7 Wonders of Tuscany: World Heritage Sites
Posted by Virginie (20/03/2015)
Tuscany is home to seven unmissable Unesco World Heritage Sites that represent the region’s rich art, culture and history. Anyone visiting Tuscany should visit at least one of these sites – or why not try to see all seven?
The Historical Centre of SienaSiena has preserved its medieval character wonderfully, making the whole city a great place to visit. Its historic centre was chosen as a World Heritage Site in 1995 as it is an exceptional surviving example of the gothic buildings and design that characterised the development of Italy’s, and Europe’s, art and architecture.
The centre encompasses several famous buildings, notably the Piazza Del Campo. This square is home to the twice yearly Palio horse race, a dangerous and fast-paced medieval tradition that draws crowds from all over Europe and beyond. The race is only part of the occasion, however – the lead up is always full of the food, wine and pageantry that makes the day so popular.
Piazza Del Duomo, Pisa (The Square of the Cathedral of Pisa)This grassy, walled square has four 11th-14th century monuments to see – the cathedral, baptistery, cemetery, and the main attraction which is, of course, the ‘Leaning Tower’. The foundations began to sink into the unstable subsoil soon after construction began. The tower took almost 200 years and three phases to build as it kept being interrupted by wars and political unrest.
The square is owned by the Catholic Church, and is considered a sacred place, as well as being a draw for all appreciators of medieval art and architecture. Its historical importance to Italy’s monumental art heritage lead to it becoming a UNESCO site in 1987.
Florence was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its rich artistic and cultural history. Its beautiful buildings are home to literally thousands of priceless Renaissance treasures, including works by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Da Vinci. Cathedrals, palaces and museums can all be found within walking distance of each other, making Florence the ideal place to visit for anyone looking to learn some history and soak up the culture. It’s impossible to see the whole of Florence in one day, so many people choose to rent villas in Florence or nearby so they can take their time looking around each treasure.
Two gardens and twelve villas spread across Tuscany make up this ‘site’, which was only recognised very recently in 2013. They are not only a tribute to the Medici family in recognition of their patronage and contribution to artistic and cultural progress in Italy, but a fine example of their innovation when it came to building luxury homes. They weren’t like the farmhouses of the rich Florentines, nor were they militarily strong – these luxury Tuscan villas were built in harmony with the natural landscape and designed for comfort and beauty.
The Historical Centre of PienzaIn 1459, Pope Pius II decided to encourage and finance the re-design of Pienza, the place of his birth. The result is essentially the first complete example of a planned ‘ideal town’, and this place of honour in the history of town planning earned the centre of Pienza its UNESCO title in 1996. Surrounding the central square – the ‘Piazzo Pio II’ – are a range of gorgeous historical buildings, including a Borgia palace and a cathedral. The beauty and luxury of the Renaissance is recognisable in every structure, and there are plenty of fine examples of art and architecture to see and explore.
This region of Tuscany is a wonderful example of a historically agricultural landscape that has been carefully cultivated to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing in accordance with Renaissance ideals. Located to the south-east of Siena, it was repeatedly painted and celebrated by Renaissance artists of the ‘Siennese School’ making it an artistically important landscape too. The gently rolling hills are largely undeveloped and still dotted with large farmhouses and small villages, giving modern day artists and photographers the chance to capture the same scenes as the great Renaissance artists before them.
The Historical Centre of San GimignanoSan Gimignano has great historical importance because it has surviving examples of Middle Ages urban structures of all kinds – public squares, small houses, palaces and fountains are all represented within a small area. Over 70 imposing ‘tower houses’ were built by the ruling families to symbolise their dominance and power. Although only 14 are still standing today, it’s easy when you see them to get a feel for the feudal politics of the Middle Ages, which is why this site was deemed important enough in 1990 to be designated as a world heritage site.
San Gimignano is also home to unmissable examples of fine art, such as the frescoes of St Sebastian and St Augustine painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in the 15th century.
Few places can boast as many World Heritage sites as Tuscany can. So if you’re looking for a holiday that will give you plenty to see and explore, have a look at our Tuscan villa rentals and choose the perfect base for your cultural explorations.