When you think of Tuscany, you most likely imagine stonewalled houses against a beautiful backdrop of greenery, warm sunshine and delicious dishes; a paradise for the senses. Here are five picturesque towns worth visiting on your next trip there:
Tucked away in the hills from Florence you will find Fiesole, a town dating back to the Etruscans. The main sights include a tour of the Roman theatre (which is still used for concerts today), a visit to the impressive Romanesque cathedral in the city centre and the monastery of St. Francis which rests peacefully on a crest of a hill. The climb up the monastery is quite long and steep but worth the effort as at one point, you can stop and sit to admire the panorama of Florence, with a clear view of the Duomo from an impressive height. It is recommended if you want a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of Florence.
2. San Gimignano
This characteristic small-walled town, known for its many tower houses can be found in the province of Siena. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance it was a thriving agricultural town, however when the Black Death spread through Europe its growing population ceased to exist. This unfortunate event is what makes San Gimignano so distinctive as it truly is a town frozen in time. The main sights here are obviously the tower houses (some of which you can climb inside and admire the view of the Chianti landscape from the top of the tower), the town’s main square the Piazza della Cisterna, and the Collegiata church in the city centre famous for its frescos.
Certaldo is famous as being the family home of Giovanni Boccaccio, the author of Decameron. What is particular about this town is that it is divided into two parts: Certaldo Alto which dates back to the Middle Ages and Certaldo Basso which is the more “modern” part of town dating back to the end of the 17th century. In Certaldo Alto, you can wander amongst its quiet streets and observe undisturbed its quaint medieval buildings. The main sights to visit are: Palazzo Pretorio the town’s main feature and one of its three museums, Casa Boccaccio the former household of the author which is now a museum, and adjacent to it is a tower from where you can observe the view of the rich green hills surrounding Valdesa.
This quiescent medieval town near Florence is well known in the summer for hosting the Pistoia Blues Festival. One of the main sights is the town’s impressive main square, the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of St. Zeno, the Romanesque bell tower from where you can admire the panorama of Pistoia and its surrounding hills, and the 14th century Gothic baptistery. A short walk away from the main square, you will find the Ospedale del Ceppo, Pistoia’s first hospital built during the Middle Ages, renowned for its colonnade decorated with its colourful ceramic friezes and tondoes from the Renaissance. At the Piazza della Sala, (a smaller square also in the city centre) you can stop for an espresso or an aperitivo in one of its many bars.
5. Montecatini Alto
This small and cosy medieval town in the Province of Pistoia is nearly 300 metres above sea level, and can be reached by a 19th century funicular railway. You can start your visit by seeing one of the town’s medieval churches, the Chiesa del Carmine founded by the Carmelites or the Chiesa di San Pietro, which houses a small sacred arts museum. Then make your way to explore the remains of the town’s old fortress, the Rocca di Castello Vecchio. Lastly, you can enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants in the main square before watching a play at the Teatro dei Ristori, the town’s Art Nouveau theatre.