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Towns & Villages - Northern Tuscany

The scenery throughout Tuscany varies quite considerably depending on where you go. The landscape and terrain in the North is very different from the South. Its unspoiled landscape is mountainous, more rugged and broken up with thick woodland.

Just like the South, it has traditional hilltop villages and medieval castles, but here the pace is much slower, despite the area being densely populated. As well as being by the breathtaking Apuan Alps, from most locations in Northern Tuscany you can easily reach the coast within a 30 minute drive.

Northern Tuscany offers the best of both worlds, soak up the sun on the beach, go hiking in the mountains, or visit amazing cities and towns such as Florence, Lucca, Pisa and Pistoia. Northern Tuscany may be less stereotypically Tuscan but it has classic architecture, artistic treasures, striking hilly landscapes and plenty of cultural events to enjoy.

Northern Tuscany

Borgo San Lorenzo

Borgo San Lorenzo is located close to the Apennines approximately 30km from the City of Florence. The town itself comes under the Mugello comune of the District of Florence, an area steeped in the history of the Medici Family.
Origins
The Roman community of Anneianum stood in the location of todays Borgo San Lorenzo. Following the departure of the Romans, the villagers renamed their town after the local church of San Lorenzo and the name has remained the same since.
In the 13th Century, Borgo San Lorenzo played an important part in the negotiations between the supporters of the Empire – the Ghibellines – and the supporters of the Pope – the Guelphs. It was at the end of this Century that the town came under the control of Republic of Florence.
As part of the town defences, the Florentine Republic fortified the town and established 4 entrances. Today, parts of two of the arched entrances are still visible – the Porta Fiorentina (Florentine Gate) and the Porta dell'Orologio (Gate of the Watch).
The fortifications helped protect the town through the centuries, including repelling an attack by the French in 1527. The town did suffer some damage during World War II though.
Today in Borgo San Lorenzo
In contrast to many other towns in the region, Borgo San Lorenzo does not solely rely on tourism. Because of its strategic importance close to main roads leading from Florence north, Borgo San Lorenzo has many office based industries to drive its economy.

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Camaiore

The Village of Camaiore is located in a valley surrounded by hills and the northern Appennins mountains. Camaiore has Roman origins as one of the largest encampments near to the city of Lucca and an important station along the Via Cassia. The origins of its name "Campus Maior" come from this.

In the Middle Ages, the town grew considerably thanks to the old Via Francigena. The city represented the Twenty–seventh stage during the journey of Sigerico Canterbury, and was called Campmaior by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now Camaiore is filled with many artistic treasures which include the Collegiate Church, Saint Peter's which is a Benedectine Abbey and in the village of Pieve of Camaiore there is a church which is an excellent example of a Romanic church and dates back to about 817 d.C.        

The territory of Camaiore is beautiful and known for its landscape and its small medieval villages like Monteggiori, Casoli, Gombitelli e Montebello. From their hillside positions there is a fantastic view over the sea and surrounding hills, while time seems to have stopped centuries ago.

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Castelnuovo di Garfagnana

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is a bustling town with road and rail links to Lucca, Pisa, Florence and the Versilia coast by Viareggio. National parks of the Apuan Alps and Appenines are an easy drive away and open up a whole host of walks, nature and sports for your enjoyment.

The history small village of Castelnuovo can be traced back to as early as 740AD but within a century, the village had become an important town with defensive walls and castles. Its location enabled it to establish itself as a transit point for traders and visitors travelling to the northern areas of Italy. Over the centuries, the defensive walls and castles were enlarged and improved. In 1924, Castelnuovo became part of the Province of Lucca.

Even today, the defensive walls of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana play an important role in everyday life in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. The town walls contain the oldest parts of the town along with winding roads and small artisan shops. The more modern offices, residences, bars, restaurants and train station are outside of the walls.

Many local residents commute to work in Lucca, Pisa or Florence whilst a growing number are able to make a comfortable living from tourism or from the sale of artisan gifts and paintings.

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Fiesole

Fiesole, a charming village perched above Florence, makes a seductive hilltop retreat from the culture-saturated Renaissance capital. Especially in summer, it’s popular with Florentines, who escape the heat for strolling and dining in the cooling hills. Fiesole’s magic is its setting, surrounded by olive groves and patrician villas. Even if the Etruscans and Romans chose the site for military reasons, they, too, appreciated its pastoral views, overlooking the valleys of the Arno and the Mugnone. The settlement was founded by the Etruscans in around the 8th century BC but then evolved into a Roman military colony. Most sites are clustered around Piazza Mino da Fiesole, the main square, from Fiesole Cathedral to the remains of the Roman Theatre and Etruscan ruins nearby. During the 15th century Fiesole became a city suburb where wealthy Florentines built villas. Today, a villa on the slopes of Fiesole’s verdant hill is a sought-after address.

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Florence

Florence is dauntingly monumental and basks in its past glories, its weighty Renaissance history. More than any other city, Florence is defined by its artistic heritage. The churches, palaces and galleries are studded with the world’s greatest concentration of Renaissance art and sculpture. The city is both blessed and burdened by artistic overload. In 1743 Anna Maria Lodovica, the last of the Medici line, left her property to Florence, ensuring that the Medici collections remained intact forever. As a result, Florence is still awash with treasures. Despite devouring the checklist of must-see sights, beware of suffocating under the weight of treasures. Allow time for aimless wandering. Beyond the selfie sticks and statuary awaits a funky foodie haunt with sleek cafes, superb cooking and seriously edible markets. Florence is not fusty. Nor has the greedy city lost its gutsy Tuscan soul: traditional inns still serve earthy peasant fare, including macho steaks.

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Impruneta

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Londa

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Lucca

Lucca is a classic Tuscan city on a human scale, with just enough cultural attractions to beguile but not bewilder. Often bypassed by fans intent on ticking off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Lucca is Tuscany’s self-deprecating star. It is a mellow city of seductive charms, with ramparts encircling the city, which were transformed into a tree-lined promenade in the 19th century. Lucca has more than its fair share of splendid Pisan-Romanesque churches, with ornate facades of green, grey and white marble. Its perfectly-preserved walled heart, quiet sophistication and peaceful pace of life are all credited with winning over sceptical fans. That’s before talking about its pinky-gold palaces, pedestrian-friendly bastions, crowd-pleasing concerts, enchanting shops and its renowned olive oil and wine estates. In summer, outdoor concerts add to Lucca’s appeal, as do the discreet wine bars and cosy inns. To jaded urbanities, Lucca represents life as it should be led.

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Pieve Fosciana

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Pisa

No city is as closely associated with one single monument as Pisa is with her tower. It is a wondrous site but so are the cathedral and baptistery. Both owe much to the influence of Islamic architecture, which Pisan merchants and scholars experienced through trading with Moorish Spain and North Africa. Once a thriving Roman port, Pisa’s harbour silted up in the 15th century, and it is now marooned on the Arno river, six miles (10 km) from the coast. Great medieval sea bat¬tles were fought off these shores, with the city-state of Pisa becoming first an ally then a rival of other Tuscan states, includ¬ing Lucca and Florence, along with the maritime powers of Genoa and Venice. Wonderful though the Leaning Tower is, many visitors fail to notice the treasures outside the Campo dei Miracoli. It’s certainly worth exploring Pisa’s other `miracles,’ from the riverbanks to the lively town.

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Pistoia

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Prato

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Reggello

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