley (“Chianina”) and Siena (“Cinta”), a very good extra-virgin olive oil and the “terracotta” (“baked earth”) manufacturing from the little town of Impruneta by Florence.
The Chianti area is rich of very many medieval little villages, castles, parish churches, water mills, and so on. The unique flair of this area is mainly due to the beautiful landscapes marked by vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees.
GREVE IN CHIANTI
Greve can be seen as the access gate to the Chianti wine area. It’s a little town with a characteristic triangular square, the Town Hall and the church. Close to Greve it is possible to visit the Montefioralle Castle, Amerigo Vespucci’s birthplace.
CASTELLINA IN CHIANTI
From the Etruscan times the only remnants nowadays in Castellina is the roofed gangway. Astonishing is the view over the Chianti landscape through the ancient castle loopholes.
The main sights are : the Rocca (fortress), the church and just outside the town the Etruscan tomb named Montecalvario.
RADDA IN CHIANTI
Radda in Chianti is a nice little village with medieval layout. The main sights are the Palazzo del Podestà (Justice Palace), the romanesque San Niccolò’s church and Grand ducal’s Ice House dating back to the 19° century. In the surroundings it is possible to visit the Volpaia Castle, a very well preserved example of medieval architecture. Not to be missed is the romanesque Santa Maria in Prato’s parish church.
GAIOLE IN CHIANTI
The main sights in Gaiole are actually its surroundings, marked by medieval castles and beautiful and ancient parish churches: Pieve di Spaltenna, the Vertine Castle, a little fortified village embedded in an enchanted ambience, and Badia a Coltibuono, former monastery converted into a farmhouse. Very nice and interesting is the Brolio Castle with its cellars and garden.
Firenze is Tuscany capital town. Florence is an important university town and its historical centre had been acknowledged as Unesco Heritage.
It is also considered all over the world as the birthplace of art and architecture during the Renaissance time. The hearth of Florence is Piazza della Signoria with the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio (the Town Hall), the nearby Loggia dei Lanzi (Loggia of the Lansquenets) which shows important sculptures, and the Galleria degli Uffizi (Painting Gallery), one of the biggest and richest painting gallery in Europe.
Not far away from it is the religious centre with the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the magnificent dome (the biggest ever built in the world). The wide Duomo is harmoniously flanked by the Giotto Tower, one of the most beautiful in Italy, and by Saint John’s Baptistery with the famous bronze gates, and the magnificent Golden Gate, which is also known as Gate of Paradise.
The Arno River flows through the town and among the many bridges the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the most important and one of Florence symbols. The little huts built on it during the 14th. century host nowadays very expensive jewels shops. Beyond the Uffizi Gallery other museums in town are worth a visit: the Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy of Fine Arts) with the Michelangelo’s David, the Bargello (sculpture museum) and Pitti Palace with its 8 subject museums.
Typical products: lace and embroiders, leather and paper manufacturing.
During the Middle Ages Pisa was one of the four Maritime Republic in Italy and had a big harbor at disposal. Nowadays the town is about 10 Km. from the sea away, but Pisa is still an important congress and university town. Furthermore it is famous all over the world for the Miracles Square, where famous monuments are: the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Monumental Cemetery.
Lucca lies in the north-west part of Tuscany. It’s one of the main art town in Italy and is famous for its unchanged city walls dating back to the 16th. Century. The old town itself, dating back to the Middle Ages, has been almost entirely preserved too and very many are the churches (Lucca’s nickname is “ town of the 100 churches”), towers and bell towers, magnificent Renaissance palaces. The main sights are: the Amphitheater, Saint Michael’s square, Saint Martin’s Cathedral. Typical products: household linen and fabrics, Buccellato (raisins cake), white wine from Lucca hills.