UNH Prato provides students with several accompanied excursions throughout Tuscany. Prato Campus provides transport and organizes all entries and visits, and Dr.Murphy accompanies the visit in order to explain all of the monuments and sights during the day.
Famed for its marvellous scenery, Tuscany's landscape combines colourful rolling hills, ancient villas, historic cities, monasteries and Chianti vineyards. Rich in history, encompassing the ancient and modern, an excursion anywhere in this great region represents a journey of discovery. From the protected nature reserves of the Maremma; to the famous seaside resorts of Versilia; from the historic hilltowns of Siena and San Gimignano to the once great seaport of Pisa; from the stunning cliffs of Cinque Terre to the stately charm of Lucca; Tuscany has something for everyone!
This visit focuses on Pisa’s legendary cathedral square (the piazza dei Miracoli) and its monuments: the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the famous Leaning Tower and the Monumental Churchyard. The construction of the Leaning Tower began in 1174, and when builders reached the third storey work ceased for 90 years because it had already started sinking into the ground. We can reach the top of the Leaning Tower by mounting the 294 steps which rise in the form of a spiral on the inner side of the tower walls.
We stay for lunch, explore the university district of Pisa (the university was founded in 1343), and enjoy some free time before heading back to Prato.
Lucca, just 1 hour from Prato, is an almost perfectly preserved jewel of medieval architecture and buildings, emanating charm and history from every corner of its narrow winding streets. Completely surrounding the ancient city, the huge defensive and entirely intact walls date back to the 17th century. Now, no longer used for defense, they are crowned by 4 km of green parkland, and are a lovely place to walk, cycle or stop for a picnic. In Lucca we explore the city’s cultural and monumental highlights, including the remains of the Roman amphitheater, the church of San Michele in Foro, Piazza Napoleone, the cathedral of San Martino, the birthplace of the composer Puccini, and we climb to the top of the medieval Guinigi tower to enjoy for a breathtaking aerial view of the whole city. There’s also time for lunch, a walk around the top of the walls and some free time to explore before we head back to Prato.
The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a horse race held twice a year. In Siena we tour the monuments that best represent the unique cultural and artistic heritage of this Tuscan city, including the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico, and the famous Campo piazza, and the Monte dei Paschi di Siena (the world’s oldest bank). There’s also time for lunch and some free time on your own to explore before we head back to Prato.
|Poggio a Caiano and Capezzana
This day trip takes us first to the Medici family’s most famous villa Poggio a Caiano, started in 1485 by Lorenzo the Magnificent. Prior to the building of this Renaissance masterpiece, large country dwellings were defensive and fortified. Built on a quadrangular base around a large central hall, overlooking the surrounding countryside through its classically-inspired facades, the Villa at Poggio was revolutionary. At Lorenzo’s death in 1492 work on the villa was continued by Lorenzo’s second son, Giovanni (then Pope Leo X). Inside the villa we can still see much of the original Renaissance décor and frescos.
After leaving the villa behind us we head up to the ancient farm of Capezzana on the slopes of the Monte Albano. This estate of 670 hectares, in an area where wine has been produced for over 2000 years since Etruscan times, is run by the historic Contini Bonacossi family. The estate comprises a Renaissance villa with adjacent farm, historic cellars, a modern olive mill and a huge ‘vinsantaia’ (where vin santo is made). An expert will lead us through the various workspaces and cellars to explain the fascinating process of producing wine and oil. We finish the day with dinner on the estate and a chance to taste some of the best Tuscan wine and oil.