The medieval village of Lucignano is set in the heart of the beautiful Valdichiana, strategically located between Arezzo and Siena. For
over four centuries it was disputed both by the two cities as well as by Florence and Perugia, proving to be
Today it sits atop a hill, cosily hidden within its
remarkably well-preserved walls which hide a series of concentric narrow
streets fanning out to create a unique elliptical shape.
Within the walls of Lucignano you can admire beautifully
conserved buildings, such as the 12th-century Palazzo Pretorio, the
Gothic church of St. Francis and the 14th-century Sienese fortress,
while outside the walls lies the sanctuary of the Madonna della Querce,
attributed to Giorgio Vasari.
Most noteworthy is the extraordinary Tree of Life preserved within the Town Museum. This exquisite masterpiece, also known as the Golden Tree, is a gilded and bejewelled tree surmounted by a crucified figure. Standing 2,60 m tall, this elaborate reliquary made for the Franciscan church was created by jewellers between 1350 and 1471.
From April to December Lucignano hosts a vast array of events, such as the renowned Maggiolata held in May, when the town is flooded with scents and colours and floats entirely covered with flowers parade through the streets.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in the
world, Florence has an immense wealth of masterpieces and most of it is
preserved within the Uffizi Gallery.
The Uffizi Gallery has 90 rooms, situated on the first and second floors, housing some of the most relevant and famous sculptures and paintings in the world going from the Middle Ages to the Modern period. These include masterpieces by Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Mantegna, Correggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Michelangelo and Caravaggio, just to name a few.
The building was designed by Giorgio Vasari in the mid-16th century for Cosimo I de’ Medici to house the offices – uffizi – of the Florentine magistrates and built adjacent to the Piazza delle Signoria in the historic centre of Florence. The Uffizi was also intended to display the main art works of the family including jewels. When the Medici family died out, the last heiress, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, bequeathed their whole art collection to the city of Florence and the Uffizi became one of the first modern museums. The gallery, in fact, has been open to visitors by request since the 16th century and officially to the public since 1765.
Today, the Uffizi is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Florence. With 4,391,895 visitors in 2019, it is also one of the most visited art museums in the world. We highly recommend you plan your visit in advance checking opening hours and days here and booking your visit, so as to skip the usually long lines, here. Take advantage of the combined tickets to visit other tourist attractions in Florence such as the Boboli Gardens, exhibitions at the Pitti Palace and much more.
Be forewarned, the collection is huge and the
masterpieces on display are worth more than just a quick glance so calculate it
can take from half a day to even a full day to visit the Uffizi depending on
your love for art and its detail. Remember that no oversized bags are allowed
in and must be left in the cloakroom, together with your photographic equipment
since it is forbidden to take photos.
In these days our worldwide community has been suspended for the challenge we all are now facing. For the first time ever, travelling has been put on standby for the health and safety of us all. An unprecedented event for our industry.
In these days of travel restrictions, we and our colleagues are united in giving you all some respite from the tensions and frustrations of living in lockdown, with your lives uprooted in ways we honestly could never have imagined.
Daily I post photos and videos on our Facebook pages, Tuscany Holiday Rent, on Tuscany, and Not Only Tuscany Holiday Rent, devoted to Andalusia, Corsica, Liguria and Sardinia, to bring solace to our followers, to introduce colour and sunshine into their homes, to allow them to travel beyond their walls, but above all to celebrate the people and cultures that make this world truly magical. Welcome to the Era of Armchair Tourism.
Because we all deserve something to look forward, I suggest you use this extra time to start planning your first holiday when you can travel again after this compelled quarantine. Especially if you need a break to decompress or even to reconnect with one another after being apart for so long. Take a look at our website and read the articles in this blog. Visit our Facebook pages and the regions depicted in them and be inspired. And for the more daring wanting to already book a holiday, I remind that in case of natural disasters and disease outbreaks, our policy is total refund so go serenely ahead and book now.
Someday soon, we’ll be snatching up our passports and bags and heading out to our next adventures. In the meanwhile remember, stay safe, stay well.
February and Lent Season in Tuscany always spell one thrilling word: Carnival. Among the most renowned, both in Italy and Europe, is the one celebrated in the coastal town of Viareggio. Celebrations, parades, street dancing, night parties and food and wine events animate the Versilia coast during a month-long fun factory of colour, music and waltzing, better known as the Carnevale di Viareggio.
The Carnival of Viareggio goes
back to 1873, when the wealthy youngsters frequenting the Casino’s café decided
to organize a parade, some say to protest against the many taxes they were
forced to pay and hence they showed up wearing masks. They continued to
organize the parade and then towards the end of the century the first floats
appeared accompanied by masked balls and costume parties. In the 1920s, when the
gentlemen wore tuxedos, the nightspots along the promenade were venues such as
the Principe di Piemonte, the Royal
Hotel and the café chantant Margherita. Today local street parties are held on
the seafront by the four wards of town – Torre del Lago, Marco Polo, Darsena
and Croce Verde – with excellent food stalls offering the traditional, local
dishes and bandstands with various kinds of music.
Today the carnival’s main peculiarity is its parade of floats. Initially made of plaster and heavy cloths, the floats were later made of paper-pulp. Now gigantic papier-mâché ‘statues’, depicting caricatures of popular people, such as politicians, showmen and (obviously) footballers, ride down the seafront promenade while onlookers, generally masqueraded, cheer them on their way. Nowadays, thanks to new technologies, these monumental figures are able to accomplish complex movements and even have special effects. In 1931 the Carnival adopted an official mascot, Burlamacco, a clown-like figure depicted by Uberto Bonetti, whose name comes from the town’s river, the Burlamacca, whereas the red and white colours of his outfit were the traditional colours of the beach umbrellas.
Today, at every event, a special jury is asked to rank the floats, which are divided into two categories, as well as the costumed groups and the individual carnival masks. The last appointment is always a nocturnal parade, at the end of which the winners are proclaimed and a spectacular firework show follows concluding the whole month of fun and frolics. However, even outside the carnival period, it is possible to visit the Cittadella del Carnevale, the ‘Carnival Citadel, a specially built complex with huge hangars, inside which the floats can be built and kept inside. Created in 2001, here one can come see the craftsmen at work on their magnificent clay and paper ‘statues’. There are even a museum and labs where one may discover the tricks of the trade.
The Carnevale di Viareggio is also a great opportunity to visit this town, known as the ‘Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea’, the second largest city within the province of Lucca. Viareggio is not only a well-known seaside resort but also an interesting cultural centre with literary events and awards as well as worldwide famous musical events. A walk along its avenues takes you back into time, going from the 1541 Torre Matilde, a defensive fortification against corsair incursions, to the beautiful Liberty-style buildings. If you’re considering a visit to this part of Tuscany come see our wide selection of holiday accommodations in Versilia.
Every year on January 17th and
January 31st the town of Pontremoli
in Lunigiana hosts a bonfire
competition which actually re-enacts an old medieval rivalry. The Disfida dei Falò, the Bonfire Challenge, is held in the dry
riverbeds of Pontremoli and sees the town split in two for the most blazing,
tallest and long-lasting bonfire.
The two factions represent the
two patron saints of Pontremoli, San Niccolò, whose feast is on January 17th,
and San Geminiano, celebrated on the 31st. Once a pagan ritual held
at the beginning of the year to invoke the “god of fire” against the long cold
winter months, the bonfires were later adopted to celebrate the Catholic
patrons. Furthermore, during the early fourteenth century there was a huge
antagonism between the factions of the Guelfi and the Ghibellini which brought to
the building of the great bell tower to separate the two rival camps.
Today both parishes pacifically
commemorate these events with gigantic piles of wood, whose flames can even
reach a height of 30 metres. The San Niccolò group lights its bonfire on the
17th on the dry side of the Magra river, whilst the San Geminiano clan builds
theirs on the 31st next to the river Verde. Fundamental is height
and how long they burn, but also how well they hold together during the
One of Lunigiana’s most
distinctive towns, Pontremoli combines tradition with Tuscany’s most historical territory, a mountainous region covered
with forests and with one of the highest concentrations of castles in Italy.