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Tuscany by train
From the Roman to the Renaissance era, Tuscany is home to a valuable repository of extraordinary paintings, sculptures, frescoes and architectural masterpieces. Though visitors love Tuscany for its art, there are other good reasons to visit the region. The extraordinary countryside, local culture, gourmets and wine are waiting for those who want to enjoy life. The more you come to know the region, the more extraordinary Tuscany appears. The starting point of a visit in Tuscany is the city of Florence (1h30 trip from Rome and 1h40 trip from Milan).
Florence (Firenze in Italian) is the birthplace of Renaissance and home to famous artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Donatello. The city lies on the banks of the river Arno, in a valley surrounded by gentle hills. Florence is a compact city best discovered on foot. Most interesting sights and landmarks are within 20 minutes’ walk apart.
Head to Oltrarno, the left bank district, which is home to the Pitti Palace, the Boboli gardens and the Piazzale Michelangelo lookout. After a short walk from Santa Maria Novella station you will reach the religious heart of the city where the magnificent tricolour-marble cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s bell tower, the Baptistery and the imposing red tiled dome by Brunelleschi that dominates the skyline of Florence will fascinate you.
Not too far away is the splendid piazza della Signoria, the civic centre, dominated by the stunning Palazzo Vecchio and its crenellated tower. Beside the palace is the Loggia de Lanzi, the arcade hosting some world famous statues such as Cellini’s Perseus. The Loggia, the nearby Uffizi Gallery with its huge collection of paintings and the other outstanding monuments corroborate the statement of Florence as an open-air museum.
Our tip: Buy the Florence card and enjoy the city attractions, entrance to around 60 sites and free public transport for 72 hours.
Day 2 and 3
Florence > Pistoia Pistoia > Montecatini Terme
Reach Pistoia, a town located to the northwest of Florence and which is easily accessible by train (30 min trip). Pistoia is definitely one of the undiscovered treasures filled with lovely historic alleys and side streets. Get lost in the town centre and find the Roman Cathedral of San Zeno with a beautiful bell tower and a baptistery dating back to the 13th century, the former Palazzo dei Vescovi with a gothic loggia, and the Town Hall adorned with mullioned windows. Don’t forget to go to the Sala square where a lively popular vegetable market is held every working day. Don’t miss to visit the small nice shops around and to stop in the local restaurants and trattorie for a true Tuscan slow experience.
After lunch take the train to Montecatini Terme (10 min trip), an excellent base for exploring Tuscany. Montecatini Terme is a pleasant and peaceful town reminiscent of bygone days with a big park in the centre, 3 thermal establishments, an elegant wellness centre, high quality shops and nice bars and restaurants. Take the oldest funicular in the world and visit the historic old town. On the top, in the lovely Medieval square, you can have a greedy break in one of the excellent restaurants. Afterwards try a relaxing treatment into one of the spa centres.
If you have one more day to spare, visit the small town of Pescia (1h trip from Florence). In the old medieval town centre you can find very impressive buildings like the Palazzo del Vicario decorated with coats of arms of Florentine vicars, today seat of the Town Hall; the Palagio or Palazzo del Podestà with the original L. Andreotti Museum; the Church of Saint Francesco, with the genuine painting on wood of Saint Francis, painted by Bonaventura Berlinghieri and the Church of San Antonio with its wonderful frescoes which dates back from the 14th century.
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