Toscana (Tuscany), Italy

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http://www.dominicistudios.com/
 
I found it particularly special to visit Siena because my paternal sides of the family are from here.

There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany, the difficulty is really where to start. Certainly most should start with Florence, continue on to Siena and Pisa. The roll call of città di arte, cities of art, is daunting: Arezzo, Cortona, San Gimignano and Lucca are all striking. The more you come to know the region, the more extraordinary Tuscany appears.

Firenze:

Florence's museums, palaces, and churches house some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world. The most popular and important sites in Florence include the Cathedral (Il Duomo) the Baptistery, the Uffizi the Bargello, and the Accademia. The churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are veritable art galleries, and the library of San Lorenzo is a magnificent exhibition of Michelangelo's architectural genius. Wander some of the oldest streets in the city until you reach the Arno River, cross the Ponte Vecchio, and experience the "newest" area of Florence, the Oltrarno. Be sure to set aside time to see the vast and varied art collection housed in the Pitti Palace. Great outdoor outing is at the Boboli Gardens or climb the hill to the church of San Miniato al Monte to experience an enchanting view of Florence.

Siena:

Siena is one of Italy's best preserved medieval towns, located in the heart of Tuscany. Siena, built on three hills and surrounded by well preserved walls, is filled with fine examples of Gothic architecture and has one of the world's most unique piazzas - il Campo - (shaped like a shell with scalloped edges). Of course, the world-famous Palio is an important part of Sienese identity, history and culture.

Palio di Siena:

The Palio is the most important event in Siena, taking place on July 2 and August 16 every year.
In the Palio the various Sienese "contrade", or areas in which the city is divided, challenge in other in a passionate horse race in the heart of the city in the Piazza del Campo.

Originally, there were about fifty-nine "Contrade"; now only seventeen remain, ten of which take part in the historical pageant and in the race at each Palio (seven by right and three drawn by lots).

The 17 Contrade are: Eagle, Snail, Wave, Panther, Forest, Tortoise, Owl, Unicorn, Shell, Tower, Ram, Caterpillar, Dragon, Giraffe, Porcupine, She-Wolf, Goose.

Each Contrada has its own unique emblem and colors and represents an area of the city (our family has it too). As one walks through the streets of Siena it is easy to know in which Contrada you currently are in by observing the flags and emblems displayed along the street. Much like street signs, corners often designate the entrance into a different Contrada with signs.

San Gimignano:
San Gimignano is a small but unique “borgo” or village in the province of Siena, surrounded by 12th century walls and characterized by numerous medieval towers which make the view of the town from afar breathtaking.

Val d’Orcia:
Val d’Orcia, commonly portrayed on calendars and postcards of Tuscany, is splendid just like that, with incredible landscapes, intense green and yellow hues and stone villages sitting atop hilltops that take your breath away 

Gallicano :
I think Gallicano is a great place to stay if you want to visit Garfagnana: it’s a nice small town in a perfect position to visit most of the point of interest in Garfagnana.

Barga:
It is truly one of the most beautiful “borghi” (village, town) in Italy. It was a pleasure to walk up and down its narrow medieval streets and find the many views and hidden corners that deserved a stop and a picture.

Montepulciano:
I was immediately struck by the outline of the town, perched on its hill of 600 metres. I found that the main street, the “Corso,” is quite wide. It’s completely paved in stone and flanked by impressive, Renaissance buildings, interspersed with shops, restaurants, cafes, and artisans’ workshops.To the left and right are smaller streets and alleys leading to breathtaking viewpoints, each offering a vista that’s quite different from the next. The town is located on a hill overlooking two very distinct valleys – the Valdorcia and the Valdichiana. They’re different from each other in many ways, including the type of terrain, the agricultural production and the scenery.

Lucca:

The fascinating medieval town of Lucca encased within its famous walls.
Lucca’s major cultural contribution has been in music. The birthplace of famed operatic composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), the mastermind behind La Bohème and Madame Butterfly, among other works, Lucca is a hotspot for opera lovers even today; the summer Puccini Festival offers a top-notch lineup of Puccini’s best works.
Lucca is one of the best Olive Oil producing areas in all of Italy. Excellent producers of extra virgin olive oil include Colle Verde Estate, Fattoria Maionchi amd Tenuta Valgiano.

Chianti:
Chianti is a wine-producing region between Florence and Siena. The region extends from south of Florence, to north of Siena; from San Donato and San Casciano in Val di Pesa in the west to Gaiole in the east. The countryside is beautiful, the towns charming. There are lots of great restaurants and wineries. You can get into Siena or Florence easily.
Pisa:
Pisa is home to the famous leaning tower, which draws most of its’ visitors. Located on the north-west coast of Italy in the Tuscany region, this city is a gorgeous place to visit and spend some time.

Maremma:
La Maremma Grossetana is the largest of the three parts of Maremma and constitutes the territory within the Province of Grosseto. Historically, it is also known as Maremma senese because it once fell under the control of a much larger Republic of Siena.
Its coastal boundary extends from its northern point at Prato Ranieri, where it meets Maremma Livornese, along the Gulf of Follonica to the peninsular at Punta Ala. Then south past Castiglione della Pescaia, Grosseto and its marina, along the Silver Coast (Costa D'Argento) from the Alberese marina (Marina di Alberese) to Talamone and Monte Argentario. Taking in the Orbetello lagoon (laguna di Orbetello) and the coastal Burano lake (lago di Burano), until it reaches the border with both Maremma Laziale and the Province of Viterbo at Chiarone Scalo.

Inland, Maremma Grossetana is equally as vast, extending from the Metalliferous Hills in the north at the boundary with the Province of Pisa, down into the Inland Hills and the border with the Province of Siena. Then further south into the Tufo towns in the heart of the hills of the River Fiora (Colline del Fiora), finally reaching the border with the Provinces of Viterbo and Rome, and the Regione of Lazio in the mountainous area of Monte Amiata.

And then there is the spectacular coast hosting the finest beaches in Italy - Cala Violina taking premier position. At the southern most part of this coast, the white sands turn dark grey and then black with the iron content.