Tag Archives: Tuscany




Top Ten Piazzas of Florence

Any tour of Florence needs to be carefully planned; it’s not the city’s size or the difficulty getting around that’s the problem, but the sheer volume of attractions. Every street corner has some significant building, each piazza is full of history and all the churches have memorable pieces of art to enjoy.

Piazza Santa Croce

A visitor is never far from something interesting to look at, marvel over or photograph. Some of the greatest places to visit and take in the Florentine culture are its many piazzas. Invariably, these are home to vast collections of impressive art, historical events and simple surprises. If you find yourself in need of a break on your hectic tour schedule, they are also just great places to sit and relax, take in the atmosphere and have a cappuccino.

Piazza San Giovanni

1) Piazzas Giovanni and Duomo are Florence’s spiritual centre. Here you will find the iconic Florentine images of Brunelleschi’s dome and Giotto’s bell tower, two greats of the Renaissance period. There are also the beautiful bronze doors that adorn the Baptistery credited with starting the whole movement in 1401. It was here that a competition was held to design the doors, Donetello and Brunelleschi entered but it was Ghilberti’s designs that heralded in the new age.

Piazza della Signoria

2) Piazza della Signoria represents Florence’s artistic heart, this is where the ruling class held their public ceremonies, debated and displayed their wealth. This piazza overflows with Renaissance creativity, from the Loggia della Signoria, the Palazza Vecchio and the Uffizi statues, frescoes and paintings are everywhere. The copy of Michelangelo’s David, the huge and ungainly Neptune fountain and Dontello’s mythical renderings of Marzocco, Judith and Holofernes. A student of art could spend a week alone here and still not discover all it has to offer.

3) Piazza Santa Maria Novella; just outside the railway station, much renovated now and a delightful place to sit in the sun, is home to the church of the same name. The piazza is where they used to hold exciting horse races and the obelisks mark the turning points of the course. The church with its distinctive façade contains more of Florence’s treasures, Ghirlandaio, Lippi, Giotto and Uccello all worked here and you can appreciate their talent in the natural surroundings where they meant you to see them.

Piazza Santa Croce

4) Piazza Santa Croce  is where, since 1544, every June a crazy no holds barred football match has been organised and is also the wonderful setting for the glorious Santa Croce church. Again you can’t miss the art but this is also where Michelangelo, Ghilberti, Machiavelli and Galileo are all buried, while Dante and Fermi are celebrated. The cloisters next door are also where you will find the exquisite Pazzi chapel another Brunelleschi dome.

5) Piazza San Lorenzo is the centre of the bustling open air markets and is a great place to pick up a bargain. Take time, as well, to see the wonders of the church of San Lorenzo, despite its unimpressive façade the interior rewards visitors with a marvellous collection of art. There is also the Medici Library and Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in this great piazza.

Piazza Santissima Annunziata

6) Piazza Santissima Annunziata is one of the unspoilt piazzas in Florence, particularly memorable for its strange fountains and impressive statue of the Grand Duke Ferdinand I, the final piece created by the sculptor Giambologna. This square houses the church to the Santissima Annuziata and Europe’s oldest Orphanage, the Hospital to the Innocents, as well as the Museum of Archaeology.

Piazza della Republicca

7) Piazza della Republicca was the site of the old market place, sadly all that remains of this vibrant and lively area of Florence is the column with a replica of the statue of Abundance that once graced the original piazza. Redevelopments in the 19th century saw the creation of this large modern square with its richly decorated palaces and elegant shops that now surround the wide open space.

8 ) Piazza San Marco, in the northern districts of Florence’s old town centre is a charming little square punctuated with its church and museum that once echoed to the sounds of a Dominican monastery.

English Cemetery in Piazza Donatello

9) Piazza Donetello is another unique location, now surrounded by a four-lane bypass, it was once outside the city gates and where the English Cemetery was built. Now a tranquil and calm location amid the chaos of a modern city carefully tended and restored to its former glory.

View from the Piazzale Michelangelo

10) Piazzale Michelangelo stands high above Florence and is where you can take wonderful pictures of the city’s panorama. It’s a brisk climb to reach but the sight you are rewarded with is well worth the effort.



If you would like to take a self-guided tour of Florence we have published a helpful 3-Day Walking Guide to aid you on your travels, alternatively contact us  for information about our rich and entertaining guided trips around the wonderful Tuscan and Umbrian countryside.

Italian Cruising on a Vespa

The most memorable and iconic way to see the Italian countryside is on the back of a Vespa. This classic scooter has been the image of fun loving, relaxed Italian lifestyle since it first appeared in movies way back in the 1950’s.

Vespa on the Road

A favourite part of the Umbrian tour is always the Vespa trip. Everyone enjoys the chance to ride on the back of one of these classic machines. All have been lovingly restored and cared for by the enthusiasts from Citta di Castello Vespa Club who happily provide the transport for the day’s excitement.

The Vespa tour constantly provides a highlight of everyone’s holiday. There is a tangible sense of anticipation in the air as soon as the scooters start up and the party sets off. Weaving its way around the city and out into the surrounding green countryside.

There is a great sense of fun and freedom as the group negotiates Castello’s narrow streets and then out onto the open road and the green wooded hillsides. Imagine for just a couple of hours you are part of a liberated, motorcycle gang heading down the highway, looking for adventure, or at least a café bar for a drink and a cake.

Castello streets

The club love these days just as much as the visitors, they get to show off their gorgeous scooters and the wonderful Umbrian scenery, while having a great day out meeting new friends. This is the beauty of Umbria; the local people love making new friendships with visitors and freely share their enthusiasm for this very special part of Italy.

Debbie from Australia; who travelled over last year with “Mia Umbria con Antonella”, summed it up.

The absolute standout “fun” feature of the trip was our ride through the Umbrian hillside with members of the esteemed Vespa Club of Città Di Castello. These motorcycle enthusiasts showed us their beautiful home from a completely different vantage point – the high spirits of these gentlemen was infectious and the exhilaration of “flying” through Umbria was positively euphoric.”

Citta di Castello Vespa Club

Once the ride is over it’s back to a local restaurant where the group all enjoy a relaxing meal, wine and chat together. After all, this tourism lark is quite tiring.

If you would like to find out more about Vespa trips around the Umbrian, Tuscan countryside or the many other memorable days out, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

Painting on the Borderlands

A Tuscan, Umbrian art tour that will take you to the centre of Renaissance painting. 


One of the greatest painting destinations is Italy’s, Upper Tiber Valley and the heartland of the Renaissance painters. It is here on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria that the likes of Michelangelo, Perugino and Raphael once wandered. Giotto passed through on his way to paint Assisi and Signorelli stopped off to decorate the little church in Morra.

La Verna

The colours are somehow more vibrant, burnt umber and raw sienna seem to have more meaning here and you’ll find sap green is everywhere. The steely grey of the Apennine Mountains, cloaked in emerald green woodlands, set against the heavens, reminiscent of a Renaissance sky, a celesta blue.

Caprese Michelangelo

Take a trip to Arezzo and see       Da Vinci’s  Ponte Buriano featured in the background of the Mona Lisa or visit La Verna and see the beauty that St Francis found and Ghirlandaio painted. There are a myriad of tiny churches and chapels with rare frescoes, all painted by the grand masters. You can follow the route of Piero della Francesca whose unique fresco of a pregnant Madonna graces Monterchi and his painting responsible for saving Sansepolcro from destruction during the Second World War.

Trip Itinerary

Citta di Castello

The ideal day out around the borderlands takes in places of interest for artists, with plenty of dramatic landscapes to paint. As you wind your way around the Tuscan, Umbrian border your route should include:-

Citta di Castello – the excellent Pinacoteca Comunale has a marvellous Renaissance collection, which includes works by Luca Signorelli and Raphael.

Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

Sante Maria Tiberina – follow the narrow country lanes through to this wooded valley and stop off to admire the gorgeous views across the Umbrian countryside.


Monterchi – continue through the twisting trail and the Piero della Francesca painting of Madonna del Parto safely kept in Monterchi.

Anghiari – drive onwards across the border to the beautiful Tuscan hill town, famous for a battle and last fresco in Florence by Leonardo da Vinci.

Caprese Michelangelo – ancient village perched high on its Tuscan hill and birthplace of Michelangelo.

Torre Sansepolcro

La Verna – journey to the serene mountain with its St Franciscan monastery that was painted by Ghirlandaio. La Verna situated in one of the most peaceful locations around, with breathtaking panoramas of the Tuscan landscape.

Sansepolcro – gradually working your way back to see Piero della Francesca’s painting of the Resurrection in the Museo Civico

This wonderful landscape with its rolling hills clad in beech, birch and oak, delightful, historic little hill towns and earthy rich food that taste of the very countryside will all leave you with a feeling you have somehow connect directly with the painters than by merely looking at the artworks.


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Italy Day Trips – St Francis’s Hermitage, La Verna

One of the best forms of relaxation is a sample of nature’s own medicine. Many cures, treatments and therapies for the world’s ills are based on natural remedies, but simply spending time enjoying natures beauty can have a great restorative effect. When in 1213 St Francis established his hermitage at La Verna in Tuscany it was for exactly this reason he chose the inhospitable but beautiful location as somewhere to relax and contemplate.

History of La Verna

In 1213 St Francis and St Leo were walking through the Montefeltro region when they met the Count of Chiusi, Orlando Catani. In exchange for praying for his salvation the count gave Mount La Verna to St Francis and his companions, to use as a place of peace and solitude. When St Francis first visited the mountain he was greeted by a great flock of birds that seemed to demonstrate the pleasure of his arrival. St Francis took this as a sign from God that here was where the order should establish one of their hermitages.

It was here on the 14th September 1224, his last visit to La Verna, that he received the stigmata of Christ.  He died two years later on 4th October 1226. Not long after this, continued interest in the hermitage lead to the establishment of the monastery.  It was such an admired destination that within 300 years the sprawling collection of buildings that are present today had taken shape.  

The monastery centres on a massive crevice in Monte Verna, said to have opened up at the exact moment Jesus died on the cross. And it is here you can see the cave where St Francis often slept, the over hanging rock, beneath which he meditated and the precipice where he fought with the devil. There is also a shrine on the site indicating where he received the stigmata. All of this not only makes La Verna one of the most holy locations in the Christian world but also a place of great serenity and calm (except of course during a Bank Holiday when the tourists flock in by the hundreds).

Tour of the Monastery

One of the most breathtaking views is from the Quadrante, the clock face on the basilica’s bell tower and standing in the wide courtyard you can overlook the splendour of the Casentino Valley. The courtyard also features a huge but simple wooden cross that over looks the verdant panorama, the distant mountains and towns of Poppi and Bibbiena.

The entire site is such a peaceful and tranquil location, where you can wander freely around a labyrinth of passageways and corridors looking into tiny chapels, oratories and shrines. There are surprises at every turn as you explore the monastery and everywhere you look you can see the luscious green canopy.

The Chapel of Relics in the basilica contains an interesting collection of items that belonged to St Francis, including his weather worn, coarse woollen habit, a wooden bowl and a blood soaked bandage used to cover his wounds. There are some sixteen tiny chapels and places of worship throughout the site, each with paintings, sculptures and frescoes depicting the lives of the saints.

A walk in the countryside

Once you have discovered every nook and cranny in La Verna you can work up an appetite with a vigorous walk around the trails and paths that cover the mountainside, they are excellently marked and once again lead to a hundred wondrous views.

The Rock of Brother Lupo, The Chapel of La Penna and the Chapel of Blessed John are an integral part of the National Park of Monte Falterona, of which La Verna is its magnificent centrepiece. 

La Verna is a fabulous attraction and one that is testament to St Francis’s love of nature. From its lofty heights you can look down on the surrounding Tuscan woodlands and valleys and appreciate the wonderful simplicity and spectacular beauty of it all.


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