Tuscany has many thermal spas. The largest and most famous of them is Montecatini Terme.
Montecatini Terme is a beautiful town that was built around its mineral water springs. The spring water is considered to help people with trouble with the stomach or liver. Healthy people can enjoy the old time grandeur of the town, stroll in the park or enjoy spa treatments in the various hotels.
The most famous spa in town is the Tettuccio Terme located on the main street of Montecatini Terme – Viale Verdi, next to the park. on the same street you can find the municipality building and the tourist information center.
The Tettuccio Terme was built in the late 18th century by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold of Habsburg – Lorraine, the son of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. The first three spas that were built were the Tettuccio, the Regina and Leopoldine. These three spas made Montecatini Terme famous all over Europe, and a favourite place for the rich and the royalty.
These days the spa treatments have advanced and they include many modern methods of massage, mud pack treatments and hydrotherapy.
Famous visitors to Montecatini Terme include, but are not limited to – Puccini who composed parts of La Boheme here, and Verdi.
The town of Montecatini Terme is world famous for its spas, springs and thermal baths. Montecatini Alto is a lovely hilltop village, joined to the main town via a funicular railway. A summer resort, Montecatini (30K east of Lucca) is a wealthy and popular watering-hole lying at the foot of the Pistoian mountains.
Elegant, peaceful and relaxing, the spas make for perfect resting places. Enjoy a glass of enriched water, or take the plunge for the full treatment … you’ll be in illustrious company. Previous visitors include Rossini, Verdi, Princess Grace, Orson Welles, Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks and assorted European royalty. Verdi was particularly taken, searching for eternal youth each year for 25 years.
The centre and the Parco delle Terme are delightful, and if designer shopping is your bag (Prada etc) then you’re in for a treat. The Terme Tettucio is perhaps the most famous and is typical of the town’s belle-epoque ambience. Built in the style of Imperial Rome, it lies a few minutes walk from the delightful funicular railway that will take you up to Montecatini Alto.
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Montecatini Alto is the original Montecatini settlement, lying a few hundred metres above the ‘new’ town.
The views from here are splendid, and the delightful Piazza Giusti is home to some good bars and restaurants.
Montecatini alto (high) is a characteristic medieval village, abounding in historical events culture and illustrious personages, is one of the most ancient inhabited centers in the Valdinievole.
If you’re driving, we’re not saying its easy!….a SatNav will ease the journey. Take the autostrada to Firenze and you need to make your way to Piazzale di Michelangelo. This is a large car park south of Florence and although very busy, with persistence you’ll get a car parking space..and its FREE! From here there are breath taking views of Florence, the river Arno, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio etc. Get the camera ready! You can walk down the steps, along the river, across the Ponte Vecchio and into the centre of Florence. The restaurant by the bridge, before you cross over is very good. You can get a table with a view of the Bridge and have lunch before you see the sights.
Alternatively…..let the train take the strain!….its free parking at Montecatini railway station….the train takes you right into the centre of Florence and its quick…..
Florence (Firenze) is the regional capital of Tuscany, in the centre of Italy. A town with a turbulent and action-packed history, Florence is now packed with tourists being shepherded around the city’s museums. The town is situated on the river Arno, which is spanned by the famous Ponte Vecchio, the only of Florence’s bridges not to be blown up in the Second World War. Florence’s most striking landmark is Brunelleschi’s dome on the Duomo, and its most reproduced sight is Michelangelo’s statue of David.
On arrival, visit the Tourist Information Office opposite the station, where you can pick up a free town plan and a vital piece of equipment – a list of museum opening times and prices. Some museums and galleries are open only in the morning, others may close one or two days a week, so you really need to plan your sightseeing if you want to get the most from your trip. It’s also worth visiting the ATAF bus station alongside the railway station to pick up a free bus map and a couple of tickets.
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Lucca, in the central Italian region of Tuscany, is one of Italy’s less flashy destinations. Favoured by the quieter kind of foreign visitor, Lucca is often whispered of as a secret gem; an alternative to the high-season tourist madness of Florence, or Rome. A town still encircled by its wall, it is full of pastry shops and bicycles; visitors are are more likely to be knocked down by an ambling bike than a car.
Lucca’s tradition has been one of sturdy independence rather than flamboyance, which means that the information boards you come across outside its more notable buildings are still usually in Italian only. In fact, the town boasts no famous showpieces, and therefore no crowds of tourists or rows of souvenir shops.
It’s possible, for a few euros, to climb one or other of the two highest bell-towers to look out on the mazy rooftops of the town and the surrounding Tuscan hills. A small circular piazza with entrances at the four points of the compass stands on the site of the town’s Roman amphitheatre. The beautiful church of San Frediano, founded by an Irish saint, keeps the intact body of a later saint on show for the faithful, as well as a vast 12th-century font with figures carved with such force as to seem more Viking than Romanesque. For contrast, find the statue of Lucca’s favourite son, Puccini, relaxing with a cigarette
Lucca’s other tourist attractions include a fine Duomo in the Pisan style, alongside its own museum, both of which contain fine work by Jacopo della Quercia.
Pistoia (Citta di Piante- City of Plants)
Pistoia is a little-known delight. It lies in the tourist heart of Tuscany, a stone’s throw from Florence, Lucca and Siena, but tends to get missed out by travellers. This isn’t completely surprising. The town is less grand than Florence, less ancient than Siena and less complete than Lucca, and its name doesn’t perhaps sound as pretty. Yet Pistoia is a gem. All the ingredients of an old Tuscan city are there – old walls, striped churches, frescoes, medieval watchtowers, arcaded piazzas – packed into a rather small centre.
Pisa (if you’re going up the Leaning Tower, book your tickets as soon as you arrive at the square as they is likely to be an hour or more wait to go up)
Pisa’s principal tourist attractions are grouped together in the Campo dei Miracoli, the Field of Miracles. It’s hard to believe the place is real; the tourists flocking around are the only thing that gives the surreal scene a touch of reality. The setting is a flat space, green with lawns, at the edge of the town centre. Here rise the town’s cluster of monuments, all architecturally exquisite, and all leaning at different angles. There is a grand Romanesque cathedral, a large striped baptistry, and, of course, the Leaning Tower.
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Viareggio is a first class seaside resort, easily reached by car on the motorway or by train from anywhere in Italy.
The sandy beach of Viareggio falls gently into the sea, ideal for children, is spacious and clean. Alongside runs the promenade with boutiques, shops, cafés, discos, cinemas, art-galleries and much more for your entertainment. There are two beautiful pine-forests on either side of the town, allowing all kinds of activities sports, games and you can relax in healthy clean air.
Viareggio is one of the most famous and traditional seaside resorts in Tuscany. The wide, endless beaches, the excellent cuisine and the exciting night-life with its well-known “Versilian” discos -all contribute to make Viareggio a favorite holiday resort. A visit to Viareggio means meeting young Italians and enjoying the seafood specialities of Tuscany.
This medieval town with its fortress and town walls is smoothly incorporated into the chain of the Lucca hills (colline Lucchesi), nowadays easily to be reached over serpentine roads; as can be expected you will enjoy an enchanting panorama once arrived on top. The view covers almost 300°. From the Pescia valley over to Montecatini and the Pisa Mountains down to Lucca. One small road leads into the town, another one out of town.
Fortunately many tourists use the parking lots outside the gates making traffic in town acceptable. During summer the tables of the pizzerie and inns are simply placed on the road. As it becomes refreshingly cool at evenings the inhabitants simply put out their own chairs out on the streets as well. There is colourful life all over the streets and the piazza with its splendid panoramic view.
The town also enjoys international fame for its good wines, red as well as white ones, growing on the smooth slopes of this stand-alone hill.
Pescia is a small town located in Tuscany, in the province of Pistoia. The town is located between Florence and Lucca and is spread out over an area of 79 sq. km. Pescia is mainly a floricultural and agricultural town and has recently gained much popularity as a tourist destination due to its scenic locations and its many beautiful hills that are covered by olive trees, flowers and citrus fruit trees.
One of the most attractive features of the town is that it has still managed to retain its medieval features.
The Mercanto Dei Fiori is the local flowers market in Pescia and is one of the most interesting places to visit in town. Pescia is known for its beautiful flowers that grow on the surrounding hills and the exclusive flowers market in Pescia has an overwhelming selection of flowers. The sights, colors and fragrance at the market is quite heady.
Pinnochio Park (Collodi)
Inaugurated in 1956, the Pinocchio Park is no ordinary theme park, but rather a precious masterpiece created by artists of great character working together. The literary itinerary, marked out by mosaics, buildings and sculptures set amidst the greenery, emerges from an inspired combination of art and nature. The path is winding, and the dense vegetation means that every stage on the route comes as an unexpected surprise, with the very plants and trees contributing to create the atmosphere and the episodes in the story of the Adventures of Pinocchio. The Park itself is the site of constantly renewed cultural activities that are always mindful of its roots: exhibitions of art and illustrations inspired by children’s literature and the Story of Pinocchio, puppet-making workshops, puppet and marionette shows and minstrels enliven the visit to the Park, depending on the season.
Directions: COLLODI: A11 Firenze Mare motorway, take the Chiesina Uzzanese exit and continue in the direction Pescia-Collodi
San Gimignano (a fabulous day trip driving through the Tuscan landscape; San Gimignano is very touristy but not oppressive, its lovely picturesque town with plenty of restaurants and shops)
An important town in the Middle Ages due to its position on a trade and pilgrimage route, San Gimignano was full of tall towers built by competitive and quarrelsome Tuscan families. Warring, the Black Death and the aggression of nearby Florence put a halt to the town’s progress, and it remained a memorial to its 11th-13th century prosperity. There were once an incredible 72 towers rising above the town’s rooftops. There are fewer towers nowadays, but the fourteen remaining are still impressive in the misty distance. In the Museo Civico/Pinacoteca you can see various paintings depicting the town in the days when it bristled with warlike skyscrapers. One depiction shows a miniature town in the lap of St. Gimignano himself, who – to judge by the illustrations of his life – seems to have been a very busy patron saint.
From the bus stop and car park outside the town walls, you enter through a gateway and ascend a tourist-fleecing tunnel of a street towards the central piazza. From the open space and civic buildings at San Gimignano’s heart, another shop-and-bar-lined street descends on the far side. These busy streets and shops aren’t unpleasant, and they’re (mostly) not too tacky. But for atmosphere, dive down one of the smaller alleys and you’ll find a charming, traditional town where almost every view is tranquil.
Siena (this is a day trip on its own, about an hour’s drive using the autostrada)
The well-conserved medieval streets and piazzas are home to the annual festival of the Palio, a neck-or-nothing horserace which takes place in Siena’s main square, the Campo.
Historical Siena is arranged around three radiating ridges of high ground, with green valleys enclosed within the old city walls.
The first stop for tourists in Siena is Piazza del Campo (otherwise known simply as il Campo). This is the secular heart of Siena, a sloping amphitheatre of a square, lined with cafe tables and thronged with tourists, school parties and locals. The Campo is the dramatic setting for the Palio horserace. The piazza’s focal point is the Palazzo Pubblico, the public palace, which dates back to 1250 and is still the seat of the Municipality.
Heading uphill from the Campo, you arrive outside the monumental green-and-white-striped Duomo, Siena’s cathedral. The interior of the cathedral itself is ornate and decorated, lined with the heads of saints. The floor is composed of extremely fine inlaid marble scenes – some are covered to preserve them from wear, but others are usually exposed in roped-off sections. The Duomo is free to visit; although there is a small charge to visit the Piccolomini Library, (off to the left of the nave), where charming courtly scenes by Pinturicchio recount the life story of Sienese Pope Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pius II). Adjacent to the Duomo, the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana contains much of the original artwork from the cathedral, Sienese paintings, and the opportunity to view Siena from a vantage point on the unfinished new cathedral facade.
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The Chianti Trail
Take the autostrada from Montecatini towards Florence and turn off at the Siena turning. Follow this autostrada along for several miles until you see a turn off for Greve in Chianti. At this point you are in the main Chianti region of Tuscany. The trail meanders down from the South of Florence to just North of Siena. There are a number of routes to follow but you’re best bet is to follow the signs. Once you reach Greve, follow signs to Radda etc….the furthest town is Castellina, quite close to Siena. We’ve done this journey a couple of times and leaving Montecatini around 10.00, you can visit all the towns listed below comfortably in a day and be back home by 5.00 or 6.00 and that’s with a lunch stop in one of many restaurants and cafes on route. Each Chianti village is basically a main street, a church, restaurants and wine shops…can’t be bad! Also, it’s very relaxing and unhurried even in August!
Greve in Chianti
Greve in Chianti -situated at what was the crossroads of an important road axis in past times.
It developed predominantly as a market town, with a large market being held in the unusual triangular piazza lined with porticoes, which is still always busy and lively.
The parish church of the town, dedicated to the Santa Croce, contains a triptych by Bicci di Lorenzo.
The Museo di Arte Sacra has very recently been opened in the former convent of San Francesco; it houses an important collection of paintings, sculptures, vestments and liturgical furnishings, a tangible sign of the artistic vitality of the local district.
Greve is surrounded by delightful villages, such as Montefioralle with its stone houses and paved streets, or Panzano not far from which is the fine Romanesque church of San Leolino, with a five-arch sixteenth-century portico. The interior houses precious works of art. There are also many castles in the surroundings of Greve.
Panzano in Chianti
Panzano in Chianti – Panzano (498m) originally a medieval castle, still preserves some of its old walls and towers.
Its strategic and picturesque position is best appreciated on the approach from San Casciano.
There is one main street leading to the church of Santa Maria which was completely renovated a century ago. It has a late Gothic Madonna and Child attributed to Bernardo di Stefano Rosselli encased in a larger picture with saints and angels. In the nearby oratory is an Annunciation attributed to Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio.
Radda in Chianti
Radda in Chianti – This village (53Om, pop: 1,655) is situated on a hill covered with woods and extensive vineyards forming the watershed between the Pesa and Arbia valleys.
Formerly belonging to the Guidi family, it came under Florentine control in 1203. After being fortified in 1400 it was, from 1415 onwards, head of the League of Chianti, and it preserves the remains of its ancient walls.
The structure of the medieval village is still intact; it grew up elliptically around the church of San Nicolò, of 14th century origin and the Palazzo Pretorio. Built about 1415, its facade adorned with the coats of arms of the podestà (chief magistrates), the latter is now the seat of the municipality.
Just outside the village, in the Vignale farm, are the headquarters of the Chianti Classico consortium (its symbol is the black-cockerel, the former emblem of the League of Chianti), and the Centro di Studi Chiantigiani (Centre for Chianti Studies), founded in 1984, with a small library and an archive devoted to the history of Chianti and its agriculture. The Montevertine farm, near the village, houses the small Museo del Chianti, with displays relating to the farming community.
From Radda, after descending in the direction of Greve in Chianti and turning left after 3km, the route climbs up the southern slope of Monte San Michele, firstly to Santa Maria Novella and then Volpaia. In a small medieval village, the church of Santa Maria Novella, rebuilt in the 19th century, has preserved its basilican plan with a nave flanked by two aisles. Inside, the capitals are adorned with medieval sculptures similar to the Lombard ones in the churches of the Casentino.
Gaiole in Chianti
Gaiole in Chianti – gaiole has developed along the valley of the River Massellone due to its idea position as a trading and meeting point and its origins are based in these very geographical characteristics.
In fact, even prior to the year 1000 the hills surrounding this valley were populated and it was these inhabitants who came down into the valley to meet and trade; they gave life to the centre that then became the main focal point of the whole valley.
Offcial documents dating back to 1215 show its importance as a trading post and this was to carry on expanding with the constitution of the “Lega del Chianti” in 1300 with Gaiole as the head of the “terzieri” together with Radda and Castellina.
The “Leghe” formed the basis for political and administrative division in the country areas under Florence and when necessary provided both money and soldiers.For four centuries the borough of gaiole was considered the border between Florence and Siena and was consequently a target for raids and plundering until the definitive fall of Siena in 1555.
The system of the “Leghe” remained with both the Medici and the Lorena until 1776 when the “terzieri” of Chianti became the actual boroughs of to day.
Castellina in Chianti
Castellina in Chianti – If we want to find the origin of Castellina in Chianti we have to go far back to the beginning of history. These hills, sometimes wild, often softly rolling, still indicate that mankind has been using them for differenl purposes at least since the 7th century B.C. Towns and settlements founded during this period and located along the most important donkey tracks leading from the mountains down to Castellina in Chianti, are stil] proof of a communication link between the large Mediteranian Etruscan cities like Vulci, Vetulonia and Roselle, as well as the famous tradin’ centers of the North like Spina.
Since the 13th century A.D. Castellina is part of the “Lega del Chianti”, meaning “Chianti Alliance”. This was a administrative and military alliance within the state of Florence. Because of its optimal strategic location which guaranteed the control of all surrounding roads, as well as the whole valley of the Elsa river, Castellina retained its military position
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Everything in Vinci town tells us about the Genius: his house, the church where he was baptized, the streets and the squares of the castle that still have their medieval appearance. Leonardo’s presence can be felt everywhere.
ou can get to know him better, by visiting the museum or the library dedicated to his works, or by walking through the countryside outside of town in search of the very same landscape at which Leonardo gazed.
Dating back to the Early Middle Ages, Vinci is centered around the castle that belonged to the Guidi Counts from the year 1000 to 1254, at which time it was subjugated by Florence and transformed into a Commune.
The castle is popularly known as “the castle of the ship”, because its elongated shape resembles the silhouette of a sailing vessel, ft houses some frescoed and sculptured coats of arms, remembrances of the Podestas, and the splendid Madonna and Child terracotta by Giovanni della Robbia.
Leonardo Museum. This museum is considered to be one of the largest and most original collections of machines and models of Leonardo the inventor, technologist and engineer. Each model is shown together with precise references to the artist’s sketches and annotations.
The machines exhibited exemplify various fields of interest: there are military machines, machines for construction, scientific instruments and machines for moving through air, water and on land. Palazzina Uzielli, a newly added section of the museum, houses the temporary exhibitions and an educational center which offers cultural programs.
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