At CEA, we know that our students are active travelers during their study and intern abroad programs. While we plan incredible excursions and activities, our students love to travel widely within and outside of their country of study.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, Italy, and home to myriad can’t-miss sites, but the Tuscany region offers endless opportunities for exploration, too! While Italy has temporarily restricted travel outside the state of residence in response to COVID-19, why not explore the top things to see in Tuscany to make the most of your summer or semester in Florence?
An active competitor for the title of top city in Tuscany, Siena (pictured above) is a beautiful, romantic city filled with medieval buildings, palaces, and churches. The Duomo of Siena cannot be missed as this Gothic cathedral from the 13th century stuns visitors with its impressive façade and numerous paintings and frescoes by Donatello, Ghiberti, and Pinturicchio. While in Siena, you must also sample some of Siena’s typical foods like pici, tube-like spaghetti that are impossible to twirl; ricciarelli, cookies shaped like a diamond and usually almond-flavored; and panforte or panpeppato, dense, fruitcake-like desserts.
2. San Gimignano
The unmistakable skyline of San Gimignano gives it the nickname of “medieval Manhattan” and makes this Tuscan destination one of the more touristy villages of the region. The high chapel of the Church of Sant’Agostino was decorated by Florentine Benozzo Gozzoli. The Rocca (fortress) is worth a visit for its views of the surrounding countryside. The Palazzo Comunale boasts a small, impressive painting gallery and interesting original frescoes within its tower, the Torre Grossa.
We all know about PIsa’s leaning tower, but did you know that the Cathedral complex, or Campo dei Miracoli, is Pisa’s main attraction? The complex is the first of the trio of Tuscan complexes (followed by Siena and Florence) in open competition to build the grandest cathedral complex in consecutive centuries. Want to see one of Europe’s largest murals while you’re in town? Keith Haring’s “Tuttomondo” can be found on south wall of the Church of St. Anthony.
Lucca is in an area of Tuscany called the Garfagnana—one of the rainiest of Italy and mountainous of the region. What you might find impressive in Lucca is its intact ring of defensive city walls which were completed in 1645. This important historical monument is a testament to urban repurposing: they are now a city park with a circumference of nearly 4.2 km! The city walls are a great place for a low-impact hike and for a fun bike ride free of traffic. You can rent bikes by the hour at various points in town.
Prato’s artistic and cultural importance rose from its possession of a relic of the Virgin Mary: her wool belt, or girdle, which was legendarily handed down to the Apostle Thomas as she rose to heaven. Notable artists (Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Giovanni Pisano) were called to carry out commissions to decorate the important cathedral in Prato. Want to see it? Take a train from Santa Maria Novella to either Prato Centrale or Prato Porta al Serraglio. One way will take 20 minutes and cost less than €5. Trains depart about every 20-30 minutes.
Want to create a top places to travel list of your own? Apply to study or intern abroad today!
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