Lucca is renowned all over the world for its city walls, erected between 1504 and 1645. An important example of military architecture, the walls, which have never been used for defensive purposes, have been transformed into a charming promenade around the city.
Lucca is called the hundred-church town because of its numerous buildings of worship, the most important being the Cathedral of San Martino, the church of San Giovanni and Santa Reparata, San Michele in Foro and San Frediano.
Very famous is also Via Fillungo, with its Medieval buildings. The street leads to Piazza dell`Anfiteatro, which today is called Piazza del Mercato, where once stood the Roman amphitheatre. The Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower), once the house of Paolo Guinigi, who governed Lucca from 1400 to 1430, and the Teatro del Giglio are worth a visit, too.
Pisa, one of the four ancient maritime republics, was once one of the most important Tuscan cities and a sworn enemy of Florence, Livorno and Lucca. Today, Pisa is one of the world`s most renowned and visited cities of art, thanks to the Leaning Tower, to the whole Piazza dei Miracoli - one of UNESCO`s World Heritage sites - and many other little jewels of Italian art, such as the churches of Santa Caterina, Santa Maria della Spina and San Paolo a Ripa d`Arno.
The Etruscan findings in Volterra and Pisa`s folkloric events, such the "Palio delle Repubbliche Marinare" (Regatta of the maritime republics) and the "Gioco del ponte" (Battle of the bridge), testify the city and province`s past.
Pistoia was once an important Lombard town and a lively and flourishing autonomous centre before definitively surrendering to Florence in 1530 (the year in which the town became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany). Although it is not a mass tourism destination, Pistoia is rich in interesting monuments, such as the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Palazzo del Comune and the church of the Madonna dell`Umiltà.
Much more famous are the tourist centres scattered in the province: the Abetone ski resort, where Tuscan skiers spend their winter weekends, and the thermal resorts of Montecatini Terme and Monsummano Terme.
Prato was born in the 11th century from the union of the two villages of Borgo al Cornio and Castrum Prati. In the course of time, Prato was dominated by Pistoia and Florence, before being elevated to city status in 1653. Today, as in the past, Prato is an important industrial district in northern Tuscany, renowned all over the world thanks to its textile industry.
Although Prato cannot boast as rich an artistic heritage as neighbouring Florence, it nevertheless has interesting monuments, such as the Cathedral, the church of Santa Maria delle Carceri and the gothic church of San Domenico.
The Medicean villa in Poggio a Caiano is just a few kilometres away from Prato. The villa was one of the numerous residences the Medici family had in the countryside around Florence.
Villa I Tatti
Villa I Tatti in Settignano was home to Bernard Berenson, the Lithuanian Jew who became America's most illustrious critic and connoisseur of Renaissance art. For 50 years it was a mecca for intellectuals and collectionists from the world over. Today the art collection and library serve as a research facility for Harvard University.
In 1900, Bernhard Berenson bought a villa in the Tuscan hills of Settignano, outside Florence. Villa I Tatti subsequently would be forever associated with Berenson. The gardens of the Villa I Tatti were created by the English landscape architect Cecil pinsent and Geoffrey Scott.
The newly married art historians Bernard and Mary Berenson made their home at the Villa I Tatti near Florence in 1900. In the following years Mary, supervised the rebuilding of the villa and the creation of its elegant gardens. The Berensons pursued their work at I Tatti over a period of nearly six decades, and here they entertained a remarkable circle of friends :art historians ( Kenneth Clark, John Walker, John Pope-Hennessy), writers (Edith Wharton, Alberto Moravia), political thinkers (Walter Lippman, Gaetano Salvermini), musicians (Yehudi Menuhin) and countless other visitors from every part of the world. At I Tatti Bernard Berenson assmbled a choice collection of Renaissance art, including works by Giotto, Sassetta, Domenico Veneziano, and Lorenzo Lotto. He also formed a prodigious art historical research library and photograph collection. When he died in 1959, he bequeathed the house, its contents, and the gardens to Harvard University as a Center for Renaissance Studies.