Grosseto

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

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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.

Collodi

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.

Fiesole

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

This ancient city of Etruscan origins lies at the top of  a hill overlooking Florence. The town centers around the lowly Piazza Mino da Fiesole with the large Cathedral of S. Romolo dating to the 11th century, contains the important Cappella Salutati, frescoed in the 15th century by Cosimo Rosselli and the of Bishop Salutati by Mino da Fiesole. The Palazzo Vescovile (11th century) and the old Church of Santa Maria Primerana lie across from the Cathedral. From here one can go up towards the Church and the Franciscan Convent (14th century), which houses the Ethnographic Mission Museum which contains important Etruscan material. It is but a short walk from the piazza to the Museo Civico Archeologico and the lovely Roman Theater dating to the first century B.C. where important theatral and cinematographic manifestations are held. Nearby are the Roman Baths and the Etrusco-Roman Temple. Not to be forgotten is the valuable Museo Bandini which houses sculpture and painting from the 13th to the 15th centuries, and the very old Basilica of San Alessandro.

Barga

April 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

The city was the heart of the Medici Grand Duchy in Garfagnana. The religious buildings of the city are particularly interesting: first and foremost the Cathedral, built and modified in various stages from the 9th to the 20th century. No less interesting are the 16th century Church of San Francesco. the numerous palaces which belonged to the important local families and which line the Via di Mezzo, di Borgo and Pretorio; and the Palazzo Pretorio, seat of the Florentine podesta who set their coats of arms on the 14th century loggia next to the building.

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