November 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Some of the loveliest buildings still to be seen in Viareggio that date to the early 1900s are the Bagno Balena and the Teatro Margherita, while 19th century Viareggio is represented by the majestic Palazzo delle Muse, which overlooks Piazza Mazzini and now houses the Museo Civico Archeologico A.C. Blanc. Very little left of the old 16th century town, except for the imposing Torre Matilde, built after 1534 as a result of an ordinance by the Luccan senate. The first masonry structures of the small port were built around this defense tower. As time passed the port continued to grow in importance thanks both to commercial fishing and to ship building, activities which still today play an import part in the local economy, side by side with the flourishing resort activities. Lastly, speaking of Viareggio mention of its famous Carnival is mandatory. The imaginative floats take the masters in the art of papier ma months to make.


Montecatini Terme

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

The city lies in a vast plain at the far end of the Val di Nievole. It is famous for its spas and has eight springs of prevalently sulphate-alkaline water, an authentic cure-all for disorders of the liver and the digestive apparatus. Particularly charming is the center of Montecatini Alto, an old castle-town situated on a hill behind Montecatini Terme.


July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Grosseto lies in the heart of the Maremma, near the right banks of the Ombrone river which winds its way through the vast plain. It is about ten kilometers from the sea. This prevalently modern city has spread out around the small compact historical center marked by the old Medici bastions. As witnessed by an inscription, the Cathedral was begun in 1294 and finished early in the 14th century by Sozzo di Pace Rustichini, known also as Sozzo di Rustichino. The Cathedral was probably built on the remains of a Romanesque church, to judge from the pilasters with engaged columns set against the interior facade and the pilaster strips outside on the side walls. The facade, renewed in the 19th century, has three portals and an elegant loggia with a rose window above. The right side has a fine low-relief portal with a splendid sculpture by Cesare Maccari (1800), and, above, two two-light Gothic windows. The interior has a nave divided from the two aisles by solid compound piers. At the end of still another bay is the apse, semi-circular outside but square inside. Of particular note in the second bay on the left is a fine baptismal font by Antonio Ghini (1470-71) and, in the left arm of the transept, a lovely altarpiece, also by Ginni, with a splendid Assumption (15th cent.) by Matto) di Giovanni. The Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma has a rich collection of archaeology and art. The Prehistoric section is installed on the ground floor with material from the paleolithic to the Villanovan periods. The Etruscan section presents material from the excavations of ancient settlements including Talamone, Vetulonia. Cosa, Sovana, Castro, Vulci, Pitigliano, Saturnia. Magliano and above all Roselle, where excavations are still under way in the ancient urban area. The upper floor contains the Topographical section where the material is arranged according to the river basin comes from (Ombrone, Fiora, etc.). There is also a rich Collection of religious art on the second floor. Paintinp of the Sienese school dating from the 13th to the  17th century include in particular a magnificent Last Judgement by Guido da Siena or his circle; a charming Madonna and Child by Segna di Bonaventura; a goodly number of works that can be ascribed to the circle of one of the above masters; a moving Crucifixion (first half of the 13th cent.) which is of such high quality that the name of Simone Martini comes to mind; the famous Madonna of the Cherries by Sassetta; and the two Saints, once wings of a polyptych, by Sano di Pietro. The collection also contains works by many other illustrious masters such as Girolamo di Benvenuto, Pietro di Domenico, Riccio, Vanni and Rutilio Manetti as well as a fine Collection of ceramics. The austere 13th-century Church of San Francesco is in Gothic style. The gabled brick facade is enlivened by a portal with lunette and a fine rose window. The convent buildings were on the left side. Still extant is a Cloister with the socalled well of the “bufala”, built by Ferdinando I towards the end of the 16th century. Another well lies outside the church opposite the hospital. San Francesco has a single large nave with a trussed timber roof and a fine terminal chapel. It contains valuable cross set behind the high altar, perhaps an ea ly work by Duccio da Buoninsegna (1289) and a lovely wooden crucifix (15th cent.) of Sienese school. The is tenor is partially lined with frescoes. The Medici Walls were built in the second half of di 16th century and comprise a powerful bastioned cird of walls. At the beginning of the 19th century the glad began to be transformed into public gardens and at one corner rises the Medici Fortress which incorporates thi old Sienese Keep (a solid structure consisting of two tinct but interconnected parts with strongly escarj. bases bordered by a string course). A fine view of theold town can be had from the fortress


July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

This industrial town is also a famous seaside resort, with an extensive beach bordered by a flourishing pine grove. The Parish Church of San Leopoldo, a church which dates to 1836-38, is interesting because of the original combination of materials used in its construction – cast iron, stone and wood. The Biblioteca Comunale is also of interest for its exhibition models of 19th-century smelting installations.

Punta Ala
This rocky zone lies at the southern tip of the gulf of Follonica. This patch of land is almost untouched, with a beach of fine sand crowned by a dense Mediterranean shrub which reaches down to the sea. In the last twent:o years Punta Ala has become an exclusive residential area.

Castiglion della Pescaia
Well known seaside resort on the Maremman coast.. Castiglion della Pescaia has a lovely beach and varied cliffs along the sea. The picturesque portcanal is always full of fishing boats and yachts. There is also a fine pine grove set above the city which here and there reaches right down to the sea. Clinging to a hillside and esclosed within a solid circuit of walls, the old medieild town of Castiglione Castello is dominated by the fuse Aragonese fortress of the 14th-15th century.

San Gimignano

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

The architecture of San Gimignano makes this small city, so concentrated and noble, unique with the geometric pattern of the towers rising above the town. It was already known in Etruscan and Roman times. During the Middle Ages its importance grew thanks to the presence of the Via Francigena, the most important route at the time which connected Italy to all of Europe. San Gimignano almost always sided with Florence, but was unable to expand its power or its boundaries further because geographically it was inhibited by nearby Florence and Siena. The two urban spaces with the greatest wealth, artistically speaking, are the Piazza della Cistema and the Piazza Duomo. The former takes its name from the 13th-century cistern set almost in the center of the square. All around is a series of medieval buildings including, on the south, the Palazzo Tortolini Treccani (14th cent.) with two tiers of two-light windows, the Casa Salvestrini and the Casa Razzi (13th cent.); on the west side, the twin Guelph Towers of the Ardinghelli (13th cent.); and lastly, on the north, the Palazzo Cortesi flanked by the tower of the same name known also as Torre del Diavolo (Devil’s Tower). The Palazzo del Podesta, built in 1239 and enlarged about a century later, rises up on the Piazza Duomo. There is a fine fresco by Sodoma on the ground floor. One of the tallest towers (51 m.), the Torre known as Rognosa, rises up over the palace, while right across the way is the Collegiata, built around 1239 on the ruins of the old parish church of San Gimignano, with a fine facade in brick and stone. The tripartite Romanesque interior has magnificent cross vaulting. On the internal wall of the facade there are frescoes by Taddeo di Bartolo, and, at the sides, two wooden statues by Jacopo della Quercia (1421). The walls are entirely covered with fine frescoes: on the wall of the right aisle there is a beautiful cycle depicting Scenes and Episodes of the New Testament by Barna da Siena. At the back of the aisle is the Chapel of Santa Finn (patron saint of the city), with terra cottas by Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano; the frescoes on the side walls with Episodes from the Life of the Saint are by Ghirlandaio (1475), the fine altar piece is by Giuliano da Maiano. On the wall of the left aisle there is another fresco cycle of Stories of the Old Testament. Note the fine ciborium (1475) by Benedetto da Maiano on the high altar and an Annunciation by Ghirlandaio in the loggia of the Baptistery. The Palazzo del Popolo (now Town Hall) stands to the left of the Collegiata. It was built in the second half of the 13th century and enlarged in the early decades of the next century. The fine facade is spangled with the coats of arms of the podesta. Inside are the Museo Civico and the Pinacoteca Civica. The former is installed on the top floor and exhibits extremely interesting works including a fresco of the Maesta by Lippo Memmi. The latter contains a valuable collection of paintings of the schools of Siena and Florence from the 13th to the 15th centuries, including works by Filippino Lippi, Coppo di Marcovaldo, Pintugicchio and Benozzo Gozzoli. Near the Piazza del Duomo is the Piazza Pecori with the fine Palazzo della Propositura, seat of the Museum of Religious Art with its rich collection of paintings, precious church furnishings and minor arts. Near the square is the Rocca, built by the Florentines in 1353. This solid bastion is pentagonal in plan and has small towers and the remains of walls. Other historical buildings of note include the Church of San Bartolomeo (13th cent.), with a brick facade decorated with two orders of blind arches; the Church of Sant’Agostino (late 13th cent.), with an extremely simple facade and works by Benozzo Gozzoli, Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi inside; the Church of San Pietro (11th cent.); the Church of San Jacopo (13th cent.), with a nave only and unusual elements in the vaults which spring from transverse arches on engaged piers with half columns; and finally the former Church of San Francesco (now used as a wine cellar) with a lovely white facade.

Forte dei Marmi

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today Forte dei Marmi is the most elegant tourist resort on the entire Versiglia coast and is, without doubt, one of the most famous vacation spots in Italy. This town known in antiquity solely as the point of arrival for precious marbles from the Apuans, is now famous for development of its tourist facilities in the 1900s. But one sign of its obscure past still remains, the Fort, built by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo around the end of the 18th century to defend the zone from barbarian incursions.

In Search of Tuscany’s Best Meal — and Best Olive

May 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Sometimes it’s hard to come up with superlatives on a long trip: best beach, best view, best hotel. But sometimes the best is just SO best that it’s undeniable — and Italy serves up just such a superlative experience for Lindsie and I when we arrive in Volpaia one stormy night.

Read article about Tuscany food ans olives here

Borgo a Mozzano

May 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

A small agricultural and industrial town, Borgo a Mozzano still retains interesting signs of its past including the Parrocchiale of San Jacopo, which contains some 15th-16th century sculpture and some interesting Della Robbian terra cottas; the Oratory of the Crucifix, with a fine wooden Crucifix of the 16th century, and the Church of San Francesco in Baroque style. Not far from the town is the picturesque Bridge of the Devil or Ponte della Maddalena, with a hog’s back roadbed and asymmetrical arches (14th cent.).


April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Splendid estates lie in the pleasant surroundings of Pistoia as they do around any important city. These include Villa Forti in Chiari and Villa Cecchi, known as the Guardatoia, but the finest of all is the imposing Villa Garzoni (now Gardi dell’ Ardenghesca), built between 1633 and 1662 on the site of a medieval castle in a typically Luccan Baroque style. Behind the villa lies the town of Collodi whose fame is in part due to the fact that the Florentine writer Carlo Lorenzini (1826-1890), the author of Pinocchio, used the name as his pseudonym. He passed his childhood here in the town his mother was born in. In its labyrinth of lanes, Collodi retains a medieval character, clustered around the Church that was founded in the 14th century and the ruins of the keep. Not far from Villa Garzoni, near the Osteria del Cambero Rosso, designed by Giovanni Michelucci in 1963, is the Park of Pinocchio with the monument to Pinocchio and the Fairy by Emilio Greco (1956), the Piazzetta dei Mosaici by Venturino Venturini and the Paese dei Balocchi (Land of Toys) where Pinocchio’s adventures are enacted.

Torre del Lago

April 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

The small town became famous in the early 1900s due to the presence here of the Luccan composer Giacomo Puccini, who built his residence on the shores of the lake. Today his villa lies only a few meters from do water and contains musical and hunting mementos of the master in the dusky rooms, furnished in the Art Nouveau style then in fashion. The bust in the srml square overlooking the lake is also dedicated to Puccini. Every summer in Torre del Lago there is an interesting musical event, the Puccini festival, during which thaw are open air performances of the great composer’s most famous operas.