The hillside villages of Versilia

Versilia is mainly renowned as a fashionable sea resort with long sandy beaches, glitzy cafés, designer-boutiques and a month-long Carnival, and yet dotting the hills at the foot of the Apuan Alps crowning the area there’s a variety of medieval villages.

Pieve di Santo Stefano, Camaiore, @Daniele Baroni

Boasting a rare combination of sceneries and landscapes – hills, valley, plain, mountains and coastline – Camaiore has an old town centre considered amongst one of the oldest of the province of Lucca. Set along the Via Francigena, the town has an incredibly beautiful Romanesque abbey, Badia di San Pietro, mentioned in documents dating back to 761. Nearby, in the hamlet of Pieve is another Romanesque gem, the 10th-century Pieve di Santo Stefano which houses an extraordinary baptismal font obtained from a sarcophagus of the 2nd-3rd century.

Casoli di Camaiore and its graffiti

Amongst the hamlets belonging to the municipality of Camaiore (a total of 24), Casoli is renowned for its graffiti. A walk along the steep, narrow streets is a journey back 50 years when the first drawings started to appear on the houses. Today the hamlet is an open-air museum with representations of both mythological and every-day scenes.

Monteggiori @petrevoinea

Also a hamlet of Camaiore, Monteggiori is the one that boasts a superb position with breathtaking views over Camaiore, Pietrasanta, the whole Versilian plain and its coastline. Outstanding!

Massaciuccoli Lake and its Roman remains

Further down the coast, the town of Massarosa is famous for its magnificent lake, Massaciuccoli, and surroundings. The territory of the lake is part of the protected natural area known as the Natural Park of Migliarino, San Rossore, Massaciuccoli, which extends along the coastal strip of Lucca and Pisa. Alongside the lake you can admire the remains of a Roman villa and a monumental thermal complex with beautiful mosaic floor, and many elegant villas, built between the 16th and 19th century, witnesses of the pomp and display of the area. Amongst these villas is the former-house, now museum, of the great Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, who here spent most of his life from 1891 onwards.

Bargecchia @alexmartini

Up on the hills Bargecchia, a picturesque hamlet in the territory of Massarosa, is renowned for its bell-tower and its four bells because celebrated by Puccini at the end of the first act of his Tosca. The composer, in fact, admired their sound so much he decided to insert it during the duet between Tosca and Scarpia.

Inside the Chiesa di San Michele, Corsanico

Another nearby hamlet worthy of mention is that of Corsanico. This small village houses another jewel of the Versilian hills, the 12th-century Church of San Michele. The church preserves a monumental organ, built between 1602 and 1606  by the Venetian Vincenzo Colonna, initially intended for the Church of San Francesco in Lucca.

This mild corner of Tuscany certainly has much to offer the casual tourist.

Pubblicato in Apuan Alps, Discovery, Tuscan churches and cathedrals, Tuscan towns and cities, Tuscany, Versilia, Viareggio, World Tourism | Contrassegnato , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Lucignano, one of Tuscany’s medieval pearls

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 very precious.

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.

Church of St. Francis, Lucignano @GenniGianfranceschi

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.

The Tree of Life, Museo Civico, Lucignano

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.

Maggiolata, Lucignano @RosarioCalcagno

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.

Maggiolata, Lucignano @MaggiolataLucignanese

Lucignano, certainly worth a visit.

Pubblicato in Arezzo, Festivals and feasts in Tuscany, Tuscan architecture, Tuscan churches and cathedrals, Tuscan towns and cities, Tuscany, Valdichiana, World Tourism | Contrassegnato | Lascia un commento

The Uffizi Gallery, Florence

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.

Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli, 1485 ca. @Uffizi

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.

Corridoio Laocoonte @Uffizi

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.

Tondo Doni, Michelangelo, 1505-1506 @Uffizi

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.

Outside the Uffizi Gallery @FlawlessLife

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.

Pubblicato in Art in Florence, Culture in Tuscany, Florence, Masterpiece's of Tuscany, Museums in Tuscany, Tuscany | Contrassegnato | Lascia un commento

COVID-19, a global challenge

Peccioli in Tuscany @FrancescoMazzei

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.

Plaza de España in Seville @thechroniclesofwander

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.

Double rainbow over the Cinque Terre @oldkyrenian

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.

Pubblicato in Discovery, Senza categoria, World Tourism | Contrassegnato , , | Lascia un commento

Carnevale di Viareggio, the Tuscan seaside carnival

Carnevale di Viareggio, Burlamacco @Michaela Raffaelli

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.  

Carnevale di Viareggio, the 2018 edition

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.

Carnevale di Viareggio 2018, the Rolling Stones

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.

La Cittadella del Carnevale, work in progress @Carnevale di Viareggio

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.

Carnevale di Viareggio, last evening's fireworks @Francesco Bevilacqua

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.

The beaches of Viareggio @Carnevale di Viareggio
Pubblicato in Accommodations in Versilia, Events in Versilia, Festivals and feasts in Tuscany, Folklore in Tuscany, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany, Versilia | Contrassegnato , , | Lascia un commento