Saturday , February 24 2024
Toss your traditional guidebooks, and learn the secrets of Tuscany from a local writer to take your travels beyond the ordinary.

Book Review: Secret Tuscany by Carlo Caselli

Covering Florence and surroundings, as well as Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Livorno and more, you’ll see Tuscany like a native with Secret Tuscany.

Go beyond architecture, hotels and cafes, to learn the legends, secrets and origins of place names (toponymy). There’s not a sidewalk crack or stone unturned in Secret Tuscany. Like all Jonglez Publishing guides, it is written by a local resident; in this case, Carlo Caselli, who also took most of the magnificent photos in the book.

Start in Tuscany, where if your visit to Florence is timed right, you can witness an astronomical phenomenon. Four times a year, The Piazza del Duomo cathedral in Florence allows visitors to witness the passage of the sun from within the building, as a circle of light moves across the floor to a precise spot calculated in 1475. This spot was determined to show the exact time of the summer solstice. In the 15th century, astronomers needed enclosed spaces to make precise measurements, and cathedrals were the ideal location for meridians. Using meridians to measure time and establish calendars goes back to the time of Julius Caesar.

Siena is home to the natural history Museum of the Accademia Degli Fisiocritici, containing exhibits of geological, zoological, and anatomical exhibits from over 300 years ago. It holds a rare collection of 230 marbles from ancient buildings in the Roman Empire and a famous meteorite which fell on the city in 1794.  In the Siena region, a 1st Century A.D. mosaic floor hidden in the back of a pharmacy, past the storage area, and down to the basement, reveals a Roman mosaic underground pavement discovered in 1889.

This area also has a highly unusual library of trees, with books etched into tree bark revealing compartments containing the fruit and pollen of each tree. In Pisa, beyond the Tower of Pisa, there lies a relic of the Crown of Thorns in the church of Santa Chiara, within a hospital complex. The first reference to the survival of this relic dates back to the year 409, and is another example of a treasure you wouldn’t likely find without the help of Secret Tuscany.

If you’re inclined to skip a municipal museum on any journey, think twice before you pass up the Municipal Museum of Lucignano, for it holds the majestic Golden Tree. Secret Tuscany author Caselli notes it “holds no equal anywhere in the world.” It is a majestic reliquary, created between 1350 and 1471, standing two meters tall, and made of silver and gilded copper.

Northwest Tuscany will lead you to Montereggio, a town dedicated to the book trade, where every resident is a bookseller. This unusual region also boasts Italy’s first pet cemetery.

Secret Tuscany includes a “Sights Nearby” section so you never miss a whisper of history, and includes driving directions to find specific secrets from town to town in the Tuscany region.

As with the other Secret travel guides from Jonglez, Secret Tuscany will not help you find your way from the airport, or provide copious lists of hotels and restaurants, Instead, it will give you a travel experience beyond tourism, to embrace and appreciate the history and beauty of this region of Italy, and leave you with amazing stories to tell for many years.


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