If you have ever seen photos of a characteristic Italian scenery, the odds are rather high that you have seen pictures of Tuscany. The region in northern central Italy is well known for its green, rolling hills and its picturesque towns that appear to have found a way to make time tick by much slower than everywhere else. But Tuscany is not only easy on the eyes. It is also full of historic significance and is considered to be the cradle of Renaissance.

Travelling to Tuscany can pursue a number of objectives. This part of Italy is a great destination for those looking for days of relaxation in beautiful scenery and there are also beaches here that are well suitable for family vacations. History buffs and art afiionados find plenty of sites and world-class museums and of course, everyone with a taste for the Italian cuisine will enjoy authentic, traditional kitchen creations made from fresh ingredients grown in the area and accompanied by one of the first-rate wines produced here. And even those looking for some medical relief may find their spot, as Tuscany has plenty of spa towns.

Florence, Tuscany’s largest city

Select towns and cities in Tuscany:

The capital and largest city of the region, Florence is also the gateway for visitors to the area. In the Middle Ages, Florence emerged as a hub of European trade and finance. The money that poured into he city back then founded the arts and grand buildings, both of which continue to be main attractions. Main sights include the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the largest medieval building in Europe and the Palazzo Medici, the seat of the famous banking family. Only steps away from these in the historic town center, world-famous museums such as the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery house some unique artworks, including the David sculpture by Michelangelo. The entire city feels like a history museum, for example when crossing the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge famous for the shops built upon it, which was built in the 14th century.

Although significantly smaller than Florence, Siena is often mentioned right next to the region’s capital. The reason for that can also be found in history, as Siena used to be an equally important finance and commerce hub as evidenced by it being the home of the world’s oldest still operational bank. Many old traditions have survived through the centuries, including the horse racing competition between the town’s districts on the Piazza del Campo, the historic central square. Other attractions include the Siena Cathedral as well as several historic palazzos and churches. The 14th century Torre del Mangla is the characteristic landmark of the medieval town.

Castiglione della Pescaia
Tuscany borders the Mediterranean Sea and features a number of seaside towns that are popular with mainly domestic travelers. Among these, Castiglione della Pescaia, a town that mainly grew in the 12th century, is one of the most famous. With seaside sceneries, fields full of sunflowers in the surrounding areas, the mighty fortress, plenty of ecologically important natural habitats, its medieval core and its fishermen heritage, the town is in many aspects a spitting image of what people imagine an Italian town to look like. .

The second-largest city in Tuscany is mostly known for its leaning tower. The tower however is only part of a collection of medieval buildings that grace the cityscape, including the neighboring cathedral and baptistry, Pisa used to be a maritime republic with great power and influence in the Middle Ages, which resulted in the rich architecture of the town’s palaces and squares. The city is home to cultural events and many historic streets and quarters. Many of the bridges crossing the Arno river are also notable for their architecture.

San Gimignano
There are only some 7,300 people living in San Gimignano, yet the small town is famous for its “skyline”. It consists of several so-called tower houses which were built by feuding families in the Middle Ages who attempted to outdo each other. The towers and the squares are the main attractions of the walled city which has preserved its medieval appearance through the centuries.

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