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Agliana | Tuscany Region

AGLIANA | TUSCANY REGION

agliana piazza Tuscany 

Agliana is a town located on the plains between Prato and Pistoia I monumenti di Agliana. In the town of Agliana, with 15,000 inhabitants in the province of Pistoia, you can visit the Tower built in 1325 on commission by Castruccio Castracani, while in the surrounding area we can admire the church of St Peter, the Oratory of the Compagnia and the church of St. Michael.

A plain-lying town between Prato and Pistoia, Agliana has been part of the latter’s province only since 1927, though it gained autonomy in 1913. The area was originally populated in Roman times. The first inhabited nucleus was developed as a village in the early Middle Ages, when the little centre of “Alina” was built, whose name was probably linked to the nearby Agna River.

The town was, at least at the beginning, a fief of the Guidi Counts, feudatories of the Empire, then given up in part to the bishopric of Pistoia and in part to the Pazzis, a noble Florentine family. In the 14th century the Pistoian area was governed by Castruccio Castracani, to whom Agliana owes her first fortifications, prepared in 1325 during the Pistoian attack. The defences however did not save Agliana from being pillaged by Giovanni di Boemia’s armies some years later.

From 1401 the village became part of the Florentine Republic and was united in a podestà jurisdiction with the council of Montale, with which it alternated as capital. Its statutes of 1415 however show that Florence conceded a certain administrative autonomy to it. From 1776, with the Leopoldine reforms for the reorganisation of the territories of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Montale was organised as an autonomous “comunitas” which included Agliana and her territories in its boundaries.

The town’s development is mainly due to its proximity to the Cassia, a communication road between Lucca, Pistoia and Florence. Its strategic position, combined with a strong anti-Fascist sentiment that characterised the people of Agliana, made the centre one of the bases of the partisan struggle in the Pistoian Apennines. The formation that freed the town on the 4th September 1944 was in fact called “Agliana”.

Arezzo Province | Tuscany Region

AREZZO PROVINCE | TUSCANY Region

The province of Arezzo or Arretium, is the easternmost province in the Tuscany region of northern Italy. Its capital is the city of Arezzo. The province is bordered by the regions of Marche, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, and the provinces Siena and Florence of Tuscany. It has a total population of about 347,000 in 37 comuni (singular: comune), and a density of 107.2 people per square kilometer. The north of the province of Arezzo contains the Pratomagno and Casentino mountain ranges and valleys, and the southern areas of the region contain the fertile Tiber and Chiana valleys. It is believed that the province was a major Etruscan urban centre known as Arretium, and a wall was built around the province in this period of rule.

The Province of Arezzo is vast and varied: the terrain ranges from flatlands to hillsides to mountains. It is where four valleys meet: Valtiberina, Valdichiana, Valdarno and Casentino. Of these, the Casentino valley boasts a National Park of Casentino Forests - Monte Falterona - Campigna, one of the twenty Italian protected areas covering 34,600 hectares between the regions of Tuscany and Emilia. Here one is free to wander and to walk the spiritual streets of the Verna Sanctuary or of the Camaldoli Monastery.

PLACES TO VISIT IN THE AREZZO PROVINCE OF TUSCANY

Aulla | Tuscany Region

AULLA | TUSCANY REGION

aulla tuscany

Sulla is a small town in the Massa Carrara Province of the Tuscany Region, rich with cultural history it is now mostly forgotten by most visitors to Italy. Aulla was built to defend the bridges and roads leading into the region of Lucca, Liguria and to the Cisa Pass. During the years of the Via Francigena Aulla was the liveliest center in the Lunigiana.  Sitting at the confluence of the Magra river and its tributary the Aulella, Adalbert of Tuscany erected a castle, houses, storehouses for merchants and traders, and an abbey for hosting the pilgrims of the Via Francigena.

The historic center, which was almost entirely razed by World War II bombings, is the site of a marble fountain built in the year of Italian unity, a stretch of city walls with embrasures, and the palace that belonged to the Centuriones of Genoa, to the Malaspinas, and - finally - to the governors appointed by the duke of Modena. During the period of Modena’s dominion there remains the only notarial archives deposited by law in a commune: about two thousand volumes of documents drawn up in Modenese Lunigiana from the 15th through the 19th century.

Another totally unsuspected discovery is the Abbey of San Caprasio, with its archaeological digs, the monumental tomb of the saint, and the chapter hall that narrates the story of the abbey through the testimony of pilgrims, precious medieval sculptures, and many daily objects. Here, the visitor will meet the saint who inspired Provençal monasticism and was its spiritual guide, and see his relics, now preserved under the high altar, and the precious stuccowork reliquary in which they were kept. The relics were rediscovered a thousand years after they were hidden to protect them when the territory was invaded by the infidels who landed on the beach of Luni.  

High up on the Brunella hill stands the massive fortress ordered built by the Centuriones of Genoa; it may have been conceived by Giovanni delle Bande Nere, whose intention it was to make Aulla the capital of his seigneury. Today, the fortress is the home of the Museum of Natural History; in the park, planted by the English owners in the early 1900s, there is an interesting  botanical nature path.

In the surrounding area, Pallerone hosts a spectacular mechanical nativity scene in one tower of the Malaspina castle, open all year round; Bibola and Vecchietto regale the visitor with enthralling panoramas of the Apuans along the path of the Via  Francigena, a trail that can be walked from Aulla to Sarzana in six hours. Continuing along the Cisa state road toward Sarzana, you will find the sanctuary of the Madonna degli Angeli, a medieval hospice and retreat where you mayread the story a nobleman from Pontremoli who was saved by intercession of the Virgin from an attack by the highwaymen who terrorized the Strada delle Lame. The elegant hamlet of Caprigliola, with its mighty Medici walls and the medieval tower of the bishop-counts of Luni, rises on a hill that surveyed the Roman Via Aurelia, the Via Francigena, and the Way of Saint James. The remains of the Ponte della Bettola, hidden by the willows that grow in the bed of the Magra, was ordered built by Florence and the Bishop of Luni in the 15th century after the tragic drowning of a group of pilgrims on their way to Spain.

Bagnone | Tuscany Region

BAGNONE | TUSCANY REGION

bagnone tuscany

Bagnone lies in the upper portion of the mountainous Lunigiana Region that is part of the Carrara Massa Province in Tuscany. Starting as a castle and its lands, Bagnone then became a vicariate of Florence in the 15th century. The town’s economy was primarily based on chestnut and sheep farming. Bagnone is an exciting tourist destination thanks in particular to its weekly market and large seasonal fairs. Today, the area’s economy is centered around agriculture production, primarily grapes and olives.

Bagnone was founded on a bend in the Bagnone torrent, which runs under the ancient village that grew up due to presence of the Malaspina castle. In the mid-1400s, the four ancient families of the village were joined by artisans and shopkeepers from Vico, Fornoli, Taponecco, Pontremoli, Pàstina, Merizzo, and Panicale. In 1428, from Malgrate, there arrived, “nude and now dressed,” the spice-seller Giovanni Antonio da Faye, the great and disenchanted chronicler of the Lunigiana of the 15th century. At his death, he was interred in Bagnone’s military chapel.

Bagnone soon became one of the four great marketplaces in the Magra valley: under its portico, a lively melee of sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables, merchants from the Parma area, butchers, tailors, cobblers - and of course, gamblers and moneylenders.

The beautiful parochial church of San Nicolò has a precious organ and a venerated relic of the Holy Cross, and with its stately facade dominates what may be defined as a classical Italian square, faced by the hall of justice, city hall, the schools, and the Palazzo dei Cortesini. The nearby Villa Quartieri stands in a large park; the square at the entrance is adorned by a large portico/monument to the fallen in all wars. Everything, including the recently restored theater, built during the Fascist era and now returned to its original function, pays mute homage to the consummate artistic skill of the stoneworkers of Lunigiana.

In Treschietto, the tower of Giovan Gasparo Malaspina, at the edge of a ravine, evokes the sly marchese who collected excommunications and death sentences, while in Jera we breathe the rarefied air of the mountains among producing chestnut groves and streams abounding in fish.  The water-driven mills of Vico and Corlaga still grind chestnuts into flour, while archaeological exploration in the environs has turned up the only post-medieval kiln ever discovered in Lunigiana, where testelli and earthenware were produced.

But the greatest surprise in the area is Castiglione del Terziere, seat of the Florentine captaincy, with its castle/palace brought back to life by Loris Jacopo Bononi, physician, poet, and writer, who collected some of the most precious testimony about the Lunigiana region: documents, antique books, valuable first editions, and handwritten manuscripts by men of letters and poets. Here is the legacy of centuries of culture in Lunigiana, of the incredible array of poets, writers, notaries, men of letters, military leaders, able politicians, and men of the cloth who lived at the most celebrated Italian courts and who exported the genius of this border land throughout the world.  

The church at the Pieve bears witness to the ancient ecclesiastical organization of the Diocese of Luni. The road from Collesino leads to the homes of Apella near Licciana, the homeland of the legendary Risorgimento hero Anacarsi Nardi, executed by firing squad with the Fratelli Bandiera.

Bardiccio Salami | Tuscany

BARDICCIO SALAMI | TUSCANY

bardiccio salami

Bardiccio is shaped like a long sausage, tied with string, is generally made in pairs (although it’s possible to find strings of four) and uses pig's intestine as a skin. Its deep red colour varies depending upon the amount of heart in the mixture and how fresh it is - it darkens with age. It's full of flavour with strong wild fennel overtones and keeps its rich taste when cooked.

It's made from left over pork, beef and heart (preferably beef, though pork is also used). There is no precise written recipe for Bardiccio and every producer combines the ingredients according to their own personal traditions.

The main ingredient is pork which makes up at least 80% of the mixture. Beef is added to increase the flavour, while the addition of heart makes these sausages unique. In terms of seasoning, wild fennel is the primary ingredient, together with garlic, spices, salt and pepper.

The mixture is coarsely ground. Bardiccio should not be eaten raw, nor should it be kept too long. It's traditionally prepared from September to March and it can be barbequed or stewed and served with tomatoes. It’s quite versatile and can be used in many other recipes, like risotto or as stuffing for roasts.

Camaiorese Climbing Area, Lucca Province

 CAMAIORESE ROCK CLIMBING AREA | TUSCANY REGIONRock Climbing Italy, Camaiorese Site

The Camaiorese climbing site near Lucca is a great sea and climb vacation spot for a few days.  The climbing site is about 20 minutes from the beach area and just far enough off the main tourist trek that you do not have to deal with overwhelming crowds.  The climbing are is spread across three townships: Greppolungo, Casoli, and Candalla, and each site offers a variety of routes and grades. 

CAMAIORESE ROCK CLIMBING GUIDE

REGION Tuscany
PROVINCE Lucca
NEAREST TOWN Camaiore
GEOGRAPHY  
BEST TIME OF YEAR  All Year
APPROACH TIME  20 minutes
ROCK  Limestone
HEIGHT  100 meters
RANGE OF GRADES  5 - 8b (150+ routes)
GUIDEBOOK/MAPS  

RECCOMENDED ROUTES

  • Ri toma il porro 7c
  • Pupporine 7c
  • Diablero 7b
  • Solo un gioco 6b

SECTORS

  1. Candalla Alta
  2. Candalla Basso
  3. Mulini
  4. Cimitero
  5. Setriana
  6. Cannelot
  7. Conchiusori
  8. Saratoga
  9. Tomeoni
  10. Plastri di Greppolungo
  11. L'isola
  12. Acquaspicca

Casola in Lunigiana | Tuscany Region

CASOLA IN LUNIGIANA | TUSCANY REGION

casola in lunigiana tuscany

Casola in Lunigiana is located in the Carrara Massa Province of Tuscany. Casola, from the roman "Casuli", is the entrance to the Parco delle Apuane in the Lunigiana. A very rich landscape of natural treasures, which is situated above a peak in the high course of the rivers Aulella and Tassonaro, in a key position which unifies the two mountain chains: the Apennine and the Alps in a border zone between the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana.

The origins of Casola are very ancient; its valleys were inhabited as far back as the Iron Age. In the 9th century, Casola was a possession of the Bishop of Luni; in 1306, by a treaty between the bishop and the Malaspinas, witnessed by Dante Alghieri, it came under the control of the great house of the Magra valley. In 1496, the population of Casola sided with Florence and became an important podesterate and trade center. Casola was crossed by the Via del Volto Santo, a major variant for pilgrimage and trade, as testified by the remains of the hospice at Tea. It was a well-traveled thoroughfare, already in use in Roman times, that united Lucca with the roads of the Magra valley bottom and the communications node of Aulla, with its powerful Abbey of San Caprasio.

The fortress was built around the 15th century near a castle that today shows only remains of a tower and walls. The ancient Palazzo comunale is the home of the Territorial Museum of the Aulella high valley, which tells the story of Lunigiana from the Palaeolithic to the present. Along the road linking Val di Magra to Garfagnana was built the Hospital of Tea, representing the place where traders and pilgrims stayed when they crossed Casola. The old town is well worth a visit and offers a variety of palaces, portals, medieval and renaissance shops. Nearby, you can visit the Codiponte and Offiano Parishes, the San Lorenzo Parish Church and the Sanctuary of Minucciano in Garfagnana and the wonderful villages of Regnano,

Castellina in Chianti | Tuscany Region

CASTELLINA IN CHIANTI | TUSCANY REGION

castellina in chianti tuscany

Castellina is a town full of thick woodland and beautiful wild plant species Castellina in Chianti. The many archaeological finds unearthed in this area attest to human presence here from the end of the VII century BC. At this time, the area was an important crossroads between the Etruscan communities on the coast (at Vulci, Vetulonia and Roselle) and those further north, as well as being well connected with the ports on the Adriatic coast which connected Italy to the Orient.

TUMULO DI MONTECALVARIO

One of the most important Etruscan monuments that remains from this period is the Tumulo di Montecalvario, just outside the town. It is made up of four tombs which face the four points of the compass. This set of tombs was uncovered in the XVI century and consequently has been thoroughly pillaged over the years. Nonetheless, in 1915 several iron and bronze decorations were uncovered from the site, as well as bronze that apparently came from a kind of military vehicle.

Further north, towards San Donato in Poggio, there is an ancient acropolis with a well that still works today.

POGGINO

A smaller necropolis has also been found near Poggino. It contains funeral decorations and various objects from the VI century BC. Many such artefacts are conserved in the Antiquarium which is housed in the XVI century Rocca Comunale at Montecalvario.

CATELLINA

It seems that the area was inhabited by Romans and then was abandoned in the I century BC after a devastating fire. The next we hear of Castellina is in 1220 when a deed written by emperor Federico II conceded the town to the powerful feudal rule of the Counts Guidi. In the same century, the village became part of the Lega in Chianti (the Chianti League). This organisation was run from Florence and the town of Castellina was strategically important due to its position on the border with Siena. Consequently, an imposing fortress was built, parts of which can still be admired today.

In 1397, the town was taken over by the Milanese troops of Alberico da Barbiano. Half way through the XV century, it was Ferdinando d’Aragona’s turn to attack. The town resisted the siege for 44 days. In 1478, despite extra reinforcements carried out by the famous architect Sangallo, the town was invaded yet again, this time by the Duke of Calabria. In the XVI century, Castellina came firmly under the rule of the Medici family and grew into an important agricultural area. Many farms, farm houses and larger villas soon sprung up.

Chianti Hills | Tuscany Region

CHIANTI HILLS | TUSCANY REGION

chianti hills tuscany

The Chianti territory with its hilly countryside of incomparable beauty lies in the very heart of Tuscany. Administered by both the Provinces of Florence and Siena, during the Middle Ages it was harshly contested by these two rival cities until 1555 when the Medici’s imposed their hegemony on all of Tuscany. It is difficult to trace its borders since only the mountains of Chianti in the East separate it from Upper Valdarno in a natural and neat way; the remaining territory fades into the hills of the Arbia, Elsa, Greve and Pesa rivers.

Mediaeval villages, castles, churches, abbeys, monasteries, cottages and villas lie one after the other in a fantastic itinerary that exalts the activity and inventiveness of man; centuries of work have modelled the hills of this region and the alternation of the olive groves and the forests creates a harmony unique to the world.

Along Via Cassia, or alternatively the faster Florence-Siena superstrada, one can follow again the paths once taken by pilgrims and wayfarers who, during the Middle Ages, reached Rome from Northern Europe with everything that it had to bear: parìsh churches, small towns, hospices, abbeys. Via Chiantigiana, on the other hand, is a more rural path that throughout its length crosses the classic wine region.

In any case, the visitor will be offered an unforgettable countryside always varying and harmonious and so diverse in colours and in atmosphere with the changing seasons. There are many ways to get to one of the parish churches, castles or isolated towns, silent witnesses to the historical and artistic richness of the Chianti region.

It does not matter how one gets there: whether by car, motorcycle, bicycle or bus, there are many possibilities for staying and enjoying a few days' holiday in the relaxing atmosphere of Chianti, tasting the gastronomic specialties of the region accompanied by wines that have made Chianti famous all over the world.

EXPLORING ALONG THE VIA CASSIA

Today's Via Cassia does not correspond, in the Tuscan section, to the ancient Roman road and not even to Via Francigena, the mediaeval trail that ran along the Valdelsa valley. It was however an important main road that the pilgrims and merchants took to get to Via Francigena at Poggibonsi. Since the XV century it was called "strada regia romana" and represented the main road between Florence and Rome until the construction of the Autosole motorway.

Since Via Cassia passes through many urban centres and is at times rather congested with traffic, the hurried tourist may choose to take the Florence Siena Autostrada that can be left whenever one wishes to visit one of the proposed locations.

Before reaching Via Cassia, Galluzzo's Certosa is worth a visit. It rises on the hills of Montaguto to the south of Florence. It was founded by Niccolò Acciaiuoli in the XIVcentury, for the purpose of housing young Florentines who wished to learn the liberal arts. It is surrounded by high walls, which, together with the majestic Palazzo degli Studi bestow upon it the aspect of a fortress.
 
Preserved inside Certosa, now inhabited by a group of Benedictine Cistercian monks, are some important works of art, among them there are 5 lunettoni (crescent shaped paintings), frescoes of scenes of the Passion by Pontormo painted between 1523 and 1525 during his permanence there while escaping the plague that had hit Florence.

Cinigiano | Tuscany Region

CINIGIANO | TUSCANY REGION

cinigiano tuscany

Cinigiano is a charming agricultural town on one of the sloping hills descending from Monte Amiata. This fortunate geographical position provides the best of the Maremma’s inland hilly landscape, in the Grossetto Province.
 
Originally a fief of the Aldobrandeschi family, it was dominated by Siena in 1381 and then by the Battifolle Counts. The Clock Tower, restored in the middle of the 19th century, and the remains of a medieval fortress are all that remain of the old town.

The produce ranges from grain to grapes, from olives to chestnuts. The zone is renowned for its forests, natural pastures, vast agricultural areas, chestnut groves—all of this among a mix of Mediterranean scrub, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees that stretch from the mountain to the bed of the Ombrone river.

The Nature Reserve Poggio all’ Olmo provides a chance for enjoyable outings within the area. There are other characteristic towns nearby that are worth a visit: Porrona with its castle, parish church and intact noble villas; Monticello Amiato with its medieval structures and museum of local traditions; Sasso d’Ombrone, whose original name is Sasso di Maremma and from which the bridge over the Ombrone river gets its name; Colle Massari, notable for both its architecture and landscape; and the Aldobrandeschi fortresses called Castiglioncello Bandini, Vicarello, Poggio del Sasso and Santa Rita.

Colline Metallifere | Tuscany Region

COLLINE METALLIFERE | TUSCANY REGION

colline metalifere

The Colline Metallifere (Metal-bearing Hills) are a mountain-hill group in the Tuscan Antiapennine, in central Italy. The range runs through four provinces: the southeast part of Livorno, the southern part of Pisa, the southwestern part of Siena and the northwestern part of Grosseto. Excluding the Poggio di Montieri and Cornate di Gerfalco peaks (both over 1,000 m), the majority of the range is hilly and rich in various local minerals. The area between Pisa and Grosseto is noted for its geothermal energy which manifests in sulfur geysers.

It also includes geothermic energy sources, part of which used in ENEL power plants at Larderello and Lago Boracifero. Rivers include the Cecina, the Cornia and the Merse. The metal resources of the Colline Metallifere were exploited since ancient times by the Etruscans: production reached its peak in the mid-19th century, declining quickly however afterwards. The numerous railways serving the mills are now mostly suppressed.

The area includes various cities and towns: Sassetta, Campiglia Marittima and Suvereto in the Livorno province, Monteverdi Marittimo, Pomarance and Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina in the Pisa province, Radicondoli and Chiusdino in the Siena province, Monterotondo Marittimo, Montieri, Roccastrada, Massa Marittima, Gavorrano, Scarlino and the northern part of Castiglione della Pescaia in the Grosseto province.

During Etruscan times, the Metallifere hills were known for their mineral outcrops; extraction continued for centuries and reached its peak in the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries before it began to rapidly decline. In order to service the mineral mining, a railroad route was built. It is now almost completely defunct.

Comano | Tuscany Region

COMANO | TUSCANY REGION

 comano tuscany

Common is a town in the province of Massa Carrara, and in the area of the Tuscany Region’s Lunigiana territory.  The area is well known for its green surroundings and mild climates.

Comano is mentioned in history for the first time in a document dated 938, when King Hugh of Provence gave the town and its castle to his wife Berta as a wedding gift. These lands always attracted the attention of the Este family, who selected Comano as their point of departure for extending their dominion into Lunigiana. The time of Countess Matilde, the brief dominion of Castruccio Castracani of the Antiminelli, and then the definitive rise of the Malaspinas: these are the milestones in the millenary civil and religious history of these valleys.
Another high point in the civil history of the area was construction of the castle built on the Groppo San Pietro, which in the Middle Ages played an important strategic role; the remains of the structure have unfortunately been dispersed with time.

Cutigliano | Tuscany Region

CUTIGLIANO | TUSCANY REGION

cutigliano tuscany

Cutigliano is a medieval village in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and province of Pistoia. Sitting at 678 meters above sea level, it consists of the Municipal Palazzo, the 15th century church of the Madonna di Piazza and that of St. Bartholomew.

According to legend, the town of Cutigliano was founded by the Roman legionnaires from Catiline, in retreat after the defeat they suffered in 63 BC. However the hypothesis that the first village was built around the VIII century AD along the Apennine road of the Alps alla Croce, an important road between the Pistoian plains and Modean, seems more logical. Until the XIV century the area was placed under the jurisdiction of Lizzano, to then pass under the direct control of the city of Pistoia.

In the first part of the 14th century the Cutigliano people had to confront the expansionistic intentions of Castruccio Castracani, while in 1330 the village was again threatened by the rebels of the Valdinievole, subdued by the captain Angiolo Panciatichi. The turbulence in the area convinced Pistoia to take measures, instituting the Captaincy of the Mountain in 1368, taking the work of Panciatichi as example. The captain was entrusted with the role of governing Cutigliano while at the same time going around the surrounding castles ensuring a continual protection of the area. After some disputes with Florence it was established that the captain must have been on the Guelph side.

In 1377, four years after the settlement of the first captain in Cutigliano, a small portion of territory was purchased to build the Municipal Palazzo. The building, in Florentine Renaissance style, is still present today, but has suffered some alterations to the attic windows, redesigned in the 18th century, and to those of the ground floor, remade in 1930. On the palazzo’s façade you can still see the coats of arms that were placed there over the course of the years by the various captains that followed.

The strategic role of Cutigliano did not decline with its annexing to the Florentine Republic after the conquering of Pistoia at the beginning of the XV century. Over the years the council has followed its destiny as a great capital town, passing in 1537 under the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, first with the Medicis and then with the reign of the Asburgo-Lorena, until the Unification of Italy in 1860.

Filattiera | Tuscany Region

FILATTIERA | TUSCANY REGION

Filattiera tuscany

The town of Filattiera extends for 48.97 square kilometres in a mountainous area, on the left side of the Magra, in the high Lunigiana. Located in the Massa Carrara Province of Tuscany's Lunigiana area. The name of the town, deriving from Fulacterion, a byzantine term indicating the defence fortresses in important strategic points, means the original time and the architecture.

In Filattiera, in the shade of the most elegant, striking parish church in all of Lunigiana, the meadows hide archaeological treasures that have already been studied and await only to be displayed and illustrated in the local museum. Exhibits will show how this plain has been inhabited without interruption from prehistoric times through the Roman era, the age of the Byzantines, and the great Middle Ages until Filattiera became the capital of the Malaspinas, who selected as their emblem the flowering blackthorn.

The parish church of Santo Stefano di Sorano, recently restored and reopened for worship, was built as a place of worship in the 6th century, near the great Byzantine defensive works on the site of a large Roman farmhouse (1st-3rd century) on the road that from Luni rose toward the Po valley. But even earlier, the Apuan Ligurians had installed their pantheon of stone idols, which were brought down by Christianity and the cultures of other peoples and ended up being used as simple stones for construction or as tombstones, as is the case of the female stele and Iron Age warrior on display inside the parish church.

The village that stands on the hill is typically medieval in plan, with its 13th-century castle and houses aligned along the ridge. In the southernmost portion there remains, isolated, the complex of the first medieval settlement with the military watchtower and small church of San Giorgio. This church preserves the most extraordinary epigraph of medieval Lunigiana: it recalls the meritorious deeds of an extraordinary man of the cloth, perhaps named Leodegar, who converted the inhabitants to Christianity, broke the pagan idols, built churches, and gave bread and repose to pilgrims along the Via Francigena.

For the pilgrims, the village built a hospice dedicated to Saint James, which still bears a beautiful marble bas-relief of the saint. At the upper door, on January 16th, the eve of the feast of Saint Anthony Abbot, the ancient rite of the purifying bonfire is still celebrated. An enormous pile of wood is ignited immediately following the blessing; a brand from the fire is carried into the stalls and coops to protect the farm animals, over whose well-being Saint Anthony holds vigil.

A short distance from the parish church, an ancient water-powered mill, still in working order, echoes the not so far-off past in which the wide plain, reclaimed from the river, was fertile and intensively cultivated farmland.

Near Filattiera, in the village of Ponticello, the medieval homes recall the difficult times when the inhabitants locked themselves and their harvests into tower-homes; their access doors, high up on the walls, were reached by ladders which were pulled up in case of danger. Between Ponticello and Caprio, the nobles of Pontremoli built elegant villas; toward the Appennines, the powerful Rocca Sigillina and Serravalle controlled important military and trade routes toward Parma.

Lost among these mountains are the ruins of an important military stronghold from the early Middle Ages: Montecastello, a 7th-century bastion that defended the valley from invaders from beyond the Appennines.

Fivizzano | Tuscany Region

FIVIZZANO | TUSCANY REGION

fivizzano tuscany

Fivizzano is the largest town in the Lunigiana area of the Carrara Massa Province of Tuscany. Known as ‘the Florence of Lunigiana’, the city represented a typical Medici-ruled town that characterized the rule of Medici Family in the northern part of Tuscany (along with Pietrasanta and Barga). This is evident in the public, private and clerical buildings. It then became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until 1844, when it was given to the Duchy of Modena, which ruled the city until the unification of Italy. In 1920, the city was partly destroyed by a great earthquake.

Visitors to the historical town centre will be able to see the wonderful remains of the city’s ancient walls, built by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1540. These walls are of particular interest, similarly to the walls in Caprigliola. The city has two gates in the walls: the Modenese Gate and the Sarzanese or Fiorentino Gate. Thanks to its strategic position, Fivizzano became an important market place and its square became the social centre of the city. After the destruction of the earthquake in 1920 parts of the city were rebuilt.

It can be reached by taking the SS63 road, which goes from Aulla to the Cisa Pass and then towards Reggio Emilia. The first written evidence of the town is in a document that refers to the Castle of Verrucola - given by the emperor Henry V to Ugo d’Este in 1077. Originally called ‘Forum Verrucolae’, the town began as a market place ruled by feudal lords. When the Malaspina familyarrived, the town’s name changed to Forum Fivezzani and then in 1477 it became Fivizzano when the town became part of the Republic of Florence.

Florence Province | Tuscany Region

FLORENCE PROVINCE | TUSCANY ITALY

Located in the northeastern part of the  Tuscany Region, the Province of Florence covers areas with different geographical and environmental characteristics, including Mugello, Montagna Fiorentina, Valdarno, part of Chianti and Empolese-Valdelsa.  At the Province's center, in a basin crossed by the Arno River, stands the magnificent City of Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, filled with historical relics and artistic masterpieces by the greatest masters of Humanism and the Renaissance. 

The province is one of the most fascinating in Italy, for the artistic beauties of the city, but also a great place for shopping: Florentine fashion in the ateliers siding the ancient streets of Florence, artistic craft in the workshops in the historical quarters, the latest fashion and trends in the Mall in Leccio, one of the best-supplied fashion outlets in Italy, or fine ceramics in Montelupo Fiorentino.

In restaurants and trattorie a taste of typical local products, accompanied by Chianti wines, makes the stay even more enjoyable.

WHAT TO EXPLORE AND SEE IN THE PROVINCE OF FLORENCE

Every year, Florence, unanimously recognized as the cradle of the Renaissance, attracts crowds of Italian and foreign tourists to admire the marvelous churches, sumptuous buildings, and museums that make it so unique. The city’s charm also extends to its territories, beginning with the natural amphitheatre created by the hills surrounding Florence, where unique places such as the small towns of Fiesole and Certosa del Galluzzo stand.

The whole area is made up of stunning landscapes such as the Chianti Valley, where visitors can follow numerous art or wine and food itineraries, and other areas, from Mugello to Valdarno, that hold a wide variety of surprises: ancient castles, Medieval rural churches, and villas.  Wherever one turns, historical towns and art treasures make this province absolutely unique, a place where nature and culture intertwine as in a dream. Each and every town, with its own particular features, is a world to be discovered: Empoli with its rich cultural heritage contained within 15th-Century city walls; Sesto Fiorentino with the famous “La Montagnola” Etruscan tomb; Impruneta, with its terra-cotta production; or Borgo San Lorenzo, with the remains of its 14th-Century fortifications and a magnificent church; and Castelfiorentino and Barberino Val d’Elsa, among many others.

The Florentine territory provides a surprising number of itineraries, making a vacation here an ideal occasion to explore this enchanting area.

PLACES TO VISIT IN THE FLORENCE PROVINCE

 

Food and Wine in the Arezzo Province | Tuscany

FOOD AND WINE IN THE AREZZO PROVINCE | TUSCANY

Valdarno chicken Tuscany

Arezzo’s Province has a rich agricultural tradition and many Italian specialities originate from here.

FOODS IN THE AREZZO PROVINCE

The cuisine from the Arno, Chiana and Tiber Valleys, boasts traditional products that date back centuries. It is thanks to expert farmers and producers who continue to keep these ancient traditions alive. Many of these producers are officially recognised and protected by European certificates that were started by the Province and Chamber of Commerce of Arezzo with the local Agriculture Categories Associations.

LOCAL PRODUCTS

The Arezzo area is famous for producing several varities of products. Among them are olive oil, beans (Fagiolo Zolfino, Fagiolo Coco Nano, Fagiolo dall’Occhio, Cece Piccino), cheeses (goat, sheep, ricotta and Abbucciato Aretino), and honey.

FAMOUS DISHES

The area is also famous for its meat (Valdarno chicken, Chianina beef) and cured meats (Capocollo, Finocchiona, prosciutto Dop Toscano, Tuscan salami, Soprassata, Tarese del Valdarno).

Local classics include Mugello tortelli (a potato filling and meat ragù), “all'aretina” (sliced steak), ribollita (a type of soup), pici con cinghiale (pasta with wild boar), Aretine tripe, rabbit with fennel and pappardelle and Aretine goose.
 
The local Colli Aretini wine is the prefect accompaniment to the meal which should end with a plate of cantuccini and Vin Santo.

Fosdinovo | Tuscany Region

FOSDINOVO | TUSCANY REGION

fosdinovo tuscany

Fosdinovo is located in the Carrara Massa Province of Tuscany.  As part of the Lunigiana area it has been a very old settlement that for centuries has dominated the Magra and the Luni plains. The atmosphere is one of borderlands: you can almost smell the sea without forgetting the mountains behind. Local cuisine is excellent and can be sampled in its many good restaurants.

The castle of Fosdinovo, the most frequently photographed in all of Lunigiana, is owned by the Marchesi Torrigiani-Malaspina and is always open for visits. The ancient 14th-century manor, on a square plan with round towers, has been much enlarged and restructured, as late as the 1700s, to adapt it to peacetime uses and the requirements of its owners. The castle is a unique venue for concerts, cultural events, and art exhibits. Dante’s visits to the Malaspina court are narrated within its walls, which also host a ghost said to appear in the rooms from time to time. The massive castle dominates the beautiful town, with its churches and oratories, home to precious works of art. The church of San Remigio and the marble tomb of Galeotto Malaspina are of special note. The atmosphere in the narrow streets of the village is that of a borderland suspended between the sea breezes and the mountain winds.

Gaiole in Chianti | Tuscany Region

GAIOLE IN CHIANTI | TUSCANY REGION

Gaiole in Chianti tuscany

Historically the town of Gaiole has always been on the edge of Florentine territory, although today it is part of the province of Siena. It sits at an altitude of 367 meters a.s.l. in the Chianti Hills. Gaiole grew up on the banks of the river Massellone thanks to the trade that passed up and down the river. Many local place names have either Etruscan or Roman origins and many archaeological sites prove the existence of settlements here in ancient times, such as the remains of the necropolis at Cacchiano (I – III century) and the columns of the church of San Marcellino.

Many small settlements grew up throughout the territory in the Medieval period. Many Romanesque structures are still visible today such as the churches of San Giusto in Salcio, San Polo in Rosso, Spaltenna and San Vincenti, all of which used to be part of the powerful diocese of Fiesole except the last which belonged to the Bishop of Arezzo. Ownership of the Montegrossi fort was particularly violently contested. This feudal castle on the Valdarno road was fought over by Florence and Imperial forces.

In the XIV century, Gaiole became the region capital for ‘terziere’ within the Lega del Chianti (Chianti League). This political and military association was run from Florence. What was already a centre for trade and business became an important defensive bulwark between Florence and Siena and the town was continually rampaged through until 1555. In that year, Siena definitively surrendered and became an annexation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

The Chianti League was broken up in 1776 when the ruling Lorena family turned the ‘terzieri’ towns into independent municipalities. The Gaiole region is home to many different Medieval castles. Visitors can admire Cacchiano Castle, built in the XIII century by the Ricasoli family. This castle was destroyed by the Aragonesi in 1478 and then rebuilt in 1530.

The same family also gave Gaiole Brolio Castle which was transformed into a Neo-gothic villa in the XIX century. In was renovated by the famous architect, Sangallo in 1484 after a military strike by the Sienese. Monteluco Castle sits on a hilltop just a few kilometres from Gaiole.

Geography of the Tuscany Region

GEOGRAPHY OF THE TUSCANY REGION

geography of the tuscany region

The Tuscany Region has a varied and complex morphology; ranges of mountains and hills alternate with foothills and strips of plain. The true Tusco-Emilian Apennines can be distinguished from the mountainous and hilly groups of the Preapennines, separated by an imaginary line linking Montecatini Terme to Chiusi.

The highest chains along the watershed strip, the Pratomagno group (1,592 m.), the Chianti hills and the southern chain, which stretches between Casentino and Val di Chiana to the west and Val Tiberina to the east, are part of the Apennines; the Apuan Alps (1,945 m.) branch off from the ridge on the inner side. The trachyte massif of Mount Amiata (1,738 m.) and the Colline Metallifere belong to the Tuscan Apennines. The intermontane basins are of particular interest, especially for their settlements; the largest and best defined are Lunigiana, near the upper Magra valley, Garfagnana (upper Serchio basin), the basin of Florence, Mugello (upper Sieve valley), Valdarno Superiore, Casentino, Val di Chiana and lastly, the upper section of Val Tiberina. The most extensive plains are Valdarno Inferiore, Versilia (at the foot of the Apuan Alps) and the coastal plains of Maremma).

The rivers in Tuscany are irregular in size, torrential and winding, for they have adapted to the morphology of the region. With the exception of the upper courses of the Reno, Santerno, Lamone, Marecchia and Foglia, which enter the Adriatic, all the other Tuscan rivers flow into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The most important are the Tiber (only a stretch of its upper course in Tuscany), the Arno with its tributaries, the Sieve, Bisenzio, Greve, Pesa, Elsa and Era, the Magra and the Serchio, respectively flowing through Lunigiana and Garfagnana; the Cecina, the Ombrone and the Albegna, which flow through the Preapennine range.

The climate is temperate but there are considerable zonal variations depending on the distance from the sea, altitude and the position of the mountains. Generally speaking, the temperatures decrease from the Maremma coastal areas (to the SW) towards the Apennines (to the NE). Precipitations fall mainly in spring and autumn. The wettest zones are those of the north-western Apennines and Pratomagno, the Catenaia Alp, the Chianti mountains, the Mount Amiata group and the highest parts of the Colline Metallifere, while the driest are the coastal belt, the plains and the intermontane basins.

LANDSCAPE OF THE TUSCANY REGION

Greve In Chianti | Tuscany Region

GREVE IN CHIANTI | TUSCANY REGION

 greve chianti tuscany

Greve in Chianti sits at an altitude of 236m in the Chianti Hills, part of the Florence Province, and has a population of around thirteen thousand inhabitants. Greve has been inhabited since the Etruscans made the area their home. Many local places names however were given by the Romans who later settled in the region.

The town centre dates back to the Middle Ages. The town was able to develop thanks to its proximity to the ancient pilgrims’ route, the Via Francigena, and the Via Volterrana which led to Volterra, both of which brought much trade and business to the area.

The town’s population increased and many churches and castles were built in the area. The town’s history of wine making stretches back as far as the fourteenth century and the wine produced then was considered as prestigious as it is today. Many noble Florentine families, who were the main consumers of locally produced wines, invested in the area and helped the local farms.

After the unification of Italy, Greve became the most important town in the Chianti region. Local sites of interest are Santa Croce Church in the town centre, the nearby castle at Borgo di Montefioralle, San Cresci Church and Sacro Cuore Church at Greti.

Grosseto Province | Tuscany Province

GROSSETO PROVINCE | TUSCANY

grosseto province

The Grosseto Province includes the larger part of the Natural Park of the Maremma, traditionally populated by the butteri, cattle-breeders who used horses until recently, with a distinctive style of saddle.

Once unhealthy because of the many marshes, Maremma was drained during the fascist regime and re-populated with people coming from other Italian regions, notably from the Veneto Region. Today the area is provided with significant natural and environmental resources, where ancient traditions have survived and Tuscan culture is preserved.

grosseto-province

PLACES TO VISIT IN THE GROSSETO PROVINCE

Guide to Bouldering Areas in the Tuscany Region, Italy

 bouldering areas in the tuscany region

Bouldering Sites in the Tuscany Region

In the southwest area of Tuscany there are a few sandstone bouldering sites and out on the islands of Giglio and Elba, you will find sever granite blocs.

BOULDERING AREAS IN THE TUSCANY REGION

Sasso Fortino
Monte Amiata
Giglio Island
Elba Island

Hike Tuscany

HIKING THE TUSCANY REGION

The best way to explore Tuscany is on foot. From the peaks of the Tuscan mountains to the Via Francigena, travellers and nature lovers can walk their way through the beauties of Tuscany. Walking through Tuscany, exploring it slowly to savour the details and nuances that are often missed. Trekking is a way of being in direct contact with nature and this incredible landscape. These are unique experiences that are very different from mass tourism.  

Tuscany is the ideal place for this kind of 'slow travel' because it offers a host of different landscapes—from the mountain peaks of the Apennines to the Tuscan Maremma. Step by step, excursionists always  find something spectacular and unexpected before them. A rich network of footpaths crosses the region: itineraries for all kinds of trekkers. From Sunday treks with the whole family in the region's natural parks to more difficult routes for mountain trekkers—the region offers a wealth of options.  

Unspoilt nature, routes with varying difficulty that can be combined with sports or cuisine: this is the Garfagnana. Here you'll find small medieval hamlets, where age-old traditions can still be experienced. A beautiful show of the white mountains of the Apuan Alps: marble that sparkles under the bright rays of the sun. Only here can you find such beauty.

URBAN TREKING IN TUSCANY

For those who want to avoid high altitudes, Siena and its footpaths are a perfect alternative. With its ups and downs, Siena is ideal for urban trekking because it is the perfect marriage between physical activity and art. On the hills that surround Florence, some 170 km of paths await. Along the Ring of the Renaissance, trekkers will walk through ancient monasteries, castles, churches, towns until reaching the Tuscan capital.  

For those who prefer the seaside, the Costa degli Etruschi offers itineraries characterized by sky, land and sea. These itineraries can also be travelled by mountain bike or on horseback.

Hiking the Tuscany Region

HIKING THE TUSCANY REGION

Hiking in Tuscany

The best way to explore the Tuscany Region is on foot. From the peaks of the Tuscan mountains to the Via Francigena, travellers and nature lovers can walk their way through the beauties of Tuscany. Walking through Tuscany, exploring it slowly to savour the details and nuances that are often missed. Trekking is a way of being in direct contact with nature and this incredible landscape. These are unique experiences that are very different from mass tourism.  

Tuscany is the ideal place for this kind of 'slow travel' because it offers a host of different landscapes—from the mountain peaks of the Apennines to the Tuscan Maremma. Step by step, excursionists always  find something spectacular and unexpected before them. A rich network of footpaths crosses the region: itineraries for all kinds of trekkers. From Sunday treks with the whole family in the region's natural parks to more difficult routes for mountain trekkers—the region offers a wealth of options.  

Unspoilt nature, routes with varying difficulty that can be combined with sports or cuisine: this is the Garfagnana. Here you'll find small medieval hamlets, where age-old traditions can still be experienced. A beautiful show of the white mountains of the Apuan Alps: marble that sparkles under the bright rays of the sun. Only here can you find such beauty.

URBAN TREKING IN TUSCANY

For those who want to avoid high altitudes, Siena and its footpaths are a perfect alternative. With its ups and downs, Siena is ideal for urban trekking because it is the perfect marriage between physical activity and art. On the hills that surround Florence, some 170 km of paths await. Along the Ring of the Renaissance, trekkers will walk through ancient monasteries, castles, churches, towns until reaching the Tuscan capital.  

For those who prefer the seaside, the Costa degli Etruschi offers itineraries characterized by sky, land and sea. These itineraries can also be travelled by mountain bike or on horseback.

History of Cortona | Tuscany

HISTORY OF CORTONA | TUSCANY

As far as the Florentine ruling class was concerned: to increase the value of the vast territorial consistency of Tuscany, like ancient Etruria, as well as the antiquity of all of its most famous cities since primordial civilisations immediately after the Great Flood, with the aim of obtaining for that territory and for those cities the recognition of Grand Duchy and the title of Grand Duke for Cosimo, something that was given to him by Pio V in 1570.

As far as Cortona’s ruling class was concerned: to increase the value of the antiquity of the city presenting it as the most noble and ancient among Tuscany’s cities, whose autonomous system, dating back to the Etruscan lucumonia (religious city state), was subsequently moulded in the free Medieval council. In the context of a confrontation, in that rather fierce period with the Florentine Lords to which Cortona had been subordinated, the re-evaluation of the legendary myths, and particularly the Etruscan one, allowed Cortona’s ruling class to have an ally in the demands of civic autonomy.
 
Giacomo Lauro’s 17th Century guide, drawing on writings by Annio Viterbese (1432-1502), that in turn draws on many antiquitous writers, states that 108 years after the Great Flood, Noah, navigating from the mouth of the Tiber River and crossing the Paglia, entered the Chiana Valley and liking this place more than any other in Italy because it was very fertile land, stayed to live here for 30 years. His descendents, among which a son named Crano who, upon reaching a hilltop and liking the height of the place and the amenity of the town and the tranquillity of the air, founded the city of Cortona in the 273rd year after the Great Flood. Stefano (first half of the VI century AD 539-545), a great Greek historian affirms that this made Cortona the third Italian city to be built after the Flood, and that it was a metropolis of the ancient Turreni. Noah, seeing that Crano had done well, called him Corito, i.e., King and Successor of the Realm: in fact ‘Curim’, from which comes ‘Corito’, means sceptre which in Latin is ‘Quirim’, from which comes the epithet ‘Quirino’ given to Romolo. Crano, having taken on the title of King, on the hilltop built a royal palace in the form of a tower, the remains of which live on in the hamlet of Torremozza.
 
Crano’s realm was called Turrenia because the cities that Noah’s descendents built had high towers. This was Tuscany’s first name and Turreni was the name given to its inhabitants. But since they descended from Noah who had been saved from the waters “ad imbribus” some were called Imbri, and vulgarly Umbri. From Carno’s lineage Dardano was born who, following internal conflicts, escaped to Samothrace, then to Phrygia and finally to Lidia, where he founded the city of Troy. From Troy some of Dardano’s descendents, by now Greek, came back to live in Turrenia, i.e., Tuscany, and these were the Etruscans. Among these
Greeks that came to Turrenia and to Cortona were also Ulysses and Pythagoras. In fact, ancient tradition, reported by the Greek writers Aristotle (IV century BC) and his contemporary Theopompus, would have Ulysses emigrate, after his return to Ithaca and the massacre of the Proci, to Italy and more precisely to Etruria, in the city that Theopompus calls in Greek ‘Curtonaia’, and his burial took place right here in Cortona or in the surrounding area. In Etruria Ulysses, who was very esteemed here, was called ‘Nanos’, the ‘Rambler’, and his burial was identified in the “Monte Perge” near to today’s hamlet of Pergo. Pythagoras after a trip to Cortona where he died, was buried in a tomb that is today known as “Pythagoras’ Grotto”: in actual fact this wrong attribution was probably caused by confusion between the town names Cortona and Crotone. According to Virgil (Aeneid III and VII) Aeneas, descendent of Dardano, while fleeing from the destroyed city of Troy docked in Lazio where his descendents founded Rome. Therefore, this tradition would have it that Cortona gave origin first to Troy and then to Rome.

History of Pisa

History of Pisa

Pisa is, of course, famous first and foremost for its "leaning tower", but the entire architectural complex on the Campo dei Miracoli, of which the tower is a part, is extremely interesting and attractive. Pisa is situated on the Arno, six miles from the sea coast of Tuscany, Italy. The walks along the banks of Arno here are as beautiful as in Florence, if not more so, and the town is packed with architectural gems.

The origins of Pisa and Etruscan Pisa

Neolithic remains indicate that the mouth of the Arno was settled in very early times and most likely Ligurian colonists of Celtic origin settled here. We know that Pisa was a port of call for the Greeks and the legend of Pelops, who left the banks of the Alpheo, a river in the Peloponnese, for those of the Arno to found a new Pisa is possibly supported by Virgil in the 10th book of the Aeneid.

In the Etruscan period between the 6th and 3rd centuries B.C., Pisa, situated near the extreme northern border of Etruria, was influenced by Volterra but never became more than a modest village of fishermen and boat builders, probably limited by the instability of the coastline and the periodic floods of the Arno.

Roman Pisa

As Etruria was romanised, Pisa grew in importance and was an ally of Rome in the long wars against the Ligurians and the Carthaginians. The port (Portus Pisanus), situated between the mouth of the river (at that time near where San Piero a Grado stands today) and that portion of the coast now occupied by Livorno, constituted an ideal naval base for the Roman fleet in its expeditions against the Ligurians and the Gauls, and in the operations aimed at subjugating Corsica, Sardinia and various coastal zones of Spain. Pisa, as an ally of Rome, then became a colonia, a municipium and in the time of Octavianus Augustus (1st cent. B.C.) was known as Colonia Julia Pisana Obsequens. In the meanwhile the growth in population, the development of shipbuilding and trade - fostered by the establishment of the Via Aurelia and the Via Aemilia Scaurii as well as by the harbour - resulted in an expansion of the inhabited area which was soon surrounded by walls.

The imperial period was noted for the magnificence of its public and private buildings. Although now traces of Roman life in Pisa are scarce (Baths of Hadrian, improperly called the 'Baths of Nero', capitals from the age of Severus, 3rd century A.D.), there were probably a forum and a palatium as well as an amphitheatre, public baths, a naval base and numerous temple structures, replaced by churches in Christian times. In 1991, excavations carried out near the Arena Garibaldi revealed the presence of an Etruscan necropolis on which a domus augustea was laid out in Roman times.

Mediaeval Pisa and the rise of the Maritime Republic

Legend has it that the first Christian influences were introduced into the area of Pisa by Saint Peter himself, who landed 'ad Gradus' in 47 A.D. and a basilica was subsequently built there. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Pisa passed first under the Lombards and then under the Franks. In the early Middle Ages, the city's maritime ambitions burgeoned and Pisa soon came into conflict with the Saracens, who were aiming at full supremacy of the Mediterranean. With bases in Corsica and Sardinia, they frequently threatened the lands controlled by the Church itself. The story of Kinzica de' Sismondi is set in this period. This young Pisan heroine is said to have saved the city from a Saracen incursion while most of the Pisan army and fleet were out driving the moslem infidels from Reggio Calabria (1005).

Between 1016 and 1046, the Pisans conquered Sardinia and finally also Corsica (1052), thus laying the foundations for effective control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. After these successes, the city, with Papal consent, sent the fleet to Sicily to support the struggle of the Norman Roger I and Robert against the Saracens. After breaking the chains of the harbour of Palermo, the ships hoisted their standard - the Pisan Cross in a field of red (the city's standard since the exploit of Sardinia) - and defeated the enemy (1062), returning home with such rich booty that they were able to begin the construction of the Cathedral.

In the meantime, rivalry with Genoa let to a naval conflict, in which the Pisans were victorious, opposite the mouth of the Arno (6 September 1060), while in a larger Mediterranean theatre the Pisan fleet successfully took part in the first Crusade. These positive results helped the Maritime Republic consolidate its position in the Near Eastern ports of call and in particular in Constantinople. The subsequent conquest of the Balearic Isles, completed in 1115, and the victory over Amalfi (1136), coincided with the peak of the city's maritime and military power.

But the 13 C was to be disastrous for Pisa, whose standing in the Western Mediterranean had in the meanwhile equalled that of Venice in the Adriatic and the Eastern Mediterranean. The continuous rivalry on the seas with Genoa and fierce conflicts with the Guelph cities of Tuscany (headed by Florence and Lucca) led to an inexorable downfall. As a result of its unconditioned support of Imperial policies, but above all because of the seizing of a group of ecclesiastic dignitaries who were on their way to Rome to take part in a council which could have ended in the removal of Frederick II of Swabia (1241), Pisa was excommunicated by the Pope, and had to wage a bitter struggle on two fronts - against Genoa (which also declared Guelph sympathies) and against the Tuscan cities which had by then become members of the Guelph League.

The fall of the Maritime Republic of Pisa and the rise of Medici suzerainty

The signoria of Piero Gambacorti seemed to inaugurate a period of relative peace and prosperity but his treacherous assassination (21 October 1392) by hired killers instigated by the Visconti, delivered Pisa into the hands of the lords of Milan. In 1405, they traded Pisa off to the Florentines for money. The indignation and fierce resistance of the Pisans was weakened by a series of negative events and in the end the city had to surrender after a siege. This episode (9 October 1406) marked the irreversible fall of the glorious Maritime Republic. The subsequent advent of the French king Charles VIII aroused new hopes of independence in the city but the Florentines hastened to gather under the walls of their once invincible rival and again besieged it together with their allies. The indomitable resistance of the Pisans was so strong the Florentines even though of deviating the course of the Arno and called in Leonardo da Vinci  for this purpose, but the idea remained on paper, for Pisa, exhausted by famine, had to accept the Florentine signoria (20 October 1509). The Medici government of Cosimo I resulted in a renaissance in the city: university activity was rationalised and augmented, various public offices were organised, and, most important, the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen was instituted (1561), bringing new lymph to the Pisan maritime traditions, and taking part in the epic naval encounter of Lepanto (7 October 1571). In that circumstance the Christian fleet, the expression of a coalition of European powers (the papacy and Spain, Venice and the House of Savoy and still others), under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, assisted by Gian Andrea Doria, Marcantonio Colonna, Ettore Spinola and Sebastiano Veniero, wiped out the maritime power of the Ottoman Turks captained by Mehemet Ali.

Subsequent Medici rulers achieved important public works, such as the Aqueduct of Asciano (1601) and the Canal of the Navicelli - between Pisa and Livorno (1603). In the early 1630s, a fierce plague raged through the city. With the advent of the Lorraine government which obtained the sovereignty of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1738, as established by the treaty of Vienna, the rationalisation of the cultural institutions began (the Scuola Normale was once more opened, 1847).

Modern Pisa

The re-unification of Italy also involved the citizens of Pisa: on the unforgettable day of Curtatone and Montanara (28 May 1848), the volunteers and the university students, who had cut off the tips of their university caps in order to aim their guns better, wrote one of the most glowing pages of the first war of independence. The year 1860 marked the plebiscite adhesion to the Kingdom of Italy: two years later Pisa bestowed a warm welcome on Garibaldi who had been wounded on the Aspromonte. The most recent history of the city includes the devastating destruction of World War II and in 1966 the disastrous flood of the Arno resulted in the collapse of the Ponte Solferino and the partial destruction of the Lungarno Pacinotti.

Il Gabellaccia Climbing Area, Carrara-Massa Province

IL GABELLACCIA ROCK CLIMBING AREA | TUSCANY REGION

Rock Cilmbing Italy, Gabellaccia Site

The Gabellaccia climbing site is located along the Genova to Livorno highway.  It is a large limestone wall that is still being developed.  When I visited a few years ago there were several good routes on quality rock, with plenty of additional space to expand.  The site sets well above the valley at 900 meters in a quite area. 

IL GABELLACCIA ROCK CLIMBING GUIDE

REGION Tuscany
PROVINCE Carrara-Massa
CLOSEST TOWN Sarzana
GEOGRAPHY Apennine Mountains
BEST TIME OF YEAR  All Year
APPROACH TIME  20 minutes
ROCK  Limestone
HEIGHT  100 meters
RANGE OF GRADES  5 - 8c (50+ routes)
GUIDEBOOK/MAPS  
   

RECOMMENDED CLIMBS

  • N.R.B.Q. 7a+
  • Sopravoliamo 6a
  • Nosfigatus 7c+
  • L'amico delgiaguaro 7b

Lamporecchio | Tuscany Region

LAMPORECCHIO | TUSCANY REGION

Lamporecchio tuscany

Among the Montalbano hills, meet the queen of the “brigidini” brigidini Lamporecchio is a town situated in the province of Pistoia which extends for approximately 22 square kilometres between hills and plains. It is located in a central position, easily reachable from the main towns of Tuscany and placed between two natural jewels: the marsh of Fucecchio and the rolling Montalbano hills. Lamporecchio, known for its traditional “brigidini” wafers, first appears to be a modern town characterized by simple buildings flanking the main road, which leads from Saint Baronto to Mastromarco towards Empoli. Though Lamporecchio itself does not have a traditional historical center, there are numerous towns of historic, artistic and environmental interest located in the hill area of Montalbano: Spicchio, Orbignano, San Baronto, Papiano, Porciano, Lampaggio. Last but not least, visitors will delight in the beautiful landscape of Montalbano surrounding the town with its gentle hills covered of olive trees, cypresses and rows of vines.

SAN BARONTO

San Baronto is a small but lovely tourist town far from traffic, smog and noise. Visitors can spend a pleasant, peaceful and relaxing holiday in an attractive natural environment rich in vegetation, with woods surrounding the built-up area. San Baronto historically developed around the church (which was a convent until the 18th century), which has always represented the heart of the community. Thanks to its location along the important pass of Montalbano, San Baronto can be considered a terrace from which it is possible to enjoy a large part of the surrounding plain. And in summer, also from the small towns of surrounding plains, people come frequently to enjoy the cool breeze, the pure air, and the peace which seem to be the essential characteristics of the place, also known for the bicycle races . San Baronto is known for being the birthplace of many good and highly regarded cooks.

PAPIANO

Papiano is a small town located in the hill area around Lamporeccho between San Baronto and Porciano. A group of villas, which have been wisely restored in recent years, are dominated by the imposing “Villa dell'Americana”, a pilgrim hostel/hospital from the Middle Ages has since been turned into a villa.

ORBIGNANO

Orbignano retains its original name, which was mentioned as early as the 8th century according to a written document noting the donation of a olive grove to "Urbignanum" in 779 by the Longobard Aufuns to the convent of San Bartolomeo. There are also documents attesting to the fact that between 957 and 981, the Cathedral Presbytery of Pistoia rented a house of its property situated in "locus qui dicitur Orbignano". The "Villa de Urbiniano" was recognized by Bono, Bishop of Pistoia, with diploma of Emperor Enrico VI dated October 1196, but we know that in the following years Orbignano, with other localities of the area (for example Lamporecchio), was long fought over by the Clergy and the City of Pistoia. Around mid-8th century Orbignano appeared as rural town under Pistoia's dominion. In 1351, Orbignano, like Lamporecchio, became property of Florence.

Lariciano | Tuscany Region

LARICIANO | TUSCANY REGION

Lariciano tuscany 

The municipality of Lariciano is located in the Province of Pistoia; it currently hosts a population of approximately 6,000 people. located on the slopes of Montalbano, the Commune of Larciano extends for 21 square kilometres and includes the hamlets of S. Rocco, Larciano, Cecina, Castelmartini and the centres of Baccane, Colonna and Biccimurri. Larciano Alto has maintained the medieval urban structure and the enclosing walls of the 13th century, with three access gates to the borough. On the highest point we find the “Rocca” (fortress), probably built by the people of Pistoia after the purchase, in 1226, of the Castle of Larciano.

Larciano Castello is one of the most famous centres of the province of Pistoia, thanks to its position far from the main roads. Its location contributes to its lasting fascination of the ancient atmosphere which pervades the area. We can reach it from Monsummano, following the State Road 436 to Fucecchio, or from S. Baronto, the most comfortable and also the most interesting way, or from Pistoia.

Larciano dominates the whole Valdinievole; it was an important fortified village during the Middle Ages, being one of the bases of the defensive system of Pistoia. About the origin of the name there are various hypotheses: the Roman derivation is supported from the fact that in the 4th century BC a settlement called "Villa Larziana" existed here.

Another possibility is that the name comes from the name of a Roman centurion, Laertia, who, in 122 BC, founded a village on the south-western slopes of Montalbano, called Laertiano. Others simply think it comes from "larice"(larch), because it seems that the area, in past times, was rich in larches woods.

This powerful feudal lordship reconfirmed its domain on several occasions, as historians have inferred from the diplomatic acts of Henry IV and Frederick II. In 1225, Lariciano was purchased from the free town of Pistoia, together with Cecina, Casi and Collecchio, becoming one of the most important defence bastions controlled by Pistoia on the western side of Montalbano.

As far back as 1302, the village was occupied by the Guelphs of Florence, which emerged as victor against the Ghibellines of Pistoia. Thus, in 1310, Pistoia was forced to buy back the castle a second time. In 1391, despite the fact that Florence and Pistoia had since become allies, the military-strategic importance of this stronghold increased. During this period, Larciano was considered a barrier between the part of Tuscany that was dominated by the Republic and the troops sent from Milan by Galeazzo Visconti.

In 1401, the whole countryside surrounding Pistoia was finally integrated into the Florentine Republic and the territory was divided into four sections—Larciano became one of them. Later, it became part of the Serravalle area and the two localities formed a single community in 1772, thanks to territorial reorganization by Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine.

The ‘comunitas’ of Lamporecchio also arose due to these reforms and Larciano becames a part of it. The town, which achieved its autonomy in 1897, now hosts the Larciano Castle and San Rocco (where the town hall is located), in addition to the hamlets of Biagiotti, Biccimurri, Castelmartini and Cecina.

LOCATED AROUND LARCIANO

Castelmartini can be reached from Monsummano by taking the State Road 436, towards Fucecchio. The first settlement, which gave the name to the hamlet of the Commune of Larciano, is situated to south of the present "via Francesca". Its ancient origins date back to the end of the 13th century; the locality in fact, is mentioned for the first time in the " Liber Censuum " in 1297, when Martinus Jacobi Admannati get build a "domus" and a "castrum" (from which the name Castrum Martini = Castelmartini), then another fortified building near a " hospitium " called S. Donnino, not far away from the place where Pistoia had a port which, through the channels of the swamps and the Arno, placed it in connection with Pisa.

This ancient hospital was connected moreover to a road of particular interest which went through Montalbano. The " castrum " of Martino di Jacobo Ammannati passed to the Commune in 1226 (Berti), year of purchase of the fief of Larciano, to which belonged also S. Donnino. Between 1315 and 1325, a period of serious crisis for Pistoia, the hospital of S. Donnino was destroyed. About the castle, which belonged to Martino di Jacobo, from whom derives the name of the locality where the castle was, we do not know exactly its history ; today, part of the ancient building is probable included in the "Villa-fattoria" of Poggio Banchieri, built in the 19th century.

Cecina, placed on a hill in a panoramic position, is an interesting and pleasant village of ancient origins which in the medieval age played a considerable role as protecting castle of the southern boundaries of the territory of Pistoia. It can be reached from Pistoia by taking the road for San Baronto as far as Cantagrillo,from there for Baco and then by crossing over Montalbano. Coming from Monsummano instead, take the State Road 436 towards Montevettolini as far as Cecina. Cecina, derived from Caecina, Kaiknas, is certainly an Etruscan name. From the end of the 14th century ,when Pistoia definitively submitted to Florence, Cecina gained some autonomy, which it maintened until the 18th century.

Livorno Province | Tuscany

LIVORNO PROVINCE | TUSCANY

livorno province beach

The Livorno province is a long coastal strip in the center of the region. It includes most of the Tuscan archipelago and Elba, 20 km from the coast, the third largest Italian island after Sicily and Sardinia, with 8 "comuni": Portoferraio, Campo nell'Elba, Capoliveri Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, Rio Marina and Rio nell'Elba.

The province derives from the homonymous district of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which included however only the city of Livorno and the islands of Elba, Gorgona, Montecristo and Pianosa.

In 1925 Costanzo Ciano promoted the expansion of the province with the island of Capraia from the Province of Genoa and Bibbona, Campiglia Marittima, Castagneto Carducci, Cecina, Collesalvetti, Piombino, Rosignano Marittimo, Sassetta and Suvereto from the province of Pisa.

livorno-province

Lunigiana Area | Tuscany Region

LUNIGIANA AREA | TUSCANY REGION

lunigiana region map tuscany

Lunigiana is a historical region located in both Tuscany and Liguria, between the La Spezia and Massa-Carrara provinces. It owns its name to the city of Luni, an ancient Etruscan city, and then Roman colony in 177 BC. In the 5th century, the Lunigiana was robbed by the Vandals, and then by the Longobards of Rotari. At the end of the first millenium, the earl-bishops of Luni and the Malaspina family fought for the predominion of Lunigiana. The dispute was finally resolved on behalf of the Malaspina that started an hegemony on the region.

Today Lunigiana corresponds to the valley of the Magra River, thus it is administratively divided between two Provinces: La Spezia and Massa Carrara. However, in the past Lunigiana covered a bigger area represented by the diocese of Luni.

Thanks to its geographical features and to its strategic position, the Magra Valley has always been a natural corridor that has seen the passage of different peoples who have strongly influenced the history and organization of this territory. Lunigiana has featured a strong cultural identity since the Prehistoric Era, as witnessed by the popular Statue Stele, anthropomorphic stone statues dating back to the 4th-1st millennium B.C., kept at the Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli.

The name “Lunigiana” was first used in 1141 to indicate a territory belonging to the Roman municipality of Luni and to its 35 Parish churches scattered around the Magra Valley, Serchio Valley and the coast as far as Versilia in the South and Levanto towards West. This territory is today referred to as “Lunigiana Storica” (Historical Lunigiana).

The Romans, who had defeated the Ligurian people living in this area, founded the city of Luni at the mouth of River Magra in 177 B.C.. Luni was very powerful especially during the Imperial time when they started to excavate the nearby marble quarries in Carrara. Thanks to the harbour these products could be shipped to all the territories belonging to the Empire. Also, the area was well connected already in the Republican Age thanks to an efficient road system. Unfortunately, the city experienced a productive and trade crisis in the 4th century due to the shutting down of the marble quarries and to the abandon of the harbour that became a marsh.

After the decay of Luni no other city or political power managed to give a unified administrative entity to Lunigiana again. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, during the barbarian invasions (6th-7th century), in Lunigiana Byzantines fought against the Longobards, therefore in this period many castles and fortifications were built. When the Longobards won, Lunigiana passed under the influence of Lucca that continued also during the rule of the Franks.

While Luni was suffering sackings by the Saracens and Normans, the Frankish dukedom was replaced by a Carolingian march, however no political change took place until the 10th century. The territory was organized according to the “curtes”, rural land properties that were the basis on which the following division into fiefdoms took place. These lands belonged mainly to rich families, in particular to the Obertenghi, but also to the Church and its bishops.

At the half of the 10th century the King of Italy Berengario II founded the Mark of Liguria Orientale (Eastern Liguria) ruled by the Earl Luni Oberto of the Obertenghi family. Lunigiana was included into this Mark so it was no longer under the influence of Lucca.

In the 10th-11th century, the territory was divided into numerous small land properties due to the crisis of the Italian Reign and to the absence of strong urban centres.

Therefore, in the 12th and 13th century Lunigiana experienced a political instability during which two political entities in contrast with one another emerged: the Malaspina family (part of the Obertenghi dinasty) on one side and the bishops of Luni on the other. They fought each other throughout the 13th century until the 1304 when they finally signed the Treaty of Castelnuovo in the presence of the poet Dante Alighieri (who was exiled in Lunigiana) as their solicitor.

With this treaty, the bishop of Luni maintained its rule over the coast and the lower Magra valley whereas all upper Lunigiana was assigned to the Malaspina who however were unable to create a unified fiefdom. The lands were in fact divided in two parts: the “Spino Secco”, ruled by Corrado Malaspina, included the lands on the right riverside of the Magra River whereas the “Spino Fiorito”, referring to Obizzo Malaspina, covered the left riverside with the exception of Villafranca. Pontremoli was the only town that was not subjected to the Malaspina rule and that acted as an independent Comune for centuries.

Throughout the Late Middle Ages Lunigiana was divided into smaller and smaller fiefdoms ruled by different foreign lords. Some popular characters of that time, such as Castruccio Castracani and Spinetta Malaspina, tried to unify the territory without any luck so in the 14th century Lunigiana was divided between the main cities of that period: Genoa, Milan, Lucca and Florence.

During the Modern Age Lunigiana continued to be a territory at the border of different municipalities and small fiefdoms ruled by the Malaspina. When Napoleon occupied Italy, the local fiefdoms had to pledge loyalty to the French Empire, but with the Vienna Congress Lunigiana was assigned again to the Italian dukedoms of Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Sardinia.

 

Maremma | Tuscany Region

THE MAREMMA | TUSCANY REGION

maremma tuscany

The Maremma is a huge and, in the south, quite untamed area of southwestern Tuscany, Italy (Toscana) and northern Latium (Lazio) which is unjustifiably off the beaten track for visitors to Tuscany, both Italian and foreign, despite there now being numerous comfortable and economical vacation accommodations and other places to stay in the Maremma. The region is characterised by extensive forests, spectacular hill country and lightly populated coastal regions, including salt marshes and estuaries inhabited by unusual flora and fauna, plus numerous small towns and villages that preserve Tuscan customs and a way of life that have become much harder to find in other parts of Tuscany and Lazio. With a little effort, any visitor to the Maremma will be rewarded every day by attractive and interesting experiences and sights. With a bit of luck, one might encounter the famous butteri, the cowboys of the Maremma and the unusual breed of steer that they farm.

The Alta Maremma or Upper Maremma begins more or less at the Cecina River just south of Livorno and covers the Colline Metallifere (metaliferous hills) around Massa Marittima, the inland hills from Roccastrada south to Scansano plus the area extending from Grosseto as far as San Quirico and Monte Amiata. Although known for centuries for its malaria and bandits, the Maremma is now apprciated for its numerous wild life reserves and is also the home of the first of the "super Tuscan" wines, Sassicaia, produced by the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta at Tenuta San Guido near Bolgheri. In addition to Sassicaia, Bolgheri is now famous for wines such as Grattamacco, Ornellaia and Paleo.

The Bassa (Lower or Southern) Maremma extends from Grosseto southwards past the Costa Argento into Latium.

Massa and Cozzile | Tuscany Region

MASSA AND COZZILE | TUSCANY REGION

massa e cozzile tuscany

The community of Massa and Cozzile, in the Province of Pistoia, is made up of two districts. Massa has Roman origins while Cozzile was established later. The two centers are linked by an ancient Roman road that can still be travelled today. Inside the castle of Massa, you can visit the Romanesque parish church of Santa Maria Assunta and the Monastery of the Visitation. In the Cozzile Castle, you can admire the Palazzo de Gubertanis. Massa is one of the oldest villages in the Valdinievole area; this fact is proven thanks to numerous archaeological discoveries including coins, urns and epigraphs found in the surrounding area. It is believed that between the fourth and third century A.C., the current-day castle developed as a Roman center for agriculture.

The structure was fortified during the Middle Ages and it is still possible to admire the old gate-ways known as ‘Porta al Campo’ and ‘Porta Fontana’.
 
Historical sources refer to Massa as far back as the XI century, together with the Verruca Castle. The latter dates back to the year 1000 and it was mentioned in an imperial document from the X century, which belonged to Ottone III. Cozzile appeared later, yet, it still dates back to the Middle Ages. Massa benefited from autonomous statutes as far back as 1208, yet it was always considered to be under Lucca’s control. Massa became a possession of Florence in 1339, when—together with Cozzile—it became the center of attention during Valdinievole’s wars between Pistoia, Lucca, Florence and Pisa.

Thanks to reforms issued by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, Massa became a ‘comunitas’ that also incorporated Buggiano. The municipality of Massa and Cozzile only became autonomous in1814. Following the Congress of Vienna and the reorganization of Emperor Napoleon’s domains, the Duke allowed for the separation of Buggiano and Massa. Currently, the town is home to 7,000 inhabitants.

Monsummano Rossa Climbing Area, Pistoia Province

MONSUMMANO ROSSA ROCK CLIMBING AREA | TUSCANY REGION

Rock Climb Italy, Monsummano Site

Monsummano Rossa is an old quarry area near Montecatini Terme which has become one of the winter sites for climbers in Tuscany.  The area is well protected for the elements and the climbing is on routes well protected.  Most of the climbing tends to be in the middle grade of difficulty but there are plenty of easier climbs to enjoy.  I like the area and would suggest a stop if you are driving from Pisa to Florence. 

MONSUMMANO ROSSA ROCK CLIMBING GUIDE

REGION Tuscany
PROVINCE Pistoia
NEAREST CITY Monsummano Terme
Rock Climb Italy, Monsummano Climb
BEST TIME OF YEAR  Winter
APPROACH TIME  5 minutes
ROCK  Limestone
HEIGHT  30 meters
RANGE OF GRADES  5 - 8a (50+ routes)
GUIDEBOOK/MAPS  

RECCOMENDED ROUTES:

  • Bada bimba 6c
  • Luce da Orione 7b
  • Io speriamo che me lacavo 7c
  • Testae sciroppate 8a

Monsummano Terme | Tuscany Region

MONSUMMANO TERME | TUSCANY REGION

Monsummano Terme Tuscany

Monsummano Terme and its surrounding villages has everything from spas to handmade shoes. Situated between the last ramifications of Montalbano and the northern border of the "Padule di Fucecchio" (the Marsh of Fucecchio), Monsummano Terme is now famous as a thermal resort and for the production of shoes, exported all over the world.
 
The town has expanded around the "Santuario della Madonna della Fontenuova" (the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Fontenuova) founded in 1602, at the will of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici in gratitude for a miraculous event. The northern side of the main square boasts the "Osteria dei Pellegrini"(1607), which houses the "Museo della Città e del Territorio".
 
The museum is divided into several sections: geology and palaeontology, environment and history, archaeology, the "Padule" (marshes) and reclamation, grand-ducal farms, sacred art and popular religion, the treasure of the "Madonna della Fontenuova", the "Valdinievole felix", the "termalismo"(thermal baths), and industry in the area.

VILLAGES AROUND MONSUMMANO

Medieval villages Monsummano Alto and Montevettolini are set in the surrounding hills. Monsummano is the birthplace of well known Italians including the poet Giuseppe Giusti (1809-1850), whose house has now become "Museo Statale di Casa Giusti ", and Ferdinando Martini (1841-1928), a man of culture and a brilliant politician whose stately villa, "Villa Renatico Martini", built around 1887, is seat of a 20th century art collection called "Il Recanatico".

MONSUMMANO ALTO

The hill of Monsummano rises 340 meters above sea-level at the northern foot of Montalbano. Today some ruins of the ancient castle still remain, surrounded by a two-kilometer long, elliptic circle of walls, as well as two of three sets of doors: the north-west door of "Nostra Donna" (Our Lady) and the so-called "Porta del Mercato"(Market Door) or "Porticciola" (Little Door). The latter is almost intact and faces the hill of Montevettolini. At the end of the walls a solid, pentagonal tower is still standing. It dates back to the beginning of the 14th century and it is one of the most imposing towers in the province.
 
The church of San Nicolao is the best preserved building in the village. It was built over-looking the ancient platea communis in the 11th century. On the northern side is the ancient Church of San Sebastiano. In front of it are the foundations of two buildings and fragments of ceramics from various ages, which were found during recent excavation. On the western side there are ruins of a convent almost hidden by the undergrowth surrounding the heart of the castle, and on the eastern side, ruins of the ancient Spedale di San Bartolomeo (Hospital) appear next to the tower.

MONTEVETTOLINI

The small borough of Montevettolini rises at the northwestern foot of Montalbano. It was founded on the top of the hill around the 12th century. The Medicis chose Montevettolini as their resting place while hunting, and at the end of the 16th century, Ferdinando I entrusted Gherardo Mechini and Domenico Marcacci to build the imposing villa, today known as the Borghese at the western end of the surrounding walls. Ruins of the surrounding walls and of one of the six castle defence towers, the so-called "Torre dello Sprone" or "Torre delle Murina", can be seen to the west of the built-up area. The entrance to the village consisted of the following gates: the so-called "Porta del Cantone", which was incorporated into the Medicean villa, and the "Porta del Vicino" or "del Malvicino", later called "Porta dei Barbacci", the only one which is still undamaged.
 
Located in the borough was the oratory of San Francesco to the West of the church, and that of Corpus Domini built in Bargellini's square, which today is the seat of the local Music Society, founded in 1863.
 
The 13th century Town Hall still shows the podestas' coats of arms hanging on the facade, and it incorporates an ancient guard tower to the right. A medieval tower was used as a church belfry as well, which was built in the 15th century in the place of the older one, which had been incorporated inside the ecclesiastic building. A chapel dedicated to San Michele, belonging to "San Giovanni Battista" and "San Lorenzo a Vaiano"'s parish church, had risen in the place of the church since the 12th century. It was enlarged over the centuries and was given the status of parish church after the oppression of the parish of Vaiano in 1449, when it was dedicated to San Lorenzo, as well.

CINTOLESE

During the second half of the 18th century, the area that included the Cintolese borgo was part of a land reclamation project financed by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, which drained all of the marsh area. The reclamation allowed for new work and development projects in the agricultural sector. A new parish church was consecrated to Saint Leopold the Confessor in 1781.

Monteriggioni | Tuscany Region

MONTERIGGIONI | TUSCANY REGION

Monteriggio Tuscany 

Monteriggioni is located in the Chianti hills of the Siena Province. In the year 1000, Monteriggioni was a thriving town. The castle however, wasn’t built till 1213. It was built by the Republic of Siena who wanted it to be a kind of defensive outpost on the main road between Florence and Siena. It was one of the first castles built by the Siense who, until then, had always used the fortresses of weak feudal families.

The castle has two large entrances, one known as ‘romea’ which opened onto the road to Siena and another that faced Florence. The castle had several important defensive elements, such as the ‘carbonaie’ which were kept full of coal and could be set alight when needed in order to keep the enemy far from the castle walls. There are portcullises, towers and a second entrance that creates an anti-chamber for the Fiorentina Gate. Between 1244 and 1269 Florence tried many times to invade the town without success.

During the XIV century, the castle and surrounding town remained firmly in the hands of Siena, despite being weakened by the plague and an attempted invasion by a group of Sienese exiles in 1383 which failed due to lack of support from Florence. Nonetheless, the invention of gunpowder and the subsequent creation of the artillery made the castle much more vulnerable to attack. The walls were lowered and the ‘carbonaie’ were eliminated. Monteriggioni modernised its structure and was able to withstand the siege of 1554 by Papal troops who were historical allies of the Florentine Republic. However, shortly after this success, the town was betrayed by Captain Zeti who basically handed the town over to the Florentines without any kind of battle having to take place. This totally altered the balance between Florence and Siena and Florentine Medici troops were able to go on to take over the Sienese Republic.

The inhabitants of the castle were utterly humiliated and deported. The region came under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and stayed that way right up to the unification of Italy. Over the following centuries the castle belonged to various noteworthy families until it was bought in 1704 by the Griccioli family. Today, the same family still owns several properties both inside and outside the town’s walls.

Mount Amiata | Tuscany Region

MONTE AMIATA | TUSCANY REGION

monte amiata 

Mount Amiata is the largest of the lava domes in the Amiata lava dome complex located about 20 km northwest of Lake Bolsena in the southern Tuscany region of Italy. Half of the mountain area is in the Grosseto provinceand the northern slopes are within the Siena Province.

Mount Amiata (La Vetta) is a compound lava dome with a trachytic lava flow that extends to the east. It is part of the larger Amiata complex volcano. A massive viscous trachydacitic lava flow, 5 km long and 4 km wide, is part of the basal complex and extends from beneath the southern base of Corno de Bellaria dome. Radiometric dates indicate that the Amiata complex had a major eruptive episode about 300,000 years ago. No eruptive activity has occurred at Amiata during the Holocene, but thermal activity including cinnabar mineralization continues at a geothermal field near the town of Bagnore, at the SW end of the dome complex.

The main economical resources of the Amiata region are chestnuts, timber and, increasingly, tourism (ski resorts include the peak area, Prato delle Macinaie, Prato della Contessa, Rifugio Cantore and Pian della Marsiliana). The lower areas are characterized by olive trees and vines. Other vegetation include beech and fir. In ancient times cinnabar was extracted here. The region is included in the comuni of Abbadia San Salvatore, Arcidosso, Castel del Piano, Piancastagnaio, Santa Fiora and Seggiano, all located between 600 and 800 metres of altitude.

Piancastagnaio | Tuscany Region

PIANCASTAGNAIO | TUSCANY REGION

 piancastanaio tuscany

Piancastagnaio rises on the south-eastern slopes of Mount Amiata Piancastagnaio, in the Siena Province. The local economy is mainly based on the production of cereals, vegetables, fruit, vines, olives and on tourism, as the beauty of the area has caused the creation of many qualified hotel structures. The name of the place probably derives from the composite of “piano” with the meaning of “plain-lying place”, and of “castagnaio” coming from the Latin “castanea” with reference to the abundance of chestnut woods in the area. The town of Piancastagnaio was founded in the Middle Ages. From the very beginning it was placed under the jurisdiction of the Aldobrandeschi who built an imposing fortress that is still visible today. Over the following centuries the town of Piancastagnio was contested between the Aldobrandeschi, the monks of the nearby Abbey of Abbadia San Salvatore and the Visconti family.

During the XII century the city of Orvieto extended its influence on the town, annexing it to its holdings at the beginning of the following century. From the mid-14th century the Republic of Siena started competing with the city of Orvieto for the control of Piancastagnaio and succeeded at the beginning of the following century when they annexed the territory to the county. Piancastagnaio became a part of the Captaincy of Radicofani, remaining so until the mid-16th century when the Republic of Florence, after having previously defeated the Republic of Siena, annexed Piancastagnaio to its own dominions. And so domination started of the Medici Grand Dukes who were, at the time, in power in Florence. At the beginning of the XVII century Ferdinand I de’ Medici gave the village of Piancastagnaio as a fief to Giovanni Battista Bourbon del Monte.

Subsequently, with the rising of the di Lorena Dukes to power at the beginning of the XVIII century, feudalism was abolished. In 1776 Piero Leopoldo di Lorena elevated the village of Piancastagnaio to the rank of autonomous commune, equipped with its own statutes. Lorenese domination lasted almost uninterrupted until the unification of Italy in 1861 by King Vittorio Emanuale II di Savoia. Among the most important monuments in Piancastagnaio of particular interest is the Church of St. Bartholomew, the Sanctuary of the Madonna of St. Peter, the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, the Municipal Palazzo and the Aldobrandesca.

Piteglio | Tuscany Region

PITEGLIO | TUSCANY REGION

piteglio tuscany

Piteglio is the second-largest municipality in the Province of Pistoia. Located at 698 meters above sea level, it has a population of about 1800 inhabitants. In Piteglio you can admire the church of St. Bartholomew in Lanciole and the church of San Miniato in Calamecca. Piteglio’s foundation dates back to a military garrison of the Liguri, built to answer the pressure of the Romans who established themselves in the area around the II century BC. Documented sources tell us of the presence of a fortress only from the XII century. In numerous imperial certificates (of Henry VI in 1191 and Frederick II in 1220 and 1247), we see the reinstatement of the castles of Piteglio and Popiglio to the Guidi counts of Modigliana.

Stimulated by the birth of the free commune of Pistoia, Piteglio and the other nearby villages gave themselves the statute of autonomy in the XIII century and passed under Pistoian protection. In the second half of the century the new commune became part of the Captaincy of the High Mountains, so becoming involved in the centuries-old struggle between the Panciatichi and the Chancellors, which only came to an end around 1539, when Pistoia became part of the grand Duchy of Tuscany and Cosimo I de’ Medici succeeded in pacifying the area and stabilising the boundary with the dominion of Lucca (1538).

The local system, characterised by the presence of a multitude of little autonomous communes, was reorganised in 1774 under request by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo di Lorena. His reforms prepared to unify the centres of Calamecca, Crespole, Lanciole, Piteglio and Popiglio under a single administration, of which Piteglio has always been the capital - if you exclude the Napoleonic period at the beginning of the 19th century when Popiglio was chosen to be the council capital. The territory of the council was crossed in 1944 by the Gothic Line, along which the Nazi-fascist occupiers fought against the Allied soldiers.

PLACES TO VISIT IN THE AREZZO PROVINCE OF TUSCANY

Poggibonsi | Tuscany Region

POGGIBONSI | TUSCANY REGION

poggibonsi castel tuscany

Poggibonsi is in the province of Siena and has a population of about 27,000 inhabitants. What is today’s town centre was the ancient “Borgo Marturi”, a holding of the abbey and of the Marturi castle, already established in the XII century. Its position is in fact enviable, being an unavoidable point of passage for the pilgrims on the Via Francigena, on their way to Rome, as well as a zone of boundary between the states of Florence, Siena and Volterra. Its enviable position was obviously at the cost of peace, as on many occasions the three cities didn’t hesitate in resorting to violence in order to take possession of the village.

For example, in 1115, the Florentines attacked and destroyed the Marturi castle. Such an event convinced Count Guido dei Guidi to build a new city, on the “Podium Bonitii” (Poggio di Bonizio), reserving possession of a part of this for the Siennese. And so, a centre of strong Ghibelline and Siena-loving connotations was born, immediately coming into conflict with Florence. In 1270, after the victory of Colle Val d’Elsa against the Siennese, the Florentine Guelphs attacked and razed the new city to the ground, prohibiting reconstructio.

Having returned to the settlement, re-named Poggiobonzio, the conflicts once again prosper and draw the attention of the Emperor Arrigo (or HenryVII ) who, in 1313, started up the reconstruction of the ancient castle that was to be called Poggio Imperiale, a project that was destined to fail following the Emperor’s early death. So a new era tormented by the wars with the Florentines and by the plague, opened for the people of Poggibonsi. The accession of the Medicis further compromised the fate of the city. Siena having fallen, Poggiobonzio first suffered a hard attack in 1529 by Clement VII’s Papal troops, and then surrendered to the Grand Duchy in the mid-16th century, subjugating itself to Florence together with the rest of the Siennese territory.

Modern times saw Poggibonsi slide from one occupation to another. After the Spanish, the Lorenas, then the French and finally the Italian royal troops, all take over control of the territory. In the 20th century, nevertheless, the town’s urban and social structure were greatly shaken up. The flourishing of the industrial and commercial activities, thanks to glass and the exportation of Chianti wine, provoke a demographic expansion of considerable proportions. The bombings in ’43 and ’44 definitively change the physiognomy of the town, quickly rebuilt but never restored to its ancient structure.

Radda in Chianti | Tuscany Region

RADDA IN CHIANTI | TUSCANY REGION

radda in chianti tuscany

At a height of 530m above sea level, Radda in Chianti has a population of about 1,700 and located in the Siena Province. Radda’s history is documented from the IX century BC, thanks also to the numerous archaeological findings, but the first reference to its castle dates back to the XI century, when it was listed in an inventory compiled for Emperor Ottone III which summarises the territories included in the Florentine abbey.

In 1220 the territory was purchased by a family of the Tuscan feudal aristocracy, the Guidi Counts, under authorisation of Frederick II. Already from the end of the XIII century, however, the territorial extension of the Council of Florence, at the end of its bitter struggles with the Guidi Counts, incorporated the area of Radda into its confines.

Radda was first the capital of one of the three districts of the Chianti League, and then, from 1384, the podestà jurisdiction of the League itself. The leagues represented at the time the highest autonomous institutional organ of the Florentine county, supplied with an autonomous statute and very precise defensive dispositions. Only with the reforms required by the Leopoldo Grand Duchy, Radda was definitively transformed into an autonomous commune.

The territory of Radda, in the Middle Ages, was characterised almost exclusively by the agricultural economy, centred on the production of oil and especially wine, even though there was no lacking in pasture activities and artisan production linked to the spinning of wool, hemp and linen. Later on, the share-cropping system was diffused, bringing about the construction of farms and estates in the Radda countryside. Today agriculture has specialised in the production of quality oil and D.O.C. (guaranteed quality) wine, while artisan work has evolved into a mechanical and wood-working industry.

Of the numerous castles that rose in the Radda area only that of Volpaia was brought to a good level of expansion. Its walls with towers and bridge house are still, in a large part, visible while other fortresses, such as Albola and Monterinaldi, are today in advanced states of ruin. Still others, such as is the case of Castelvecchio, have been transformed into noble houses or farms. Other examples of this type are the castles of Castiglione, Trebbio and Paterno. Furthermore it is still possible to find numerous fortified medieval residences that the council has inherited from the ancient lords of the warrior aristocracy.

OTHER THINGS TO SEE NEAR RADDA IN CHIANTI

In Radda’s surrounding countryside it is also possible to visit the parish of Santa Maria Novella which, despite having undergone numerous renovation works, has succeeded in conserving its original Romanesque installation, as well as numerous works of art. Among the many Romanesque installations scattered around the territory, of great importance is the convent of Santa Maria in Prato that still today holds a 15th-century “Madonna with Child” by Neri di Bicci.

Roccalbegna | Tuscany Region

ROCCALBEGNA | TUSCANY REGION

roccalbegna tuscany

The village of Roccalbegna, sits in the Grossetto Province and on the slopes of Monte Amiata. The town was once an Aldobrandeschi strong hold that was later passed over to the Republic of Siena. The medieval apperance and charm still exist in the township and its most characteristic monument being the church of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Located on the main piazza with the Town Hall and a small but striking Civic Tower, with its clock face. The terrain of the area is notoriously instable, landslides are a daily occurrence. And exactly a landslide is what bent the architrave of the doorway, giving the church a unique, crooked aspect. Inside are precious frescoes and pictures. The most important work however is the altarpiece, a Madonna with Child painted in 1340 by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, considered one of his masterpieces.

At the back of the church, we go up a little way to the Oratory of the Crucifix, used as a museum. Francesco Nasini and Sebastiano Folli are the most represented authors. The cross by Luca di Tommè, a Siennese artist who created it in about 1360, is splendid. Outside of the Porta di Maremma the little church della Madonna completes the picture of the town’s monuments, with frescoes from the 15th century. Behind the church, the panoramic open space of the stronghold is worth a visit. But the destination to not be missed, the most famous of Roccalbegna, is the Rock, the large Tower that dominates the inhabited place, and that is reached by a steep asphalted road and then by the narrow stone steps that cling to the rock.

Roccalbegna’s surroundings are also worth a visit. The hamlet of Cana conserves a part of its medieval aspect and hosts a beautiful cistern from the Medici era. Just before that, in Vallerona, you can see the church of St. Pio I and a neo-classic fountain. Nature-lovers can travel south along the rough track that coasts Albegna. The first part of roughly 3 kilometres can be done by car or mountain bike, then you need to continue by foot on the exposed gravelly river bed. Poplars and willows take the place of oaks and brooms, and you don’t have to try too hard to see numerous species of birds such as the blackbird and kingfisher.

The WWF Oasis of Bosco Rocconi faces onto the river, home to rare birds of prey like the harrier eagle, the hobby, the sparrow-hawk and the lanner. A little to the east of Roccalbegna is Triana, a mighty castle that passed in 1388 from the Aldobrandeschi to the Piccolomini of Siena, formed of two imposing buildings and a mighty tower that is mostly covered in ivy.

Rodicofani | Tuscany Region

RODICOFANI | TUSCANY REGION

 radicofani tuscany

Sitting at almost 900m above sea level, overlooking the sea, Radicofani was once one of the most important strongholds in Italy. The fortress is several kilometers away from the town, overlooking the village. Built in the 1200s, it was re-built in 1565 and partly torn down in the 1700s. From the terrace on top of the tower, which reaches 37 meters high, you can admire a vast panorama, which includes a view of Monte Amiata to the west. Before walking to the village, it is worth talking a walk through the pinewoods surrounding the fortress to view the arches, vaults and wells that are partly hidden by the vegetation.

Even the village is worth visiting. The most important monument is the Roman church of San Pietro from the 13th century that was damaged in the last war and restored in 1946. Inside, its gothic-style church conserves a splendid collection of terracotta and wood statues, among which is a “Madonna con Bambino” by Francesco di Valdambrino. Behind the church, there is a square from where you can see the fortress.

Don’t miss the church of Sant’Agatha, the protector of the village. The last stop is Palazzo Pretorio, a large building that has inserts in its façade of the coat of arms of the most ancient families of the area. In the Macchione garden there is a statue of Ghin di Tacco. Along the ancient Via Cassia that wraps around the village, there is the Palazzo della Posta, a beautiful hunting villa owned by the Medici and built by Ferdinando I. Today, it is a hotel for tourists.

Sambuca Pistoiese | Tuscany Region

SAMBUCA PISTOLESE | TUSCANY REGION

sambuca pistoiese tuscany

The town of Sambuca Pistoiese is in the province of Pistoia, but is placed on the northern slopes of the Apennines Sambuca Pistoiese. In the town you can admire the Sanctuary of St. Mary del Giglio, Villa Gargallo, the Sambuca Castle and the church of St. James. The reasons behind the foundation of a Tuscan village in such a geographical position must be traced back to the arrival of the Longobards who, between the VII and the VIII centuries, after having conquered Pistoia, decided to protect the boundaries with the Byzantine army with a series of fortifications, some of which today are part of the Emilian territory. In 727 the Longobard King Liutprando finally succeeded in conquering Bologna but a part of its subjects, by now established in the area, settled permanently.

With the invasion of the Sacred Roman Empire the Longobard seigniories were replaced by new feudatories in the area, among which the bishop of Pistoia whose dominions are demonstrated right in the Limentra valley where today Sambuca stands, as confirmed also by an imperial bull from 998, signed by Ottone III. One of the Pistoian bishops, Martino, started the building of the Sambuca castle in the XI century. It was the very inhabitants of the place, a century later, that contended him for it. However in 1104 the intervention of Matilde de Canossa’s tribunal sanctioned the domination of the Curia.

One year later the free commune of Pistoia was founded and Sambuca became its main northern fortified outpost, especially during the war that lasted throughout the entire XII century between the Tuscan city and Bologna. At the end of the conflict in 1211, Pistoia annexed many other villages of the Limentra to it (that now are part of the Sambuca council) and gave the castle back to the bishop. Sambuca granted itself its first statutes in 1291, but was not fully out of the bishopric’ feudal seigniory until between 1311 and 1368, when Pistoia first purchased the castle and then the ancient Episcopal rights.

In 1402 it became part of the Florentine Republic and even in this case became one of the most important bastions on the Emilian front. In the Grand Ducal age the territory of the current council was divided between the Captaincy of the mountains and the podestà jurisdiction of Montale, to which went Treppio and Torri. The reunification of a single autonomous “comunitas” only came about in 1824.

San Casciano in Val di Pesa | Tuscany Region

SAN CASCIANO IN VAL DI PESA | TUSCANY REGION

San Casciano in Val di Pesa

San Casciano in Val di Pesa is located in the Chianti Hills of the Florence Province.  The city was owned by Florentine bishops since its founding, San Casciano was annexed by the Florentine Republic in the 13th century and successively fortified, becoming a point of defense for the city from attackers from the direction of Siena. Even today there are traces of the old walls and medieval towers.

The Museum of San Casciano, with its two sections of sacred art and archeology, hosts precious works of art coming from the territory. The “dossale” attributed to Coppo di Marcovaldo shows San Michele Arcangelo and the stories of his legend, and the Madonna with Child by A. Lorenzetti are two of the most important works of art.

Some of the main buildings include La Collegiata and the church of the Misericordia (or S. Maria al Prato), which conserves a rich heritage of art including a crucifix by Simone Martini. There are numerous churches in the area that show the importance of San Casciano in the Middle Ages and that are worth a visit, including the church of S. Cecilia in Decimo, which is just outside the town center, the Romanic church of S. Giovanni in Sugana near Cerbaia and the church of S. Stefano a Campoli (which dates back to 903) near Mercatale Val di Pesa.

Among the many villas in the area worth visiting are the Villa Collazzi and Villa Tattoli near Cerbaia and in S. Andrea in Percussina, Villa Bossi-Pucci, which is also called Albergaccio and famous because Niccolò Machiavelli stayed there.

San Marcello Pistoiese | Tuscany Region

SAN MARCELLO PISTOIESE | TUSCANY REGION

 San Marcello Pistoiese Tuscany

San Marcello Pistoiese was a settlement founded in Roman times. The municipality is located in the Province of Pistoia at an altitude of 625 meters above sea level; it currently has a population of about 7,000 inhabitants. Once in the town, you won’t want to miss a visit the church of Santa Caterina and the church of San Marcello. Its first settlement, as evidenced by the discovery of an ancient burial site, dates back to Roman times. Historical sources, however, first mention the existence of San Marcello in 1191, when a decree issued by Henry VI confirmed its feudal concession to Count Guido Guerra. Thanks to two imperial acts issued by Frederick II during the first half of the thirteenth century, historians have confirmed the existence of a village that was once considered a ‘fortified court’.

At the end of the thirteenth century, San Marcello became a free municipality, which welcomed a group of exiled Ghibellines, lead by Enrico Tedici. In 1323, the town gave hospitality and support to the troops of Castruccio Castracani, a lord from Lucca. Pistoia, however, soon reclaimed the area. After it emerged from civil war between the Cancellieri and the Panciatichi, San Marcello and Cutigliano became the headquarters of the ‘Capitanato della Montagna'. This form of leadership was set up by Pistoia in 1368 to settle conflicts within the area and defend its borders from Luccan ambitions.

The defeated Cancellieri resumed battle once again in 1400, supported by troops sent to Tuscany by the Visconti of Milan. After Pistoia’s surrender to Florence, the Republic incorporated Pistoia’s lands into its own territory, and San Marcello was certainly no exception. The town became a capital-of-sorts for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, after Gaviniana, one of its districts hosted the assassination of the Republican Ferrucci, who was killed by the Spanish in support of the Medici.

Santa Fiora | Tuscany Region

SANTA FIORA | TUSCANY REGION

santa fiora tuscany

Protected by a cliff of trachyte that dominates the source of the Fiora river is the town of Santa Fiora, located in the Grossetto Region. The inhabited area of Santa Fiora has a different history to that of the other Amiata villages. Santa Fiora was not subject to the Abbey of Santissimo Salvatore, but soon became the most important Aldobrandeschi holding on the mountain, resisting the numerous conquering attempts by the Siennese. In 1439, it passed to the Sforza family, to then finish under Florentine control in 1633.

The first find is the massive Palazzo del Conte, once of the Sforza Cesarini and today seat of the Council. You go round it to the left and passing through it via an arcade you come onto the large piazza that is the sitting room of the town. From the piazza, the Via Carolina leads to the church del Suffragio (1716-1726) and then goes down to the Parish of St. Flora and St. Lucilla, the most important and famous of the town’s monuments. Erected before 1000AD, it was rebuilt in the 13th century and widened in 1792 with the addition of the lateral naves. The interior hosts a collection of splendid terracotta pieces attributed to Andrea Della Robbia.

A downhill slope to the village, the other part of Santa Fiora that is surrounded by walls and dominated by a dark wall of trachyte. Here the church of St. Agostino rises, built 1309 to which was annexed a convent, suppressed by the Lorenas, of which remains an arched door from 1473. In the Village there is also the convent of the Capuchin nuns, founded in 1601 and closed in 1991, linked to the cult of the Miraculous Crucifix and the Procession of the Logs.

For the Porta del Borgo you go in from the district of Montecatino and go down through the Peschiera, a striking lake that gathers the waters of the Fiora. Also of interest is the nearby church of the Madonna della Neve, of modest aspect but rich in well-kept frescoes. Near the Selva district, the Convent of the Santissima Trinità is worth a visit, conserving a beautiful Robbian crucifix and a series of precious paintings, and in the 18th century cloister the legendary dragon head brought back by a traveller from the past.

Seggiano | Tuscany Region

SEGGIANO | TUSCANY REGION

seggiano tuscany region

Seggiano is sits on the lower slopes of the Amiata mountains cone, and is in the Grossetto Province. It is among olive groves (of the Seggiano green variety) that, when you get close to Seggiano, the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Carità appears, one of the most unusual and interesting religious monuments of the Amiata. It is the only complex in the Siennese territory of late 16th century architecture linked to the manneristic Mitteleurop style. It was built after a famine of devastating consequences: started in 1588, the completion probably dates back to 1603. The exterior, with a complex and rich façade and a brick dome in four segments, is particularly striking.

Nearer to the inhabited area is the little church of St. Rocco, built in 1486. The interior, in just one room, conserves interesting frescoes upon which soldiers of yore left their signatures: a vandalism that through the years has acquired a certain historical value. Opposite the neo-gothic Town Hall is the parish church dedicated to St. Bartholomew. Built in the Middle Ages, it was reconstructed in style in the ‘30s, and hosts a polyptych that shows the Virgin on the throne with Child and St. Bartholomew, St. Michael and St. John Evangelist, by Bartholomew Bulgarini, a Siennese painter active in the mid-14th century.

Even higher up is the church of the Corpus Domini, also dedicated to St. Bernard of Siena. Of particular interest is a late 14th century Madonna with Child and relics belonging to St. Bernard of Siena. From Seggiano, a road that offers a splendid glance over the town and on the dark mass of the Amiata, leads to the Castle of the Potentino, across the celebrated Valley of the Olive Groves. The castle is surrounded by cultivated fields and closed to visitors. A little further on are the ruins of the Convent of the Colombaio, where St. Bernard of Siena passed his noviciate.

Semproniano | Tuscany Region

SEMPRONIANO | TUSCANY REGION

semproniano tuscany

Semproniano is the most southern of the Amiata towns, the gateway to the volcano for those who arrive from Saturnia, and therefore from Rome and Civitavecchia via the Aurelia. The village, closely surrounding what little remains of the Rocca Aldobrandesca, merits a pleasant walk through the steep streets that are mostly in the form of stairways.

Just a few pieces of wall is what remains of the sever castle, onto which the Romanesque church of the Santa Croce faces. Lower down there is the Oratory of St. Rocco and the Parish of St. Vincent and St. Anastasio, that conserve various paintings from the 17th century and an interesting holy water stoup in the shape of a hand.

From the town, a good asphalted road curves down to a bridge over the Albegna and continues towards Saturnia. Taking the first right you can go down through the fields at the mount of the Albegna Narrows, the most striking of the Maremma and particularly suitable for bathing in the summer.

In Fibbianello, a farmhouse that faces onto the Albegna, botany enthusiasts can admire the largest olive tree of the Amiata area, a thousand-year old giant that is 22 metres tall, and able to give 800 kilos of olives at every picking. Parallel to the Albegna, the Fiora runs onwards, the best known of the Maremma water courses. Its valley is more harsh and sombre than that of the Albegna, its waters are rather reduced due to the tapping at its sources. From the west the limestone cliff of Cellena dominates the valley, at the feet of which can be found the town of the same name.

Rocchette di Fazio Hiking Trail

A tortuous track that offers a lovely glimpse of the centre quickly leads to Rocchette di Fazio, another little jewel of the Maremma Amiata. With its old houses dominated by a stump of the Rocca Aldobrandesca and defended by an imposing limestone wall, Rocchette is worth a stay. In the inhabited area are the Castle Gate, the Municipal Palazzo and the Hospital of St. Bartholomew, founded in 1330 as attested to by an inscription.

Siena Province | Tuscany Region

SIENA PROVINCE | TUSCANY Region

The Province of Siena, is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy. The capital of the province is the city of Siena. The area is very hilly: in the north is Colline del Chianti; Monte Amiata is the highest point; and in the south is Monte Cetona. To the west are the Colline Metallifere (“Metallic Hills”), whilst the Val di Chiana lies to east. Historically, the province corresponds to the former Republic of Siena. The chief occupations are agricultural (wheat, grapes and fruit) and silk culture. The wine known as Chianti is produced here as well as in other parts of Tuscany: the Chianti Colli Senesi, however, is limited to this province. Apart from the city of Siena the principal towns are Poggibonsi, Colle di Val d'Elsa, Montepulciano, Chiusi, and San Gimignano.

The province is divided into seven historical areas:

Vineyards and olive trees characterize the landscape, exalting the local gastronomy, and creating the so called "slow food" culture. The territory around Siena is actually the best example of Tuscan regional identity, rich in natural resources and productivity, beginning with the famous "Chianti-shire" which extends north from Siena with its precious vineyards. Terraced hills and valleys rich in rivers, castles, churches and wonderful buildings dot the countryside.

CASTLES

Castles and villages like Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castellina, Gaiole and Radda in Chianti overlook the wonderful countryside, where we can still admire extraordinary 18th century gardens in Arceno, Pontignano, Villa la Pagliaia, Catignano, Geggiano and Sestano in the town Castelnuovo Berardenga.

VAL D’ELSA

The Val d'Elsa valley is crossed by the historic Via Francigena pilgrims' route, with many smaller roads which lead to the sea. This area has been a strategic meeting point for merchants and pilgrims going to Rome since the middle ages. In the Val d'Elsa area is San Gimignano, with its many towers, and Monteriggioni, which is famous for its medieval city walls. The famous architect Arnolfo di Cambio was born in Colle val d'Elsa, also known as the "crystal town".

MERSE VALLEY

The Merse valley is rich in woods, waterways, nature routes and small medieval churches and castles in Chiusino, Monticano, Murlo and Sovicille. The northern side of river Merse belongs to the nature reserve of Alta Merse, while the river Farma flows along the valley to meet the Merse and Ombrone, reaching the famous thermal baths by Petriolo, already famous in the days of the Pope Pius XII. During the middle ages, this area was often chosen by religious men and hermits because of its peaceful quietness and a lot of beautiful abbeys still bear witness to this tradition, like the Cistercian abbey of San Galgano by the town of Chiusdino.

SENESI CRETE

South of Siena we find the world famous district called "Crete senesi", an unusual natural landscape created by prehistoric erosions on sand and clay. This special "lunar landscape" is the perfect backdrop for small medieval villages like Asciano, Buonconvento, Monteroni d'Arbia, Rapolano Terme and San Giovanni d'Asso.

VAL D’ORCIA

The neighbouring valley, Val d'Orcia, offers a gentle landscape rich in hills and cypresses. The river Orcia flows through the valley and woods, while many interesting old towns are situated along the medieval route of the road Via Cassia. For example Radicofani, Castiglione and San Quirico d'Orcia, and then – towards Val di Chiana – Pienza and Montepulciano.

MONTEPULCIANO

This is the home of the famous red wine, Brunello di Montalcino. It is also famous for its spas, thanks to the ancient thermal baths at Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo.

VAL DI CHIANA

Great wines in Montepulciano, salami in Sinalunga and the healing waters by Chianciano Terme, Montepulciano and San Casciano dei Bagni: the whole valley Val di Chiana is a cradle for wellbeing and taste. History has always played an important role here: interesting prehistoric finds near Mount Cetona bear witness to a millenarian life in the valley. The cave called "Lattaia" was the site of an ancient water worship. Local water was actually believed to help mothers during the lactation. Inside the so called St. Francis' cave there were old fireplaces and burned remains of legumes and cereals.

MOUNT AMIATA

Mount Amiata (1738 Mt.) overlooks the valley Val d'Orcia (Montepulciano, Pienza e Montalcino) in the southern part of the province, with the hills by Chianciano and Chiusi and the great plain of Maremma. The woods in this area was inhabited as far back as Etruscan times and the region was crossed by the medieval pilgrims' road Via Francigena.

The region today is a well known tourist destination and a famous ski resort, thanks to its numerous slopes and tracks for cross country skiing. The ski lift links the mountain to the valley going through wonderful chestnut trees and beeches. The small neighbouring town Piancastagnaio gets its name from the several chestnut groves in this area.

PLACES TO VISIT IN THE SIENA PROVINCE

St Anna di Stazzema (Monte Lieto) Climbing Area, Carrara-Massa Province

ST ANNA DI STAZZEMA (MONTE LIETO) ROCK CLIMBING AREA | TUSCANY REGION

Rock Climbing Italy, Monte Lieto

The Sant'Anna climbing area is an interesting place with a few walls about the town of S. Anna.  The rock is interesting and if you find yourself nearby and looking for somewhere different to relax, try the cliff.  Well protected and even though it sits at 800 meters elevation you can still climb if it rains or there is snow.

SANTA ANNA ROCK CLIMBING GUIDE

PROVINCE Carrara-Massa, Tuscany
CLOSEST TOWN Querceta
Rock Climb Italy, St. Anna Stazzema Site
BEST TIME OF YEAR Climb All Year
APPROACH TIME 20 minutes
ROCK Limestone
HEIGHT 30 meters
RANGE OF GRADES 4 - 7b (60 + routes)
GUIDEBOOK/MAPS  

RECOMMENDED CLIMBS

Tavarnelle Val di Pesa | Tuscany Region

TAVARNELLE VAL DI PESA | TUSCANY REGION

tavanelle val di pesa tuscany

Tavarnelle Val di Pesa is a town with 7346 residents in the province of Florence, within the Chianti Hills. Its economy is based on agricultural and wine making (since 1932, the territory has been part of the Chiantiarea; located partially in the subzone of the Chianti Classico and partially in the subzone of the Colli Fiorentini). In the municipal district ofSambuca Val di Pesa, there is a large industrial area.

Tavarnelle was once a Roman station, called Tebernulae in a document dated 790 AD. It later became part of the Florentine Republic, but was never involved in the territorial wars between the Florentines and the Sienese. Until 1892, it was part of the municipality of Barberino Val d’Elsa, and on January 1, 1893, it gained autonomy, becoming its own municipality.

The Badia in Passignano is an ancient monastery that already existed in the Middle Ages. In 1049, it adhered to the Vallombrosana reform. It housed a school that Galileo Galiei attended. With a façade made of alberese stone from the XIII century, the church has one nave and features frescoes by Domenico Cresti, called il Passignano, because he was born in that area. In the partition, a woodwork by Michele Confetto, there are two panels by Ghirlandaio.

In the crypt, which dates back to a previous roman construction, the founder of the Vallombrosano Order, Saint Giovanni Gualberto, was buried here in 1073. Externally, the very large monastery looks more like a fortress than a cenoby. The defensive city walls date back to the 1400s but it seems that several sections were built in the XIII century. In the refectory of the monastery, there is an interesting Last Supper by Davide and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Closed in the late 1800s, the monastery complex became a private villa and was transformed, according to the esthetics of the time, into a neo-Gothic castle. In 1986, the Vallombrosani monks reclaimed possession of the monastery. Another must-see is the Passignano village that has a beautiful house-tower and the church of San Biago. From the terraces of the castle, one can admire the breathtaking countryside of the Chianti area.

The Casentino Valley | Tuscany Region

CASENTINO VALLEY | TUSCANY REGION

casentino valley tuscany

The Casentino valley is the initial and highest basin of the Arno valley, extending from the sources of the Arno river to the town of Subbiano. It is one of the four valleys comprising the Province of Arezzo. Monte Falterona, where the Arno arises, lies on the northern boundary between the Casentino and Emilia Romagna. On the east of the valley, are the Alpe di Serra and the Alpe di Catenaia, which separate the Casentino from the Upper Val Tiberina. On the west is the Pratomagno, which separates the Casentino from the Valdarno Superiore. Part of the Casentino is included in the Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, Campigna National Park.

The Casentino is roughly oval in shape, extending either side of the Arno to a width of between 30 and 60 km. The topography of the Casentino is varied, including both river plain and heavily forested mountains. Due to its geographical position and to its history, although it is less than 50 km from Florence, few people know the Casentino well. Since no highways or long-distance railways cross the valley, it is difficult to pass through the Casentino by chance. The mountains that ring the valley encompass the largest forests on the Italian peninsula. This too is a legacy of its long isolation, as is the presence of deer, badgers, wolves and many other wild animal species. Today the forests of the Casentino form a National Park that is among the largest in Italy. These mountains have often attracted great saints: it was here that St. Romuald built his hermitages at Camaldoli, and that less than two centuries later St. Francis of Assisi established the Sanctuary of La Verna, the headquarters of the Franciscan order.

The municipalities of the Casetino valley are:

  • Bibbiena
  • Capolona
  • Castel Focognano
  • Castel San Niccolò
  • Poppi
  • Pratovecchio
  • Stia
  • Subbiano

The larger towns are all located in the Arno valley, the biggest being Bibbiena and Poppi. The villages located on the neighbouring hills and mountains are much smaller. These are Chitignano, Chiusi della Verna, Montemignaio, Ortignano-Raggiolo and Talla.

The City of Florence, Italy

FLORENCE | TUSCANY REGION

Florence is the capital of the beautiful and very popular Italian province of Tuscany. This place is situated on the banks of the River Arno. This city has given birth to the Renaissance style. Florence is a city of Michelangelo and Machiavelli, a precious place full of works of art, culture and history. The majority of palaces, churches, museums and historical buildings in Florence are made in the Renaissance style. For centuries this wonderful Italian city was ruled by the Medici family, famous as bankers. Many works of art that tourists will find in Florence appeared in the city because of them. The interest of the family to various visual arts, architecture, sculpture, and literature was simply enormous. At that time, Florence had the status of a city-state, and so its power and independence were truly great.

Nowadays, the population of the city is approximately 356,000 people. Florence is a unique and unforgettable city, a kind of a museum in the open air. This city is not the best choice for travellers who are searching for diversified nightlife. However, Florence would become the best choice if you want to feel the atmosphere of the past and the charm of a truly unique culture.

TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR VISIT TO FLORENCE

  • The locals are distinguished by refined manners and attention to appearance. Tourists will also need to select a wardrobe carefully and wear clothes does not look sloppy.
  • For many travelers language barrier is a serious problem. There are not many people who speak English among the inhabitants of Florence. Each hotel has guides to help vacationers get in touch with local residents.
  • Don’t forget to pick out your clothes carefully before visiting religious sites otherwise you may not allowed to enter churches and cathedrals. Women need to wear skirts that are below the knee level and must cover their heads with a handkerchief, and men to wear stringent pants.
  • It’s normal to leave a tip in the restaurants and cafes. The usual amount of tips is around 10% of the bill.
  • From 14.00 to 15.30 is siesta. The majority of shops and restaurants are closed during this period. It is also not recommended to make phone calls during this time.
  • Tourists with children and young people should be careful when buying tickets to public transport. There is an interesting system of discounts in the city, so you can save considerably on travelling.
  • You can easily get to all main attractions of the city by bus. The public transport network is really well-developed here.
  • Late autumn is the best time to travel to Florence. At this time of the year the weather is fine all the time, and there are not so many tourists on the streets of the city like in summer or on the Christmas Eve.
  • You can pay with credit cards in large shops and hotels of the city, but on street markets you will need to pay with paper money. Small denominations are also recommended as it will be easier to pay to sellers.
  • Those, who want to save money on food, are recommended to visit local cafes and bars. In addition to widest choice of drinks they offer excellent salads and snacks at reasonable prices.

 

Travel Guide to the Carrara Massa Province

MASSA AND CARRARA PROVINCE OF TUSCANY

 

The Province of Massa and Carrara, is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is named after the two main towns in its territory: Carrara and Massa, its capital.

The province of "Massa e Carrara" was born in 1859 from the separation of the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana from the Ducato of Modena. Originally it was composed of three "Circondari": I° "Circondario of Massa and Carrara" (a group of seven districts divided in 14 municipalities), II° "Circondario" of Castelnuovo Garfagnana (four districts divided in 17 municipalities), III° "Circondario" of Pontremoli (three districts divided into six municipalities). Until the census of 1871, the province appears was part of the region Emilia, but since the census of the population of 1881 it has been counted as part of Tuscany. Later, with the "Regio Decreto n. 1913 of September 2, 1923", the municipalities of Calice al Cornoviglio and Rocchetta Vara were detached from the province, and added to the new province of La Spezia.

In the same period ("Regio Decreto n.2490 of November 9, 1923") the 17 municipalities of the "Circondario" Castelnuovo Garfagnana were removed from Emilia and assigned to the province of Lucca, in order to compensate for the passage to the new province of Pistoia of all the municipalities of the Val di Nievole. The province of Massa and Carrara was left crippled, waiting for a reorganization. In 1938, the municipalities of Carrara, Massa and Montignoso joined and became the municipality of Apuania. In the same year, the industrial zone Apuana was instituted, including in relative Consortium C.Z.I.A the municipalities of neighbouring Versilia, and the province assumed the name of province of Apuania.

In 1946, with decree Lieutenant one (Umberto II of Savoia) the new municipality of Apuania was formed, and the province (for error and/or historical ignorance) resumptions the denomination does not date from 1859 when it was "Massa and Carrara" but Massa. This was the name that had been designated to the city of Massa or Massa of Carrara from 1700 until the formation of the Kingdom of Italy (1860), to distinguish it from other homonymous cities. In 2009 both decrees of 1938 and 1946 were abolished, restoring the old name.

carrara-massa-province

Travel Guide to the Lucca Province

LUCCA PROVINCE | TUSCANY

The Province of Lucca includes renowned resorts as Lucca, Viareggio, Capannori, Camaiore and Pietrasanta. The territory is traditionally divided into 3 main areas: Piana di Lucca, the eastern part of the province including the capital; Garfagnana, a mountainous area between the Alps and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, crossed the river Serchio and rich in forests; and Versilia, the coastal part, with many tourist resorts.

Including the historical area of the Duchy of Lucca, the province was enlarged in 1923 with the following communes of Garfagnana previously belonging to the province of Massa-Carrara: Camporgiano, Careggine, Castelnuovo Garfagnana, Castiglione di Garfagnana, Fosciandora, Gallicano, Giuncugnano, Minucciano, Molazzana, Piazza al Serchio, Pieve Fosciana, San Romano in Garfagnana, Sillano, Trassilico (oggi Fabbriche di Vallico), Vagli Sotto, Vergemoli and Villa Collemandina.

In 1928 the communes of Bagni di Montecatini, Buggiano, Massa e Cozzile, Monsummano Terme, Montecatini Val di Nievole, Pescia, Ponte Buggianese, Uzzano and Vellano, previously in the province of Lucca, passed under the jurisdiction of the province of Pistoia.

lucca-province

Travel Guide to the Pisa Province

PISA PROVINCE | TUSCANY

 

The territory goes from the Arno basin to the Ligurian Sea, with a coastline of about 15 km where the seaside resorts of Calambrone, Tirrenia and Marina di Pisa are situated.

The northern part includes the Appenine group of the Monti Pisani (highest summit Monte Serra, 917 m a.s.l.). The southern part is mostly gentle hills, a typical Tuscan landscape, with two valleys, Valdera and Alta Val di Cecina where the

The original nucleus of the province coincides with the historic maritime republic of Pisa, included in the Renaissance period in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The Municipalities of Santa Maria a Monte, Castelfranco di Sotto, San Miniato, Santa Croce sull'Arno and Montopoli - all previously belonging to the Province of Florence - were added in the 1920's, when the province of Livorno was created with territories of the province of Pisa.

pisa-province

EXPLORE THE PROVINCE OF PISA

Larderello | Tuscany Region

Volterra | Tuscany Region

Travel Guide to the Pistoia Province

PISTOIA PROVINCE | TUSCANY

The province of Pistoia is a province in the Tuscany region of central Italy. Its capital is the city of Pistoia and the province is landlocked. It has an area of and a total population of 292,509 inhabitants (as of 2015), giving the province of Pistoia a population density of 303.39 people per square kilometer. There are 22 communes in the province.

It was part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and was established as a province in 1927 with the municipalities Agliana, Cutigliano, Lamporecchio Larciano Marliana, Montale, Pistoia, Piteglio, San Marcello Pistola, Pistola Serravalle and Tizzana (Quarrata today) previously belonging to the province of Florence, and in 1928 acquired the communes of Valdinievole from the province of Lucca.

The province was formed in 1927 under the rule of Mussolini, and had the lowest income per capita in Tuscany in 1966 due to high poverty levels. This is because the province was mainly agricultural before World War II ended, and has since had to rapidly progress towards industrial capitalism and abandon its agricultural roots. The population of the province has recently been increasing; the population in 2001 was 268,437, in 2010 it was 293,061, and in 2014 it was 292,509.

The Mountains of Pistoia and the resorts Abetone and Val di Luce are popular tourist destinations for skiers, and the province contains a combination of flat land such as the area of the valley of the Ombrone and the river flowing through it, and mountainous land. The city of Pistola is roughly 20 km away from both Lucca and Florence. The land around the cities of Pistoia and Pescia are popular locations for flower and plant cultivation for global exports, and town of Quarrata is known for its wood furniture.

pistoria-province

Travel Guide to the Prato Province

PRATO PROVINCE | TUSCANY

The Province of Prato was established in 1992 with seven municipalities previously included in the province of Florence and is among the smallest Italian provinces.

The capital city is the heart of the province economy, based on the textile industry which attracts also the economy of surrounding areas in the provinces of Pistoia and Florence.

prato-province

Tuscan Bread | Tuscany

TUSCAN BREAD | TUSCANY REGION

breads of tuscany 

Tuscan bread is one of the most important traditional bakery products in the region. Some towns in the province of Florence belong to the Città del Pane (‘bread towns’) circuit because they are producers of local traditional breads, for example Montaione and Montespertoli.

Natural rising, baking at moderate temperatures and the size of the loaf are features that distinguish Tuscan bread, but the main characteristic is its total lack of salt. The reason for this was the bitter 12th century dispute between Pisa and Florence when the coastal Republic of Pisa placed a blockade on the trade of salt to inland areas. In response to this, Florence resolved to bake bread without using salt and in the Divine Comedy two hundred years later Dante, addressing himself in the famous phrase of Paradise, wrote, ‘Tu proverai come sa di sale lo pane altrui’ (‘You will find how salty is the bread of others’).
According to another tradition, bread was simply too dear so Florentines did without.

Historically, the social organization of the peasantry in Tuscany where family groups were very numerous and lived in farms in isolated areas meant that bread was baked at home once a week and had to be enough to feed a lot of people. It had to be kept well wrapped in cloth and kept in the ‘madia’, the typical Tuscan bread cupboard, until the next batch was baked.

Many typical Tuscan recipes use dried Tuscan bread (ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, acquacotta, panzanella, fettunta, etc.). These dishes are the result of a desire not to waste anything, even old bread, as well as the fact that bread is blessed in church ceremonies at Easter and thus it is almost considered a sin to throw it away.

It is to be noted that the blandness of the bread goes very well with the lively flavour of Tuscan cuisine and highlights the taste of the dishes. Soft dough with lots of bubbles caused by rising makes it easy to appreciate the various sauces that go with Tuscan cooking thanks to the widespread use of local olive oil. Typical Tuscan bread should be baked in a wood-fired oven and still today, it keeps for a long time if well cooked.

Application has been made to obtain Protected Origin Denomination status for Tuscan bread in order to obtain a Europe-wide guarantee that its characteristics be adhered to. DOP Tuscan bread loaves can be in a variety of shapes (rectangular, oval, round, called bozza, long called filetto or filone), it should be 5-10cm high and weigh from between 500 grams to 2 kilos. Its crust is reddish-brown, and rather brittle and crunchy. The dough, which is white and has a slight taste of roasted hazelnut, is soft not stodgy and its water content is still good after a few days of baking. The flavour of the bread is strictly bland because of the complete lack of salt. Kneading and raising must be done according to tradition using water and top-grade soft-grain wheat flour.

Val d'Orcia | Tuscany Region

VAL D'ORCIA | TUSCANY REGION

val d orcia tuscany

The Val d'Orcia is one of several geomorphologically distinctive areas in the large and diverse Region of Tuscany. Each of these areas has its fervent proponents. Many strongly prefer the rounded hills, dense vineyards, olive groves and woods characteristic of the Chianti area, between Florence and Sienna. The Maremma, both the Alta Maremma and the Bassa Maremma, once far off the beaten track and remote from the principal art cities, now draw visitors to their hill towns, thermal springs, Etruscan remains and nature reserves. Visitors enthusiastic for mountain vistas favour the Garfagnano, while the Mugello, home territory of the Medici, is a surprisingly wild area of castles and forests full of interest and within easy reach of Florence. The valleys of the Upper Arno - the Casentino with the Castello di Poppi - and the Upper Tiber Valley (Valtiberina), where Tuscany merges with Umbria, the towns such as Anghiari and Sansepolcro are characterised by their broad river flood plains and precipitous mountainsides. Of all of these, the Val d'Orcia is unique among the areas of Tuscany in having been accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status and its advocates are perhaps the most fervent of all.

The Val d'Orcia or Valdorcia refers, strictly speaking, to the valley of the river Orcia but in general it refers to the area extending from the hills south of Sienna as far as the Monte Amiata. Nothing could differ more from Chianti, for example. The landscape in and around the Val d'Orcia is characterised by open vistas of ploughed and sown land that stretch over low hills to the horizon, punctuated here and there by clusters or rows of cypresses and umbrella pines, and isolated farmhouses. The crete senesi are areas of badlands that generations of farmers have brought into cultivation. Nothing has been easy here. The volcanic cone of Monte Amiata dominates the southern panorama.

Val di Chiana | Tuscany Region

VAL DI CHIANA | TUSCANY REGION

val di chiana tuscany

The Val di Chiana (Valdichiana) was extensively settled by the Etruscans and Romans. Because of the low river and steam gradients, deforestation resulted in silt accumulation and the valley of the River Chiana slowly became an extensive marshy area. Malarial infestation began in Etruscan times and became seriously hazardous during the Middle Ages and Renaissance when the wetlands were as much as 140 sq km in area. Drainage was first proposed during the 14 C and by 1500 land reclamation was taking place. A man-made channel, the Canale Maestro, was dug to reverse the direction of water flow from southward into the Tiber to northward into the Arno. This work was completed in 1840. Tributary streams were also canalised so that the area is now a fertile alluvial valley. The present-day appearance of the Val di Chiana is thus the result of marsh drainage and reclamation work that was started by the Romans and carried on right through to the 20 C. Leonardo da Vinci drew a map of the area at the beginning of the 16 C, that shows the valley occupied by a large lake running north-south. The towns and villages in the hills on either side of the lake communicated by means of a ford at Valiano, a small village that still exists. There are now just two remnants of the original large lake, the Lago di Chiusi and the very small lake at Montepulciano.

The Val di Chiana extends over the territory of 22 municipalities in the provinces of Arezzo and Sienna in Tuscany, as well as of Perugia and Terni in Umbria. From the north, the valley runs southwards from Arezzo and westwards of Cortona, both of which have magnificent views over the plains of the valley floor. The Val di Chiana thus lies between between the Val d'Orcia and the Val Tiberina (Tiber valley) below Perugia, where the Upper Tiber Valley begins. To the north is the Siennese Chianti and part of the Val d'Elsa. The much hillier Val d'Orcia lies to the west of Montepulciano, across a ridge that starts with Monte Cetona in the south. As throughout the region, Sienna and Florence fought for control of the Val di Chiana on a number of occasions.

Val di Chiana can be broken into three sections

Aretine Val di Chiana (Valdichiana aretina)

This is the part of the Province of Arezzo covered by the municipalities of:

• Arezzo (partly)
• Castiglion Fiorentino
• Civitella in Val di Chiana
• Cortona
• Foiano della Chiana
• Lucignano
• Marciano della Chiana
• Monte San Savino

These are municipalities that were already under the control of the Medici in 1554, the year of the Battle of Scannagallo after which the Florentines occupied the entire valley. The Aretine Val di Chiana lies at the convergence of the four historical valleys of the province of Arezzo together with the Valtiberina, the Casentino (Upper Val d'Arno) and the Valdarno itself.
Siennese Val di Chiana (Valdichiana senese)

This is the part of the Province of Sienna covered by the municipalities of:

• Cetona
• Chianciano Terme
• Chiusi
• Montepulciano
• San Casciano dei Bagni (partly)
• Sarteano
• Sinalunga
• Torrita di Siena
• Trequanda

These are municipalities that were part of the Siennese Republic until 1554. With the exception of San Casciano dei Bagni, all of these municipalities formed part of the aretine territories of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany after 1554. With the unification of Italy in 1860, they were re-allocated to the province of Sienna.
Roman Val di Chiana (Valdichiana romana)

"Roman" Val di Chiana refers to the territory of five municipalities in Umbria. Three of these are in the province of Perugia

• Castiglione del Lago
• Tuoro sul Trasimeno (partly)
• Città della Pieve

and two are in the province of Terni:

• Monteleone d'Orvieto
• Fabro

Val di Merse | Tuscany Region

VAL DI MERSE | TUSCANY

river merse

Val di Merse is one of the regions of the province of Siena, in Tuscany, on the border with the Upper Maremma. The territory comprises the area between the rivers Farma and Merse. Notable monuments in the area include the Abbey of San Galgano. Villages in the region include Monticiano, Chiusdino, Murlo, Vescovado and Sovicille. The hot springs of Bagni di Petriolo are also in the region.

Vecchiano Climbing Area, Pisa Province

VECCHIANO ROCK CLIMBING AREA | TUSCANY REGION

 

Vecchiano climbing area is located just north of Pisa and the "Leaning Tower", this is a close crag to escape to if you happen to have your gear with you. The climbing area does not look like much from the road, but there are several fun routes to pass your time on. Great area for individuals looking a good rest day or have less experienced climbers.

VECCHIANO ROCK CLIMBING GUIDE

PROVINCE Pisa Province Tuscany Italy
NEAREST TOWN Vecchiano

Rock Climb Italy, Vecchiano Pisa

BEST TIME OF YEAR Fall, Winter, Spring
APPROACH TIME 5 minutes
ROCK Limestone
HEIGHT 20 meters
RANGE OF GRADES 4 - 7c (80+ routes)
GUIDEBOOK/MAPS  
   

RECCOMENDED ROUTES

  • Ensemble 7a
  • Elucubrazioni maniacali 6a
  • La prua della nave 7a
  • La diretta arancione 6a

Remember to buy a locale guidebook if available.

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