Tuscany

Tuscany is one of the most famous and beautiful Italian provinces, known for landscapes, historical buildings and museums, its coast and nature reserves. Its capşital, Florence, is one of the world’s most visited cities as well as birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. The western coastline on the Tyyrhenian sea faces several islands, including Elba. Much of the province is hilly, with the main plans around the Arno river. Agriculture includes wheat, vineyards and sunflowers as well as grazing land. Mining is important, together with steel and engineering, and is concentrated on the coastal strip. Florence is a fashion capital, well-known especially for luxury fabrics, leather and shoes. Tuscany has a huge heritage of renaissance painting and sculpture, mainly on show in galleries such as the Uffizi in Florence. The cathedral churches are also vast treasure houses of art. Pisa, Siena and Lucca were also important centres of medieval painting.

History of Tuscany

The Etruscans first occupied the area, building roads and mining minerals and creating beautiful art, later copied by the Romans. Roman foundnations include Lucca, Pisa and Siena; the Byzantines continued Roman rule until defeated by the Lombards, who made Lucca their regional capital. Pilgrims on the Via Francigena made the towns wealthy, but they divided into self-governing communes. The Medici family ruled from Florence, dominating the city and the papacy until 1737, when, on the death of the last Medici, Tuscany was transferred to the Duchy of Lorraine. Florence became Italy’s second capital, but during the 2nd world war was occupied by the Allies. From the end of the war, local governments have been centre-left.

Interesting Places in Tuscany

Pontremoli

Pontremoli is named after the bridge across the Magra river, an important crossing for pilgrims. It’s surrounded by hills, which supply the wild boar, mushrooms and chestnuts which feature as part of local cuisine, along with pasta and cakes.


Castello del Piagnaro

Castello del Piagnaro has a museum of Bronze age stelae carved with human figures which have been discovered locally; it also has pilgrim accommodation.


Pieve di Santo Stefano

Pieve di Santo Stefano a Soriano was a priory and tower in the Magra valley, which formed a stopping place on the Via Francigena. With an historic triptych and massive construction, the building seems to date from 1148 with 18th C reconstructions.


Castello di Malaspina

Castello di Malaspina is a hilltop castle between the mountains and the coast, now used as an artistic centre and pilgrim accommodation. You can tour the castle, seeing coins, weapons and art, and a view of the sea from the walls.


Aulla

Aulla is a small riverside town, bombed during the war, with an ancient abbey of Saint Caprasio and the Brunella Fortress, home of a natural history museum.


Massa

Massa is a small coastal town with a history of marble mining, and first place where a magnetic compass was used. It has a Ducal palace and a cathedral of white marble, as well as a botanical garden maintained by the city.


Pietrasanta

Pietrasanta is a coastal and mining town with famous beaches and connections to Michaelangelo, who used its marble. The churches are of local marble; one hosts art exhibitions and there are two palazzo.


Camaoire

Camaoire was a Roman station on the Via Cassia, between the sea and the mountains. It has a museum of sacred art in a Palazzo and an Archaeology Museum nearby.


Lucca

Lucca is a Roman city, as can be seen from the walls. Inside, the ancient amphitheatre now supports traditional houses. Towers are everywhere and the church of San Michele displays a famous maze.


Altopascio

Altopascio had one of the first pilgrim hostels, dated 1084, on the via Francigna, kept by a military order of St James which lasted for 400 years.


San Miniato

San Miniato is a small town on three hills dominating the Arno river valley and at the junction of major roads. It once had a castle and moat with walks and defensive towers; some still exist, as do two palazzo.


Gambassi Terme

Gambassi Terme is a small town on the slopes of the Else valley, the springs are famous for curing skin, respiratory and digestive complaints.


San Gimignano

San Gimignano is a world heritage site – a hilltop walled medieval town famous for its towers; the churches contain famous frescoes of the 14th C.


Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni is an intact medieval walled town on a hilltop, with 14 towers and 2 gates, mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy. The medieval festival takes place on the first two weekends of July. Monteriggionimedievale.com


Siena

Siena’s centre is a world heritage site for the Duomo, a superb Romanesque cathedral and the Palazzo Salimbeni, headquarters of a famous bank. It is also famous for the conservatoire.


Porta Camollia

Porta Camollia is a three arched medieval gateway through the walls of Siena and bears the arms of the Medici family. The Palio horse race takes place on 2 July and 16 August.


Ponte d’Arbia

Ponte d’Arbia is a small commune with a three-arched bridge leading into the town.


San Quirico

San Quirico is a small town with a tower (damaged) and a renaissance church of San Quirico, with a decorated arched portal, with animals and crocodiles. It also has a classic Italian garden.


Buonconvento

Buonconvento is a tiny town of red-brick buildings surrounded by nearly complete walls; they originally had nine watchtowers; now seven remain, together with two gates. Discovertuscany.com


Radicofani

Radicofani is a tiny town with a hilltop fortification called the castle of Ghino di Tacco. With outer and inner walls, corner towers and a central tower, the castle can be seen from afar.


Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni is a hilltop town with spring of volcanic water in a town-centre pool, St Catherine’s baths, and natural hot pools where visitors can swim.


Bagno San Filippo

Bagno San Filippo has a spa hotel with pool, mud baths and treatments. Outside the town are natural hot pools and limestone formations, all in a wooded setting.

Ponte a Rigo is a point at which the variants of the via Francigena again meet where the rivers Rigo and Paglia meet.


Stages

The official and the Tuscany website splits the route into 15 stages and a total of nearly 400km. The discover Italy website only lists 10 sections, however. These two itineraries are alternatives which separate and re-join before crossing into Latium. So you should use care in planning your itinerary. The route through the province is signed with Via Francigena signs and all stages are medium or easy.

Two lists of accommodation are available here.

The official Tuscany tourism website has information on other trails and activities.

The local via Francigena organisation’s site is Viafrancigenatoscana.eu. However, these may not be up-to-date.

                        


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