The most beautiful Villages of Tuscany - part1

Tuscany has a handful of big cities of art which are very popular with tourists (Florence, Siena, Pisa, ...), but there are also many less-known, wonderful, precious villages and towns with a typical Tuscan charm. One village is famous for its cheese or wine production, while in the other one you can find particular churches, squares and monuments. Others are beautiful because of their simplicity or their authenticity. Therefore we would like to focus on these less-known towns and villages. This is the first part.

In 2001 the Club of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy (I Borghi più Belli d'Italia) was founded through the incentive of the Tourism Council of the National Association of Italian Municipalities. The project arose from the need to promote the great heritage of history, art, culture, environment and traditions found in small Italian towns which are, for the most part, cut off from the main flow of visitors and tourists. Admission to the Club requires the meeting of a number of prerequisites, which are both structural, such as the architectonic harmony of the urban fabric and the quality of the public and private building heritage, as well as general, regarding the quality of life in the village in terms of activities and services for the people. It is also necessary to be committed to continuously improving these prerequisites. In these beautiful villages you will find the atmosphere, the fragrances and flavors which make typical local customs, products and traditions a way of life which is worth "savoring" with all five senses.

In all of Italy there are 271 member villages in the club of Most Beautiful Villages, of which 20 are located in Tuscany:
  • Barga, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and Coreglia Antelminelli(3) in the province of  LUCCA,
  • Scarperia (1) in the province of FLORENCE,
  • Montescudaio (1) in the province of PISA,
  • Anghiari, Castelfranco Piandiscò, Loro Ciuffenna, Raggiolo and Poppi(5) in AREZZO,
  • Suvereto (1) in the province of LIVORNO,
  • Buonconvento, Cetona, and San Casciano dei Bagni (3) in SIENA,
  • Giglio Castello, Montemerano, Pitigliano, Santa Fiora, Porto Ercole and Sovana (6) in GROSSETO.
Arezzo is one of the bigger cities in the region of Tuscany. The city is the capital of the homonymous province. Arezzo is a somewhat lesser known tourist stop in Tuscany. And yet five of the 20 most beautiful villages of Tuscany are located here.

Anghiari
Anghiari
ANGHIARI dominates the valley of the Tiber with its castles and imposing medieval walls. Thanks to its strategical position this border region of Tuscany is famous for numerous historic battles such as the battle between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Duchy of Milan, which was commemorated in a magnificent but lost fresco by Leonardo da Vinci in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The annual traditional crafts fair attracts many tourists and craft lovers to Anghiari. In the town you can still feel the magic of the former medieval atmosphere, enjoy the spectacular panorama and the richness of the environment with the many churches and castles, the wooded landscapes and intact nature. But Anghiari is also a bustling town, with a rich cultural life, with theatre, folk traditions, love for literature and with a rich gastronomic tradition, real and full of flavor, such as the character of its inhabitants.

Castelfranco di Sopra
Castelfranco di Sopra
Within the city walls of CASTELFRANCO DI SOPRA you will find a wonderful mix of medieval and Renaissance styles. From the tower, Arnolfo Tower, you can enjoy a beautiful view of unusual rock formations or cliffs, called Le Balze. Leonardo da Vinci was very impressed by these mythical rock formations and he used them as a background in several paintings. The most famous painting with the Balze in the background is his masterpiece La Giocanda, better known as Mona Lisa. Don’t forget to visit the Abbey of San Salvatore.

Loro Ciuffenna
The beautiful old bridge over the river Ciuffenna is very characteristic of the picturesque village of LORO CIUFFENNA. The stone houses built on the banks of the river Ciuffenna, the small alleys and the old bridge, are witnesses of the middle ages, which have left their marks on the village. The bridge leads to the entrance gate with the Clock, from where you enter the most fascinating area of the village, which is built along just one single road, which crosses the village from east to west. The road leads to the second entrance gate on the road that leads to Arezzo. Many of the local dishes in Loro Ciuffenna are based on chestnuts. In November there is a local Festival or Sagra dedicated to the chestnuts. Another local speciality is a type of yellow-coloured beans, called fagiolo zolfino


Raggiolo
Raggiolo
RAGGIOLO, a small medieval mountain village with narrow streets and ancient city walls, is one of the most recently added to the list of the most beautiful villages. Raggiolo is a bit isolated and is surrounded by the beautiful forests of the Casentino region. It is situated at an altitude of 600m and 10 km from the regional road SR70 that crosses the Casentino region from Arezzo to the Consuma pass. The village is best known for its chestnuts. There is an Ecological Chestnut Museum, which is open from June to September. There is a chestnut festival, Festa della Castagnatura at the end of October.

Poppi Castle
Poppi Castle
POPPI is situated on a 400m hilltop that overlooks one of Tuscany’s most stunning valleys, the Casentino Valley. Poppi still has the looks of a medieval town. You can admire the castle, Castello dei Conti Guidi, one of the most beautiful castles of Italy. The 13th century building is known to be the prototype for the Town Hall of Florence Palazzo Vecchio. In August there is the annual folk festival in Poppi "Gusto dei Guidi". Here you can try the best Tuscan wines and delicious dishes from the Casentino region. During this event you can visit the many wineries and historic buildings.


Scarperia
Scarperia
Near Florence, the regional capital of Tuscany and one of the most famous and most beautiful cities in Italy, you can find SCARPERIA, a gorgeous little town in the Mugello area. Scarperia is famous for its production of knives. Here, unlike other places where knives were produced, the craft does not belong only to the past. It still represents a source of income for many craftsmen. The Museum of Cutting Tools documents the history of this widespread artisanal activity in Scarperia. On the first Sunday of each month there is a collector's market where antiques, second hand and collector's pieces, stamps and coins are exchanged.
Scarperia
Every last Sunday in May, Scarperia dresses itself in flowers for the traditional event Infiorata. This event requires lots of preparation and brings together all the inhabitants of the town. The streets of the hamlet are decorated with flower petals to form colorful patterns. The petals are arranged inside models made the night before by residents of the hamlet to a theme which changes every year. Other recurrent events in Scarperia are the Renaissance Day, the first Sunday of September, Diotto, the re-evocation of the founding of Scarperia by the Florentine republic on the 8th (die-octo) of September. Besides being one of Italy's most beautiful villages, Scarperia also boasts to have Italy's world famous racetrack Mugello Circuit, which hosts the Italian MotoGP.

Splendid Holiday Farm with pool in Tuscany in Castelfranco di Sopra

http://www.alba-toscana.eu/st/76

Mount Amiata


All year mountain activities in Mount Amiata

Mount Amiata
In the Mount Amiata area you can spend holidays plenty of sports, fun and nature. The area is a paradise for sport lovers and all those who want to explore this beautiful territory.

Although Mount Amiata is a dormant volcano, the territory still conserves a great amount of energy in its interior which gives a strong identity to the region and its inhabitants. 

Winter sport lovers will appreciate down-hill and cross-country skiing on the slopes of Mount Amiata, while hikers will head to the area during the autumn months to hunt for mushrooms and chestnuts. Spring is best when it comes to looking for raspberries and blueberries. Those who love water will enjoy a canoe ride along one of the area’s many waterways.
 
Mountain-climbers can enjoy the territory’s trails, known for their breathtaking views. Novice mountaineers are likely to appreciate the trails that wind along the cliffs of the Amiata. Trained cyclists won’t want to miss an incredible mountain-bike excursion or a climb to the mountain top.

Skilifts on Mount Amiata
When the white blanket of snow covers the mountain, skiers can choose among the 15 ski lifts, located in four locations on the mountain (Prato della Contessa, Prato delle Macinaie, Marsiliana, and the Cantore Refuge). These lifts serve over 25 km of ski trails and slopes, in addition to the resort's 12 km of cross-country ski trails. Ski instructors and ski schools are also available to beginners and children or those who want to brush up on their style. When snow is abundant, the trails that travel through the Amiata woods are a great pleasure. Snow-shoeing trails are also available.

Famous is the network of long and short footpaths in Mount Amiata. The most important excursion in this vast network is the 'Ring of the Mountain', a magnificent 28 km-long itinerary that travels around the volcano. The maximum duration of the itinerary is 12 hours and it takes you through the mountain towns and villages, like Abbadia San Salvatore, Vivo d'Orcia, Arcidosso, Piancastagnaio, and Santa Fiora. This footpath is well marked with signs. Other itineraries connect Santa Fiora, Piancastagnaio and the 'Ring of the Mountain' to Mount Civitella and Castell'Azzarra. These footpaths travel through the natural reserves of Pigelleto and Monte Penna. The 'chestnut footpaths' are noteworthy for the flora and fauna, as well as for the castle, villas and old farmhouses along the path.


Trekking lovers can combine these various itineraries over a period of a few days, or use the marked routes that connect the footpaths of Mount Amiata with interesting places in Maremma and the province of Siena. Along the marked routes in the province of Grosseto, you can go to Pitigliano, Saturnia, Scansano and the Argentario area. The routes in Siena travel to Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, Chiusi and the city of Siena. The Florence-Siena-Roma footpath, inaugurated in 1996, connects 25 Tuscan cities to Rome, and crosses the forests of Mount Amiata and the fields of Mount Labbro. All of the marked itineraries can also be travelled on horseback with special guides. 

Many cycle routes (not all of them, however) can be travelled with mountain bikes. For the vast majority of the routes in Mount Amiata, however, it is recommended that cyclists use an all-terrain bicycle that can ride on both uphill and downhill asphalted and dirt roads. Also those who seek classic-style cycling tourism (on asphalted roads only) will find something interesting in Mount Amiata, and in northern Maremma and Val d'Orcia. The five routes that travel up the Amiata are recommended for expert cyclists.

Holiday homes with pool in Cinigiano (GR) near Mount Amiata

http://www.alba-toscana.eu/st/33/




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