Exploring Historic Tuscany: 3 Hidden Gem Towns You Must Visit
Friday, December 13, 2013
Tuscany is, without a doubt, one of the most popular places to visit in Italy. With its breathtaking scenery, beautiful vineyards and historic cities, it's no wonder that millions of people from around the world make their way to this part of the boot-shaped country every year. Whether you're staying in a Tuscany Villa rental for a few days, a week or for an extended period, experience the culture of Tuscany by visiting these three small historic towns.
Built on a promontory and surrounded by vibrant green valleys, Pitigliano is a town that takes a lot of pride in its heritage. The town has weathered many eras, all of which are reflected in the city today: the Etruscan period produced many tombs that have been found in caves and buttes around the city, not to mention some of the walls ; the Roman period gave the town its name (derived from Gens Petilia, a prominent family of the time); and the thriving Jewish population that existed in the town from the 15th century until WWII gave rise to the nickname "Little Jerusalem," as well as the famous Jewish ghetto and Synagogue.
The town has several highly regarded local vineyards, the fruits of which you can enjoy on your stay. In addition, there are several defensive structures to tour, the most impressive easily being the Palazzo Orsini, a 14th Century fortress that now holds regional art and artifacts from several different eras. Also, be sure to visit the Christian cave chapel, which dates back to 400 CE.
Located in the province of Siena, this walled medieval hill town offers visitors and locals much to see and do. The town itself is completely contained within the original city walls and is home to 14 historic towers that are still standing, making it world-famous. Walk along the narrow lanes lined with limestone houses, where you can visit wineries (the town is known worldwide for its white wine) and jewelry stores, or indulge in Italian sweets, cheeses, breads and more.
You can also climb the hundreds of steps of the Torre Grossa, the tallest tower in town, which was built around 1300 and stands at a commanding 54 meters (about 178 feet). From there you will be able to see the most picturesque Tuscany countryside and even the Apuan Alps.
Situated on the river Serchio, this oval-shaped city is located in a valley surrounded by fully preserved Renaissance stone walls. The town dates back to the Etruscans, and is well-known for its various churches, including the Duomo di San Martino (The Cathedral of St. Martin), which was built in the 13th century. There is also the Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca, a botanical garden dating from the 1820s, the Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi, a 15th century palace that has been converted into a regional museum, and a yearly Puccini opera festival dedicated to the famous composer who hails from the town.
In addition, the town is full of various dining options, including pizzerias, traditional Italian and coastal restaurants, and bake shops and coffee bars, as well as various entertainment venues. Window shoppers can spend the day gazing in astonishment at art exhibits and fashion boutiques.
There is so much to do in Tuscany, but don't miss out on getting a little culture in by visiting these beautiful towns!