Carrara – Massa – Lucca – Pisa – Pistoia – Prato – Florence – Fiesole
Join us for an exciting new tour in Northern Tuscany: the landscape is marked by a vast range of features, from marble quarries to market gardens, and from mountain ranges and nature reserves to wonderful sandy beaches and medieval towns.
We begin our tour from Carrara, a charming town lying at the foot of the Apuan Alps, whose marble has been quarried since ancient times, and Massa, with its 16th c. Cathedral, Palazzo dei Cybo Malaspina and Castle. We will drive beyond the Apuan Alps and along a road through the Serchio Valley enjoying the enchanting landscape via Barga (Romanesque cathedral, the venue for the town’s music festival) on our way to Lucca, the birthplace of Puccini.
The 16th century city walls are perfectly preserved, and laid out as gardens through which we can take a relaxing stroll before visiting the town’s narrow mediaeval streets under the shadow of its towers, and wander into the squares with their Romanesque churches. The most outstanding monuments are the churches of S. Michele in Foro, a perfect example of Pisan-Luccan architecture, S. Frediano (12th c., with reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia), the Romanesque S. Maria Forisportam, and the Cathedral of S. Martino the city’s chiefreligious monument (11th-15th centuries, with Jacopo della Quercia’s tomb of the beautiful Ilaria del Carretto, 1408). Then there is the Pinacoteca art gallery, the tiered façade of S. Michele, the picturesque Via Fillungo (leading to the Roman amphitheatre, surrounded by mediaeval houses) and Via Guinigi with its 14th century houses. Just outside the town are a number of delightful Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classical villas (Mansi, Torrigiani, Marlia and Garzoni di Pescia, with its splendid gardens, are the most outstanding).
It is only 21 kilometers to Pisa, with its unique monuments in Campo dei Miracoli – the huge lawn-covered ‘Miracle Square’ in which we can gaze in wonder at the Romanesque cathedral, with its bright, solemn interior, the Baptistery, the Leaning Tower and the adjoining cemetery (camposanto), built to bear witness to the prosperity and might of the ancient Marine Republic, which gave rise to a completely original type of pre-Renaissance architecture and sculpture whose main representatives were Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, and Arnolfo di Cambio. We must also see the Piazza, Church and Palazzo dei Cavalieri (16th c.). the Church of S. Paolo a Ripa d’Arno (11th-12th c.), and the Pisan Gothic Church of S. Maria della Spina, the National Museum of S. Matteo (valuable collection of Pisan sculpture and 12th-15th c. Tuscan paintings), as well as all the line buildings that line the River Arno, and Pisa’s many splendid mediaeval churches.
And so to Pistoia, to see the group of beautiful churches: S. Domenico, S. Francesco, S. Giovanni Fuorcivitas (12th-14th c.), with its extraordinary white and green marble-clad facade, the Renaissance church of the Madonna dell’Umiltà, the 12th c. S. Andrea, with the famous parchments and wooden crucifix carved by Giovanni Pisano. In the Piazza del Duomo, the center of Pisa’s history and art, is the octagonal Baptistery, Palazzo Pretorio, Palazzo del Comune, and the Cathedral with its three tiers of Loggias adorning the facade, and the priceless altar of S. Jacopo on which Tuscan goldsmiths worked for over two centuries. The municipal museum (Museo Civico) and the Ospedale del Ceppo, with Giovanni della Robbia’s polychrome terracotta frieze are also worth a visit. Not far away is Prato. Visit the cathedral the Galleria Comunale, the 13th c. Emperor’s Castle.
Which brings us to Florence, an extraordinary city, whose art treasures are unparalleled anywhere in the world – a city of refinement and elegance, which gave Italy its national language, the cradle of Humanism and the Renaissance. Before venturing into the center of this captivating city, let us first drive up to Piazzale Michelangelo and survey it from above (if we have time, we can also see the nearby Romanesque church of S. Miniato al Monte, with its polychrome geometrical façade). Take Viale dei Colli down to the city, or go via Forte Belvedere. We should take at least three days to visit Florence, and so we will suggest a rough guide for lack of sufficient space.