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Tuscan art cities

A journey from Prato to Pisa, visiting towns filled to the brim with unique works of art and architecture.

Tuscan art cities

A handful of medieval villages, a generous quantity of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance masterpieces, and a sprinkling of vineyards and olive groves, and voilà! a marvelous Tuscan cocktail ready for the tasting.

This itinerary exploring some of Tuscany's most beautiful art cities commences in Prato. Since medieval times the city has been a major textile manufacturer, as is demonstrated by the fascinating exhibitions in Prato's Textile Museum. The city's splendid religious and civic buildings are yet another indication of Prato's past commercial importance. In the 13th century Prato was the seat of the Imperial Viceroy of Tuscany and it was here that Frederick II of Swabia constructed the region's only Frederician fortress: the Emperor's Castle. Linking this imposing edifice with the defensive perimeter walls of the city there is an elevated passageway, recently restored, known as the "Cassero". The city's Basilica di Santa Maria delle Carceri and the Cathedral of Santo Stefano contain artistic treasures of inestimable value. In the first there is a majolica frieze by Andrea della Robbia, in the second, frescoes by Filippo Lippi and Paolo Uccello.

In Pistoia, the symbols of the city's civil and religious powers can all be found in the same square. The Cathedral of San Zeno, the Palazzo dei Vescovi, Palazzo del Comune and Palazzo Pretorio all face onto the Piazza del Duomo. A tour of the cathedral offers visitors the chance to see a unique medieval masterpiece: the silver altar of San Jacopo. The Piazzetta della Sala, a pretty square with a central marble well has, for centuries, hosted the city's vegetable market.

After such an intense concentration of art, we make time for a few moments of relaxation and, on our way to Lucca, we stop off at Montecatini Terme: a city famous for its thermal waters and elegant baths. Over the centuries many aristocrats, politicians, and intellectuals have drunk the waters in the thermal establishments located in the Parco delle Terme. Those with children on board will want to stop off at the little village of Collodi. This is where the author Carlo Lorenzini decided to create his Pinocchio Park, in which the adventures of his most famous character are re-enacted. The museum route takes visitors to the historic garden of Villa Garzoni, where the harmonious geometric forms of the Renaissance meet with the frivolous flamboyance of Baroque, and to the Collodi Butterfly House, which is home to hundreds of species of exotic butterflies.

Known as the City of a Hundred Churches, Lucca is famous worldwide for a sculpture contained within one its many houses of worship. The Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto takes pride of place in the Romanesque Cathedral of San Martino. The Siena-born artist Jacopo della Quercia realized the work in 1407, to house the body of the wife of Paolo Guinigi, a nobleman and a tyrant of Lucca.

Our journey draws to a close in one of the most famous squares in the whole of Italy: Pisa's Piazza dei Miracoli. Here thousands of tourists gather each year to marvel at the city's Leaning Tower, the construction of which commenced in 1173 and was seriously compromised by the sudden subsidence of the ground beneath the tower, which led to the edifice's curious inclination. Galileo Galilei dropped objects from its summit as part of his experiments to disprove Aristotle's theory of gravity. The Leaning Tower might be the best known edifice in the piazza, but the Baptistery and the Cathedral, with its magnificent Gothic pulpit sculpted by Giovanni Pisano, are also worth visiting.


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Hotels in the area

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Villa Mussio

Campiglia Marittima

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Relais Santa Croce


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Hotel Il Negresco

Forte dei Marmi

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Il Giardino della Pieve


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Villa Gilda Relax & Living


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Resort dei Limoni

Massa Pisana

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Villa di Campolungo


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Castello di Segalari

Castagneto Carducci

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Monsignor della Casa

Borgo San Lorenzo

Useful links
Tuscany (all hotels)
Montecatini Terme Hotels
Lucca Hotels
Pisa Hotels
Pistoia Hotels
Prato Hotels