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Between Rome and Florence

by Philip Greenspun, 1995

Between Rome and Florence you have probably the densest concentration of cultural and lifestyle treasures in the world. The regions separating these cites are Umbria and Toscana. If I were a serious travel writer, I'd give you deep sections on all of the three-star towns. The light frescoes of the cathedral of St. Francis in Assisi, my favorite in all of Italy. The medieval atmosphere of the Tuscan hill towns like San Gimignano. The art treasures of Siena, Florence's major rival. But I'm not a serious travel writer so all you get are two little photo exhibits.

San Galgano

Galgano was a knight born to rich parents in 1148 but he renounced the material world and also the arts of war. He attempted to break his sword against a rock, but instead the sword was swallowed by the stone, a sign that God approved of his project. He died a hermit in 1181 and was declared a saint in 1185.

A Cistercian abbey was built near the site of Galgano's hermitage in 1218 in Gothic style, reflecting the French origins of the monks. The abbey's church now lies in ruins in the magnificent Tuscan landscape.

Parco dei Mostri

Parco dei Mostri. Bomarzo, Italy. Parco dei Mostri. Bomarzo, Italy. Once the backyard of the Villa Orsini, this 16th-century sculpture garden was built by the same sculptors who worked on St. Peter's. Subtlety is not wasted on these monstrosities.

[Practical note: the park is about 90 minutes north of Rome, near the town of Bomarzo, which has almost nothing to recommend it. I advise that you bring a picnic from Rome because I remember a particularly bad and expensive restaurant in Bomarzo. I also vividly remember being chased around the park by an old caretaker, upset that I was using a tripod. The Cadogan guide notes that the privately-owned park is run like an "Alabama roadside attraction, complete with tame deer for your children to pet, an albino peacock, miniature goats, and plenty of souvenirs. ... It may be the only important monument of the 16th century that neither the goverment nor anyone else is interested in preserving."]

Article created 1995

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Tom Strait , March 26, 1998; 02:27 P.M.

Actualy, the Cistercians used a particular and private architectural style called Half Gothic, which structuraly was just like the Romanesque style of the earlier middle ages, but had semi- pointed arches like Gothic. It's important to realize the difference, however, in the style of the Cistercians and the secular bishoprics of northern France. Half-gothic didn't allow the huge windows and inconsequencial walls that true Gothic does; the inside of the churches were still dark and low. This reflected extreamly conservative nature of the Cistercians as compared to any other monastics of the time period. While after their spiritual leader St. Bernard of Clairvoix died they did become more open and architecturaly cosmopolitian, they did not adopt Gothic architecture.

Maurizio Firmani , April 07, 2003; 06:38 A.M.

You gave a conceited title to a poor description of non-representative places in what you call "Between Rome and Florence". You just forgave the two thousand years of history, art and beauty that Tuscany can express. And again, you did it with very bad shots.

Manuel Panzera , January 09, 2006; 06:54 A.M.

Maurizio, I'm not sure why you think this is not representative of the title and is not between Rome and Florence. Bomarzo is in the province of Viterbo (an area where I grow up) which is in the north of Lazio bordering Tuscany. A little know jewel of a province without the hype (and tourists) of Tuscany and just as rich as Tuscany in beauty and history. The most important etruscan centres where in this province too. It's just that Tuscany took it's name from the etruscans.

Sammy Babbott , June 20, 2006; 11:07 A.M.

I think you totally missed out on the meaning of that park. I have actually been there. Apart from what silly travel guides such as the irreverent, dirt cheap (in any sense) Lonely Planet or any other have to say, Bomarzo Park was the off streamline vision of a protester of the time. While everybody else was being esthetic and formal, he commissioned works that would be able to bring the viewer into a different dimension and have a perspective of things that was far from reality. After centuries, the park still keeps its message intact, proof of the ingenuity of he who conceived the idea behind it. Most of the times what is not understood is labeled dangerous or crazy. Thank goodness it was the case of the latter, otherwise we would not even have a Bomarzo park at all. After all, Lazio and Tuscany are not rich in canonic art only. If you want to know more about Tuscany you can follow this link to a blog on Tuscany. It is apt to travellers and with good heart (at least it seems so...) Tuscany Travel

Clau Giagno , February 04, 2007; 12:12 P.M.

Hallo to all!!! I traveled between Rome and Florence in the Chianti Valley and i advise 3 really good cities; Pisa, Lucca and Siena. For my accommodation in Lucca with many Hotels in Lucca. For my accommodation in Siena with many Hotels in Siena. For my accommodation in Pisa with many Hotels in Pisa.
Have a good time!!!

Amanda Weir , September 20, 2007; 10:36 A.M.

Pisa, Tuscany

Tuscany has become, in recent years, one of the most popular destinations for a nice relaxing holiday. Tuscany is also easy to reach since the main low cost airline do operate flights in the main airports: Florence and Pisa. The Tuscan countryside is really worth visiting, places such as the Chianti region, Siena, Cortona and S. Gimignano just to mention a few, are a necessary stop to really feel the atmosphere of a magic place. There are a few luxury resorts that would really leave a sign but if you are a traveller on a budget these places are accessible to you as well. More modest Tuscany hotels, B&Bs or apartments do give the possibility to all travellers to visit these magnificent places.

I suggest to stay in Tuscany farmhouses, the "agriturismo" offers a fresh alternative, at the italy hotels, for those who want a more rustic holiday. Siena hotels are few but very nice.
Tuscany is a region that can satisfy the widest range of travellers from the youngest who are in search of crowded city life and budget accommodations, to the more mature traveller who appreciates the peace and quite of the rural countryside

I hope this help.

Amanda Weir , April 28, 2008; 06:58 A.M.

I have just returned from my last vacation in Tuscany: I was in Florence and every time I discover the rich cultural suggestions and new seductions. I suggest to visit this online guide to book Florence hotels. I hope this help.

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