UNESCO’s World Heritage sites lists EIGHT locations in Tuscany
There’s really something for everyone in Tuscany.
In Tuscany we have coastal cities (Leghorn, Pisa, Viareggio), mountains (you can ski on the Apennine, in Abetone!), hill towns (San Gimignano, San Miniato, Monteriggioni, Siena, Vinci, Montecatini Alto, Montecarlo), and river plains (Valdarno, Versilia)...
Tuscany is famous globally for its world-famous art collections, charming medieval hill towns and hillsides full of Chianti vineyards.
The list of Tuscan charming towns is nearly endless: Florence, Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Cortona, Fiesole, San Gimignano, Vinci, Montepulciano, Livorno, Pienza... While you can see Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and Michelangelo’s “David” only in Florence, virtually any hill town will provide the perfect backdrop for the Tuscan vacation you have always dreamed of. And in fact, if your ideal Tuscan holiday involves being off the beaten path (increasingly difficult in Tuscany, of course, as pretty much the entire region is considered right in the middle of the beaten track), you’re better off choosing a village that is not mentioned in any guidebook you can find (try Fucecchio!).
No matter where you make your homebase, however, here are a few things you might not want to miss in Tuscany.
A good starting point could be visiting the UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, that lists EIGHT locations in Tuscany!
- The historic centre of Florence, since 1982 (ph: Gabriele Mantellini)
- The Cathedral square in Pisa, since 1987 (ph: Gabriele Mantellini)
- The historic center of San Gimignano, since 1990 (ph: Instagram.com/stefanogera)
- The historic center of Siena, since 1995 (ph: Alvise Bagagiolo)
- The historic center of Pienza since, 1996 (ph: italia.it)
- and the entire Val d’Orcia, since 2004 (ph: blog.ilgiornale.it )
- The Medici villas, since 2013 (ph: Gabriele Mantellini)
- Montecatini Terme, among the great Spa Towns of Europe
The RAI (RAdiotelevisione Italiana is the national public broadcasting company of Italy), in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (which guaranteed the economic contribution for the operation), has published these videos that illustrate the Italian sites that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage. The videos, which have obtained the patronage of the Italian National Commission for Unesco, are all available also in HD format. Click on the above links to watch all the videos in full (by clicking you will be redirected to YouTube).
So you have Florence (it’s a must-see stop for a reason, so even if you can’t stand crowds and don’t like art it’s worth at least one full day), Pisa (home to one of Italy’s most enduring symbols, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For many travelers, this city is little more than a quick stop en route to somewhere else just to get a snapshot of the famous tower, but is it right? Or maybe there is more to see?), Siena (many a traveler’s favorite spot in Tuscany, Siena manages to stay charming no matter how many tourists clog the streets in summer. The town is centered around a shell-shaped public square called Il Campo, and it is a glorious and proud city with a beautiful cathedral and excellent views of the countryside), the Hill Towns (take your pick, but visit at least one of Tuscany’s many hill towns. It almost doesn’t matter which one you choose, but you are advised to find the smallest town you can. Many of these towns remain quieter because they don’t have a train station. Pick a town and make it a day-trip, taking time to just wander the streets, duck in and out of shops, sip an espresso at the bar of a small cafe, or simply sit in the main piazza -every town has one!- and watch the world go by.
What is not on this list, yet is worldwide famous and deserves your attention?
Eating & Drinking!
Now, I’m not suggesting that you’d forget to eat if this wasn’t mentioned as a must-do thing in Tuscany. But what I am suggesting is that because of Italy’s intense regionality you’re going to find dishes and specialties in Tuscany which you will not find anywhere else in Italy. For instance, Tuscan bread is made with no salt (pane sciocco); a popular main course is wild boar (quite tasty); a bistecca Fiorentina is a must for beef eaters (though one is usually big enough to share, like at Benito); and the house wine is almost always better than something you would pay much more for at home. Additionally, there are foodies who consider the gelato in Florence to be some of the best in Italy. Feel free to sample widely to make your own decision about that.
You will not be the first person to “discover” anything you see in Tuscany – it’s been one of the top tourist destinations in Italy (and the world) for so long that pretty much every corner has been visited at one point or another. But that should absolutely not discourage you from setting out to explore Tuscany as if you were the first person to do so. The treasures to be found in Tuscany are the same – no matter how many people look at them, they don’t get any less beautiful.
Ph: Alvise Bagagiolo http://droneart.it/