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Pisa If you love art you must visit Pisa, an ancient Marine Republic and a city known around the world for the unique spectacle its architectonic beauty. An Etruscan centre of mediation between the routes of the Tyrrhenian area and the hinterlands, in the 1st century B.C. Pisa became an important town and Roman port. It developed in the High Middle Ages because of its particular importance as a river port. Pisa achieved its maximum splendour in the 12th century, when it affirmed itself on the Tyrrhenian Sea as a marine republic. Already at this time, however, rivalry with nearby cities Lucca, Florence and Genoa initiated the political decay of the city, which was fed by the internecine wars between the various classes. The defeat endured against Genoa by the Meloria (1284) was fatal to the city. After a period of alternating Signoria, the city again began to enjoy a period of relative well being under the domination of the Medici and then the Lorena. During this time the government affirmed itself as an important cultural centre and benefited from great public works projects. In 1860, a plebiscite approved the annexation of Pisa to the Kingdom of Italy. Lying a few kilometres from the sea, at the end of a long fertile plain, that of the river Arno, Pisa is in the centre of an area characterised by an incomparable natural environment, composed of great woods along the shores dominated by the scent of pine and brackish air, now enclosed in a Nature Park that protects them which makes Pisa unique, not only on the Tuscan scene. Pisa, an ancient Roman port and great maritime republic, is no longer on the sea but its splendid past lives within its abundant historic and artistic monuments: narrow streets that open into picturesque little squares with multicoloured markets; the noble "Lungarni" with its splendid and majestic palaces; the charming Piazza dei Cavalieri and Piazza dei Miracoli, one of the most famous monumental complexes in the world with Piazza del Duomo, said "dei Miracoli" ("of miracles") its Cathedral, Baptistery, Camposanto and famous Leaning Tower, symbol of the city. A town of bell towers and churches, unique and unmistakable with their pure Romanesque style, Pisa also offers visitors a series of folk events. These include the Musical Season, the great Historical Boat Race, the famous Game of the Bridge and the "Luminara", a fantastic candle-light illumination of the Lungarni held every year on 16th June, on the eve of the feast of the town's patron saint Ranieri. But also the green welcoming countryside of the coastal hinterland knows how to offer its visitors a pleasant and relaxing landscape in the most classical Tuscan countryside: sloping hills, woodland and ancient hamlets, distinguishing by its relaxed, gentle pace of life and warm welcome. Its cultural heritage and timeless atmosphere is majestically crowned by Scenic routes winding through an unspoilt, evocative landscape lead to castles, villas, Romanesque churches and medieval villages, a perfect choice for a peaceful and cultural holiday in the heart of Tuscany: Valdera, Val di Cecina and Volterra. L"Alta Val di Cecina with its unspoilt countryside and scenic landscape betrays the presence of ancient settlements, castles, villages, churches and farm houses crowned majestically by the historical city of Volterra. The ephemeral colours of this land of contrasts transform with the changing of the seasons. Gently rolling clay hills, avenues lined with cypress trees, olive groves and vines of true Tuscan flavour are abruptly defined by barren, deep clay walled chasms, gullies and ravines. Then of course there is the anomalous landscape of the geothermal area with its steaming jets and fumaroles, the mountainous region of high ridges and deep valleys nourished by the clear waters of the streams and brooks of the River Cecina. One of the most interesting regions of Tuscany its charm certainly lies in its natural beauty and variable features. Valdera the inspiring, evocative landscape reveals a wealth of natural beauty, history, art and architecture. For here the remote hilltops are dotted with the grey and ochre stone farmhouses often towered by a campanile that stand guarding their clear running streams and brooks.