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Eye in the sky: Tuscany from above

By Sean Caulfield

Sean Caulfield Sometimes you can get a fresh perspective on a place if you look at it from a different angle. That’s the case with Belvedere: In Volo Sulla Toscana (Flying Above Tuscany), a collection of aerial photos by the Florence-based photographer Guido Cozzi. His unusual compilation captures the essence of Tuscany but offers a different way of seeing. Take a look at a few of our favourite shots…

CRETE SENESI (main picture, above): Seen from the sky, the Crete Senesi is green in spring, ochre in summer, and bronze or grey in autumn and winter. But the colour that never changes is the local red brick of the buildings. The ancient tradition of brick-making was carried out using kilns scattered across the region, which supplied monumental works such as the abbeys of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and Badia Ardenga and the walls of Buonconvento. The travertine and dressed stone in nearby Rapolano is a perfect complement to the almost monotone use of this brick, adding a pleasing visual and structural complexity to the urban landscape.

 

VERSILIA VIAREGGIO (Above top): Versilia is just one beach, yet it is 36km long and has more than 500 sunbathing areas, with some 10,000 colourful umbrellas opening to the sky each day. This was an elite tourist destination in the early 20th century, hence the local Art Nouveau architecture, though today little is done to promote the place.

MAZZOLLA VOLTERRA  (above bottom): There are almost half a million sheep in Tuscany, particularly in the hilly pastures of the Crete Senesi in Val d’Orcia, around Volterra, and in Maremma. Agriculture declined in the 1950s and 1960s but has since revived, partly due to significant immigration from Sardinia and a new awareness of the value of quality cheeses. For more than 20 years a special consortium has protected and promoted Pecorino Toscano, producing more than 1.3 million truckles of the cheese each year.

SANTUARIO DELLA VERNA (above top): The ancient beech forest covering Monte Penna, in the Casentino, has always given shelter to dreamers and fugitives, including thieves and bandits who hid here and dedicated a primitive temple to their protector, the goddess Laverna. They built a temple on the rock, where in 1224 Saint Francis, chief of all dreamers, received the stigmata and made this wild and lonely spot a place of pilgrimage. The limestone, from the Miocene era, on which the sanctuary rests, has the same geological characteristics as Monte Titano in the Republic of San Marino and the Sasso Simone e Simoncello in the Marche.

CASA ROSSA XIMENES CASTIGLIONE DELLA PESCAIA (above bottom): The massive red-brick building standing astride one of the outflow channels of the marshes of Castiglione della Pescaia was built by the engineer Leonardo Ximenes in 1765 as part of extensive reclamation work in Maremma. The building housed winches and water gates that could be operated to separate the freshwater of the swamp from the salt water of the sea, preventing the formation of the “miasma”, which, according to the scientific theories of the day, was the main cause of malaria. The marsh is a rare ecosystem, home to a wealth of birdlife and 15 different species of orchid.

 

TORRE MOZZA PIOMBINO (above left): This fortified building projecting into the sea was built in the 16th century by the Appiani family, the counts of Piombino, who for centuries dominated the coast and the Tuscan archipelago. The tower was used to control the mining trade from the nearby island of Elba. Close to the shore, just below sea level, lie the remains of a Roman road, once part of the Via Aurelia. The photo above right shows the countryside around Monteriggioni.

Belvedere: In Volo Sulla Toscana (Flying Above Tuscany) by Guido Cozzi (Sime Books, £20). The book is available from www.simebooks.com and the photographs from www.simephoto.com.

To Tuscany has a range of fantastic villas across the region.

Sean Caulfield

Over 20 years ago, I moved to Tuscany with my Italian wife and founded To Tuscany as a villa rental company. Our first rentals were in a country residence in Chianti and we offered guests a tailored vacation using our local knowledge and personal service. Today, you can experience the same at over 600 superb villas.

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