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Tuscany: Central Italian region rich with tourism hot-spots

Vasari’s fresco can be seen inside the Cathedral in Florence, Italy. The fresco took more than a decade to complete. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Vasari’s fresco can be seen inside the Cathedral in Florence, Italy. The fresco took more than a decade to complete. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

The Cathedral in Florence, Italy, towers over the city at 376 feet tall. Built in 1436, the Cathedral includes nearly a dozen of its own attractions, such as Vasari’s fresco. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

The Cathedral in Florence, Italy, towers over the city at 376 feet tall. Built in 1436, the Cathedral includes nearly a dozen of its own attractions, such as Vasari’s fresco. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

The Cathedral Square in Pisa, Italy, features the famous Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery. Constructed in 1372, the tower didn’t stop leaning until May 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

The Cathedral Square in Pisa, Italy, features the famous Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery. Constructed in 1372, the tower didn’t stop leaning until May 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Piazza Anfiteatro in Lucca, Italy, once served as a Roman amphitheater. After the second century the square was converted into a market. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Piazza Anfiteatro in Lucca, Italy, once served as a Roman amphitheater. After the second century the square was converted into a market. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- I'm all for figuratively killing as many birds as possible with one stone, if at all possible and on a recent family vacation to Tuscany we did just that.

The central Italian region is home to a handful of cities, each with its own historically famous attractions. On our trip we visited three: Florence, Pisa and Lucca.

Florence is famous for the Fountain of Neptune and Michelangelo's statue of David.

We didn't make it to either of these attractions, but did find ourselves at the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Cathedral. The latter towers over the city and features several of its own attractions, such as Vasari's fresco, which took more than a decade to complete.

The intricate detail and size of the Cathedral is simply breathtaking. To date it's one of the most beautiful buildings I've seen.

From Florence we drove to Lucca, which is where we spent the night during our three-day stay. Many homeowners in Lucca have converted parts of their homes into furnished apartment-style hotels that are a short walk from the city square and many local eateries. There's a lot of walking in Lucca, as homeowners are the only ones who can park their vehicles within the city walls.

One of the famous attractions in Lucca is the Piazza Anfiteatro. During the second century the square served as a Roman amphitheater. The square was later converted into a market, as homes were built up around it. Today you can visit several shops, restaurants and homes that open up to the square.

The last stop on our Tuscany journey took us to Pisa, where we visited the Cathedral Square to see the Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery. At 183 feet tall, the tower is much shorter than I'd expected; but still an awesome sight to see. If your plan is to climb the tower, just remember that children under eight are not permitted.

If you're wondering why the tower leans it's because its architects built the foundation too small for soil condition. Years following its 1372 completion, several architects, engineers and organizations met to find a way to stop it from leaning. In May 2008, it was announced that the tower stopped moving for the first time ever. 

I often say, I need to take extra leave to recuperate from vacations. This trip was the exception to the "rule." Venturing into central Italy was both a relaxing and breathtaking journey worth taken.