Founded by the Umbri - the original Umbrian peoples, as long ago as 1,000 BC then conquered by the Etruscans, the picturesque and historic town of Cortona stands atop a hill and affords the visitor views of southern Tuscany as far as Umbrias Lake Trasimeno. As well as numerous art galleries and museums, the famous old town is home to some fantastic restaurants and a good selection of shops whilst historians and culture seekers will find a varied range of churches and palaces as well as ancient Etruscan burial sites to visit. Of more recent interest the town was the setting for "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes.
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When in Cortona you will find that Rabbit is quite common on the menu. And not to be missed are a variety of favourites including the porcini (mushrooms) and steak. You should also try Crostini Neri Toscani alla Cortonese, which is crusty bread served with a spread made of pork sausage, chicken liver and capers.
Cortona boasts several small bars throughout the town that stay open late, some even feature live music and entertainment. Many restaurants are scattered around the town and include traditional italian and pizzerias to name a few.
While exploring the town, a must see is the Palazzo Comunale. Cortonas town hall dates back to the 13th century and features a distinctive tower that was incorporated at the beginning of the 16th century.
The Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca, is Cortonas most popular museum located on the Piazza Signorelli. This museum showcases numerous major Etruscan artifacts and Eqyptian objects. Some items include a bronze lamp and a unique bronze chandelier.
Why not also visit the Museo Diocesano, a museum located on the Piazza del Duomo. Wonderful pieces of artworks from Cortonas Duomo are on display in this 16th century church.
The Santa Maria Nuova, a church located just outside of the town walls, is one of Cortonas iconic buildings.
Additionally, Cortonas Duomo can be found within the town on the Piazza del Duomo. The cathedral has been built upon the remains of an earlier Romanesque building.
The Basilica di Santa Margherita, is a 19th century church situated at the top of a long uphill lane, east of the town. Designed in a Romanesque, Gothic style, this fantastic church offers stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
The Chiesa di San Domenico is a 15th century church thats home to the 1515 painting of the Madonna and Saints.
Cortona is one of the oldest cities in Tuscany and has been completely untouched by modern development. The unspoilt medieval architecture can be appreciated by exploring the cobbled streets.
The Via Janelli, a short street within the town, is worth a visit. Displaying medieval houses with overhanging upper floors, these houses are some of the oldest in Italy.
Pisa is a city located on the right of the mouth of the river Arno and is the home of the University of Pisa and many research schools. The centre of the city offers vibrant cafes, bars and a lively street atmosphere, or alternatively a large collection of Romanesque buildings, Renaissance piazzas and churches can be found giving all visitors lots to see and do. However the real reason millions of people visit the city each year is for its famous Leaning Tower. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is also partnered by the Duomo (cathedral), the Baptistry and the Campo Santo cemetery situated on the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles).
The Leaning Tower:
Construction of this uniquely breath-taking tower, also known as the campanile (bell tower) for the Duomo (cathedral), began back in 1173 but had to stop due to the structure starting to tilt after the third storey was completed. Work continued despite the lean and was fully completed in 1350. Open to the public, today a small number of visitors at a time can climb the 294 steps to the top.
Many other sights in Pisa include the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Museo delle Sinopie and the Piazza dei Cavalieri.
While in Tuscany, a trip to Florence is an absolute must. The city is known to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and possibly the most beautiful city in Italy. Florence boasts hundreds of local restaurants and shops as well as an overwhelming amount of museums, galleries and stunning architecture.
Some of these tourist sites include:
Possibly the most iconic building in Florence, the Duomo (or cathedral of Florence) dominates the city with its enormous dome. A visit to this magnificent cathedral wouldn’t be complete or fully appreciated without climbing its 463 interior stone steps to the top, where views of the surrounding city can be enjoyed. Located in the Piazza del Duomo, this cathedral complex also includes the Campanile and Bapistery, with the Bapistery being one of Florence’s oldest buildings. The Campanile (bell tower) contains 414 steps to the top and offers the reward of a view nearly as impressive as that from the dome. Together these buildings form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Known to be among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany, this medieval palace was completed in 1322 and boasts a striking campanile (bell tower) that reaches 94 meters high. The palazzo overlooks the Piazza della Signoria, a piazza showcasing a unique outdoor sculpture gallery with statues highlighting major events in the city’s history.
The Uffizi gallery is among the oldest and most famous art museum in Europe and possibly the world. This gallery is situated in Piazzale degli Uffizi and is overflowing with Renaissance masterpieces, including: ‘The Birth of Venus’ (1485) by Botticelli, ‘The Venus of Urbino’ (1538) by Titian and ‘Dukes of Urbino’ (1460) by Piero della Franesca to name a few.
A medieval bridge, built in 1345 that crosses the Arno river. The bridge is Florence’s oldest and is noted for still featuring shops built along it. Currently the shops are let to jewellers, souvenir sellers and art dealers.
An art museum in Florence that is most famously known as the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture, David. The museum also showcases a collection of Renaissance paintings.
Many other sights in Florence include the Palazzo Pitti, Basilica of Santa Croce, Boboli Gardens, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and the Basilica di San Lorenzo to name a few.
Built on seven hills, Siena features a network of narrow cobbled streets and alleyways as well as wide variety of local restaurants and bars. Some of the main tourist sites include:
Piazza del Campo:
At the city’s centre, the Piazza del Campo is undoubtedly known as the heart and social centre of the city. Built on the site of a former Roman marketplace, the piazza floor is sloped so you will find many locals and tourists spend time just sitting and watching the world. The piazza features the Fonte Gaia, a rectangular fountain decorated with statues.
The Palazzo Pubblico is possibly the most iconic building in Siena and has been the town hall since the 13th century. At 102 meters high the bell tower, also known as the Torre del Mangia, boasts 500 plus steps and is the second tallest medieval tower to be built in Italy. Climbing to the top provides outstanding views of Siena and the surrounding area.
Other sights in Siena include the Museo Civico, the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena’s Duomo (cathedral), the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana, Palazzo Piccolomini and the Basilica of San Domenico to name a few. There is also the popular ancient sporting event known as Il Palio annually held on two days during the summer on the Piazza del Campo.
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