Tuscany: Florence & Siena
Tuscany, located in north-central Italy, is famous for its beautiful landscape, rich traditions, significant place in history, artistic prowess and its cultural influence on western civilization. The countryside is amongst the most memorable in Europe. Within surrounding mountains exist rolling hills primarily utilized for agriculture along with quaint, beautiful towns and villages with rich cultural and artistic traditions. Of course, the food and wines of this region highlight a unique and special way of life.
Florence, known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, is the capital of Tuscany. During medieval times, this city was amongst the wealthiest and under the lead of the powerful Medici family possibly the leading city in all of Europe. It is one of many World Heritage Sites (granted by UNESCO) in Tuscany and is ranked as one of the most beautiful, most visited and most fashion influential cities in the world.
The cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore (the “Duomo”), is an engineering masterpiece in its construction of the largest brick and mortar dome in the world – and its construction took place over 600 years ago! Over the River Arno exists the unique Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) adorned with its shops help up by stilts and above which exists the private walkway of the Medici rulers years ago.
Walking the streets of Florence is like visiting an outdoor art museum as beautiful and significant works abound. Piazza della Signoria houses numerous works of significance including Palazzo Veccchio, the Fountain of Neptune, Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women and a reproduction of Michelangelo’s David amongst others.
Florence houses some of the greatest art work in the world. Many historic figures in the world of art and science lay claim to Florence as their ‘home’ at some point in their lives. The Uffizi, Pitti and Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture, display significant and varied pieces from one of the most innovative and explosive periods in art. Certainly one of these famous galleries can be visited during your tour.
Not far from Florence, amongst rolling hills sits Siena – another UNESCO World Heritage Site. More compact and historically more conservative, Siena is one of the most well-preserved medieval and therefore uniquely beautiful cities in Italy. It’s 13th century cathedral is a mixture of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. A highlight of this city is how remarkably comfortable it is to sight-see, shop and relax while dining in its beautiful shell-shaped town square, Piazza del Campo. Siena also hosts ‘the Palio’, a famed horserace between rival neighborhoods around the same town square.