Tuscany is known all over the world for its beautiful rolling countryside, fine wines, traditional food and stunning historic architecture. Experience all of this with a short break in Tuscany, one of the most picturesque regions of Italy.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, known as the cradle of the Renaissance, and has been called “the Athens of the Middle Ages”. It is famous for its stunning historic buildings such as the Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia which are among the sights not to be missed in Florence. The easiest way to make your way around Florence is with a hop-on hop-off bus sightseeing ticket which makes it easy to take in all the top sights in a short time. There’s a one hour city tour which serves the city centre and also a longer Fiesole tour which takes you out of the centre to the hills overlooking the city for some incredible views.
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo, is an icon of Florence and one of the largest churches in Italy. Its enormous dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi was one of the wonders of the medieval world and remains the largest brick-built dome ever constructed. The exterior is artistic and ornate with statues of the twelve Apostles and three huge bronze doors. However the interior is relatively bare, emphasising the vastness of the building. There are several notable paintings such as Dante Before the City of Florence by Michelino which shows scenes from the famous Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri was a native of Florence). Ponte Vecchio
Translated as “The Old Bridge” the Ponte Vecchio dates back to 1345 and unusually features several shops along its length. In the Middle Ages, the shops were occupied by butchers until the Medicis decided otherwise and the butchers were replaced by goldsmiths. Indeed Cosimo I de’ Medici had the Vasari Corridor built to connect his residence, the Palazzo Pitti with the government buildings in the Palazzo Vecchio in order to avoid the smell from the butchers shops. Look out for the corridor running along the side of the Uffizi and across the top of the bridge. Today as an icon of the city, the bridge bustles with tourists but is still a must-see during a trip to Florence.
Piazza della Signoria
Florence’s main square bustles with locals and tourists admiring the various historic buildings that surround it. The main focus is the 14th century Palazzo Vecchio which may be familiar after it featured prominently in the film Hannibal. Various statues dot the piazza including Michelangelo’s David (not the original of course) and the Medici lions.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with Italian cuisine; pizza, pasta and risotto need no introduction. Tuscan cuisine is simple but flavoursome with an emphasis on locally produced meats including game and local wines such as Chianti. During your trip to Florence, try authentic pizza at Mangia Pizza Firenze in the heart of the city or Pizza Man De Amicis which is Trip Advisor’s top recommendation. It’s small but great value and very traditional. Although a little outside the city centre, you can get here easily from the Fiesole City Sightseeing route.
Get a taste of the real Tuscany and explore the rest of the regions highlights including Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa. Journey through the Tuscan countryside to the city of Siena. Its historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is dominated by the Piazza del Campo towered over by the Torre del Mangia. Piazza del Campo is shaped like a shell and is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. It slopes down towards the Torre del Mangia and makes an ideal spot to pause for an espresso and watch the world go by.
San Gimignano is famous for its medieval towers and city walls from which you can enjoy amazing views across the Tuscan countryside. Also worth exploring are the town’s many churches which house important works by early Renaissance artists, the main squares such as the Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza Duomo and some fine examples of Romanesque and Gothic townhouses or palazzos. The grapes produced in and around the town are used to make Vernaccia di San Gimignano, onsidered one of Italy’s finest white wines.
Pisa, known across the world for the Leaning Tower is certainly one of Tuscany’s most famous towns. The Leaning Tower is an iconic building and has to be on your list to visit during a trip to Pisa. Explore the nearby Piazza dei Miracoli (also known as Piazza del Duomo) which includes Pisa Cathedral and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.