Lonely Planet (UK) - - Hilltop Tuscany -

Look­ing at Tus­cany’s clas­sic land­scapes, you might think the hills were arranged on pur­pose. Take in the best sights, restau­rants and more in this Ital­ian re­gion’s me­dieval hill­top towns and along its snaking roads. SIGHTS Col­le­giata £ (duo­mosangimignano.it; Pi­azza del Duomo, San Gimignano) San Gimignano’s Ro­manesque cathe­dral houses fres­coes de­pict­ing episodes from the Old and New Tes­ta­ments. Look out, too, for the Cap­pella di Santa Fina, near the main al­tar – a Re­nais­sance chapel adorned with naive and touch­ing works by Domenico Ghirlandaio. 7KHVH IHDWXUHG LQ )UDQFR =H UHOOL·V ÀOP Tea with Mus­solini. Palazzo Pub­blico ££ (co­mune.siena.it; Pi­azza del Campo, Siena) Built to demon­strate Siena’s huge wealth, this 14th-cen­tury Gothic mas­ter­piece is the vis­ual fo­cal point of the Campo – the city’s main square. In­side, the Museo Civico show­cases rooms richly fres­coed by artists of the Sienese school. Com­mis­sioned by the city’s gov­ern­ing body rather than by the Church, some of the fres­coes de­pict sec­u­lar sub­jects. High­lights are Am­bro­gio Loren­zetti’s Al­le­gories of Good and Bad Govern­ment (c. 1338–40) and Si­mone Mar­tini’s Maestà (Vir­gin Mary in Majesty; 1315). Pit­igliano (co­mune.pit­igliano.gr.it) Sprout­ing from a vol­canic rocky out­crop tow­er­ing over the sur­round­ing coun­try, this hill­top town is sur­rounded by gorges, con­sti­tut­ing a nat­u­ral bas­tion. Within the town, stair­ways dis­ap­pear around cor­ners, cob­bled al­leys bend out of sight be­neath grace­ful arches and re­minders of the town’s once-con­sid­er­able Jewish com­mu­nity re­main in the form of a 16th-cen­tury syn­a­gogue and a unique Jewish lo­cal cui­sine. Museo Etr­usco Guar­nacci ££ (mu­seivaldicecina.it; Via Don Min­zoni 15, Volterra) In the ridge-top town of Volterra is one of Italy’s most im­pres­sive collections of Etr­uscan art, from the civil­i­sa­tion that pre­ceded the Ro­mans. The Urn of the Sposi is a re­al­is­tic ter­ra­cotta ren­der­ing of an el­derly cou­ple. Other high­lights are a crested hel­met from the Tomba del Guer­ruc­cia, and L’Om­bra della Sera (Shadow of WKH (YHQLQJ D EURQ]H QXGH ÀJXUH that re­sem­bles the work of Swiss sculp­tor Alberto Gi­a­cometti. San­tu­ario della Verna (lav­erna.it; Chiusi della Verna) This re­mote Fran­cis­can monas­tic com­plex is where St Fran­cis of As­sisi is said to have re­ceived the stig­mata and is a ma­jor pil­grim­age des­ti­na­tion. The Cor­ri­doio delle Stim­mate, dec­o­rated with mod­ern fres­coes re­count­ing St Fran­cis’ life, leads to the Cap­pella delle Stim­mate, built in 1263 on the spot where the saint re­ceived the stig­mata two years before his death, aged 44. The mon­u­men­tal &UXFLÀ[LRQ by An­drea della 5REELD KHUH LV PDJQLÀFHQW AC­TIV­I­TIES Bagni San Filippo Those who like hot-wa­ter frol­ics can head nine miles south of Bagno Vignoni along the SR2 to this vil­lage, where there are ther­mal cas­cades in an open-air re­serve. <RX·OO ÀQG WKHVH MXVW XSKLOO IURP Ho­tel le Terme, the vil­lage’s only ho­tel – fol­low a path marked ‘Fosso Bianco’ for about 150m to lime­stone out­crops and you’ll come to a set of warm tum­bling cas­cades that get more spec­tac­u­lar the fur­ther down­hill you walk. Cave di Marmo Tours £££ (caved­i­mar­mo­tours.com) *HW VHW IRU WKH RՖ URDG ULGH RI your life in a Land Rover De­fender along the per­ilously steep gravel tracks used by lor­ries to zigzag up and down Car­rara’s famed marble moun­tain, trans­port­ing blocks be­tween the quarry and the work­shops. Guided tours start by the mo­tor­way exit in Car­rara town, last 2Ω hours and must be re­served in ad­vance. Via Panoram­ica (mon­tear­gen­tario.info) Signs point you to­wards this nar­row route that en­cir­cles the en­tire Monte Ar­gen­tario promon­tory. It RՖHUV VZHHSLQJ VHD YLHZV DFURVV to the hazy whale­back of the Isola del Giglio. The road can get dan­ger­ously busy in sum­mer. EAT­ING Ge­la­te­ria Don­doli GELATO £ (gela­te­ri­adip­i­azza.com; Pi­azza della Cis­terna 4, San Gimignano) Think of it less as ice cream, more as art. Ser­gio Don­doli is a mem­ber of Italy’s Ice Cream World Cham­pi­onship team and among his most fa­mous cre­ations are Crema GL 6DQWD )LQD VDՖURQ FUHDP gelato and Ver­nac­cia sor­bet.

A road through the vines in the north­ern Chi­anti re­gion

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