Visitors coming to Tuscany would typically stop by the region’s capital, Florence, first. Florence has long been famous for its Renaissance masterpiece - the Florence Cathedral, various old bridges above the romantic Arno River as well as the abundant art galleries and museums. However, Tuscany is so much more than just Florence! If you would like to spend more time in the region and experience the real, central Italian lifestyle in a lesser known or smaller city, consider these destinations on your next trip:
Versatile and artistic Siena
Many travelers that I’ve met rate Siena highly. This small city offers various unique activities for visitors including climbing the Torre del Mangia at the 800 year-old Palazzo Pubblico, viewing the art in a black and white Italian Romanesque cathedral – the Duomo. The city is definitely a spot-on destination for artists, with its strong history of Sienese art. The historical city was the home to some famous artists such as Duccio, Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Pisa and its famous leaning tower
Famous for its iconic leaning tower, Pisa attracts hundreds of tourists per day coming to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site - Piazza del Miracoli or the Square of Miracles. Most of the city’s main sights are located here including the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral of Pisa, the Baptistry and the Monumental Cemetery. Built in the late 12th century by an unknown architect, the Leaning Tower took about 200 years for it to be completed. It was leaning at about a 10 degree angle until 1990, and is also slightly curved intentionally, as many current architects attempt to prevent it from falling over. This 60 metre (about 196.85 feet) high tower, was originally designed as a circular bell tower that would stand about 56.4 metres (185 feet) high, probably the tallest bell tower in Europe. With 207 columns around the 8 stories, 15 marble arches on the bottom story and 30 arches surrounding the next six stories of the tower, it looks like a massive tilting wedding cake.
The student town of Pisa is more than just the Leaning Tower. If you would like to escape from the touristy crowds for a while, spend time lounging around the nearby Arno River. In the early morning, the magnificent reflection of various colourful houses surrounding the Arno on the calm water surface is worth experiencing. Pisa is an extremely small and walkable city that you can explore within half a day.
Lucca is small city nearby Pisa (about half an hour by train), which you can visit for a day trip. This non-touristy city is surrounded by city walls that you can walk or cycle on. Don’t expect massive buildings here, but you will fall in love with smaller churches and cathedrals around the city. You’ll also find a bunch of vintage and art shops surrounding the shopping street Via Fillungo, which is for pedestrians only. Lucca’s atmosphere during winter is magically romantic. The mist surrounding the towers and various old houses lying along the narrow streets creates a calm and mysterious atmosphere for this small undiscovered town.
Traveling in Tuscany
Getting around Tuscany is highly affordable using public transportation. Using bus companies, such as Flixbus and Megabus, can be very cheap, especially if you book in advance. Most buses from Megabus have two floors, meaning you can enjoy the landscape from the window as you travel. Trains, like the company Treinitalia, are also an option, though they are not much faster than buses. The Tuscany region is full of magnificent mountains, endless fields, romantic rivers and medieval houses lying on hills. Do not miss the chance to enjoy these views along the journey. Other undiscovered gems in Tuscany I suggest checking out are San Gimignano and Monteriggioni.
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