Things to Do in Tuscany - page 5
The Church of San Sisto (Chiesa di San Sisto) is one of the oldest in Pisa, and its simple stone facade is an excellent example of early Pisan-Romanesque architecture. Contrast this modest masterpiece with another of Pisa's attractions, the ornate Gothic Duomo, by taking a guided tour of both.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella (Basilica di Santa Maria Novella) is one of Florence’s most beautiful and—as the city’s first basilica—most important churches. With a striking Gothic-Renaissance facade, interior chapels housing artistic masterpieces, and Dominican cloisters, the church is one of the main sights in Tuscany’s capital city.
One of Italy’s most famous composers, Giacomo Puccini, was born in Lucca, and his childhood home has been converted into a museum dedicated to his life and work. Music lovers enjoy perusing the collection of photographs, librettos, awards, correspondence, and costumes displayed among the home’s original furnishings.
Located behind Fort Belvedere just steps from the Arno River, Bardini Garden is considered one of Florence’s top lesser-known sights. In addition to a 17th-century villa that houses a museum, café, and terrace with panoramic views of the city, the garden features 10 acres (4 hectares) of pastures, a famed wisteria canopy, and six fountains.
Florence’s one-of-a-kind Ospedale degi Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) is the oldest orphanage on the continent and offers travelers the perfect blend of Italian history, Roman artistry, classic architecture and lush gardens. It can only be described as one of the city’s oddest—and most beautiful—attractions. Built during the early 15th century, Ospedale degli Innocenti has served as a center of care for infants and children for more than 500 years and today also operates as a home for some of the nation’s best-known works of art.
In addition to a vast gallery, this historic landmark is also home to open cloisters and plenty of hospital-like rooms, including an infirmary and group dormitories. Travelers can explore the grounds and bear witness to giant frescos that depict scenes from the historic site’s lengthy past. Dozens of brilliantly colored paintings line the galleries and hallways projecting images of religious figures with dozens of children—a nod to the hospital’s original purpose. Travelers say the glazed terra-cotta reliefs of swaddled newborn babies are not to be missed and prove one of Ospedale degi Innocenti’s most unique details.
This popular attraction offers travelers one of the most comprehensive ways to see the history of Lucchese architecture and art come to life. Visitors can explore Roman ruins that date back thousands of years, and explore the halls of the famed museum, which are lined with priceless historic artifacts. The
prized cathedral, Duomo di Martino, combines elements of Lucchese and Pisano Romanesque architecture and is home to a number of tombs of fallen religious figures. Travelers should not miss the Volto, Santo, one of the nation’s most holy crucifixes that is widely-recognized as one of the most realistic representations of Christ on the cross.
This historic Anglican Church in Florence, Italy has English roots — remaining one of three worship centers that form the chaplaincy of the Church of England (the other two are St. Peter’s in Siena and a growing congregation in Bologna.) Built in 1881, it is steeped in local history — part of an old Medici palace, later owned by Machiavelli, and then renovated in neb-renaissance style. It is known as a symbol of Renaissance architecture.
The church often serves the homeless community of Florence and holds mass regularly. It remains a center of Anglo-Catholic religion for the British expat community in Florence. The beautiful interior of the Anglican Church is furthermore a hub of historic art and one of the most celebrated concert venues in Florence with classical performances in music, choral singing, and opera as well as a variety of visiting performers. With only 150 seats, it is an intimate venue to experience a live concert.
The majestic gardens at the Garzoni Villa, in the town of Collodi, are considered some of the most beautiful in Italy. Their design blends Renaissance geometry with baroque elegance, and highlights include water features, lush flower beds, a hedge maze, and a butterfly pavilion.
Though Milan is considered Italy’s fashion capital, Florence is home to some of the most historic fashion houses in the country, including shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo. You don’t have to be a fashionista to appreciate the Ferragamo Museum, where the beauty and craftsmanship of the iconic shoes classify them as works of art, rather than simply footwear.
Gucci Garden, previously known as Gucci Museo, is a Florence museum that showcases nearly a century of history of the designer fashion label. Opened in Piazza della Signoria in 2011 along with a restaurant and bookshop, and reopened in 2018, Gucci Garden showcases everything the luxe brand is known for, from evening gowns to handbags and more.
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Located within Santa Maria del Carmine Church in Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood, theBrancacci Chapel (Cappella Brancacci) is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks. The chapel’s walls showcase recently restored frescoes painted in 1424 by Masaccio, who was only 21 at the time. His work is known to locals as the Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance.
Entering the neighborhood of San Frediano means historically passing through the Porta San Frediano, which was once a door to the walled city, leading to one of Florence’s most popular residential areas in the present day. The trendy area has a variety of culture, cuisine, and art that contribute to its cosmopolitan feel. The neighborhood is home to many artisans that have kept their workshops here for decades. It has been compared to the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Many will cross the bridges on the river from the historic city center to enjoy a greater variety of food and drink in a less expensive price range.
After crossing through the Porta San Frediano, the Chiesa San Frediano in Cestello becomes visible. The 17th century church was built on the site of an older monastery, Santa Maria degli Angeli, which was founded in 1450.
With its massive dome patterned in colorful designs, the Great Synagogue of Florence (Tempio Maggiore) is an architectural marvel and significant synagogue of Italy. Historically Florence has always had a small Jewish community, with the first synagogue dating back to the 13th century. The Great Synagogue, however, was constructed from 1874 to 1882 financed by a local Jewish citizen who sought out to create a synagogue with beauty that would rival the other structures of Florence. Today it is still one of the largest in Europe. There is also a small Jewish museum with relics on display.
The synagogue features influences from both Italian and Islamic traditions. Its oxidized bright green copper roof makes the dome stand out in the city skyline. The interior features striking alternating layers of granite and travertine, with three large arches framing the entrance. Many draw comparisons in style to the Hagia Sofia of Istanbul. Its marble floors, mosaics, hand painted walls, and stained glass windows make this a beautiful space to behold.
Commissioned during the height of the Medici family’s reign in 16th-century Florence, Buontalenti Grotto (Grotta del Buontalenti) is the largest grotto in the city. Sculptures of mythical creatures and man-made stalagmites covering its facade and interior make the grotto one of the most popular landmarks in the Boboli Gardens.
Dedicated to one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance, the Leonardo da Vinci Museum (Museo Leonardiano di Vinci) is housed in two adjacent buildings—Palazzina Uzielli and Castello dei Conti Guidi—in the historic center of Vinci. The collection features models of Leonardo’s weaponry, clocks, and flying machines, as well as his drawings and notes.
Near Florence’s historic center, this eclectic museum contains Wunderkammer-like collections of art and artifacts amassed by 19th-century antiques dealer Frederick Stibbert. Peruse dozens of rooms stuffed with paintings, tapestries, furnishings, and armor.
Siena’s National Art Gallery houses a large collection of paintings from the Sienese School, an artistic movement from the 13th and 15th centuries. Peruse paintings and sculpture from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance at this museum.
Part of Siena’s magnificent duomo complex, the Piccolomini Library (Libreria Piccolomini) delights art enthusiasts with frescoes by Pinturicchio and his school, which included the young Raffaello. Take in the pieces' vivid colors, complex composition, and use of perspective, and revel in masterpieces that are among the most important works of art in Siena.
This 17th-century villa near Settignano just outside Florence is home to one of the most impressive gardens in Italy, with manicured lawns, lemon and olive groves, and baroque-style fountains and statues. A lush oasis overlooking the Arno Valley, the villa is an ideal quick escape from the crowds and chaos of the city.
A rock music temple if there ever was one, the Hard Rock brand doesn’t require an introduction; not with 170 establishments worldwide! Both a restaurant, a bar and a museum, this peculiar Florence attraction draws in rock music aficionados thanks to an impressive collection of authentic memorabilia and mouth-watering American-themed menu (something seldom found in all of Italy). Loud rock music, a relaxed atmosphere, original cocktails and humongous quantities of food await at Florence’s most American institution.
Golden records, guitars, costumes and other iconic memorabilia can be found at the restaurant’s two-floor museum. Some of the most popular items include Jimmy Hendrix’s hippie shirt, Diana Ross’ Supremes-era doll, an old Cavern Club membership card (signed by all of the Far Four), a handwritten draft of Prince’s “The Glamorous Life,” Michael Jackson’s rhinestone-bedecked pants, one of Elvis Presley’s red shirts, a bass that belonged to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Runaways’ Lita Ford’s red teddy.
The brand’s most loyal fans will certainly want to stop at the restaurant’s gift shop, where they will be able to extend their pin collection—a popular tradition for Hard Rock fans is to get a guitar-shaped pin every time they visit a new location—with one from Florence.
Framed by forested hills and spread across 70 acres, the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial pays tribute to more than 4,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in wars in Italy. Most of the casualties come from World War II’s Fifth Army, who fought the battles that took place after Rome was captured in 1944. The soldiers buried here fell anywhere from Rome to the Alps. Surrounded by trees of the Tuscan countryside, the grounds are beautifully kept in honor of the fallen soldiers. The many white marble headstones dot the green fields beside the Greve River.
The memorial center beside the cemetery is a multi-denominational church that includes a ‘Wall of the Missing’ for the unknown soldiers whose trace was never found. There is also a monument for peace. It is one of fourteen American cemetery and memorials on foreign soil around the world.
The resort town of Forte dei Marmi on the Tuscan coast has been a holiday destination since the 18th century, when wealthy families traveled from inland Tuscany in search of cool sea breezes. Today, its sandy beaches lined with shady pines attract day-trippers from Pisa and Lucca.
In 1596, Ferdinando I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, commissioned famous Italian architect architect Bernardo Buontalenti to build a hunting villa, which quickly became the court and estate of the Grand Duke and Duchess. Today, Villa di Artimino (the estate is officially known as Tenuta di Artimino) is one of twelve villas and two gardens collectively granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
This particular villa has the unusual nickname of the villa of 100 chimneys. Since Ferdenando I suffered from gout, numerous fireplaces were incorporated into the villa’s design, and their chimneys are visible from miles away. The interior of the estate still contains many of its original frescoes, furnishings and — perhaps most interesting of all — a roasting spit designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Tuscany’s landscape varies a great deal as it runs from the coast into the center of Italy, and it includes some mountainous areas in the Apennines - which is where the small town of Abetone is located, at an elevation of 4,554 feet (1,388 meters).
Abetone is about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Florence and 42 miles (67.5 km) inland (as the crow flies) from La Spezia on the Ligurian coast. It’s been a popular ski resort town since the early 1900s, and today there are 22 ski lifts serving 31 miles (50 km) of slopes suitable for all levels of skiing expertise.
There is a ski school for beginners at Abetone, as well as opportunities for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and snow hiking. The natural beauty of the area is also a great escape in the summer months, when hiking and mountain biking take over the hills. There are also things like a bowling alley, tennis courts, a soccer field, and an indoor pool among the Abetone facilities, so there’s something for everyone.
Day trips from Florence and elsewhere in Tuscany can be arranged to spend a day skiing on these popular slopes, including round-trip transportation, rental of all the equipment you would need, and even lunch at the lodge in some cases. Equipment rental is available on-site, as well, if you travel to Abetone on your own.
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