One of the most loved regions in Italy, Tuscany awakens feelings of delight, with the charming harmonies of its landscapes and its deep-seated identity. It is easy to get lost among the sweet, rolling hills and its never-ending sceneries, the many colours of its flower fields and the pleasant rows of vineyards; still, Tuscany is on most people’s maps also because of its sublime food – certainly one of its best features.
In addition to producing some of the finest wines in the world, old-world culinary traditions are renewed and mingle with innovative aromas, combined in a journey of tastes where simple, yet strong flavours take the lead, as well as unique, authentic zests. Discovering Tuscany also means delving into its little hamlets, its seducing borghi, rich in energy and splendour, and its cities where art and beauty are combined, offering unique scenarios: the discovery of an extraordinary region starts right here.
True to its reputation, Pietrasanta radiates energy in a tangible way. Called ”Little Athens”, this town is pretty, fascinating and delightful: a glance at Piazza Duomo is all it takes to fall in love with it. The 15th century Duomo di San Martino, enriched by shine white marble, and its unfinished brick tower interact with the permanent contemporary sculpture that takes place in the square, a peaceful conversation that mirrors the innate love for art that resides in this magical place. Founded by Guiscardo da Pietrasanta in 1255, the then magistrate in Lucca, Pietrasanta boasts Roman origins and a marked preference for art: visit the delightful Museo dei Bozzetti and you will be amazed, as it retraces the story of modern sculpture through more than 700 maquettes and casts. The Baptistery, close to the Duomo, holds two remarkable baptismal fonts that date back to the Trecento and Cinquecento and they bestow a lovely atmosphere to the place. Have a meander through the town’s pleasant streets, go up Via della Rocca to admire the city from above and you will understand why so many contemporary artists, from Botero to Mitoraj and Vanji, chose Pietrasanta as their home, a real paradise where creativity is in the air.
Carrara stands for one thing only: white marble. A priceless heritage that still retains the charm of an area loved since the Romans, this territory was already explored 2000 years ago; worshipped by Michelangelo and Canova, Rodin as well as contemporary artists such as Christian Lemmerz, the passion for this remarkable white treasure never fades. The quarries in the valleys of Torano, Miseglia and Bedisano are still going strong to this day and look like snow landscapes from a distance – the name marble stems from Greek marmaros, meaning “shiny stone” – and certainly Colonnata reflects its own light: a monument to quarrymen pays homage to a tough and dangerous job, and gourmet travellers will love the local delicacy, the Lardo di Colonnata DOP, a delight seasoned with salt, garlic, pepper and rosemary, left ageing in marble basins for six months. You should try it with the exquisite, salt-free Tuscan bread for a journey of superb enjoyment. The charm of marble, its perfume, its almost blinding glare, the story it narrates and the value that characterise it make every trip to this area an unforgettable experience.
Wild and remote, the Apuan Alps are part of a Regional Natural Park set up in 1985 to protect a marvellous and fragile area. Made up by a series of peaks – the tallest, Mount Pisanino, reaches 1945m – the Apuan Alps belong to the UNESCO heritage as a Geopark: from here, your gaze extends to the sea and their presence decorates the horizon from the coast. A harmony where the mountains and the sea live as one and is reflected in the surroundings, in the local cuisine and in the unique atmosphere of an extraordinary place. Visited by hikers looking for adventure, the park extends to the Garfagnana area, where Dante was sent into exile, as far as Massa Carrara: a paradise for speleologists, with more than 1,300 recorded caves, among which the Antro del Corchia in Stazzema, the deepest chasm in Italy, but also the Grotte del Vento in Vergemoli. You will also find botanical rarities, to be admired in the Pietro Pellegrino Botanical Garden, and numerous wildlife species such as the golden eagle and the chough. Do not miss the many artificial lakes, as beautiful as the Vaglia and Isola Santa lakes, created to obtain energy that have now become lovely destinations full of charm.
There is no telling of how many people have been struck by the delicacy of the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, a precious marble sculpture by Jacopo della Quercia. You will find it in the supreme Cattedrale di San Martino, and it is so refined that you will feel like touching the young bride of Paolo Giunigi, who died in childbirth aged 24. Dating back to 1406-1408, this work alone is worth a trip, but the cathedral is adorned with other surprises, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio’s 1479 Holy Conversation and Jacopo Tintoretto’s Last Supper. Lucca is a small jewel with a refined soul, its Piazza Anfiteatro one of the most famous in Tuscany and the views rom the belltower close to the Duomo just sensational. This is where Giacomo Puccini was born in 1858 and a festival – Puccini e la sua Lucca – celebrate his figure with a series of operas and concerts. If you love comic strips and graphic novels, do not miss Lucca Comics & Games (now Lucca Changes), with exhibitions, interviews and screenings, and the Lucca Summer Festival hosts internationally acclaimed authors. And when the sun is shining, visit the extraordinary villas around the city: Villa Oliva, Grabau and Reale are splendid and will make you fall in love with a splendid town.
In a land so rich in artistic treasures, finding so many symbols where the passion for art is palpable comes as no surprise. Art is an invitation to surround ourselves with beauty in all its shapes and forms, as is the case at Il Bottaccio. A constant search for beauty made this venue a unique experience where every décor celebrates an artistic form; from the rooms to communal areas you will find paintings and decorations giving life to an art gallery that blends harmoniously with the surrounding nature. Come and discover a world of art and beauty.