TUSCANY FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
By Ian Robert Knight
There are so many wonderful places to visit in Italy, you could spend years exploring them all. And if you’re a photographer, the large number of choices where to spend your time can be overwhelming. But perhaps there’s no better place to start in Italy, than the central region of Tuscany.
Tuscany is famous for quite a number of things, chief among them wine, art, landscapes and architecture. It has many UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the historical centers of Florence, San Gimignano, Siena and Pienza, as well as the cathedral square in Pisa. But likely the most sought after sites in Tuscany for photographers are the beautiful rolling hills around Val d’Orcia. Here are our suggestions on what you should look for as a photographer in Tuscany.
The capital city of the Tuscany region is Florence. This city, established over 2000 years ago, is the center of arts and culture in the region. Famous for its many art galleries and museums, it’s considered the birthplace of the Renaissance period. And it’s commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
We like Florence for a variety of things. Certainly the historical architecture stands out, including the impressive Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio bridge. The Duomo is still the largest brick dome in the world. Then there’s the Palazzo Vecchio (the Old Palace), which dominates the skyline, and includes a copy of Michelangelo’s statue of David. Wandering the streets of Florence can result in hundreds of beautiful images showing old world charm mixed with modern fashion.
Of course, everyone knows about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but this city has much more than that. In fact, the famed tower is part of a much larger complex called the Piazza dei Miracoli. The tower itself is the Bell Tower to the cathedral it sits beside. This collection of buildings is also a UNESCO site – one of 54 in Italy.
The small city of Lucca, not far from Pisa, is a photographer’s favorite. With its cobbled streets, medieval walls, and many piazzas, you can’t run out of things to photograph. Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, and the city celebrates this fact with live music on most days. There are so many beautiful sections of the city, that it’s easily one of the most popular places in Tuscany.
This is another walled city, like Lucca and Florence, but this one is unique. What makes it different are the 13 towers that still stand in the hilltop village, that were built in the 12th century. In most other places in the region, towers like these have been brought down because of wars or earthquakes, or even modernization. But the towers in San Gimignano have managed to stay up despite all this, and make for some great images.
One of the best known sites in Siena is its gothic cathedral. The structure was built in the mid-1200’s, and has some unusual design elements. The black & white striped marble interior is striking, along with dozens of intricate mosaics inlaid into the floor. It’s definitely one of the most popular cathedrals in the country. In addition to the cathedral, the Palazzo Pubblico, with its huge Torre del Mangia tower, is a very popular site to visit. The palace is located in the Piazza del Campo, which is an unusual shell-shaped public space.
The area of Tuscany known as Chianti isn’t a province or district, but a wine zone. Of course it’s famous for it’s delicious red wines, made from the Sangiovese grapes. Take a winery tour, where you can see how the wines are made, sample some vintages, and take in some cooking classes.
This district in Tuscany, south of Siena, is famous for its smooth rolling hills, punctuated by cypress tree groves. There are some small towns that dot the landscape, like Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. Sunrises and sunsets in this region make for some spectacular photographs – maybe your highlight in Tuscany.
Tuscany is one of our favorite places in Italy. With so much history, art, culture and wine, it’s not hard to understand why. If you’re keen to experience what Tuscany has to offer, check out the two adventures we offer each year. Chances are pretty good that you’ll love it as much as we do.