Firenze [Florence], the capital of Tuscany, attracts many tourists throughout the year, but in May and October it is considerably less busy and less hot! These months are also ideal to visit the city
On every corner street is a work of art, Florence not only an art city but a number of beautiful sights such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio!
The city is relatively compact and walkable around, everything is close together so you do not actually need the entire public transport
Especially around the summer time it can be very busy in Florence and warm
Tip: Firenze Card
The Card is for everyone who wants to explore in peace Firenze [Florence] at a reduced price, the card gives access to 50 museums, monuments, historic gardens and various expositions and exhibitions
The Firenze Card can be also use for public transport in the city. The city card costs 50 euros and can be used for 3 days
The card can be activated when using public transport or visiting a museum
You can obtain the Firenze Card at the tourist points "Informativi Punti di Turismo" and several museums
The Medieval town in western Tuscany known for many people, nevertheless, a few million people visit annually this tourist attraction
The city is very famous for its skyline, for such a small town . Yes , indeed, this city has a very special medieval buildings
The place had in the Middle Ages 70 such towers , due to bad weather and war over the greater part removed , there are exactly 13 in San Gimignano towers, the city was prosperous because it is a convenient place of pilgrimage , namely Rome
When in San Gimignano the plague broke out , many people were killed , this meant an economic crisis for San Gimignano , only after the II World War, the town was rebuilt and it owes its success particularly in tourism and wine production
In 1990, the historic center of San Gimignano in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the town is small but offers much in the way of shops , restaurants and art
A great cathedral perhaps the most beautiful in Tuscany, the tower of the church, like the Torre del Mangia, the Duomo has a richly decorated facade, it was completed in the 13th century
Inside the cathedral is unique, it has the shape of a Latin cross with three names, the dome of the church was built between 1259 and 1264, the floor is special, it has 57 Bible stories
The duomo is particularly known for the tombs that lie here, the large tomb is located under the marble floor
Here were buried popes of the Roman Empire, as in St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican City in Rome
A visit to the inside of the beautiful, Gothic Duomo in Siena is highly recommended
The Palazzo Pubblico is the town hall of Siena
The building is located in Piazza del Campo and includes a tower whose name "Torre del Mangia" the Town Hall was built between the years 1297-1310 in the 14th century it was firmly expanded several times
In the middle of the building is the coat of arms , the middle section was only completed in 1681
There are several rooms in the Town Hall located with beautiful artwork and frescoes
The opening hour; 01/11 - 15/03 from 10:00 tot 18:00 (ticket office closes at 17.15) 16/03 - 31/10 10.00 - 19.00 ( ticket office closes at 18,15) 16/03 - 31/10 from 10.00 tot 19.00 (ticket office closes at 18.15)
Children (0-11): 6,50 euro
Adults: 8.00 euro
I started my explorings at Piazza dei Priori, which is the real heart of Volterra. The square is surrounded by the imposing palaces, such as Palazzo della Podesta, Palazzo dei Priori and medieval palaces which is seat of the local bank. Volterra is very charming small town easy for explorings and not of less importance, local people is very friendly and helpfull.
Volterra was a Neolithic settlement and important Etruscan centher known as Velathri or Felathri. The city was a bishop's residence since 5th century and its episcopal power was affirmed during the 12th century. Later on it came under the controll of the Medici family, becoming part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The sam as San Gimignano, Volterra preserved its medieval structure which is almost intact.
The internal architecture of San Gimignano was undoubtelly influenced by Pisa, Siena and Florence. When walking the streets one could enjoy the authentic medieval atmosphere, which is the ultimate charm of San Gimignano. This place is a town-monument, full of exceptional towers, beautiful churches, fine palaces and very charming streets.
San Gimignano is small historic townlet situated about 25km north of Siena and one of a must see places when visiting Tuscany. It is visible from a far distance and look alike almost as an architectural mistake or unfinished work. This small town is characterized for its high towers, built in the medieval times.
San Gimignano rose from an ancient Etruscan settlement. In the Middle Ages it was a stopping point for catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome. The progress of the city was also improved by the trade of agricultural products. The local families, enriched with the commerce, ordered 72 towers to be built, but none of them could not exceed in height the Commune Tower, called Rognosa.
The urban structure and the buildings of San Gimignano, almost intact, preserved the medieval fascination, but only 15 out of 72 towers survived.
The Via Francigena is one of the classic pilgrimage routes. A 1900 km journey, through England, France, Switzerland and Italy from Canterbury (or even London) to Rome. There is also a branch starting in Arles and leading via Vercelli which joins the Caminos de Santiago. It follows the general direction taken by pilgrims to Rome in previous centuries although alternatives paths are used in places where the original route has now become a modern road. The "Via Francigena" (i.e. “French Way”) is first mentioned in a parchment in the abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata in 876 AD.
Tuscany is the Chianti region, and the hills between Siena and Florence have plenty of old castles, vineyards offering tasting sessions, small villages with restaurants and traditional Tuscan food - in short, a perfect way to spend one or two days discovering less known towns of the region.
Follow Roads 484 and 429 between Siena and Florence, stopping of at Brolio, San Giusme, Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, San Casciano, making a side trip to the magnificent San Gimignano.
I have spend 4 days in Forte dei Marmi but never made any tour in this small coastal town. Actually, it was our base where we usually had dinners and spending nights, during days we made tours of Liguria and on our way back home a day trip to Pisa and Florence. According to my inguierings on the net, Forte dei Marmi is beach resorts for mass tourism only.
Ponte Vecchio is another symbol of Florence and another 'must see', even if you spend just a couple of hours in Florence.
This oldest bridge of Florence crosses the river Arno and links the historic city centre with Altrarno - the district on the southern bank.
The bridge has always been a place to do business - from the 13th century there were stalls on it and people buying and selling things. Butchers, fishmongers, vegetable sellers and craftsmen used to throw away waste straight into the water. The odour must have been unbearable. In 1565 the famous Corridoio Vasariano was built to connect Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti. The Grand Duke Ferdinand I de Medici decided then to do away with the 'smelly business' and ordered that the shops should be taken over by goldsmiths - the trade more suitable as the neighbours of the noble family.
Another interesting fact concerning the history of Ponte Vecchio is connected with the times of WW II. When the nazis withdrew from Florence, they blew up all the bridges across the Arno but one - Ponte Vecchio. It is said to have been saved by personal orders of Hitler.
Today, the shops on the bridge belong mainly to jewellers, so why not drop in and buy something nice?
For centuries Piazza della Signoria was the heart of social and political life for residents of Florence. The square is dominated by Palazzo Vecchio, now and in the past the seat of local authorities.
However, the square is best known for its gallery of sculptures, now mostly the copies of great masterpieces.
The most famous is that of David by Michelangelo - the original is in Galleria dell Academia. It took the artist almost three years to sculpt but it confirmed his position as the greatest sculptor of Florence. The figure is almost four and a half metres high and is the first large nude created after ancient times. What can strike some viewers as the lack of proportions ( f.e. large hands), was well intended to reflect some of the special qualities of David.
Loggia dei Lanzi ( or Logia of the Signoria), the arcaded building constructed in the 14th century in the times of Cosma I, became a kind of an open air museum, where valuable sculptures were displayed. The most outstanding was probably Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini. This bronze statue is over three metres high. Perfectly modelled muscular body of Perseus leaves no doubt about his triumph. He is holding high the head of meduse, whose sight could change everybody to stone.
There are lots of other marvellous statues in Piazza della Signoria. But let me mention a place which, although not a piece of art, is very important from the historical point of view. In front of the fountain, almost in the centre of the square, there's a granite plaque showing the place where Savonarola was hanged and burned in 1498.
The problem with Florence are the crowds of tourists and the noise. It's so different from the peace and quiet of less popular towns and villages of Tuscany. But if you are able to 'alienate' from the crowds and focus on the treasures the city has to offer, you will appreciate this unique place.
Piazza del Duomo is one of the sites with the biggest concentration of visitors who come to admire here three different masterpieces of architecture: Duomo (cathedral), Campanilla (bell tower) and Batistero (baptistery).
Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore is crowned by an enormous dome - the masterpiece of Brunelleschi. It's one of the most amazing achievements of architecture and engineering. It's possible to climb it and I would definitely recommend it, but you should be fit to do it. The stairs are winding, the passage narrow and being followed by others, you have hardly any moment to have a rest. But the chance to look close at the paintings inside the dome and the views from the top are rewarding. The ticket for the Dome costs eight Euro (June 2011).
The facade, with its abundance of colours and details, has in fact many opponents, who consider it too gaudy. It's relatively new, as it comes from the 19th century. The interior, in turn, surprises with its lack of decorations. Yet, it houses a couple of true masterpieces.
The Batistero San Giovanni enchants with its Romanesque beauty, famous doors and excellent mosaics. It's the oldest building in Florence. For centuries, all children born in the city were baptised here.
And at last the graceful campanilla designed by Giotto and decorated by Donatello, Luca della Robia and other artists. How delicate it looks in the company of the enormous cathedral and strong baptistery.
Siena's coat-of-arms is black and white. These colours can be noticed on many layers of the city's past and present.
As black and white symbolize conflicting values and passions, so Siena was the mother-city of 9 popes and many saints, but also of fallen women, rascals and other villains. In its history there were moments of triumph and of failure. For centuries in conflict with Florence, it won a spectacular victory over its rival in the battle of Montaperti in 1260. Eighty eight years later the tragedy struck. The Black Death took 70 000 from the population of 100 000. The wounded city was still trying to fight for its independence until 1555, when Siena was incorporated into the territories of Florence.
Black and white are predominant colours of Sienese cathedral, both its exterior and interior. By many this cathedral is considered to be the most beautiful in Tuscany, or even Italy.
Let me leave this trail of colours and say why else Siena is so unique and fascinating. First of all, it's home to precious art. It can boast some of the best artists of Tuscany, f.e.: Duccio, Simone Martini or Jacopo della Quercia. Duccio was to the Sienese school what Giotto was to the Florentine. His Maesta is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of medieval art.
Another thing - Palio - a historic horse race that takes place twice a year. Unlike many other events worlwide, Palio is not staged for tourists' enjoyment, but results from history, tradition and an inborn spirit of rivalry. Palio is held on il Campo - one of the most unique square in the world which is shaped like a shell. And the city itself - with its labirynth of winding streets it has the true medieval feel. So it's definitely worth visiting.
We have stayed with this establishment many times. Initially, it was because they have free parking...more
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We stayed at the hotel around Chrismas. The usual rates of about 190 Euro where reduced to 80 Euro....more