Don’t Miss the Medici Villas and Gardens

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Don’t Miss the Medici Villas and Gardens

Posted by Virginie (26/06/2015)
For many years, from the last 14th century to the 18th century, the history of Tuscany was strongly tied up with that of the Medici family. From relatively humble origins, the family rose over the centuries to become Grand Dukes of the Tuscany region. Today the region bears a number of reminders of the influence of the Medici family, including the world famous Medici Villas and Gardens.

Who were the Medici?
Originally hailing for the Mugello region in northern Tuscany, the Medici family were well established in the city of Florence by the late 1300s. Through a combination of close ties to other powerful families and financial prowess, the Medici rose to become the city’s preeminent family. The Medici bank that they founded went on to become Europe’s largest bank, giving the family international prominence.
Having dominated the cities politics for over a century, the family eventually became hereditary rulers of the city when Florence transformed from a republic into a duchy. Later, following the conquest of old rivals Siena, the Medici transformed the region into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under their control. The family continued to dominate Tuscany until the mid-eighteenth century when a lack of male heirs and bankruptcy lead to their fall from grace.

UNESCO World Heritage listed site
The Medici where strong patrons of the arts, including architecture, and their influence can still be seen in much of the buildings and art work that dates from their time. One of the most enduring and visibly legacies of the family today is the collection of villas and gardens bearing their name which are scattered throughout the Tuscany region.
The Medici Villas and Gardens were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2013, recognising their historical significance. The villas were the family’s country palaces and acted as leisure resorts for the Medici and their supporters as well as being important centres for agricultural activities in the surrounding areas.
The earliest villas include Villa del Trebbio in the Mugello region where the Medici originated and Villa Medici at Cafaggiolo. These early villas were effectively fortified farmhouses providing strong seats from which the Medici could control the local countryside. Later villas include excellent examples of Renaissance architecture, such as Villa di Pratolino, and neoclassical design, such as Villa del Poggio Imperiale.
Many of the villas had elaborate gardens, such as those at Villa di Castello, which were designed by the famous Mannerist artist Niccolò Tribolo.

Today many of the Medici Villas and Gardens have been preserved as museums, the homes of various institutions and as privately owned estates. Some of these are open to the public either on a regular basis or on special occasions and are well worth visiting if you have the opportunity.
We have a wide range of luxury villas in Tuscany to rent, providing the perfect base to explore this beautiful and historic region. For more ideas on what to see and do during your visit, check out our customisable infobook
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Take a Dip in Tuscany’s Hot Springs

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Take a Dip in Tuscany’s Hot Springs

Posted by Ruth (19/06/2015)

Tuscany is home to a number of excellent spa facilities for those who want a bit of pampering, but you don’t need to pay a fortune to enjoy the region’s famous hot spa waters. There are a number of excellent hot springs throughout Tuscany which can be enjoyed for free, many of which are off the beaten track, offering a quieter, more authentic spa experience.

Bagni di Petriolo
Surrounded by beautiful, natural woodland, the hot springs at Petriolo are consist of naturally sulphurous waters which bubble up from the ground before tumbling into a series of small pools before collecting in a final larger basin which forms the main attraction.

The natural spa here has been popular since Roman times, as evidenced by the nearby ruins of walls dating back to the 4th century AD. Today the Petriolo hot springs are prized for their relatively stable temperature of around 42°C, rich mineral salts and quality of the nearby clay which is often added to the water by locals to form a relaxing mud bath.

Bagni di San Filippo
Another natural spa which has been in use since the Romans roamed the land, San Filippo is actually home to five separate hot spring. The waters here are hotter than those at Petriolo, coming out at around 52°C and are rich in various minerals, including sulphur, sulphur bicarbonate, calcium and magnesium which some people believe can help relieve the symptoms of certain skin conditions, respiratory disorders and joint pain.

The setting for Bagni di San Filippo is stunning, tucked away in picturesque woods. The series of pools fed by the hot springs are overhung by the Fosso Bianco – a striking collection calcareous rock formations that form stalactites above the spa waters. 

One of the best known of Italy’s natural spas, the hot spring at Saturnia have been in use since at least the 2nd century BC. Legend has it that the spa was created by Saturn, the Roman god of the harvest. According to the story, Saturn lost his temper with the local people for being too warlike and struck the ground with a thunderbolt, creating the hot springs in the hope that the warm, sulphurous waters would help to calm the people.

Although they haven’t brought an end to war, the hot springs at Saturnia are certainly wonderfully soothing. The waters are a balmy 37°C, the same as the average human body temperature, perfect for those who prefer their hot springs warm rather than scalding.
All three of these natural spas are within an hour’s drive of Siena and are just one of many reasons to make this beautiful city your travel destination this year. We have a fantastic range of villas in Siena for you to choose from, so please take a look and, if you have any question, feel free to drop us an email
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Explore Tuscany’s Ancient History

Friday, June 12, 2015

Explore Tuscany’s Ancient History

Posted by Sonia (12/06/2015)
Italy has a long and fascinating history, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations for those with an interest in the past. Tuscany has always played an import part in that history, with the ancient Etruscan people of the region having been an important early influence on Roman civilization. Today there are numerous sites of historical interest throughout Tuscany you can visit. Here are some of our favourites:

Nestling in the hills just North East of Florence, this settlement is generally thought to have existed since the 8th or 9th century BC. Fiesole was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, most likely for its hilltop location which offered a strong strategic position as well as being above the surrounding marshland.
Tourists can visit the remains of the Roman baths and theatre as well as what is left of the massive ancient walls which once protected the settlement. Fiesole has two museums history lovers will want to check out, the Civic Museum, which contains many artefacts from the Roman period and earlier, and the Antiquariam Costantini, which houses a large collection of ancient Greek and Etruscan ceramics.

Called Velathri by the ancient Etruscans and Volaterrae by the Romans, Volterra today is a commune roughly an hour’s drive South West of Florence. There is evidence of a continuous settlement on the site dating back to at least the 8th century BC. Volterra was part of both the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, being an important city the experienced a strong rivalry with nearby Florence.
Volterra is perhaps most famous today for its Roman theatre. Excavated in the 1950s by Enrico Fiumi, it is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in Italy today.  Commissioned by the consuls Aulo Caecina Severo and Gaio Caecina Largo, the theatre is built on a natural slope with the tiered seating typical of Roman theatres.

45 minutes South East of Siena, Chiusi stands on the site of the ancient city of Clusium. Once one of the most powerful cities in the region, Clusium played an important part in Etruscan history and the early history of Rome. Notably, King Porsenna of Clusium went to war with Rome when the city deposed its last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, before ultimately establishing peaceful relations with the new republic.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Chiusi for tourists is buried beneath it. Constructed sometime in the 6th or 5th century BC, the catacombs, also known as the Labyrinth of Porsenna, is a series of tunnels beneath the town. It is thought the tunnels once formed part of the tomb of King Porsenna before later being used for drainage. There are regular guided tours of the catacombs, offering the chance to feel like you are walking back in time by thousands of years.
If you need somewhere to stay while you explore the Tuscany, take a look at our villas in Florence, Siena and throughout the region.
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Medical Attention

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What to do if you need Medical Attention during your Holiday

Posted by Dympna Docherty (05/06/2015)

Your Tuscan break is likely to be a carefree time spent relaxing and soaking up the cultural atmosphere, but should any of your party feel under the weather, or require medical attention, here’s what you need to know.

Minor Injuries
Cuts, bruises, bug bites, and rashes do not usually require visits to hospital in Italy. Instead, you can head to the nearest Farmacia, or pharmacy. You’ll find them in plenty of communes and cities, and they are usually clearly signposted by a lit green plus sign. In a Farmacia, you’ll tend to find a range of first aid items, and a number of over the counter drugs. As Tuscany is also home to viper snakes that can deliver poisonous bites, the Farmacia is also the place to go should you require anti-venom.

Farmacias often operate longer opening hours than other shops, and although you may face some difficulties if you don’t know any Italian, their staff can offer plenty of advice about ailments.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
If you’re a UK resident and are planning on visiting Tuscany, then it is a good idea to apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card allows temporary visitors to Italy, and other European countries access to discount or free healthcare from non-private services, which can come in handy should you require medical attention. You can apply for a card for free online.

These don’t replace travel insurance though, so be sure to buy some that covers the duration of your stay.

In case of an emergency
If you need medical assistance during your stay in Tuscany, then you need to visit either a SSN hospital or a Guardia Medica, as these are the places you can use your EHIC. A Guardia Medica is the place to go if you require after-hours first aid.

Should you need to seek emergency medical advice, then here are the numbers you’ll need to know:

·         112 – This number works in most European countries, and should be used if you’re in a life-threatening emergency. It is the number to call for medical, fire, and police services.

·         118 – ambulance (Emergenza Sanitaria)

·         113 – police (Carabineri)

·         170 – International Operator (English speaking) (Informazione Internatzionali)

If you do have to make an emergency call, it’s likely that you’ll need to provide you name and phone number, the emergency situation, where the emergency is, where you are, and any reference points that are useful knowledge.

If you find that there is a language barrier between yourself and any medical professionals, you can find medical phrases on this website, as recommended by the UK’s NHS.

Here at To Tuscany, we hope you have a happy holiday that is free from hospital visits.
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