A brief introduction to the main cities in Tuscany and their attractions.
Florence is the main and biggest city, right at the heart of Tuscany. A symbol of beauty and artistic excellence, it attracts visitors from all over the globe with its gorgeous Cathedral and famous Dome designed by Brunelleschi. Florence is home to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the greatest museums in the world and the best place to appreciate Renaissance art. This is a splendid city surrounded by green hills and adorned with some of the finest architecture in Italy.
Siena is Gothic architecture at its best. Located an hour south of Florence, is famous amongst cities in Tuscany and one of the highlights of the region. It has one of the best preserved Medieval city centres in Italy. It’s small and compact, with a splendid Medieval square Piazza del Campo that stages the annual historic horse race “Il Palio”. Siena has some stunning buildings and its Cathedral is one of the most important Gothic churches in the whole of Italy. The surrounding landscape is equally enchanting. It includes some of the most scenic areas of Tuscany, the Chianti, and the Val d’Orcia.
Pisa is the home of the world-famous Leaning Tower. This sight is in itself is reason to visit this small city, located on a plain less than 10 km. from the Tyrrhenian coast. The Cathedral complex in Piazza dei Miracoli, of which the tower is part, is on the outskirts of the city centre and you can spend half a day exploring it. It’s a lively and relaxing university town. The city centre has some interesting Medieval architecture.
Lucca is a lovely city surrounded by Renaissance city walls; the only example of this kind of fortification still intact in Italy. Lucca seduces the traveller with a friendly charm, beautiful Medieval churches and pleasant relaxing squares. It’s set in an enviable position in northern Tuscany, between the Thyrrenian coast and the mountanous area of the Garfagnana.
If you’re planning to travel around in Tuscany, have a look at our suggestions on where to base yourself.
Arezzo and Pistoia are worth visiting for their Medieval city centres. Arezzo is in Eastern Tuscany, close to the Apennines that run along Tuscany’s Eastern border. It’s a rural centre, with a strong artisan tradition, and important works of art. The heart of the city is the splendid Piazza Grande where the film “Life is Beautiful” was filmed; a gorgeous space filled with architectural gems.
Pistoia, half way between Florence and Lucca, is a tranquil city off the main tourist trail. It’s will be trying to attract more visitors and in 2017 it will be the capital of Italian culture. Highlights are the lovely Piazza Duomo and the lively square, Piazza della Sala.
There are other main cities which don’t usually feature on the tourist map:
Livorno is a busy port, where most Mediterranean cruise ships stop. There are no major tourist attractions, but the interesting history of this port can be appreciated with a boat tour of the canals.
Carrara, the ‘city of marble’ has an interesting Cathedral, and makes a useful base to explore the Apuan Alps.
This is a snapshot of the main cities in Tuscany. But remember no itinerary would be complete with visiting the most scenic and charming Tuscan towns and some of its picturesque villages. Here’s some Tuscany itineraries that you might find useful when planning a trip to this side of the world.