At the Centre of Tuscany’s Art Cities

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Siena, Arezzo, Florence and Lucca, four art cities famous for their variety of architectural and cultural beauties, are among the best places to visit in Italy. Since all four cities have so much to offer, we recommend a day visit for each of them, even though their proximity allows you to sample more than one in a single day.

Famous for the Palio horse race, Siena is a spectacle of red bricks with a wonderful star-shaped urban plan. Rich in history and culture, and a famous university city, Siena is a must for tourists in Tuscany. At 55 kilometres from Poggio al Vento, Siena is easily reached on the Bettolle-Siena motorway in about an hour. The city of Siena fills with flags, colours and festivities for the Palio of July 2 and August 16, and it remains an essential cultural destination the rest of the year. The historical centre offers two unique pearls: the town square (or Piazza del Campo) with the Mangia Tower; the Cathedral (or Duomo). The intrepid visitor can climb the stairs to the top of the tower and enjoy a panorama of the city with its five-pointed star-shape plan and botanical gardens. The Siena Cathedral is another wonder; imposing on the outside, itís an architectural play of light and mosaics inside that will leave you speechless. A stroll through Sienaís picturesque streets will provide many unique experiences.

Perhaps less well-known than the other cities, Arezzo is no less beautiful.

Only 30 kilometres from Poggio al Vento, Arezzo can be reached in about 30 minutes on the SS327 linking the city with Foiano della Chiana. The historical centre of Arezzo is lovely. Along the shop-lined Corso Italia, you climb toward the highest part of the city, the medieval one. You should visit the main square, Piazza Grande, which

hosts the Saracen Joust in June and in September, as well as the Antique Fair every first weekend of the month. The square is framed by the Vasari Loggia on one side and the rear of the Santa Maria della Pieve church on another, while attractive towered residences close the square. Piazza Grande has been the set of many films, the most famous being Roberto Benigniís Life is Beautiful. Climbing further, you arrive at the largely intact Medici Fortress and the Cathedral containing the Madonna del Conforto Chapel. Nearby is the House of Petrarch and the tower of the Town Hall. Descending along Via Madonna del Prato, you reach the square with the splendid Basilica of San Francesco. Also worthy of a visit is the Basilica of San Domenico with the Crucifix by Cimabue.

Florence, which needs no introduction, is a little more than an hourís drive from Poggio al Vento along the A1 motorway.

Itís a world famous tourist destination but also an essential shopping attraction. The Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio, with its many small jewellery shops, will delight you. Further ahead, Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria square, contains

marvellous frescoed

rooms, and in one of them you can admire the valley overlooked by Poggio al Vento in Giorgio Vasariís Battle of Scannagallo (or Battle of Marciano). Outside Palazzo Vecchio are numerous statues including a copy of Michelangeloís David. The Uffizi Gallery is just next door. In spring and summer, the Boboli Gardens are of a unique beauty.

Last but not least on the itinerary is Lucca, an hour and a half drive from Poggio al Vento on the A1 motorway to Florence and then the A11 toward the sea. Lucca has been famous since antiquity for its strategic political role, and its historical centre has been preserved intact. A stroll through the urban park and around the ancient walls will give great pleasure. In the city centre, youíll find the church of Santa Caterina, the Italian Comics Museum, Piazza Napoleone with the Ducal Palace, and finally the Cathedral with its tower. The excellent traditional cuisine of Lucca can be enjoyed in the many restaurants of the city centre.

Itineraries and travel times by car:

From Poggio al Vento, take the Bettolle-Siena motorway in the direction of Siena

From Poggio al Vento, take SP327 in the direction of Arezzo

From Poggio al Vento, take the A1 motorway at the Monte San Savino tollgate and proceed in the direction of Firenze

From Poggio al Vento, take the A1 motorway at the Monte San Savino tollgate and proceed in the direction of Firenze; after reaching Florence, continue on the A11 motorway in the direction of Lucca

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