One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city is head to its highest point, whether that be a hilltop or a tower. I like to admire my surroundings from above in order to familiarise myself with the place I’ll be exploring for the following few days. I also love the photographic opportunities it affords, and the sense of freedom and isolation I feel if I happen to find myself alone at the top.
So I was overjoyed to discover that Tuscany is brimming with towers of varying heights and archeological styles, many of which you can climb.
Unfortunately you can no longer do this for free but in my opinion, it’s an activity whose rewards are worth the little splurge.
3Here are 4 historical towers with incredible views of Tuscany.
#1 Torre Grossa, San Gimignano
San Gimignano is known as “the town of fine towers” and is often referred to as the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages.” Originally there were a whopping 72 towers in this small medieval town, built in aristocratic rivalry by feuding nobles of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. However now just 14 remain, and only one is open to the public – Torre Grossa (“Great Tower”)
Located next to the Palazzo Comunale, and standing 54 metres tall above San Gimignano’s Town Square, Torre Grossa was (and still is!) San Gimignano’s tallest tower.
Entrance fee: €10 (includes Museo Civico, Pinacoteca, Museo Archeologico, Spezieria Santa Fina, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea “Raffele De Grada” and San Lorenzo in Ponte.
#2 Torre Guinigi, Lucca
Torre Guinigi dates back to the 14th century and is one of the few remaining towers in Lucca, a medieval city that’s encircled by an imposing ring of tree-lined Renaissance walls.
At 44.5 metres tall, it’s smaller than Torre Grossa in San Gimignano, but what makes this tower unique is the garden of Holm Oaks that sits on top of it.
A Holm Oak is an ancient tree that symbolises rebirth and renewal.
Entrance fee: €4
#3 Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence
One of the most iconic buildings in all of Tuscany, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (more commonly known simply as the Duomo) is a vast Gothic structure that was built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.
At 84.7 metres tall its Gothic-style campanile was constructed in 1334 and is beautifully clad in white, red and green marble.
As you can imagine, Florence’s Piazza del Duomo gets very busy, with queues forming as early as 9am in order to gain entry into the Duomo and its campanile, so get her as early as possible to avoid the long wait.
Entrance fee: €15 (includes access to all of Florence’s major monuments)
#4 Torre del Mangia, Siena
I thought I’d leave my absolute favourite tower until last, and one that’s located in one of my favourite Tuscan cities – Siena.
Constructed between 1338 and 1348, Torre del Mangia (pronounced “Manja” and named after the first man hired to ring its large bells) stands 102 metres above Siena’s beautiful, sloping Piazza del Campo and – even on a cloudy day – the views from the top are incredible.
The tower was built to be exactly the same height as Siena’s Duomo (which you can capture a fantastic photograph of, from the top) as a sign that the church and the state had equal amounts of power.
Its terracotta brick walls are punctuated with white Travertine marble, and there are exactly 400 steps to reach its summit.
Once the tallest tower secular tower in medieval Italy, it now plays second fiddle to Cremona’s Torrazzo, which stands at a whopping 112 metres tall.
Entrance fee: €10
Are there any other Tuscan towers I should add to this list?