The Capital City Of Tuscany
Florence, cradle of the Renaissance and Italian art, is one of the most visited cities in the world for its beautiful sights and the many wonders that it offers visitors.
the very central square, Piazza della Signoria, heart of the old city which the city's most important buildings overlook, such as Palazzo Vecchio, today the city's Town Hall which was once the Medici family residence;
the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most famous museums in the world for the importance and consistency of its collections (Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio), which is housed in a 16th century building constructed by Giorgio Vasari, court painter and architect, for Cosimo I of the Medici family;
the Cathedral (or "Duomo") of Santa Maria del Fiore, which was begun in 1296 and finished in the 15th century with the construction of the daring cupola by Filippo Brunelleschi. The Duomo contains precious works of art by artists such as Andrea del Castagno, Luca della Robbia, Donatello, Paolo Uccello and the Zuccari brothers (who decorated the inside of the cupola in the 16th century);
the Baptistry of San Giovanni (Saint John), whose external marble decoration inspired the nearby basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, contains the celebrated mosaic with the Final Judgement based on designs by famous local painters such as Coppo di Marcovaldo and Cimabue : this mosaic influenced Michelangelo in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The Baptistry is famous for the so-called "Gate of Paradise", a 15th century work by Lorenzo Ghiberti featuring stories from the Old Testament;
the Church of Santa Maria Novella, whose construction was begun in the 13th century, is today considered a fully-fledged museum due to the number of masterpieces it contains, such as Giotto's crucifix and the frescoes of Masaccio and Paolo Uccello;
the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, an elegant place of worship famous all over the world for its Cappella Brancacci, entirely decorated by Masolino da Panicale and Masaccio, a milestone in Renaissance art;
Palazzo Pitti, a monumental building commissioned by the Pitti family in 1457 that soon became the official residence of the Medici family, the Grand Dukes of Florence. Today it houses a number of important museums, such as the Palatine Gallery (with works by Rubens, Caravaggio and Titian) and the Costume Gallery;
the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") is the oldest bridge in Florence and the only one spared by the Germans during the Second World War. Today the bridge houses numerous goldsmiths' shops and offers one of the most beautiful and romantic views of the city.
a city of Etruscan origin situated in the heart of Tuscany, which reached its peak during the Middle Ages. To this day it is still possible to admire the old walls and the layout of the Mediaeval village built from narrow roads and noble palazzos. Of particular artistic interest is the Cathedral, which dates from the 14th century, the Piazza del Campo - where the famous horse race, the "Palio", takes place - and the surrounding buildings. There are 15 museums in the city, including the Palazzo Civico and Museo Civico, the Pinacoteca Nazionale and the Museo delle Tavolette.
a city with very old origins, it was formed from an Etruscan settlement which became a Roman colony and of which numerous remains can still be seen today in the civil and religious buildings, in the narrow streets and in the shape of the squares. The river Arno runs through the city. Pisa reached its peak in the 11th century when it was an important naval base and thanks to the commercial traffic that developed all over the Mediterranean. The most important monuments in the city are without doubt the famous Leaning Tower and the Cathedral, even though the church of Santa Maria della Spina and the old church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno, a fine example of Romanesque art, are well worth a visit.
Famous all over the world for its 14 towers, San Gimignano is situated in the heart of the Tuscan countryside between Florence and Siena, 334 metres above sea level on a hill that dominates the Val d'Elsa (the valley of the river Elsa). Originally San Gimignano was a little Etruscan village dating from Hellenistic times (300-200 BC), but it began to develop only after the 10th century, getting its name from the Bishop of Modena, "Gimignano", who saved the village several times from the attacking barbarians. In the Middle Ages the towers, that represented the power and wealth of the noble families, were 72 in number.
Situated between the valleys formed by the two rivers Cecina and Era, Volterra is an old city surrounded by imposing walls. It is important not only for the remains of the Etruscan civilisation and the Mediaeval period, but also for the working of Tuscan alabaster from which the typical products of local craftsmen are made. After being a flourishing Etruscan city it was subjugated by Rome and became a municipality. Volterra has been unaltered by the passing of the centuries and it is still possible today to admire among the narrow Mediaeval streets the Teatro di Vallebona, the 13th century Palazzo dei Priori, the Palazzo Pretorio, with its battlemented tower said to be of the "Porcellino" (or "little pig"), and an enchanting panorama of the Tuscan countryside, including the so-called "Balze", a geological phenomenon caused by erosion to the west of Volterra that over the years has destroyed the oldest churches and Etruscan burial sites.