Pitigliano, Italy

Tucked into the fertile highlands of southwestern Tuscany, the small community of Pitigliano is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Pitigliano is one of several prominent hilltop communities located within Italy’s Maremma region in southwestern Tuscany. This perfectly preserved community features a historic city center dating back to medieval times with many other ancient sites created more than 1,000 years ago. With a permanent population of 4,000, Pitigliano, Italy, is a true off-the-map tourist destination ripped from the pages of fairy tales and history books.

Pitigliano, Tuscany, ItalyInhabited by the ancient Italian Etruscans or Tuscans that are credited as the founders of Rome, this richly historic community makes a big impression on its visitors. Set atop rocky bluffs, the city center of Pitigliano with its tile-roofed buildings, classical villas and medieval structures creates a formidable sight. The first historical records of Pitigliano date back to the year 1061 when they region was controlled by the Etruscans. By the beginning of the medieval era, Pitigliano was the capital of the surrounding Grosseto province.

Pitigliano is located among fertile hills overlooking three regional rivers. The landscape in this pastoral region includes open plains, green hills, olive trees and cattle pastures. For many years, the rural area surrounding Pitigliano has been used by ranchers that keep sheep, horses and cattle. Due to its strategic location, Pitigliano was a haven for a thriving Jewish community that sought refuge from the southern Papal States. Pitigliano is famous for producing Kosher wines as well as a white wine known as Bianco di Pitigliano.

The rocky hills that surround Pitigliano are home to many ancient sites, including primitive caves, tunnels, tombs and irrigation channels carved into the limestone tufa. One of the oldest caves, which is known as the paleochristian tempiettom, is believed to be an ancient Christian temple created in 400 A.D. Jewish settlers created a matzo bakery in a similar hillside cave.

Today, Pitigliano features a historic medieval city center with modern vacation apartments built in the surrounding areas. This unique destination located near the midpoint of Italy’s western coast is a great place to discover Italian culture. Pitigliano enjoys temperate weather most of the year with highs in the mid-80s during the summer months and winter lows averaging between 35 and 50 degrees. Buses serve Pitigliano on a regular basis. The community is also a great daytrip destination for travelers staying in Montepulciano or near Lake Bolsena.


Pienza, Italy

Pienza, is a small, architecturally rich, town in the Tuscan area of Italy with a population of 2,200 people, was once known as Corsignano. Pienze, was the birthplace of Renaissance humanist Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, the son of an exiled noble family, Piccolomini became Pope Pius II on August 19, 1458.

One of the first things Pope Pius II did was to rebuild the village into his ideal Renaissance town. One of the earliest examples of urban planning the town was built to be a retreat from Rome. In 1996, Pienza was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and in 2004 the region known as Val d’Orcia, where Pienza is located, was listed in UNESCO’s World Cultural Landscapes. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Medieval town of Pienza, Tuscany, ItalySome of the beautiful places one must visit when touring Pienza includes The Duomo, or “cathedral,” the dominant feature of the piazza. The Duomo features a facade designed in the Renaissance manner and it is believed to be one of the earliest of such design. Pope Pius II believed that Palazzo, or “Plazas,” were important in the design of the town and there are three of note; Palazzo Piccolomini, Palazzo Vescoville, and Palazzo Comunale that must be seen. Other sites that must be seen on a trip to Pienza include the Pieve, or small church, that features Romanesque design; the Ammannate Palace, named after a cardinal of the time; the church of San Francesco, containing frescoes depicting the life of St. Francis; and the hermitage of the Benedictines, built around 1332.

Besides being known for its historical architecture, Pienza is famous for its cheese. The cheese of Pienza is not cow’s milk cheese, but “pecorino,” or ewe’s milk cheese. Pecorino is made of the regions award winning ewe’s milk. Fine Pecorino is a mature, medium aged cheese, of relatively strong flavors. When Pecorino is fresh it is a soft, white, cheese and as it ages it becomes firmer and darker in color. However, aging Pecorino does not improve the flavor and most prefer fresh Pecorino. There are many wonderful shops in Pienza where one may buy Pecorino. Pienza is also know for finally crafted leather goods and there are shops where one may see the products being hand crafted and buy the finished products.

There are many types of accommodations in Pienze from modern hotels to the popular experience of “Agriturismo,” which are accommodations located in farmhouses set in the Tuscan countryside. The weather is best for visiting Pienza between May and June or September and October when high temperatures avarage about 76 degrees. However, even in winter temperatures are reasonably temperate with highs of around 40 degrees. No matter when one choses to visit Pienza, in the enchanting region of Tuscany, Italy it will be a trip never to be forgotten.


Piombino, Italy

Piombino is on an outcropping with an outlook on Corsica and Sardinia, the islands that make up the Tuscan archipelago. On the upper part of the rocky promontory, maquis, a thick vegetation of the Mediterranean coast grows north along the sandy beaches of the Barattii Gulf whereas towards the south, the land ends in the Fellonica Gulf along beaches with thin, white sand. Monte Massoncello ascends north of the town.

Piombino is an ideal destination for beach lovers, for those wanting to leave the port to visit the Tuscan archipelago boat tours, or for avid trekkers who want to walk along the paths. Visitors to Piombino can enjoy the shopping in the town’s center with “150 windows“ or dine in the many seafood restaurants.

Coastline of Piombino, Tuscany, ItalyThe town was known as Portus under Roman rule. Piombino rose to prominence when the Lombard invasion wiped out the adjoining town of Populonia. In the Middle Ages Piombino came under control of the Pisans and then the control varied, depending on which state ruled Italy until 1814 when the Congress of Vienna gave control to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Piombino’s name originated from the Italian piombo or lead, revealing how the town’s metalworking industry was so important to the economy. During the Etruscan times, iron ore was mined on Elba and shipped to Populonia where it was smelted. In the 19th century, new iron working techniques made it possible to work with iron from Colline Metallifere and from the slag heaps left from the Etruscan times.

Visitors to Piombino will find three kinds of attractions- the historical sites in town, the archaeological park, and the beach at Altamarea.

The main sights of Piombino include the Co-Cathedral of San Antino constructed by the Augustinians in the 14th century which contains several pieces by Andrea Guardi, the Cassero Pisano or castle built during the Medici rule, the Renaissance Chapel of St Anne, the Palazzo Communale or Town Hall originally built in the 1400s, and Casa delle Bifore – the House of the Mullioned Windows of 1280.

The Piombino area has two main parks. The Natural Province Reserve Padule Orti Bottagone is near Torre Del Sale. This preserve highlights ponds and wet prairies that used to be common in the Cornia River Plain. It plays a prominent part in bird migration and as a nesting site. The other park, the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia, in Piombino Township, is located between the hills of Piombino and the coast on the Gulf of Baratti. It is in the park system of Parks of Val de Cornia, opening in 1998 to examine the archaeological sites. The park is comprised of Populonia, the Etruscan city, the cemetery of San Cerbone, Casone and the grotto, and the cave of calcarenite. The park has several paths enabling visitors to visit the sites.

The other major tourist attraction is the Alta Marea Bath in the center of the Tuscan coast in Baratti, which is within Piombino. Visitors can easily reach the beach on a wide street. The beach sand varies as to uniformity and colors and sometimes is dark because of the iron remaining from the Roman mines.

The Altamarea bathing business provides a cordial ambience for its visitors with many services: sun beds and deckchairs, beach umbrellas, showers, and canoes and pedal boats.


Montalcino, Italy

Montalcino is a small commune located in the region Tuscany in Italy that sits atop a hill. Montalcino, Italy has a population of just over 5100 people. The highest portions of Montalcino overlook the rest of Tuscany and give a great view of all of the vineyards and olive orchards in the area. The beautiful weather and the great attractions make Montalcino a great place to visit any time of the year.

The history of Montalcino is very turbulent with a lot of ups and downs. Montalcino was experiencing a large amount of prosperity until the Middle Ages. Montalcino gained its prosperity due to its location between Rome and France. This led to Montalcino to have conflicts with Florence and they ultimately fell under their power in the late 1800s. Montalcino experience troubling times for many years, but this has been reversed due to extreme popularity of a wine produced in the region. Montalcino is the sole producer of Brunello di Montalcino wine and over 300,000 cases of the wine are made each year. The popularity of the wine has increased tourism in the area and has allowed the economy of Montalcino to strive.

Montalcino, Tuscany, ItalyMontalcino features a climate with very mild winters and slightly hot summers, which is ideal for the making of wine. The months of June, July August and September are the hottest times in Montalcino. The average high temperatures during these four months will generally be between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius. Montalcino experiences its coldest temperatures during December, January and February. The high temperatures for the day will be between 10 and 14 degrees.

The fortress surrounding the city of Montalcino is the most popular tourist attraction in the area. The fortress was built in the 1200s to keep the Florence army from entering the city. While the army of Florence was able to enter Montalcino, the fortress surrounding the city remained unharmed and intact. The Montalcino fortress is an amazing example of ancient architecture and should be seen by everyone traveling in the area.

Another one of Montalcino’s main attractions is the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. The Abbey of Sant’Antimo is a monastery that dates back to the year 770. The Abbey of Sant’Antimo is another example of the beautiful medieval architecture that is found in Montalcino and the entire region of Tuscany. Montalcino also features several great churches to visit, and after you are done sight seeing there is always a place to get a great glass of wine.


Poggibonsi, Italy

The lovely town of Poggibonsi, Italy lies on the Elsa River in the heart of Tuscany’s Val d’elsa Valley, just 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Siena. With a population of 28,602, Poggibonsi is a Chianti Classico sub-region. The economy depends on the production of chianti, furniture and other small industries.

Poggibonsi’s old town reflects its rich history. Established in the 12th century on the road from Rome to France, it was declared an Imperial City by Frederick II. The town was destroyed in 1270 by the Florentine Guelphs led by legendary figure Guy de Montfort. The Guelphs supported the Pope in the struggle with supporters of the Holy Roman Empire. Poggibonsi was rebuilt in the lower valley and in 1484, while still under Florentine rule, Lorenzo de Medici ordered construction of a new fortress-protected settlement that fufilled the Renaissance notion of an “ideal city.” The project was halted in 1510 and Poggibonsi later fell under French rule until it became part of United Italy in 1861.

Basilica di San Lucchese , Poggibonsi, ItalyThe town is dominated by the ruins of the fortress of Poggio Imperiale, a forerunner of fortified architecture designed by architect Giuliano da Sangallo and built between 1488 and 1511. Two other significent buildings are the 13th-century Palazzo Pretorio that was once the seat of local government but now houses a palaeontological museum, and the Santuario del Romitazzo, an ancient edifice that holds the idolized image of the Madonna of the Snow. Its bell tower was added in the 15th century.

Poggibonsi has no shortage of “must-see” churches, including the 1495 Gothic-Romanesque Church of San Lorenzo that boasts Giovanni d’Agostino’s 14th-century wooden crucifix and several paintings, including Neri di Bicci’s “St. Nicholas.” The 1252 Basilica di San Lucchese that rests atop a nearby hill houses a terracotta statue of the Immaculate Conception by Giovanni della Robbia and numerous frescoes by early Italian artists.

Other attractions include the Fonte della Fate (Fairies fountain), one of the few remaining ruins of the original town; and the “Castle of the Fox Strangler,” an ancient Guidi family fortress supposedly connected to Poggibonsi by a tunnel.

Accommodations in Poggibonsi include 12 hotels, castle rooms and farmhouses to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets. There are also numerous restaurants featuring fine wines and Tuscan dishes, especially seafood. The town’s s spirit is expressed in the 1982 song, “Poggibonsi,” by popular Italian singer and actress “Milva.”


Chianciano, Italy

Chianciano, Italy is a historic town located in the southern part of Siena Province of Tuscany that can trace its history back to the Etruscan Period of the 5th Century B.C. It was during this time that a temple was erected to honor the god of good health. This structure, situated near the Sillene spring, contained several large bronze statues. Recent archeological excavations have discovered artifacts from the 7th Century B.C. as well. The curative powers of the spring waters made Chianciano well known during Roman times. Many luxury villas were constructed in the area and literary evidence includes references to the poet Homer visiting the baths.

Chianciano, Siena, Tuscany, ItalyToday, cultural tourists can stroll through the elegant Romanesque Porta Rivellini and visit Chianciano Vecchia or Ancient Chianciano which is situated atop a small hill. In the Romanesque-Gothic Museum of the Church of San Giovanni Battista, they can see the painting Annunciation by Niccolo Betti, the fresco of the Madonna of Peace by Signorelli, as well as other 14th, 15th and 16th century works of art. They can also admire the architectural elegance of ancient churches such as the Church of the Immacolata which was restored in 1588. The old town area contains several museums including the notable Museum of Art that displays an interesting collection of contemporary and historical works of art and is well worth a visit.

Guest looking to relax can enjoy the rejuvenating aspects of the therapeutic spring waters just as the ancient Romans did. The modern section of the municipality, Chianciano Terme, has earned the reputation as one of the finest health resorts in the country. This area of the city contains several renowned spas. The first recorded advertisement for the modern spas dates from 1895. Visitors can enjoy the many leisure activities of the beautiful city parks such as the large Parco Acquasanta.

This Tuscany vacation destination is approximately 90 kilometers southeast of Florence and 120 kilometers from Pisa. The climate of the area is generally mild with variation depending upon the geography of each particular area. The summer is warm and dry with temperatures reaching 30° C while the winter offers sunny days but chilly nights with temperature below freezing.

Chianciano continues to build a thriving tourist economy based upon its reputation as a destination for relaxation and rejuvenation that began in ancient times.


Orbetello, Italy

Orbetello, Italy is in the province of Tuscany on a small island on a lagoon which is a preserved Natural Reserve. Orbetello was an ancient settlement that in 280 BC became controlled by the Romans, in the mid-16th century by Spain, then by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and eventually became part of the new Kingdom of Italy since the late 19th century.

This lively town is located in a beautiful spot and has become a popular tourist attraction with many accommodations as well as camping sites. The beaches are bordered by calm waters, and the area’s many villages and towns have their own specific history, culture, and heritage that the citizens are anxious to share with visitors.

La Rocca Aldbrandesca of Telamon, Orbetello, Tuscany, ItalyOrbetello has always been a seaside town with its main resource being fishing. Many of the local recipes using mainly sea bass raised in man-made pools or from the lagoon have become famous.

The Tarot Garden is near Orbetello and is unique and magical with large sculptures, colorful buildings covered in mirrors, unusual rooms, and spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside from this amazing hill. This fascinating artistic park was created by the artist Niki de Saint Phalie and has a sacred and religious atmosphere. Check on when you can visit there as it may be possible only from April to October.

Ansedonia is in the southern area of the lagoon and is an important archeological site with the remains of the Roman colony of the third century BC city of Cosa.

The Tagliata Etrusca is a mysterious and deep mythological cavern cut in the rock on the seashore.

The beaches of Talamone are part of the Natural Park of Maremma and offer scuba diving, snorkeling, kite-surfing, windsurfing, and more in the crystal-clear water. The small harbor is in a natural scenic gulf and has a marina. This fishing village is surrounded by walls from medieval times with a picturesque 15th century citadel in its midst. Talamone keeps the look of ancient days as well as bringing you back to the current day and giving you a chance to taste the fresh local fish dishes.


Roccastrada, Italy

Ideal for anyone who prefers the road less traveled, Roccastrada, Italy, is a remote municipal area where wine is a central focus and spectacular natural scenery unfolds around every corner. Located in the province of Grosseto in the southern reaches of Tuscany, Roccastrada is located 15 miles northeast of Grosseto city, a short distance from the Italian coast. This remote destination is roughly 55 miles south of the cultural city of Florence and the city of Pisa, which is famous for its leaning tower. The historic city of Siena (Siena) is also located a short distance from Roccastrada. Roccastrada lies in a spectacular area between the fertile Maremma plains and the mountainous hills of the Colline Metallifere.

Convent in Roccastrada, Tuscany, ItalyWith its laid back atmosphere and rural setting, Roccastrada is the ideal destination to enjoy a relaxing weekend or calming getaway in the rustic region of Tuscany. The Roccastrada municipal area has a permanent population of approximately 10,000, which are distributed across several small villages and hamlets, including Sticciano, Ribolla, Montemassi, Roccatederighi, Sassofortino, Torniella and Piloni, which have many unique attractions in their own right. The Montemassi Castle is one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in the region.

The quiet Roccastrada region is known for its old world charm, long history and ancient traditions. There are a number of hotels, eateries and shops located in the Roccastrada city center. Every Wednesday and Saturday, vendors, farmers and cheese makers gather in Roccastrada to sell world-class formaggio, meat products, food goods and household items. Other attractions located within the Roccastrada city center include the Piazza dell’Orologio, a medieval clock tower reconstructed after WWII. Located atop a steep hill, the Piazza dell’Orologio towers over the surrounding area giving visitors breathtaking views of the spectacular landscape and the city’s tile-clad buildings that are of medieval origin.

The city’s iconic clock tower is also home to a wine museum and historic subterranean wine cellar. The museum and tourist center features an underground wine cellar bored through rock, murals, and documentation on historical agricultural activities as well as mining and metallurgy that were mainstays in this mineral-rich region. Modern-day Roccastrada features a variety of medieval buildings along with newer accommodations and subdivisions constructed on the outskirts of town. The municipality of Roccastrada and its affiliated hamlets are superb destinations for tourists who want to explore the unchanged side of Tuscany as it was thousands of years ago.


Cortona, Italy

Italy is home to a vast array of fascinating cities and towns to explore. Many of the country’s best towns are in the celebrated Tuscany region. This area is well known for its charming hillside towns and rich culture. One of the most interesting and historic of these towns is Cortona, Italy. Set in the heart of the Tuscany, this town boasts stunning architecture, historic landmarks and a bevy of great cafes, boutiques and authentic Italian restaurants. No visit to the Tuscany is complete without a stop at this charming town. With so much to do and see, Cortona offers something for everyone.

City of Cortona, Tuscany, ItalyCortona is located in Cenral Italy’s Tuscany region near the city of Arezzo. Cortona has a mild climate and is accessible by air, train, bus and car. Those visiting the town will find plenty of historic landmarks, fascinating cultural sites and beautiful churches to explore.

Cortona is home to many interesting sites and landmarks. One of the top attractions in the town is the Etruscan tombs, an ancient Roman-era catacomb that is one of the best preserved in all of Italy. Another top place to visit is the Palazzo Comunale, the town’s 13th century town hall and a magnificent architectural gem.

The city plays host to a number of renowned museums as well. The Diocesan Museum is one of the most fascinating in Italy, while the Etruscan Academy Museum holds a wide array of ancient Etruscan artifacts and artwork and is a must-see for those who love history and ancient culture.

Just wandering around the town is an experience all by itself. Visitors can stop by the famed Piazza della Repubblica, the town’s central plaza and home some of its finest architecture and most historic buildings. The neighboring Piazza Signorelli is home to a popular antiques market while the unique Piazza Giribaldi seamlessly blends Napoleonic-era French and Italian design and architecture.

Finally, no visit to Cortona is complete without seeing its marvelous churches and cathedrals. These include Il Duomo, the Farneta Abbey and the stunning Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

With its beautiful architecture, rich history and authentic Tuscany heritage, the town of Cortona is a must-see for anyone visiting Italy’s famous Tuscany region.


Arezzo, Italy

The Tuscany region of Italy is renowned for its charming medieval towns, historic landmarks, rolling hills and famed wine culture. Those looking to visit this beautiful region are treated to a wide array of historic towns and cities to visit as they pass through. One of these cities is Arezzo, Italy. Arezzo is home to a bevy of historical landmarks, stunning churches and countless authentic Italian cafes and restaurants to sample. Even the most jaded travelers are awed by the city’s blend of magnificent architecture and rich culture. For those looking for the real Tuscany experience, there’s no better place than beautiful Arezzo.

Piazza Grande, Arezzo, Tuscany, ItalyArezzo is located in the Tuscany region of Central Italy. The city has a warm, Mediterranean climate and plentiful sunshine throughout the year. It is accessible by plane, train and car and boasts some of Italy most impressive historical sites and cultural monuments.

One of the top attractions in the city of Arezzo is Piazza Grande, the city’s central square. Piazza Grande is ringed by some of Italy’s most stunning architecture and historic buildings. It is also home to the annual Joust of the Sacarens medieval fair. Another top spot to visit in Arezzo is the Arezzo Cathedral. This stunning church is one of the most iconic in Tuscany and sports an impressive architectural design and rich history. Other fascinating churches worth a stop in the city include the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve and the stunning Church of San Francesco.

Arezzo is also home to a wide array of fascinating museums. These include the Museo del Duomo, a historic and religious museum in the Arezzo Cathedral. The Museo Archeologico is renowned as one of Italy’s top historical museums and is a must-see for archeology enthusiasts and those with an interest in ancient cultures. Other top museums in the city include the House-Museum of Ivan Bruschi and the Museo Statale d’Arte Medieveale e Moderna.

Arezzo boasts many cultural landmarks to explore as well. One of these is Casa del Petrcaca, home of famed medieval poet Petraca. Another top spot is La Vita e Bella, while the city’s Old Town section is filled with charming shops and cafes nestled amongst the narrow streets and historic buildings.

For an authentic Tuscany experience, there’s no better place than the spectacular city of Arezzo.