Things to do in Tuscany
 

Garfagnana

 
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The capital of this northern slope of the Apuan Alps is Castelnuovo di Garfagnana which sits at an important crossroads for travelers crossing between the Apennine and Apuan mountain ranges.

Start exploring this valley by visiting the village of Borgo a Mozzano, close to which there is the asymmetrical Ponte della Maddalena, better known as the Ponte del Diavolo ('Bridge of the Devil'). In the village itself, there is the Parocchiale di San Jacopo and the Convento di San Francesco.

On the other side of the river Serchio there is the ancient thermal baths centre of Bagni di Lucca. Its greatest period of prestige was in the 18th and 19th centuries because Charles I of Bourbon opened the first casino in Europe here, attracting many well-known figures including Byron, Shelley, Dumas pere, Rossini, and Puccini.

Carrara

 
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Carrara offers visitors a look at the ancient marble quarries revered by sculptures from Michelangelo to Henry Moore. Visit the famous marble quarries (cavi) and museums that explain the process of marble production and processing.

The marble museum in Carrara is a great place to start your day. But to really get an idea of marble quarrying visit the Fantascritti caves and museum where you are taken inside the mountains!

Carrara continues to be the largest producer and exporter of marble in the world, and is responsible for shipping 1.5 million tons of marble annually from its port in the Marina di Carrara.

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Massa

 
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On the hill to the southeast of Massa is the Malaspina Castle (La Rocca), originally dating from the Middle Ages but enlarged in palatial style by the Malaspinas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Well preserved, the Castle shows the development of the military architecture, becoming a renaissance building decorated with marble at the windows and polychrome figures on the walls. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was fenced with ramparts for defending from attacks. From the walls it is possible to see the city, the Apuan Alps and the sea.

Less than 5 kilometres away is Marina di Massa, which developed as a bathing station amidst a pine wood; it has a splendid sandy beach and is situated at the point where a mountain stream, the Frigia, flows into the sea.

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Lucca

 
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Lucca was founded by the Etruscans (there are traces of a pre-existing Ligurian settlement) and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical center preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient forum. Traces of the amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro.

The walls around the old town remained intact as the city expanded and modernized, unusual for cities in the region. As the walls lost their military importance, they became a pedestrian promenade which encircled the old town, although they were used for a number of years in the 20th century for racing cars. They are still fully intact today; each of the four principal sides is lined with a different tree species.

The best way to get around Lucca is by bike and hourly or daily rental is available from biciclettepoli and ciclibizzarri Click here for a great itinerary for Lucca.

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Barga

 
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Barga, in it's heyday, was a stronghold of The Medici's Florence. Against the often fiercely independent republic of Lucca, and the Dukes of Este, or ubiquitous Visconti, it was known as Barga Fiorentina. This is still evident in its culture, language, art and architecture, and the proud Barghigiani continue to think of themselves as a cut above. Barga is nevertheless on the edge of the wilds of the Garfagnana, "land of wolves and outlaws" otherwise known for vast chestnut forests, wild boar, delicious pecorino cheeses and porcini mushrooms.

Barga figures in the listing of Slow Food's Slow Cities, as well as having the honor of being named one of the 50 "Most Beautiful Villages of Italy" and in addition has recently been awarded the Orange Flag of the Touring Club Italiano, as a distinguished tourist destination. There are several other things that set Barga apart from other beautiful medieval Tuscan cities.

Historically, the area has close links with Scotland, where many barghigiani emigrated in the early part of the century. They hold a annual 'fish and chips' festival in July/August to to celebrate the association.

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Pisa

 
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Perhaps the most synonymous image of Italy is the leaning tower of Pisa. But there is a lot more to Pisa than just the tower. As well as the tower in Piazza del Miracoli you have the Cathedral, Baptistery, Monumental Cemetery, Opera Museum and Sinopie Museum. More details for these here.

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Firenze

 
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It would be impossible to try and summarise Florence (Firenze) in a couple of sentences! You could spend days just visiting some of the art museums it holds! An extensive list of the many museums is here.

It is a major tourist destination and can get very busy during the peak summer months. Discover more of what is available in the Time Out online Florence Guide.

The official Firenze Tourism website is here.

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Siena

 
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Siena, like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900 BC to 400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina.

Siena's cathedral, the Duomo, begun in the twelfth century, is one of the great examples of Italian romanesque architecture.

The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the town square, which houses the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, is another architectural treasure, and is famous for hosting the Palio horse race.

Read the Timeout City guide to Siena here.

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Viareggio

 
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Viareggio (which means "way of the kings") is a city located on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea and is the main centre of the Tuscan Riviera known as Versilia.

The Versilia coast is about 20 miles of sandy beach with an average 270 days of sun.

Since 1873 Viareggio has held a carnival (carnevale). Today it is one of the most spectacular in Italy, famous worldwide for its incredible puppets and floats. The people of Viareggio begin preparing the huge papier-mâché puppets in hangar-like buildings by the sea. The figures satirise public and political figures and making them and setting them atop the floats requires considerable technical skill, creativity and imagination. This is the official website for the carnivale. Look at one of our photo galleries of the carnivale 2006

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Forte dei Marmi

 
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Forte dei Marmi is where the rich and famous from all over Italy and Europe come to spend the summer either in rented villas or the various 5 star hotels. There is a beach and the little town is full of wonderful elegant shopping. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a lovely outside market where you can find lace and handcrafts as well as merchandise from nearby stores.

The beach area is close to the foot of the marble mountains and all you need to do is go inland 10 minutes by car and you find the town of Pietrasanta where Michelangelo went to find marble in nearby quarries.

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Trekking and Cycling

 
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A great website covering the whole of Italy offering itineries and travels can be viewed here.

Here are some example cycling trips from the Strada del Vino, or a couple walks here.

If you are after a local guided walk in then we are very happy to recommend Ezio tours. Friends have enjoyed his knowledgeable and interesting walks.

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Tuscan Tourism Websites

 
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The official Massa Carrara Tourism Website and the Provincia di Massa Carrara website.

If the Castles of Lunigiana are not enough for you, why not visit one of over 170 castles in the whole of Tuscany.

A website dedicated to the Tuscan Coastal area. The official Tuscan Tourism site is here.

There are no shortage of tourism website for Tuscany, Discover Tuscany is a good general one.

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