Because we specialise in small group tours, we get a lot of clients looking to tailor their holiday to a particular interest. One area that’s a big passion of mine is the rich culture and history of Tuscany, and it’s a pleasure for me to be able to share this passion with people so willing to immerse themselves in the experience.
Tuscany is so concentrated with cultural highlights it’s often hard to know where to start, but any (or indeed all) of the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites are a pretty good place to start.
With a skyline that’s earned it the nickname “The Manhattan of the Middle Ages“, San Gimignano was a stopping off point along the medieval pilgrimage route. Its distinctive skyline of torre (towers), of which 15 of the original 72 remain intact, is the result of a contest between local families in a bid to construct the most impressive structure. San Gimingnano is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Tuscany and one I particularly love to share with architecture aficionados.
The birthplace of the Renaissance barely needs an introduction and I’ve spent countless hours, days and weeks exploring the priceless treasures of its historic centre on my own and with clients. The magnificence of the Medici’s legacy is evident at every turn in Firenze, from the romantic beauty of the Ponte Vecchio and the inimitable silhouette of Brunelleschi’s Duomo, to the boundless beauty of Michelangelo’s David and the ancient architecture of this undisputed jewel in the Tuscan crown.
Pisa – Piazza dei Miracoli
The Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) is the cultural and religious heart of Pisa, so for clients who want to truly understand its historical significance, I really enjoy showing them that there’s much, much more to the city than simply the Leaning Tower. The impressive 11th century Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the exquisite Baptistery of St John and the very famous aforementioned bell tower make a magnificent trilogy of architectural landmarks to explore at a leisurely pace.
Medici Villas and Gardens
I’m delighted that one of the most treasured sites in Tuscany is now on the World Heritage list. In 2013, the two gardens and 12 Medici villas situated just outside of Florence achieved UNESCO conservation status. A mixture of summer residences and hunting lodges, these villas are home to a cache of Renaissance art and are open to the public. It’s wonderful to be able to introduce my clients to this very different side of the Medici’s heritage.
Along with Pienza and the breathtaking landscape of Val d’Orcia, these important UNESCO protected sites define the authentic spirit of Tuscany’s aesthetic, cultural and historical landscape, of which I feel truly privileged to share.