Beautiful towns in Italy…


Photograph of Pitigliano - Image Credit: bruno_tardioli

Pitigliano, Italy (Image Credit: bruno_tardioli)

The approach to Pitigliano, in particular from the road coming up from Manciano and Rome, is one of the most spectacular sights anywhere in Italy. Rounding the last curve you are confronted by a wall of medieval stone houses that seem carved out of the tufa rock cliffs on which the town rests. Although red roofs turrets and towers mark Pitigliano as medieval, the many primitive burial caves hollowed out of its underlying cliffs make clear that man has made his home here since prehistoric times.

Pitigliano is one of the towns so easily reached from the following properties:
1. Castello di Proceno –
2. Tetti Marquet –
3. Il Tesoro –
4. Villa Cristiana –

‪#‎Etruscan‬ ‪#‎Pitigliano‬ ‪#‎Italy‬

Tetti Marquet and Discovering Tuscia

Tetti Marquet’s traditional ‘tufa’ cottages are situated in the lovely countryside just 10km north of Lake Bolsena; at the crossroads of Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany.

Bordered to the north by Tuscany and to the east by Umbria, the area is a land of gently rolling countryside, volcanic craters that gave rise to the beautiful freshwater lakes of Bolsena and Vico, thermal pools popular in the treatment of various ailments and medieval hilltop villages that include; Pitigliano, Sorano, Civita di Bagnoregio, Orvieto, Montefiasone and Tarquinia, to name but a few.

Lake Bolsena and Bisentia Island in ItalyWithin 10 to 15 minutes drive is the Lake of Bolsena (Italian: Lago di Bolsena). Lying within the northern part of the province of Viterbo that is called Alto Lazio (“Upper Latium”) or Tuscia, the lake has a long historic tradition as well as providing beaches for lazing and picnics, a wide range of water sports, spectacular scenery and three thriving little towns; Bolsena, Marta and Capodimonte. Bolsena, on the northern shore, has a museum full of Etruscan relics, a fine medieval castle, picturesque alleys and two early churches. Marta and Capodimonte, on the southern shores, are pretty little towns with beaches, and from where you can organise boat trips around Isola Bisentina.

Pitigliano hill town in Tuscany MaremmaTo the south is Viterbo, with its papal palace from the middle ages, and the Tarquinian necropolis. To the west, Sorano and Pitigliano, of medieval importance and interest, are picturesquely striking up on their hills. The approach to Pitigliano in particular, especially from the road coming up from Manciano and Rome, is one of the most spectacular sights anywhere in Italy. Rounding the last curve you are confronted by a wall of medieval stone houses that seem carved out of the tufa rock cliffs on which the town rests. Although red roofs, turrets and towers mark Pitigliano as medieval, the many primitive burial caves hollowed out of its underlying cliffs make clear that man has made his home here since prehistoric times.

For gastronomic delights you are offered the chance to sample the local specialities: various lake fish in the villages around lake Bolsena, mushrooms at Vetralla, chestnuts at Soriano al Cimino, beef steak at Monteromano, wine at Montefiascone and many, many more! The beaches of the Maremma can be reached in under an hour and Rome, Siena and Florence are all accessible for day trips.

A holiday at Tetti Marquet is to experience a taste of the old Italy and an extremely laid-back way of life whilst having some of the finest old towns and a wealth of history and culture on your doorstep. The owner, who lives in a separate cottage in the grounds with her two small dogs and a couple of cats, is very welcoming and particularly knowledgeable about the region. Also in the grounds is a well stocked vegetable garden where guests can help themselves to seasonal produce. Fig trees around the property produce a bountiful supply of sweet ripe fruits in July and September, they are especially good to eat along with the local wines and delicious pecorino cheeses.

Tetti Marquet near Lake Bolsena

The whisper of the Tuscan hills :: Villa di Collina – villa on the hills

What do we know about Tuscany? It is a region of Italy that had once stepped out of the sea. Tuscany owes its name to the ancient Etruscan people. Many kings and emperors reigned over this land, constantly changing its capital city: Lucca, Siena, Florence. Ancient and medieval periods in Tuscany are rich in the history that gives the background for the bright lives of affluent and powerful families. Tuscany, along with the whole Italy, even nowadays is full of manors and villas that have for centuries belonged to aristocratic families. Every manor has a unique life-story with a history that often spans centuries including their survival through many civil and two world wars. Here we will give you a glimpse into one such villa, the Villa di Collina, in this article.

Villa di Collina in TuscanyVilla di Collina – villa on the hills of Tuscany.
Although no official records have been found, the origins of Villa di Collina goes back many centuries, to the Middle Ages. The villa was first shown on the maps of Mugello region (a region today famous for its international racing circuit (F1), but of great historical importance as it was from here that the Medici family originated) in 17th century; at that time it belonged to the Martelluci family. In the middle of the following century, the family of current owner inherited the manor. It is important to note that, up to this day, the villa has preserved its original aristocratic look, the same look that it was proud of several centuries ago. People have changed, but Villa di Collina has remained the same – in harmony with nature and environment.

The current owner of Villa di Collina is the Marquis Lorenzo Bartolini Salimbeni,  he says of the villa… “We inherited this villa,the dining room in the villa di collina here we were born and raised, and I have to admit that we are really lucky to have had it as a part of our lives. Every time I come here to welcome our guests from all over the world, or spend my own holiday, I feel that I am at a truly historic place and I always wonder what might have happened here in the long time before us. Sometimes it seems that time has stopped here, and I forget about all mundane matters”

The story of the villa during the Second World War is amazing, it was a time when the manor was used as the temporary headquarters of Wermacht and Allied Powers. Inscriptions in German and English, as well as the signatures of solders can still be seen on some of the walls. Nowadays, one can also still find the words “Waschzeit” and “Food Store” on the walls… In these moments, and with such a clear insight into the past, it is easy to let your imagination run as you start thinking about the history that is attached to the villa; human destinies and paths that crossed having started and finished somewhere far from here. The epochal history of the Villa di Collina, along with many other villas and manors in Tuscany and Italy, started centuries ago with the first stone of the Villa.

Nowadays, Villa di Collina’s doors are open to anyone who wishes to visit the heart of the lush Tuscan countryside, enjoy panoramic views and sweeping vineyards, pristine nature and whispering hills.

Villa di Collina – Villa on the Hills of Tuscany

Post info supplied by Victoria Boukhanets

Traditional Tuscany Holidays – Lazio :: Sabina

Olive trees before the harvest in Sabina Lazio


Fifty kilometres north-east of Rome, following the eastern bank of the Tiber River and the Sabine Hills, lies the territory of Sabina. It is a magical land of castles, little towns connected by winding country roads, elegant restaurants and family run taverne, and breath-taking scenery wherever you go. Europe’s oldest olive tree lives in the Sabina too (Canneto di Fara), at 2000 years old it still produces a heavy crop each year, not surprising as the Sabina is famous for it’s olive oil. Hard to believe it’s only an hour from Rome…

The ancient traditions of Sabina, entwined with religion and agriculture, can still be experienced during the many local fairs which are held frequently throughout the seasons. From early spring, to late autumn, medieval villages are filled with a festive atmosphere, culminating with beautiful fireworks. You can’t miss these events if you want to taste the local gastronomic specialities. These are country style dishes, made with the area’s first class agricultural products. Extra virgin olive oil from Sabina, with its DOP recognition, is the absolute ingredient in this cuisine; the olive tree has been a constant element of the Sabine landscape since the times of ancient Rome.

The Reatine Valley, with its Franciscan sanctuaries, Farfa Abbey, for centuries a witness to the power of the Roman Church, the Romanesque churches of Vescovio and Santa Vittoria, the archaeological sites and ancient Roman town of Trebula Mutuesca and Forum Novum as well as, the national parks, and the capital city Rieti are among the many attractions in Sabina. From here, along pleasant country roads, you can easily reach the lakes of Bracciano and Bolsena, and within one hour’s drive, some of the most important artistic sights of central Italy, such as Spoleto, Orvieto and Assisi.

Within a one hour radius one can reach Orvieto, Spoleto or Assisi, travelling if preferred, along the minor roads, through idyllic countryside. While the medieval city of Viterbo, with its thermal spa for the leisure seeker, is a well kept secret.

Most of our Sabina properties are only an hour’s drive from Rome (or for the faint hearted you can always take the train). The best way to see Rome is to WALK! Rome is a large city, but in between bus or tram rides, see as much as you can on foot. Rome is famous for its piazzas and fountains. The best way to see these is as a pedestrian. If you really don’t fancy walking you could a) opt for an inexpensive tour of Rome’s historical sites by taking the 2-hour trip on the number 110 bus from Termini station at 2:30 pm (Monday through Saturday). b) Ride the bus or tram. Rome offers a network of more than 200 bus and tram routes, including 27 night bus routes. c) Get an integrated “Metrebus” ticket, which will allow you access to all the major modes of public transport within central Rome, with the exception of the airport link. You can get daily, weekly or season tickets.


Rieti occupies the geographical centre of Italy with a marble plaque in Piazza di San Rufo to prove it. The town reflects the touch of Roman city planners, with its walls and the north-south axis on which all Roman cities and military camps were built. The city is surrounded by a circle of mighty medieval walls. The landscape is dominated by the Cathedral of Santa Maria (1109) and its Romanesque bell-tower (1252); Palazzo Vescovile (1283) and its Gothic arches; remains of medieval tower houses and elegant Renaissance palaces. In Via Roma stands the 17th century Palazzo Vecchiarelli by Carlo Maderno and in Via Cintia Palazzo Vicentini attributed to Antonio Sangallo the Younger. Industry and all forms of modern conveniences may be found in Rieti. It is the hub of the local transit network.

In the days of the Romans this was a key region, the so-called Umbilicus Italiae. You may visit the Duomo and the Palazzo Vescovile. In the surroundings lies Greccio, a small town with a Franciscan monastery; here St. Francis created the first ever Christmas crib; a real life nativity scene is re-enacted every year. Known in ancient times as Reate, the Roman Emperor Vespasian (the man who built the Coliseum) was born nearby and his sons Titus and Domitian also considered this area the family home. Today’s Thermal Baths of Cotilia are close to the ruins of Vespasian’s. There is a restaurant in Rieti whose walls reveal the foundations of an ancient temple, and it is possible to visit the archeological remains under today’s Via Roma, the Via Roma of 2000 years ago, which the ancient Romans walked, and which lead to the bridge which crosses the River Velino; the original Roman bridge’s remains still visible below the modern bridge.

Farfa in Sabina leading to the AbbeyThe Farfa Abbey

The Farfa Abbey profoundly influenced the history of the whole of the Sabina area, having controlled, during it’s “golden age”, nearly all the nearby towns and villages. But it wasn’t only important on a local level, in fact it was one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Europe and played a major role in the power struggles between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, opposing the power of the Papacy for centuries. The role of the Abbey in conserving knowledge and culture and in spreading new technologies during a period of instability, invasions and depopulation caused by plague should not be underestimated. Farfa Abbey played a vital role not only in the religious and political life of the area but also in it’s economic development. This is demonstrated by the importance of the Farfa Fair, which already existed in 882 AD Thanks to generous concessions from the Caroline Empire Farfa became a focal point for trade with an important weekly market.

Being a center of temporal and spiritual power, the Abbey was powerful since the VI century. During the Carolingian period the importance of the abbey grew rapidly and it was central to the European renaissance at the end of the first millennium under the protection of the emperors. Charlemagne visited the monastery on November 800 and granted the abbey the privilege of autonomy from all civil and religious power. Henry IV, when struggling with the Pope, gave the abbey the title of Imperial Abbey. Farfa played a fundamental role in the history of the central Italy during the following centuries. The Abbey belonged to the Benedictine order, a powerful organization covering much of Europe and with it’s own political and economic interests, which often contrasted with those of the Pope. It was also a centre of great cultural splendour and throughout the Middle Ages its library of precious manuscripts was one of the most famous in Europe. The Worms Concordat (1122) decreed the abbey’s decline and it returned under Papal jurisdiction.

  • Visit the Church of Santa Maria, its crypt and cloisters. Inside the church, on the interior wall of the façade, see the Last Judgement, an oil fresco dating back to 1571 by the Flemish Pinter Henrik van der Broek. See as well other interesting frescos by Orazio Gentileschi and Zuccari school, fine grotesque decorations and the mosaic floor.
  • Important art works, archeological pieces, 45.000 antique volumes and engravings are gathered at the monumental abbey complex.
  • The workshops of the village fair around the Abbey, very famous during the Renaissance, have been brought back to life by artisans and merchants, giving the town its characteristic atmosphere.

The Franciscan Sanctuaries

St. Francis of Assisi was attracted by the Sabina above all other parts of Italy. The Sabina hills saw the first Franciscan preaching and the religious prayer that Francis addressed to God from the wildest and most inaccessible natural surroundings. Following in the footsteps of St. Francis through the “Valle Santa” (Sacred Valley), visitors will be amazed by nature and mysticism. The area still preserves four sanctuaries which are a widespread evidence of the presence of the Saint during the early part of his life. Francis, during his long stay in Sabina left important traces which legend has tended to amplify.

  • Greccio: a convent complex (the first monk’s dormitory, kitchen, refectory and the cell where Francis slept on bare rock) immersed in a forest of ilex trees on the site of a mountain. On Christmas 1223, Francis set up here the first Christmas creche using human figures and live animals.
  • Fonte Colombo: a convent complex consisting in the church of Sts. Francis and Bernardine, the church of St. Francis’ hermitage and the “Sacro Speco” (Holy Cave) a natural cave where Francis had the vision of Christ that confirmed the strict Rule of the Franciscan Order (1223).
  • Poggio Bustone: a convent complex consisting in the convent of St. Giacomo (cloister, refectory with frescos, the Speco (cave) inhabited by Francis) at 818 m. asl and the hermitage on the site of a mountain at 1075 m. asl, Francis’ favourite dwelling place had his eyes treated.
  • La Foresta: a convent complex consisting in the church of St. Fabiano with frescos of the 15 century, the church of S. Maria, the cloister, the convent with the refectory in which Francis is said to have performed the miracle of the wine and the cave where the Saint stayed in solitude and composed the “Canticle of Creation”, a song of love for creation (1225).

Forum NovumForum Novum

The Roman town of “Forum Novum” was almost certainly founded in the 2nd century B.C, on a plain and at the crossroad of two important consular roads, the via Salaria and the Via Flaminia. Owing to this strategic position, a flourishing market developed, the remains of which can still be seen today. According to tradition, the apostle Saint Peter stopped there founding a Christian Community.

The archaeological site, which today is called Vescovìo, preserves the remains of Roman houses near ground surface, while remains of huge funerary monuments can be seen all around. Apart from the market itself, occasional survey digs, have brought to light, the location of the forum, the basilica and a temple.

Numerous epigraphs found in the area show that the city had reached the status of “Municipium”, ruled by a “Duoviri” as opposed to the usual “quadrumviratum”, allowing a more authoritative and immediate intervening of the authorities. In fact, there were frequent disorders in a market of this size. A large aqueduct, remains of which can still be seen, served the baths and the fountains of the city. Fragments of a stone plaque, which commemorates the benefactor who financed the construction of the aqueduct, can be seen in the facade of Villa Camuccini in Torri, and in the church of Santa Maria della Lode at Vescovìo.

Other inscriptions found in Forum Novum, document the political life, the administrative organization and the cult of numerous divinities: Venus ( to whom a temple was certainly dedicated), Ceres, Serapis, Mercury, Fortune and the domestic divinities Lares and Penates.

Recent studies carried out by the British Institute, have determined the area where the amphitheatre is located. This has not yet been excavated.

The Romanesque Churches Sabina LazioThe Romanesque Churches

Vescovio: The Church of S. Maria, located in Vescovio (the Episcopal Cathedral in XII century), is one of the most celebrated monuments of the Sabina. It was built using materials taken from the ancient Roman town of Forum Novum.
Visit the courtyard filled with remains of Roman sculpture and a beautifully decorated sarcophagus. Inside the Church are 11th century frescos by Roman artist Pietro Cavallini, who took themes from both Byzantine traditions and Tuscan painting. Also of note are a 9th century pulpit and frescos, a beautiful crypt and a 14th century wood crucifix. Across the road are the ruins of an ancient Roman market, where St. Peter is said to have stopped for refreshment.

Santa Vittoria: The church of Santa Vittoria, located in Monteleone Sabino, was built using materials from buildings from the ancient Roman town of Trebula Mutuesca. The church houses the tomb of the martyr St. Vittoria. The church is built over the structure of a pagan temple, dedicated to Juno Feronia.

Other important churches which were built or renovated in Romanesque style can be found in Fianello, Magliano Sabina, Montebuono, Poggio Mirteto and in Tarano.

Castles in SabinaMedieval Castles and villages

Sabina, due to its history and morphology, is rich of medieval towns still intact, built on top of the hills and dominated by fortresses and castles.

The imposing Castle of Roccasinibalda is the most significant example of military architecture in (Upper) Sabina, for its dimensions and for its good conditions. The whole village is still shaped as a fortified hamlet by the typical medieval system. The fascination of this place encouraged throughout the centuries the belief in strange voices and mysterious apparitions.

Another magnificent castle, recently restored to its ancient beauty, is located in Collalto Sabino. In the XVII century when owned by the noble Roman family Barberini, the castle has been enriched with precious marbles, mosaics, paintings and stems representing golden bees, symbol of the family. All this was destroyed throughout the centuries.

The Castle of Rocchettine (XIII century) was abandoned by its inhabitants fifty years ago and represents one of the most characteristic sights in (Lower) Sabina. The castle is surrounded by a green landscape and is separated from the village of Rocchette by a gorge shaped by the “l’Aia” stream.

A pentagonal tower, over twenty meters high, dominates the ruins of the Castle of Catino (X century), built by a rocky slope.

The Duomo in Orvieto ItalyOrvieto

Within easy reach from the Sabina territory is Orvieto, a small city of great antiquity, so ancient that its early history is uncertain. It occupies a slowly crumbling butte of volcanic tufa, riddled with hundreds of caves, wells and tunnels of every period from Etruscan to medieval to 17c and later; slowly crumbling away as are many such hills in the area (the most famous of which is nearby CÌvita di Bagnoregio) and constantly maintained and shored up by massive engineering works. The city is known worldwide for one principal monument, the Duomo, the great glory of Orvieto and a masterpiece of Italian Gothic art. The basic building is quite sober, constructed of bands of black and white stone; but a most extraordinary facade has been applied to it: bronze dragons, gables with mosaics resplendent in gold, and a marvelous shirt-front of marble bas-reliefs by Lorenzo Maitani. Similarly the interior is very sober except for one large chapel entirely covered in dramatic frescoes by Luca Signorelli: famous in their own right, but also the chief inspiration for Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel…

The Marmore Falls The Marmore Falls and Naturalistic Itineraries

The Marmore falls, the highest in Europe, are located at the border with Umbria, and the pretty lake Piediluco with the charming Castle of Labro.

The territory of Sabina has much to offer to guests who love nature, since it is so rich in protected areas, luxuriant hills, woods and forests, springs, lakes, rivers, majestic mountains, naturalistically interesting paths and hill fauna of every kind.

Lakes of Turano, Ripa Sottille, Lago Lungo, the natural reserves of Tevere- Farfa and Monti Lucretili.

Gastronomic specialities Gastronomic specialities

The Sabina region has a rich culinary heritage, and has been famous since the ancient Roman times for the quality of its olive oil.

Genuine Sabine dishes, which are exalted by the extra virgin olive oil, meet the most demanding tastes. This is where the world famous “spaghetti all’amatriciana” (bacon, onion, olive oil, tomatoes, salt, bucatini pasta, pecorino cheese) were born. The tradition proposes “bruschetta” (grilled bread, olive oil, salt, garlic), the “spaghetti alla carbonara” (bacon, eggs, olive oil, spaghetti, pecorino cheese), the “stracciatelle in brodo” (eggs, parmesan, breadcrumbs, olive oil, chicken broth) , the “abbacchio in guazzetto”, trouts and shrimps from the many streams and lakes in the area. Desserts like the “Nociata” (honey, chopped walnuts) served with Bay leaves.

Amongst the most typical products, pecorino cheese, salami, roasted pork (“porchetta“), “mortadella di Amatrice“, the white and black truffles make the local cuisine a tasty one.

All the recipes are of typical dishes which were prepared during the harvest season and were served to the labourers in the fields. Being part of a living tradition, local recipes are kept alive and passed on to subsequent generations.

There are several family typical restaurants in Sabina, serving those genuine traditional local dishes.

Things to see in Florence


The Baptistry
Located in Piazza San Giovanni beside the Duomo and Giotto’s belltower, the Baptistry is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The precious bronze doors are famous. The oldest is the South Door, by Andrea Pisano (1330-36), which is divided into 28 finely-sculpted panels. The North Door was completed by Lorenzo Ghiberti and illustrious collaborators such as Donatello, Paolo Uccello and Masolino (1403-24). The East Door, called “of Paradise” because Michelangelo referred to it in this way, is Ghiberti’s most famous work (1424-52).

View over the city of Florence towards the Duomo

Basilica of San Lorenzo
The ancient church was consecrated in 393 by Ambrogio, bishop of Milan. 
Two pulpits by Donatello, an elegant marble tabernacle by Desiderio da Settignano, plus works by Bronzino, Sogliano, Filippo Lippi and Rosso Fiorentino make the basilica especially precious.

Basilica of Santa Croce
The gothic basilica of Santa Croce is well known because some of the most famous Italians in history are buried here. The interior is enhanced by radious frescoes painted at the beginning of the fourteenth century by Giotto. Incorporated in the cloister next to the church is the Pazzi Chapel by Brunelleschi, a masterwork of Renaissance architecture.

Belltower by Giotto
Giotto’s belltower, 85 meters high, a masterpiece of gothic art, stands in the Piazza San Giovanni beside the Duomo. The rectangular base is divided into two sections. The first is decorated in bas reliefs by Andrea Pisano and Luca della Robbia, representing the Arts and human works; the second in allegorical figures by artists from the school of Andrea Pisano. Above these carvings, niches were created to contain statues of the Prophets and Sybils. A stairway with 412 steps rises to the upper terrace of the belltower, offering an ample view over the city.

Brancacci Chapel
Situated within the thirteenth-century chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine, the Brancacci Chapel is famous for its frescoes, considered masterpieces of Renaissance painting.

Church of the Holy Annunciation
The little Votive Chapel and the Chapel of the Dead contain frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Rosso Fiorentino, Franciabigio and Pontorno. Within the small temple of the Annunciation, designed by Michelozzo, there is an image of the Madonna reputedly capable of performing miracles.

San Miniato al Monte
Just above the Piazzale Michelangelo, is the church of San Miniato al Monte, whose facade of white and green marble is one of the most interesting examples of Florentine Romanesque. The church contains works of great value, including the chapel of the Crucifix by Michelozzo and the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, surrounded by decorations by Luca della Robbia.

Santa Maria Novella
The Romanesque-Gothic facade in white and green marble was completed by Leon Battista Alberti, who designed all of the upper part. The grandiose interior, contains splendid works of art including Giotto’s crucifix and Brunelleschi’s wooden crucifix. Adjacent to the church is the entrance to the Santa Maria Novella Museum, which contains the Green Chapel. Annexed to the Green Cloister are the Cloister of the Dead and the Strozzi Chapel, the latter decorated with fourteenth-century frescoes.

Holy Trinity (“Santa Trìnita”)
The original church, built in the second half of the eleventh century by Vallombrosian monks, was very sombre and reflected the austerity of the order. At the beginning of the fourteenth cenutry the church was enlarged and transformed to the gothic style. Within is the Sassetti Chapel, with its fresco cycle showing the stories of Saint Francis of Assisi and a tablet showing the Adoration of the Shepherds by Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Holy Spirit (“Santo Spirito”)
Planned by Brunelleschi and begun in 1444, it was completed only at the end of the fifteenth century, much after his death. The church has 38 side altars, decorated with Renaissance sculptures and paintings from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Also of special interest is the sacristy, built according to the designs of Giuliano da Sangallo in 1489.

Convent of San Marco
Founded in the thirteenth century, the convent was restored and enlarged by Michelozzo in 1437, according to the wishes of Cosimo the Elder. The simple cloisters and unadorned cells serve as backdrop to a cycle of devotional frescoes painted by Beato Angelico between 1438 and 1445. Inside the convent is the elegant Library planned by Michelozzo in 1448; this was the first public library of the Renaissance.

Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore)
Situated in Piazza San Giovanni in front of the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata, the gothic cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was begun in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio and was consecrated in 1436. The exterior was finished in the second half of the fourteenth century. The contrast between the main body of the nave and the octagonal end section is quite notable. The grandious structure of the dome, 114 meters high, shows a magnificent architectural plasticity that greatly surpasses the limits of the gothic. The dome was finished in 1436 according to Brunelleschi’s plans. The present facade, a modest work by De Fabris, was done in 1887. The interior, in the shape of a Latin cross with three naves, is of the purest and most majestic lines. Among the numerous works of art, the frescoes done for G. Acuto (by Paolo Uccello) and for Niccolo da Tolentino (by Andrea del Castagno) are especially noteworthy. The windows by Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Castagno, Ghiberti and Donatello are also beautiful.

The oratory of Orsanmichele dates to 1337. Made as a loggia for the granary market, soon after completion it was transformed into a church. Its external walls, decorated by magnificent triple mullioned windows by Simone Talenti, contain 14 niches, each holding a statue of one of the patron saints of the Arts and Corporations. Inside rises the stupendous gothic tabernacle by Andrea Orcagna (1349-59), decorated with cherubs, inlaid with polychromic marble and glass and decorated in bas reliefs.


Fab prices for 2010 in Chianti farmhouse

The farmhouse apartments at Giannozzi are situated in the heart of Tuscany’s famous Chianti region, making this an ideal base from which to visit Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and the castles in the area. Each house has been restored to provide traditionally rustic and comfortable holiday accommodation.

Rental prices from only £370 per week… Traditional Tuscan farmhouse in Chianti


Madonna di San Biagio

Montepulciano - Madonna di San Biagio

Chiefly known for its good local ‘Vino Nobile’ wines, Montepulciano lies to the southeast of Siena, on the summit of one of the hills that separates the Valdichiana from the Val d’Orcia. It is built along a narrow limestone ridge at 605m above sea level. The town is encircled by walls and fortifications designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder in 1511 for Cosimo I, and inside the walls the streets are crammed with Renaissance-style palazzi, churches, restaurants, shops and a fabulous atmosphere.

Of Etruscan origin, Montepulciano later became a Roman winter encampment. It has a fortress dating back to the 8th century and medieval palazzi from the 13th century. The main square ‘Piazza Grande’ is surrounded by magnificent buildings such as the Palazzo Publico, the Cathedral with unfinished façade begun in 1594 from a design by Ippolito Scalza, and several residences by Vignola, Sangallo and Peruzzi.

Montepulciano celebrates several traditional events and is considered an important cultural and tourist centre. Between July and August, Piazza Grande becomes a stage for concerts and for the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte (International Arts Workshop), which includes musical shows, theatre productions and exhibitions of figurative art. The event has attracted such interest and acclaim on the international cultural scene that as many as three hundred artists of all nationalities make their way here every year to take part. During the mid-August holidays it is traditional for the people of Montepulciano to perform the ‘Bruscello’, a traditional street-theatre show in verse whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. At the end of August the homage to the community’s greatest production takes place – the ‘Bravio delle Botti’, a competition between the ‘contrade’, the different districts of the town. This is a historical procession in 14th century dress followed by a barrel-rolling race, where empty wine barrels are rolled up through the town in a race to Piazza Grande. Still in August, the ‘Interprovincial Exhibition of Arts and Crafts’ is organised inside the Fortress where some of the best works of Tuscan artists are on display.

Thanks to its excellent wine, it’s history, the artistic treasures to be found there, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside, Montepulciano is becoming increasingly sought-after as a destination for the discerning tourist.

Traditional Tuscany have two lovely apartments situated in the historical centre of Montepulciano and a traditional farmhouse apartment situated in the countryside just five minutes drive from the historical centre of Montepulciano.
Both of the city centre apartments offer comfortably furnished accommodation at a sensible price. Traditional features including, terracotta brick and beamed ceilings, combined with the extraordinary views and central heating, make these two apartments an attractive and viable option at any time of the year.
Anna’s House (Casa di Anna) benefits from a marvellous position in the countryside between Montepulciano and Montefollonico and has views to both. It is full of original features including, terracotta floors and beamed ceilings and is a lovely and very spacious house which will sleep up to five people.