From Florence to Chianti
Florence, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Chianti: the history of art and wine.
Florence possesses an artistic heritage of immense and quite incalculable value. The magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the spiritual heart of the city and its astounding cupola is one of Brunelleschi's greatest architectural achievements.
Right next to the duomo, one finds another masterpiece, the bell tower which bears the name of the great 14th century artist Giotto, and is considered to be one of the finest in the whole of Italy.
Piazza della Signoria, dominated by the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, represents the administrative center of Florence. Just steps away from the square lies the Uffizi Gallery, which houses artworks by history's most celebrated artists.
It would be quite impossible to mention here each of the many sites worthy of visit in the city, so we must cite just a few: the Spedale degli Innocenti, the Accademia galleries, the Bargello Museum. And then there are the churches: Santa Croce, Santa Maria del Carmine, Santa Maria Novella, Orsanmichele; all of which veritable treasure chests brimming with art and history.
Travelling along roads dotted with the traces left by world famous artists, just 8 kilometers from Florence, one finds the town of Fiesole, one of the most attractive localities in the immediate vicinity of the Tuscan capital. Enthusiasts of the Della Robbia brothers' terracotta should head for the Bandini Museum which houses a fascinating collection of works by the famous duo. Also to visit, the Badia, with its striking Romanesque façade, and the gothic church with its characteristic cloisters, built on the site of an ancient Acropolis.
Close by, towards the west, there is the villa of Poggio a Caiano. The edifice commissioned by Lorenzo di Magnifico and built in 1480 to the designs of Giuliano da San Gallo, is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the Medicean villas and perhaps the one which houses the most artistic masterpieces, including the frescos realised by Andrea Del Sarto, Pontormo, Filippino Lippi, Alessandro Allori, and the splendid chapel painted by Giorgio Vasari.
At this stage a detour is obligatory so as to pay homage to the city where the great Leonardo was born. In Vinci, one can admire the machines invented by the Renaissance genius, instruments displayed in the museum situated in the 13th century castle belonging to the Count Guidi.
From the artistic masterpieces of the Renaissance we move towards the gently undulating Tuscan hillside, lined with cypress tress and dotted with the tiny medieval towns which characterise the area of Chianti. The first village that we meet is that of San Casciano Val di Pesa. Many the churches to see, and in particular that of Santa Maria al Prato with its beautiful crucifix by Simone Martini, MASTIO and the clock tower.
Famous for the thirteen towers which overlook the Elsa valley, the town of San Gimignano is considered to house some of the finest surviving examples of Medieval architecture, with its narrow, palazzi lined streets opening out on to charming piazzas such as that of the cathedral.
A region famous for its craft tradition and its talented artisans, Tuscany still produces items of great quality and immense artistic value. Along the streets of Volterra, the town straddling the hillside between the Cecina and Era valleys, visitors come across any number of workshops and studios where the local alabaster stone, much prized since the time of the ancient Etruscans, is sculpted in to every genre of ornament and utensil. In the heart of the town, there is the splendid piazza with the Medieval Palazzo dei Priori, the Palazzo Pretorio and the Torre del Porcellino.
Protected by an immense surrounding wall, the elliptical form of which is interrupted only by the watch towers and entrance gates, the village of Monteriggioni provides a superb example of a fortress-style medieval settlement. Monteriggioni served as important surveillance point above the via Cassia-Francigena for the city of Siena, arch enemy of neighboring Florence, and such was its fame that Dante made mention of its "cerchia tonda" in his Divine Comedy.
Another fortified village more than worthy of visit is that of Castellina, situated on the via chiantigiana just before Gaiole. At the Northern most border of the district, a road leads to the Badia a Coltibuono, one of the most ancient buildings in the whole of Tuscany. It is here that the wine growing traditions of the high Chianti were born and where one finds the monastery built in the 11th century which today provides the head quarters for a famous wine producing company.
This itinerary concludes at Greve, capital of the Gallo Nero, Chianti Classico. Piazza Matteotti and Piazzetta Santa Croce are simply beautiful. The terraced porticoes converge in the façade of the Church of Santa Croce to produce an image of sublime harmony. Here, each year, in the second half of September, an important exhibition and wine market is held. What better occasion to enjoy a glass or two of Chianti; one of the world's finest wines' Just 32 kilometers and we are once more in Florence.
Tuscany Principal destinations
- Bagno Vignoni
- Castiglione della Pescaia
- Chianciano Terme
- Crete Senesi
- Elba island
- Forte Dei Marmi
- Massa Carrara
- Massa Marittima
Linking Siena with Florence, an expanse of green rolling hills and...
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San Gimignano is a charming medieval town perched on a hill...