This post is sponsored by James Villas.
There are so many reasons to love Italy: its food (oh my god, the food), wines, the language, incredible architecture, design, people, history, landscapes, beaches… the list is endless.
Of all the countries I have visited Italy remains my favourite, although having only visited Venice, Rome, Pompeii and Positano, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. It’s proving difficult to decide where should be my next Italian destination, however I feel a trip spanning the whole Tuscany region is in order.
The vine-striped valleys and ancient hill towns of Tuscany comprise a quintessentially Italian fairytale landscape right out of a painting, and of course, Tuscany is home to the art of Florence as well as one of the most famous buildings in the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It’s the birthplace of both the Renaissance and the modern Italian language and the churches in even a small city are stuffed with the kind of Renaissance art that would take pride of place in any major world museum. It would be fair to say that Tuscany’s cultural heritage is unsurpassed. Even the short list of Tuscan luminaries reads like a whos-who of cultural giants: Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, Botticelli, Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Puccini…
So where on earth to begin? As I’m largely a city girl, I think Florence and Pisa should be first on my list…
Florence is Tuscany’s beating heart and is a city full of culture and history. With striking buildings, formidable galleries and treasure-crammed churches, it’s a city that oozes luxurious elegance. Despite its fairly small size, it’s overflowing with magnificent architecture and art galleries and boasts some of the finest cuisine in the whole of Italy.
Famous for its rich art history, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and was established as the cultural capital of Italy in the fifteenth century. It’s still a hotspot for art and culture to this day – the Uffizi Gallery is one of the world’s most famous galleries, and is one of the oldest in the western world.
From the Ponte Vecchio to Michelangelo’s David, and much more in between, Florence has an extensive list of must-see sights within its narrow, winding streets and around every corner, there is a new sight to take your breath away.
Florence is best known for its most iconic landmark, the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (more commonly known as the Duomo) and its innovative dome which was designed by Brunelleschi to withstand lightning, earthquakes and the passage of time. A stone’s throw away you’ll find Giotto’s Campanile, considered to be Italy’s most beautiful bell tower.
About an hour west of Florence and in the northern half of Tuscany is the city of Pisa, with its Leaning Tower the feature of millions of cheesy tourist photos. History’s most famous architectural mishap today tilts at 3.97 degrees after a lengthy restoration programme rescued it from toppling over when it reached a staggering 5.5 degree tilt in 1990. Despite the tower being somewhat structurally unsound, it’s been deemed safe by engineers for another 200 years and is open to visitors who wish to climb to the top for the amazing views (all 273 steps).
The Cathedral complex in Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), of which the tower is part, is on the outskirts of the city centre and half a day can be spent exploring this beautiful area. Along the perimeter of the square, there is also the cemetery, the Cathedral Museum and the Museum of the Synopses. Like most Italian cities, Pisa is well suited to those who enjoy a leisurely stroll and the Arno river is the perfect location for this. Pass by Clock Palace to enter into Piazza dei Cavalieri, which was once the heart of power in the city and later the headquarters of the Knights of St. Stephen. In the Palazzo della Carovana overlooking the square, the prestigious Scuola Normale of Pisa has its base.
Want to Visit the Cities of Tuscany?
Book a flight – use Skyscanner to find the cheapest time to fly
Book a tour – Book tours, tickets & activities in Pisa
Book your transfers – Shuttle services & private transfers in Pisa
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