There are a lot of beautiful small towns in Italy. And Tuscany has its fair share. For the curious traveller there’s a lot to discover here. Little known places where you’ll find some of the most exquisite art, architecture and natural surroundings that Italy has to offer.
Beautiful small towns in Italy that will take your breath away
Want to visit a small town in Italy that’s big on experience. Well we’ve done your homework for you. These aren’t your average tourist bolt holes. These are locations for the more discerning traveller. So pack your bags, we’re going off-the-beaten track.
Pietrasanta – the ‘Little Athens’ of Italy
An open air contemporary art museum, a sculptors’ mecca where creativity flows and you find white marble in literally every corner. This is Pietrasanta, a lovely small town a few kilometres from the Versilia coast in Tuscany, nestled comfortably between the sea and the Apuan Alps. It has a splendid main square where the ancient and modern meet in creative dialogue: the marble Cathedral facade, the 16th century ‘Marzocco column’, and the work of contemporary artists are all on show here.
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Many international artists have chosen to live and work in Pietrasanta, attracted by the proximity of the marble rich Apuan alps. Famously Michelangelo used to come here to choose the marble for his creations, and since then innumerable sculptors have refined their art right here in this town, that has an excellent tradition of artisan work.
To appreciate the close ties between Pietrasanta and the art world it is enough to just take a walk around. Small statues poke out from every corner. Botero’s knight salutes you at the entrance to the town, and his original frescoes, comprising an extra-large sized Madonna and Devil, enrich the Church of the Misericordia.
PERFECT DESTINATION FOR: lovers of la bella vita and contemporary art fans. And you’re right on the Versilia coast too.
Anghiari – the perfect hilltop town
A Medieval walled town that should by rights be in the same league as San Gimignano and Cortona, but is still largely undiscovered. And this is an added bonus, as if you travel to Anghiari you have the benefit to have this delightful town to yourself, without the crowds of tourists.
Beautifully preserved, the town centre is a maze of narrow roads, charming small squares and the restored ancient buildings. Palazzo Taglieschi and its museum is definitely worth a visit. The walls that embrace this hilltop town are illuminated at night and make the atmosphere even more special. Romantic, timeless and tranquil, it’s a place where traditions and atmosphere go hand in hand.
Did you know? A famous battle was fought in Anghiari in 1440 between Florence and Milan, and Leonardo da Vinci represented this battle in a famously lost fresco.
PERFECT DESTINATION FOR: romance, medieval fans, arts and crafts shopping.
Massa Marittima – A splendid Cathedral and views
A real gem. Don’t confuse it with the town of Massa, which is in northern Tuscany. Many people from Tuscany have never visited it and don’t know how beautiful this small town is. On the way to the coast, a few kilometres from the coastal resort of Follonica, Massa Marittima is a real surprise. It has one of the most impressive Romanesque Cathedrals in the whole of Tuscany, set in a scenic square where you can relax at one of the outdoor tables. Medieval architecture, ultra picturesque corners, some lovely shops and a steep street take you to the high part of town from where you have an incredible view from above and in the distance the shimmering Mediterranean sea.
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You can spend a good hour exploring the splendid Cathedral, which is dedicated to San Cerbone. The exterior is a feast of lovely details, especially the main portal with lions’ heads and the story of the Saint surrounded by geese, also depicted on the marble Ark of Saint Cerbonius which is inside, behind the altar. A few steps from the church, you find the ‘erotic’ fresco, a curious scene devoted to fertility, in which a group of women busy themselves harvesting the special fruits from a tree of male genitalia.
PERFECT DESTIONATION FOR: medieval art lovers, photographers, relaxation.
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