Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its permanent influence on high culture, is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and is home to many influential figures in the world of art and science. Thus Tuscany boasts world renowned museums such as Uffizi and Pitti Palace and its famous wines (such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and others) . There are also several localities in Tuscany designated World Heritage Sites, these include the historical centers of Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Pienza, the Cathedral of Pisa, Val d’Orcia as well as the Medici Villas and Gardens. Tuscany also boasts over 120 protected nature reserves.
Surrounded and crossed by major mountain chains, and with few plains, the region has a relief that is dominated by hilly country used for agriculture. Many of Tuscany’s largest cities lie on the banks of the Arno, including Florence, Empoli and Pisa. The climate is fairly mild in the coastal areas, and is harsher and rainy in the interior, with considerable fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer.
At the time of the renaissance, Florence had become the cultural capital of Tuscany. One family that benefitted from Florence’s growing wealth and power was the ruling Medici Family and their legacy still visible today in the prodigious art and architecture in Florence. Tuscany has an immense cultural and artistic heritage, expressed in the region’s churches, palaces, art galleries, museums, villages and piazzas. Many of these artifacts are found in the main cities, such as Florence and Siena, but also in smaller villages scattered around the region, such as San Gimignano. Tuscany has a unique artistic legacy, and Florence is one of the world’s most important water-color centres, even so that it is often nicknamed the “art palace of Italy”. It is believed that the city has the largest concentration of Renaissance art and architecture in the world. Painters such as Cimabue and Giotto, the fathers of Italian painting, lived in Florence and Tuscany as did Arnolfo , Andrea Pisano, architecture and sculpture; Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio, forefathers of the Renaissance, Ghiberti and the Della Robbias, Filippo Lippi , Angelico; Botticelli, Paolo Uccello plus the universal genius of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The region contains numerous museums and art galleries, many housing some of the world’s most precious works of art. Such museums include the Uffizi, (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus), the Pitti Palace, and the Bargello, just to mention a few. Many of the frescos, sculptures and paintings in Tuscany are held in the region’s abundant churches and cathedrals (including the Florence Cathedral, Sienna Cathedral, Pisa Cathedral and the Collegiata di San Gimignano.
Tuscany has a rich ancient and modern musical tradition, and has boasted numerous composers and musicians, such as Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni. Florence is the main musical centre of Tuscany. The city was at the heart of much of our entire Western musical tradition. It was there that the Florentine Camerata convened in the mid-16th century and experimented with setting tales of Greek mythology to music and staging the result: the first operas, fostering the further development of the operatic form, and the later developments of separate “classical” forms such as the symphony. There are numerous musical centres in Tuscany. Arezzo is indelibly connected with the name of Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th-century monk who invented modern musical notation and the do-re-mi system of naming notes of the scale; Lucca hosted the greatest Italian composer of Romanticism, Giacomo Puccini and Siena is well known for the Accademia Musicale Chiglana, an organization that currently sponsors major musical activities such as the Siena Music Week and the Alfredo Casella International Composition Competition.
Tuscany has a renowned literature, and has boasted several famous writers and poets, most notably Florentine author Dante. Tuscany’s literary scene particularly thrived in the 13th century and the Renaissance.
In Tuscany, especially in the Middle Ages, popular love poetry existed. A school of imitators of the Sicilians, but its literary originality took another line — that of humorous and satirical poetry. Another type of poetry also began in Tuscany. Guittone d’Arezzo made art abandon chivalry and Provençal forms for national motives and Latin forms. He attempted political poetry, and although his work is often obscure, he prepared the way for the Bolognese school. Bologna was the city of science, and philosophical poetry appeared there. Guido Guinizelli was the poet after the new fashion of art. In his work the ideas of chivalry are changed and enlarged. Only those whose heart is pure can be blessed with true love, regardless of class. He refuted the traditional credo of courtly love, for which love is a subtle philosophy only a few chosen knights and princesses could grasp. Love is blind to blasons but not to a good heart when it finds one: when it succeeds it is the result of the spiritual, not physical affinity between two souls. Guinizelli’s Canzoni make up the bible of Dolce Stil Novo, and one in particular, “Al cor gentil” (“To a Kind Heart”) is considered the manifesto of the new movement which will bloom in Florence under Cavalcanti, Dante and their followers.
Simplicity is central to Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made up of Moraiolo, Leccino, and Frantoiano olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced. Wine is a famous and common produce of Tuscany. Chianti is arguably the most well-known wine internationally.
The Via de’ Tornabuoni in Florence, the city’s top fashion and shopping street, contains some of the world’s most luxurious clothing and jewelry houses, such as Cartier, Ferragamo, Gucci, Versace and Bulgari, just to name a few. The fashion and textile industry are the pillars of the Florentine economy. In the 15th century, Florentines were working with luxury textiles such as wool and silk. Today the greatest designers in Europe utilize the textile industry in Tuscany, and especially Florence. Italy has one of the strongest textile industries in Europe, accounting for approximately one quarter of European production.
Food and wine has long been an important staple of the economy. Florence is the most important city in Tuscany, one of the great wine-growing regions in the world. The Chianti region is just southof the city, and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Supertuscan blends. Within twenty miles to the west is the Carmignano area, also home to flavorful sangiovese-based reds. The celebrated Chianti Rufina district, geographically and historically separated from the main Chianti region, is also few miles east of Florence. More recently, the Bolgheri region (95 miles southwest of Florence) has become celebrated for its “Super Tuscan” reds.
I was fortunate that while I was in Florence to get to the Chianti Region to do some exploring and see first-hand what went into wine production. Talk about an experience and education! This is something I will not forget. There is so much into the production of the grapes and the making of wines and champagnes many consumers just don’t take the time to put it all together when they go out to buy wine and champagne. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. It truly was worth it.
The entire Tuscan region is awe-inspiring, not only in its architecture, but with the sweeping vistas, the lush settings, rich heritage and so much more. I would also venture to say that this applies to the Tuscan people as well. They are not like people from other parts of the county, they are unique.