Tuscany, Italy: Artistic, Traditional and Historic


Carved arches and pillars of a Rennaissance Church in Lucca, Tuscany
 

Fill Your Heart with Passion and Your Soul with Tuscany













From being the home of exquisite renaissance art and architecture, to some of Italy’s most refined culinary delights, Tuscany is sure to inspire. Lush rolling hills, distant dusky mountains, pruned rows of olive trees and peachy-orange sunlight are just some sublime features guaranteed to get under your skin.
Tuscany affords its reputation as the most culturally stimulating destination in many more ways than can be covered in a short article. Its exquisite history and deeply-etched culture is to be seen, heard, smelt and felt to be believed, however the most fantastic highlights are covered below and the decision is yours!


Florence


As the capital of beautiful Tuscany, Florence is a Renaissance city packed full of famous historic treasures such as the stunning marble and red-roofed Duomo cathedral at the Piazza Del Duomo, and the home of Michelangelo’s David – probably the most famous sculpture in the world. Not to mention, there are many other less famous delights to be experienced and the attention to detail in the Florentine architecture can be admired all over the city.

David is located at the Galleria Dell’Accademia on Via Ricasoli, which is a short walk from the Piazza Del Duomo. Tickets can be reserved in advance to avoid queuing, at a small fee. Alternatively get up early to avoid both queuing and paying (entrance is free). David is quite honestly a superbly impressive piece of art and history. Standing more than four metres tall over his crowd of admirers, his rippling muscles appear less marble and more flesh. His face appears both innocent and masculine. David is of course the centrepiece at the Accademia, although there is some excellent historic religious art to be found.


Lucca


Intact medieval city walls, car-less narrow stone streets and wonderful renaissance and Pisan architecture make this impressive town a moody, buzzing and interesting place to be. Cars are not ordinarily allowed inside the city walls however most hotels will give you a permit.    
Hire a bicycle to experience this town how many others appear to enjoy it, locals and tourists alike. For stunning views of the red-tiled roofs, narrow streets and surrounding natural beauty climb the Torre Guinigi – a tower over-looking the city with oak trees growing on the top.
Ice-cream and sweet treats are in abundance, so go ahead – indulge in the art of La Dolce Vita and forever appreciate the blessing of a sweet tooth, Italian style.


San Gimignano




This is a small medieval town characterised by its tall imposing oblong towers. Each once belong to one family, and they would increase the height of their tower as a sign of power. It is a popular place for tourist visits, but for good reason. The narrow alleys, high quality craft shops and general history make this an atmospheric and interesting place to visit.


Pisa - Tuscany - Piazza Del MiracoliPisa


With many more architectural delights than the famous Leaning Tower, Pisa is packed full of history and culture beyond the obvious. However the Piazza Dei Miracoli hosts a stunning and imposing array of famous Pisan landmarks including the Leaning Tower. On a warm day, an ideal lunchtime option is to stroll down one of the bustling streets off the Piazza Dei Miracoli, dodge the expensive tourist-trap restaurants, choose some fresh bread, mortadella salami and fresh ripe tomatoes from a local shop, and park yourself on the lush green grass in front of the Leaning Tower to immerse your senses and (hopefully) soak up some sun.    

Isola d’Elba


Isola d'Elba - Tuscany









For the clearest, most turquoise ocean water, greenest Tuscan hills, and most laid back island lifestyle, head to blissful Elba. The simple pleasure of peering into the gentle rippling crystal water at the blue-tinged rocks below never fails to impress. Climb or cycle up the forested hills and mountains for impressive views of the winding coastline and the hills dropping straight into the ocean.

Elba has a collection of small towns each with their own array of nearby beaches, including the main town Portoferrario, which most ferry journeys arrive to and depart from. Marciana Marina is a tiny coastal town with a beautiful natural harbour. It possesses a good collection of Italian restaurants along the oceanfront, with excellent seafood choices, and many other traditional Italian pasta and pizza delights. Head towards the harbour, and tucked around the corner is a convenient and clean little pebble beach. Carry on further round for rock pools and various attractive little rocky coves. The other side of the oceanfront leads to a collection of restaurants and pretty little houses with a straight drop to the shallow water below. Walk the narrow road up the hill and climb the steps to reach a grassy hill. Look out over the blue expanse and admire the view of the little town and seafront below, with the mountainous backdrop.

Hotel Suggestion - Elba


Hotel La Primula in Marciana Marina is an excellent affordable mid-range hotel. Rooms are clean, fresh and light with a good shower and a small balcony. Marciana Marina is a good location for natural beauty. Secluded pebble coves, mountain scenery and outdoors mountain activities like rock-climbing, mountain biking, and via ferrata.

Hotel Primula Website: www.hotellaprimula.it

Getting Around on Elba


Elba can be extremely busy in the height of summer as it is a popular destination for holidaying Italians. Although this adds a bustling pleasant atmosphere, for a more secluded stay, and very reasonable prices, a good time to visit is springtime.
The bus services are not the most frequent so a good (and slightly hair-raising) option is to rent a moped. Alternatively push-bikes can be easily rented at hotels or local vehicle rental places in high and low seasons. It can be a lot of hassle to bring a car to Elba as there is very limited parking in most places, especially in summer. The island’s tourist facilities such as moped rental are in full swing in summer, however if you are visiting outside of this time many moped rental companies are closed or offer limited services, so check before you travel.

The ferries are frequent, approximately every two hours. They depart from Piombino on the mainland. Toremar is usually the cheapest company and there is normally no need to pre-book. The Toremar website is in Italian, so for an English alternative for information visit:

Text and Images Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012
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