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EXPLORE THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Siena

 

When we say Tuscany, in the vast majority of cases, the imagination fly right away to the magical landscapes, charming and fascinating consisting of an isolated farmhouse which stands on a hill preceded by a long avenue lined with cypress trees and surrounded by a true and its "lunar landscape". The landscape is dominated by hills eroded by the passage of time, rugged and bare but unchallenged beauty. Gullies and biancane alternate in this scenic area. Cypress and pine trees, hills, sunflower fields. The territory is crowned with towers, castles and abbeys which make it even more enchanting and surreal this region. These picturesque scenery are typical in the Crete Senesi, a wide area on the border between the provinces of Arezzo and Siena, which extends almost to the foot of Mount Amiata. The Crete Senesi, with its magnificent landscapes, is rich of farms, medieval villages, castles and “granges” (buildings with features typical warehouse and granary around the town of Buonconvento), is ideal for a journey back through the ages. This area offers artistic routes of great cultural interest that deserves to be discovered. The most important towns are: Asciano, Montisi, Rapolano Terme, Serre Rapolano, San Giovanni d'Asso, which are surrounded by the Crete Senesi. Wonderful is the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore with its imposing size.

The southern part of the province of Siena is characterized by different types of landscapes. Val d'Orcia (Orcia Valley) is the hilly area bordered on the northwest by the Crete Senesi, to the east by the Val di Chiana and on the south by Mount Amiata (the most important ski area in southern Tuscany) and the province of Grosseto. Val d’Orcia greets visitors with its magnificent scenery of authentic rural life. Its landscape was redesigned in the Renaissance period and it reflects the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing image. In this area we will find also Montepulciano and Pienza, two towns famous throughout the world as a symbol of artistic beauty. The landscape is characterized by hills and cypress trees, medieval churches and abbeys. Val d'Orcia, however, has not lost its agricultural nature. The wine, olive oil and pecorino cheese are the main productions that have made this area famous. The absolute gem is the Brunello di Montalcino, one of the most appreciated wines in the world. Since 2004 UNESCO has declared this area a World Heritage Site. Of course, the enchanting nature in Val d’Orcia can be visited by foot or on horseback too.

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La Spezia

 

La Spezia (for the citizen of the city simply Spezia) is a small but pretty town overlooking the Gulf of Poets. The historic center of La Spezia, which can be easily visited on foot, develops between two parallel streets: Corso Cavour and via del Prione. Around them we find three important attractions: the port of La Spezia, the castle of San Giorgio which dominates the historic center and the cathedral of the city dedicated to Cristo Re. The buildings in the historic center, some of which are in Art Nouveau style, are mostly well preserved and with highly decorated facades. Also in the historic center, in Piazza Giulio Beverini, there is the fifteenth-century church of Santa Maria Assunta.

 

The Cathedral of Cristo Re is a modern style building. The structure is circular and massive, with a diameter of about fifty meters and built in concrete.

The Museum of the Seal, housed in the Palazzina delle Arti, preserves numerous seals (those also used in the closing of the envelopes) ranging from the fourth millennium BC until the most recent centuries. Also on display are the tools used to melt the seals, such as the rings. Together with the Museum of the Seal we also find the adjoining library of art history and archeology, with about twelve thousand volumes available.

 

The promenade of La Spezia runs along the whole area where boats and ships dock. From here you have a beautiful view of the Gulf of Poets and the Ligurian sea.

The Tahon di Revel Bridge, built in 2014, is a drawbridge over one hundred and fifty meters long with a width of about three meters with contemporary shapes, which connects the tourist port to the historic center of the city through public gardens. Its finishes are precious and mainly composed of exotic wood combined with the white steel of the structure. The bridge immediately attracts the gaze of those who come from the sea or those who walk on the city promenade.

A short distance from the port is the Navy Arsenal. Opened in 1869, during the Second World War it was bombed and put out of service. Obviously, being a military structure, it is not possible to visit the arsenal; instead the adjoining naval technical museum is one of the most visited museums in all of La Spezia and the most important of its kind in Italy.

 

The castle of San Giorgio built in the thirteenth century in the hilly part of the city is certainly worth a visit. Already from the port it is possible to clearly see its shape overlooking the inhabited center. Currently inside it houses the Archaeological Civic Museum.

 

An interesting way to know the city is to walk the steps that connect the lower part of the city, above sea level, to the hilly part. It will allow you to appreciate some Art Nouveau details of the stairways themselves and the buildings that overlook them. One of the most evocative is the Cernaia staircase, from which it is possible to admire the buildings made of ancient decorations dating back to the '900 and' 800. Finally we also remember the Staircase of San Giorgio, from whose top you have a suggestive view of the sea.

 

 

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Grosseto

 

The province of Grosseto is located in the extreme south of Tuscany, and its territory is characterized by very different areas: in the vicinity of the sea we have in fact the lush plain of the Maremma, while the hinterland is mainly covered by hills.

Along the coast there are also natural reserves, with areas still wild and sparsely populated, where there are wild herds, deer, foxes and wild boar. Scattered on the surrounding hills instead there are ancient medieval villages.

 

Capalbio

The ancient village of Capalbio is easily accessible from the north and south along the Aurelia road. The visit of the historic center, not accessible to cars, starts from the arched door surmounted by the Medici coat of arms. The great door, in wood and iron, was closed in the past to sunset. We continue along the central Via Vittorio Emanuele II, skirting the walls that still preserve the original walkway of the soldiers and on the right, we arrive at the Arco Santo, above which is a marble portrait of Emperor Hadrian from the 2nd century. a. C.

Continuing along the road we arrive to the church of San Nicola, dating back to the XII - XIII century; inside there are valuable Renaissance frescoes. Walking along Via Collacchioni we arrive instead at Piazza della Rocca, which is also the highest point of Capalbio. La Rocca is an "L" -shaped fortification dating back to the 15th century flanked by Palazzo Collacchioni, inside which the piano played by Giacomo Puccini during his stays in Capalbio is preserved. The inside of the Rocca is quite bare, but some rooms are finely decorated. In addition, the castle is now home to events and exhibitions. It is possible to go up to the terrace of the tower and from here to admire a wonderful panorama of the surrounding hills, all the way to the sea.

From the Rocca you can reach the beautiful Piazza Magenta, a meeting place and setting for numerous cultural events, especially in summer. The very well preserved walls of Capalbio are able to convey all the old charm of a village of other times. Finally, just outside the walls there is the Oratory of Providence, with frescoes from the 16th century. attributed to Pinturicchio's school.

 

Giglio Castello

Giglio Castello is a small hamlet located on the Island of Giglio, as well as the oldest inhabited center. The village, easily reachable by bus coming from the small port, is 400 meters above sea level and is surrounded by the massive medieval walls of the Rocca Aldobrandesca, built in the 12th century. To visit also the Church of San Pietro Apostolo. It is possible to admire the beauty of this place out of time along the characteristic streets of the village.

It is also possible to go for walks along the path outside the walls, from which you can admire the surrounding landscape, which stretches from the island of Giannutri, Elba and Corsica.

 

Pitigliano

The charming village of Pitigliano is characterized by dwellings dug out of the tuff that blend with the rock on which they have built. Because of its small but ancient Jewish community, which has lived there for centuries, it is also known as the "little Jerusalem". The historic center is certainly one of the most interesting in Italy, with its ancient monuments built between the Middle Ages and the XVIII century. You can indeed visit the Orsini Fortress and Palazzo Orsini, as well as ancient buildings from the 1500s and 1600s. Here the atmosphere has remained intact over time. It is also possible to walk the fascinating "cave streets", very ancient Etruscan roads created by cutting the tuff rock.

 

Sovana

It is a fraction belonging to the municipality of Sorano and in the past it was an important Etruscan center. In the Middle Ages it became a rich and important city, as witnessed by the many religious and civil buildings present in this village, as well as by the Rocca Aldobrandesca, dating back to the 11th century, which can be admired at the entrance to the historic center. Time seems to have stopped in Sovana.

Walking along the main street, you arrive in Piazza del Pretorio, where the main monuments are located: the church of S. Mamiliano (IV century BC), built on Etruscan and Roman remains, is the oldest religious structure in Sovana.

You can also admire the Bourbon del Monte Palace, the church of Santa Maria (XII-XIII century), as well as the Loggia del Capitano, which houses the coat of arms belonging to Cosimo I de 'Medici. Finally there is Palazzo Pretorio (XII-XIII century) with the 9 coats of arms showing the names of the captains lived during the dominion of Siena and Florence. At the center of the square stands the Palazzetto Comunale with its bell tower.

 

Porto Ercole

Porto Ercole is a pretty seaside resort located near the Argentario Promontory, and is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Of Etruscan origin (like many other villages in the area), it has a characteristic small port and a historical center formed by a tangle of alleys and small squares that lead to Piazza S. Barbara, from which it is possible to have a beautiful view of the port. At the top of the village, in the old part of the town, there is also a church from the 1700s and the Rocca Spagnola (a castle). The latter, together with Forte Filippo and Forte Stella, is part of the fortifications built in the 16th century, still perfectly preserved today and from which you can admire wonderful views.

Porto Ercole has developed in particular along the natural bay, where today there is a port that is still active and a beautiful promenade where you can walk and where bars and restaurants alternate with those that were once fishermen's warehouses.

A curiosity: Michelangelo Merisi, known as il Caravaggio, died in Porto Ercole in July 1610 under still mysterious circumstances.

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Camaiore

Camaiore is a town of over 30,000 inhabitants, extending from the peaks of the Apuan Alps to the Ligurian Sea, in the heart of Versilia.The climate that characterizes the town of Camaiore is typical of Versilia, influenced by the action of the sea: mild in winter, not too hot in summer.The municipal territory includes 24 hamlets and among them the most famous and populated: Lido di Camaiore, a well-known beach resort with sandy beaches.

The history of the city of Camaiore dates back to 190 BC when the Romans, founded Lucca, decided to build Major Campus, from which the name Camaiore was derived.
Camaiore has many artistic jewels inside the walls, among which stands the Collegiate of Santa Maria Assunta, dating back to the middle of the 13th century, next to a bell tower of 1350, and the large central rosette of the 14th century. Of the same period is the Latin cross structure with double entrance. The dome was built in the 15th century, while in 1536 the church suffered serious damage due to the earthquake. In the 18th century the dome, the apse and the lateral chapels were rebuilt. The baroque style interior is divided into three naves with Romanesque columns. Among the preserved works of art is a sixteenth-century organ; a three-cuttlefish crucifix; a canvas representing the Madonna del Carmine; a marble altar of SS. Annunziata of 1659 and a sixteenth-century palace representing the Last Supper. Other things to see: the door of San Pietro or Lombricese, built in the same period of castelian walls, erected in 1374.

Along via IV Novembre, which follow the ancient Francigena route, there is one of the oldest churches in Camaiore, the Church of San Michele, present here already in 1180 and rebuilt after being damaged by the bombings of World War II.

Nearby, there is the small Olive Theater, which has the same structure as 1700 when it was built. Do not miss the visit to the church of San Vincenzo Confessore: built in the 16th century, it is known as the church of pain. The Romanesque Badia of San Pietro di Camaiore, preceded by the entrance arch of the ancient monastery already cited in 761. Founded by Benedictine monks, the church is what remains of the ancient monastery, together with the refectory and remains of the cloister, nowadays in private buildings.

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Lucca

 

Lucca is a hospitable, orderly city with excellent cuisine. The two main streets of the city are Via Fillungo and San Paolino, now shopping and sociality streets, which recalculate the Roman decumans.

 

Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is one of the most beautiful square in Italy and resumes the ancient path of the Roman amphitheater. Access to the square is made of four small doors and this gives it the appearance of "closed square". The intersection point among the 4 doors is indicated by a ceramic tile in the center of the square. The shops, the bars and the weekly market make it the heart of Lucca, a must-have passage and a stop for citizens and tourists.

 

The Cathedral of the city is dedicated to San Martino. On the polychrome facade inspired by the Duomo of Pisa there is the statue of St. Martin in the act of dividing his mantle with a poor man. The interior has three naves and it retains some extraordinary works of art.

 

Lucca is referred to as a "city of 100 churches". After the San Martino Cathedral, the two most important churches are San Michele and San Frediano. San Michele is located in the homonymous square where the Roman Forum once stood. It strikes for the tallest facade that overhangs four feet above the roof, and on which stands a Saint Michael the Archangel in the act of killing the Dragon.

 

You do not realize the majesty of the Lucca walls until you put your foot on it. Impresses the height (12 meters) but also the length of 4 kilometers and the width of 30 meters. The city has transformed this space into a beautiful tree-lined avenue where you can stroll, play sports, organize events, or just enjoy the beautiful panorama of the city's roofs.

 

There was a time, in the Middle Ages, where in Lucca there were 250 towers! Today there are only two: the Guinigi Tower and the Clock Tower. Guinigi Tower was buil in the XV centuries. It is 45 meters high and on top it has a hanging garden where, for some centuries, beautiful holm oaks grow. Their shade is ideal, especially in summer, to recover from the climb of the 230 steps. The Clock Tower is an irresistible appeal for all European lovers of time-measuring mechanisms: installed in 1754 on a pre-existing watch, it still works today with manual charge and has the mechanism at sight. Again in this case you get there after 207 wooden steps and the view is spectacular, also because it is the tower is even higher than that of the Guinigi.

 

Piazza Napoleone (Napoleon square) is the largest square in Lucca and stands where the Ducal Palace is located. Today the Ducal Palace hosts the Province of Lucca and the square is a place with shops, bars, restaurants and it is a meeting place.

 

One of the most characteristic local products of the city is the famous buccellato, the bread with raisins. Ideal for a snack while visiting the city.

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ABOUT LIVINGART IN ITALY

In 1986 we got to know by chance and learnt to love Tuscany. In the search for new houses and flats for you, we often stop during our trips to the various regions and breathe Tuscany – with its beauty changing every day and its numerous scents and aromas caressing our senses. Tuscany is like the sea – different every day and simply breath taking.
We were particularly struck by the areas around Volterra. And in Versilia mainly by the hills around Montignoso. Here one is surrounded by pinewoods, chestnut-trees and the sea, whose sound can be often heard despite the distance. When the  weather is fine, one can even see the Elba island and Cinque Terre.

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