For centuries, Tuscany has been one of Italy’s most vibrant hearts. Rich in art, history and natural beauty, it has been perhaps the most sought-after and dreamed of region of the peninsula. Everyone knows about its gentle hills and endless golden fields, its tiny hamlets and vineyards that stretch beyond the horizon.
And while everyone also knows about its most famous cities, they might be surprised to find out how many interesting places Tuscany still hides.
Of course, Florence is always a must when visiting Tuscany. Home to many influential artists, architects and scientists, through the years Florence has become a veritable open-air museum. The symbol of the city is the world-renowned Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, crowned with the awe-inspiring Brunelleschi’s Dome (‘Cupola del Brunelleschi’). Within the many museums of Florence, chief amongst them the Uffizi, are housed the most important masterpieces of Italian art, like the ‘Annunciazione’ of Leonardo da Vinci and the ‘Nascita di Venere’ of Sandro Botticelli.
No less important or beautiful than Florence is Siena, with its famous Piazza del Campo, where the ‘Palio di Siena’ – an ancient equestrian competition first held in 1644 – takes place every summer. Siena also houses the main offices of the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which is, with its 549 years of history, the oldest bank in the world. The main Cathedral of the city, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, boasts one of the most beautiful and elaborate façade floors in the world.
Another unmissable place to visit is the Chianti area, within which long, tree-lined roads twists and turns amongst tall hills and ancient hamlets. Visitors will find many treasures hidden amongst the slopes of this area, like Montalcino, home of the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Not far from it rises Pienza, which overlooks the iconic Val d’Orcia landscape from the top of a hill. It was founded in the 15th century and UNESCO declared its historical centre Human Heritage Site in ’96. Pienza is most famous for its production of cheese. Montepulciano, caught between the Val d’Orcia and the Val di Chiana, is another point of interest in the Chianti area. Life in this medieval town revolves around the production of wines, the most well-known of which is the Nobile di Montepulciano.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Val di Chiana, surrounded by olive groves and narrow, winding roads, rises Cortona, a quaint town of Etruscan origins. Its incredibly well preserved catacombs, as well as its out-of-time atmosphere, transformed it into a popular destination over the years. This lively town has many interesting monuments and museums to visit, as well as numerous typical restaurants where visitors can experience the genuine Tuscan cuisine. It’s the setting of the famous novel ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’.
But, of course, one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany is Arezzo. An undiscovered jewel, cradled by gentle hills and fruitful valleys, Arezzo is rich in art and history, as well as entertainment.
Many artists left their mark in this city. In the Church of San Domenico, visitors can admire Cimabue’s Crucifix, a stunning example of sacred medieval art, while the Church of San Francesco houses ‘The Legend of the True Cross’, one of the most iconic creations of Piero della Francesca. Another especially influential artist for Arezzo was Giorgio Vasari.
His works are housed in three different museums within the city: Casa Vasari, the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art and the Museum Diocesano. He is also responsible for much of the artistic architecture of the city. One of his masterpieces is the famous and majestic Palazzo delle Logge, in Piazza Grande. Besides housing one of Vasari’s most famous works, Piazza Grande also represents the pulsating heart of Arezzo.
Arezzo is a lively town, full of possibilities and events. Despite its beauty, it’s still largely unknown by tourists, which means here is where you can still meet real Tuscan people and get a taste of authentic Tuscan life.