Piazza del Campo, Siena

14th-century hilly Piazza del Campo is the heart of the city and the former site of a Roman marketplace. It is divided into nine sections, which represents the number of ruling council members in the Consiglio dei Nove (Council of Nine), an elected executive committee dominated by the mercantile class. 15th-century Fonte Gaia, or Happy […]

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Hotel Villa Scacciapensieri, Siena

This 19th-century villa is about 2 km north of Siena on a hill with views of the Chianti wine region. Since we wanted to explore the area, it was easiest to stay outside a city. Also, my husband and I were training for a marathon, so we needed areas where we could get some long […]

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Duomo di Siena

In a country overrun with churches, Siena’s 13th-century Romanesque and Gothic Duomo really stands out. This striped marble building is one of the most striking cathedrals I’ve ever seen. The interior pops with bold bands of black and white (the colors of Siena’s coat of arms) and vivid blue vaults. The inlaid-marble floor depicts historical […]

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Siena, Italy

Siena is a striking, well-preserved Gothic city. Many of the original buildings remain, and few new structures have been built, mostly due to limited resources after its 13th-century boom and subsequent bust. Myth has it that Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, but it was likely founded by the Etruscans and established as […]

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Santa Maria del Fiore, or Duomo, Florence

I think this is the most magnificent structure in Europe. Every time I return to Florence and lay fresh eyes upon this colorful, patterned exterior, I’m struck by its beauty. The original 6th-century church that stood on this site was deemed inappropriate in the 13th century, the same time that new cathedrals sprung up in […]

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Baptistery of San Giovanni, Florence

This is the oldest building in Florence. It served as the city’s first cathedral as early as 9th century AD. The interior’s ancient granite columns are believed to have come from the city’s old Roman capitol and the pavement mosaic likely belonged to an old Roman bakery. The exterior was embellished in the 11th century […]

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Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

The Florentine Renaissance is on display inside this 13th-century palace. Sculptures by Michelangelo and his followers and works by Donatello are the most impressive pieces. Since Florence is surrounded by quarries, throughout the years artists have developed incomparable stonecutting skills. The massive applied arts and fine arts collection showcases enamels, silverware, jewelry and artwork. The […]

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence

The Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s most recognizable landmarks. The original wooden bridge dated from the Etruscan and Roman times and was the city’s only bridge until the 13th century. It was destroyed in a flood; what we see today dates from the 14th century. A concealed passageway runs over the arcades that allowed […]

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Basilica di San Croce, Florence

This neo-Gothic structure is the Franciscans’ principal church and is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Built in the 13th century, it replaced an older church that the congregation had outgrown. The walls and floors contain monuments to 270 notable Italians and tombs of some, including Michelangelo and Machiavelli. 16 chapels are adorned with […]

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Mannina, Florence

This family-run business is one of Florence’s best shoe stores. Every pair is hand-crafted in the workshop, which is a few doors down and around the corner from the shop. My husband bought two styles and liked a third, but they didn’t have his size. No worries – the owner offered to make him a […]

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