A trip to Italy is incomplete without seeing its historic monuments and picturesque landscapes. Its numerous attractions are the stuff of legends, from the ancient Colosseum in Rome to the fairy-tale castles of north-eastern Italy. But when it comes to planning a holiday in Tuscany, how do you choose from among all these UNESCO World Heritage Sites? These two charming cities offer something different but equally unforgettable: Florence and Pisa. They’re both well under two hours away from Rome by train and have plenty of hotels, hostels (this is where I stayed) and B&Bs for an affordable stay. Let’s take a look at what they each have to offer!
What to See in Florence
The Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is the most recognizable feature of Florence. The Duomo is the largest Italian cathedral, and the nearby Baptistery contains the oldest door in the world.
– Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is one of the most visited sites in Italy. Located in the Palazzo Pitti, it houses some of the most famous works of Renaissance art. Make sure you visit the nearby Gallery of the Royal House of Medici to see the 16th century interiors and art collection.
– San Lorenzo, one of the most famous churches in Florence, is where the Medici family is buried.
– The Piazza della Signoria is where you will find the famous David statue, the Strozzi Palace, and the Mercato Nuovo.
– Giardino delle Ortiche: Florence’s botanical garden has a stunning collection of rare and exotic plants.
– Palazzo Strozzi: Explore the art and architecture of 16th-century Florence at this must-see museum.
– Boboli Gardens: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is the place to visit for nature lovers.
– Pitti Palace: Grandiose architecture, artwork, and an amazing view of the city make this place a must-visit. Palazzo Pitti is the home of the Gallery of the Royal House of Medici, housing a collection of period art, furniture, and silverware.
The majestic Arno river is one of the most storied and scenic waterways in the world.
– Piazza del Duomo: This is one of the most beautiful squares in all of Italy.
The Biblioteca Nazionale is the National Library of Florence, housing books, manuscripts, and incunabula (books printed before the 16th century). Some of the oldest books in the world are kept in the Biblioteca Nazionale.
Florence’s Piazza della Signoria is home to the iconic Strozzi Palace and the famous statue of David.
A day trip to Pisa!
Pisa is one of the most popular cities in Italy, mostly due to its iconic landmark, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Travelers typically only visit Pisa to see that iconic leaning tower, snap photos, then drive on. But it is well worth taking a closer look at the actual Cathedral itself and its amazing architecture. The best way to explore Pisa is by walking around on the streets, since the town center is small and intimate, enjoying the sights and atmosphere.
To avoid crowds, it is worthwhile visiting this tiny town outside the major tourist season.
Within a short radius of the Campo Dei Miracoli, though, Pisa takes on an entirely different character, for few tourists bother to venture beyond the shadow of the Leaning Tower. For far too many tourists, Pisa means only one thing: the Leaning Tower, which serves as the shorthand image of Italy to the whole world.
Its famous Leaning Tower is not the only site you will want to see–Pisa has some other architectural and artistic wonders. Because it is a day-trip destination, very few tourists stay in town – or even visit outside of the tower’s grounds – so you will have the whole town to yourself when you do. Pisa is also home to a gorgeous train station, where you will find trains departing for other big cities of Italy, like Rome, Florence, Naples, and Turin.
Stay a night if you can, to explore the most this small town has to offer and believe me it’s much more than just the leaning tower!
Other places in Tuscany you should see!
– Siena: This is another Tuscan city rich in culture, art, and history. The Piazza del Campo is one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
– Arezzo: This city is famous for its Renaissance architecture and its cultural calendar, which includes theatre, music, and art exhibitions.
– Lucca: This is another city in Tuscany you should visit for its architecture, culture, and food.
– San Gimignano: This is one of the most beautiful Tuscan cities.
Are you ready for some wine and cheese??
The Tuscan sun, rolling hills, and vineyards have inspired artists, writers, and travellers for generations. Its architecture , art and landscape are a reflection of its history.
There is something for everyone in Tuscany, whether you are looking for art, architecture, food, or nature. Florence and Pisa are the best places to start your journey in this magical part of Italy.