There are many places that call themselves the “Venice” of their geographic area – but even within Italy, there are some places that feel a bit like the famous canal city. In the coastal Tuscan city of Livorno there is a neighborhood known as the Venezia District, or (more colloquially) “Little Venice.”
Many Italy visitors have heard about the Palio of Siena, that centuries-old bareback horse race that occurs in the Piazza del Campo. It’s easy to understand it’s a race between rival teams, but you may not realize the race is actually between neighborhoods.
For all the recognition the Leaning Tower of Pisa gets, it’s easy to forget this famous tower was originally only meant to be the bell tower of the adjacent cathedral. In most other Italian cities, it’s the cathedral – not the bell tower – that gets all the attention. That’s not the case in Pisa, which is a shame – because the Pisa Cathedral is spectacular.
When we think of Tuscany, one of the enduring images is that of the region’s rolling hills. Those hills, often topped with medieval villages or covered in acres of grape vines, are pretty when seen from nearly any angle. But to get the ultimate bird’s eye view, you’ve got to take to the air and see Tuscany from above.
Florence is arguably one of the most crowded cities in Italy, aside from Rome and Venice. Reservations are needed for everything, but even so, it’s best to arrive before opening to beat the queues. Fortunately, there is another option to escape the hustle and bustle of Florentine tourists. We chose to escape the city itself, on a wine and olive oil tasting Vespa tour of the famous Chianti region.
After the Duomo in Siena, the city’s most important church is arguably the Basilica of San Domenico. The austere Dominican church is perhaps most famous for having the head of St. Catherine of Siena on display.