Tuscany represents a journey of leisure, pleasure, cuisine and of course, discovery: Marvellous scenery in a landscape full of colorful rolling hills, massive mountains and numerous rivers – every valley is a waterway and rich in history, encompassing the ancient as well as modern, urban, and artistic. When travelling, you’ll find perfectly preserved hill towns, fabulous art, the most beautiful countryside imaginable, almost tropical coastal areas, great cities (e.g. Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Lucca), top quality restaurants and food stores, possibly the best cafes in the world as well as friendly and beautiful people.
Now I can tell by personal experience, since we had a big family trip there last week; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and wife from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. To give you an idea, let’s start with a photo I took from the plane just before landing at Pisa airport:
From Base Camp Pisa, which was a great adventure in itself, we travelled around to explore and tried to cover at least some of the sights we had read about and picked out in advance. I’ll gladly take you along and have decided to make a more detailed post of each of the highlights – for you to enjoy and for a recommendation to those who plan to visit Tuscany. To give you a clue in this introduction post, let’s start with a collage I have made – to put the scope of work on the map so to speak:
Tuscany’s culture spans centuries of ideologies and rural and city life in a rich tapestry of art and history, as beautiful as it is fascinating. In addition to the fame of Florence, Lucca, Pisa and Siena, Fiesole, Arezzo, Carrara, Volterra and San Gimignano, and countless other corners of the region hold delightful gems to which one can only wish to return.
So in the following posts, I will take you with to these four places: Pisa, Florence, Siena and the famous Cinque Terre (“the five lands” – actually not in Tuscany, but close enough and a must see if you’re staying as close as in Pisa!).
Central Tuscany: Around Florence or Siena:
The most popular areas of Tuscany are around Florence (the capital of the region) or Siena. Florence is a larger town (population of ca. 300,000) and Siena is smaller (around 50,000). Anywhere within a 45 minute drive of Florence or Siena will be a good location for a first time countryside visit.
Left: Florence by Santa Maria Del Fiore Dome – Right: The Medieval Town of Siena
Florence became prominent after the death of Matilde di Canossa, the last of the Marquises of Tuscany, in 1115 and the defeat of the Pisans by the Genoese at the battle of Meloria. Florence’s subsequent rise was inexorable, culminating in the Nineteenth Century, when the State of Lucca was annexed to its territories.
Pisa is more than the Leaning Towre:
Of course best known for the world famous Leaning Tower, if you come only to see that, you’ll miss the rest of the architectural and artistic marvels of this beautiful city. The half hour walk from the Campo dei Miracoli to the train station runs through a pedestrian street with many interesting sights, shops, and restaurants. The best way to explore Pisa is walking the streets – the city center is very small. I’ll give you a taste in these photos, but will give more details in my separate Pisa post later:
Left: Piazza Garibaldi – Right: Arno River
Cinque Terre – The Five Lands:
All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. Four of the towns possess an old-world charm (from North-to-South: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore). The northern-most town, Monterosso, is completely different. It is very beachy or resorty, with a fine boardwalk and modern apartment blocks and hotels—nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other towns, lined with colorful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other:
Cinque Terre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The name means Five Lands and comprises the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the Italian region of Liguria. On our one week family trip, this was to me the highlight of sightseeing. Again, I will give you more details in a separate post – so stay tuned! In the meantime, you might think about finding some connection between the name Cinque Terre and the name of my blog: RennyBA’s Terrella !?!
Updates – Later posts from this Family Trip:
1: A Taste of Florence to a family from Norway.
2: Family from Norway touring Medieval Siena in Tuscany.
3: Pisa more than Leaning Tower for Norway Family
4: Family from Norway exploring Cinque Terre in Italy