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The ancient maritime republic of Pisa is one of Italy's must-see cities. This lively university town boasts one of the most beautiful piazze in the world, an expansive grassy lawn studded with serene Gothic-Romanesque buildings of white- and gray-banded marble and delicate colonnaded arcading. But it'll forever be known chiefly for that square's cathedral bell tower: It just can't for the life of itself stick straight up.

Strung out along the river back toward Florence, the historic towns of the Valdarno, including San Miniato and Vinci, birthplace of Renaissance master Leonardo, make excellent daytrips from Pisa. The brawny Medici-created port of Livorno, to the south, is Tuscany's second-largest city, but is perhaps unique in the region for its lack of art (beyond some Tuscan "Impressionists") and dearth of decorative churches. The seafood in its restaurants, though, is reason alone to visit, and its canal quarter adds some quasi-Venetian romance.

The green islands of the Tuscan archipelago sitting off the Etruscan Coast shoreline are dotted with some fine beaches and fantastic nature preserves. The granddaddy of the group, Elba, is a high-power summer tourist destination. It's Italy's third-largest island and a veritable mineral horde that has been mined since the Etruscan Age. Elba is famous as the short-lived kingdom of exiled ex-emperor Napoleon and popular for its colorful fishing towns, island cuisine, inland hiking, and beaches.

The Maremma is Tuscany's far south, a little-visited province with deep Etruscan roots, crumbling hill towns built atop dramatic tufa outcrops, and snow-white cattle watched over by the butteri, some of the world's last true-grit cowboys. The principal art stop here is Massa Marittima, a two-story stone town that's home to a fine Lorenzetti altarpiece and a stately Sienese-Gothic piazza. Inland, Pitigliano seems to sprout straight from its tufa rock perch -- and curiously for Tuscany, has preserved a fascinating Jewish heritage.