Famous for its an outstanding artistic culture and historic legacy, especially from the Roman period and the Renaissance, Florence and the entire region of Tuscany had also a unique gastronomy and a amazing scenery. Indulge Italy in one of our hosted villas.
A Historical Region
Tuscany is a region in central Italy with an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence. Tuscany is appreciated for all it has to offer – from its landscapes and history to its tradition and artistic legacy. Landscapes are outstanding in the 120 protected nature reserves of the region. History and art are evidenced by ruins of the constructions built by the Romans and many museums such as the Uffizi Gallery which houses some of the most famous and popular paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio.
A Legacy Found Everywhere
As a matter of fact, many places in Tuscany have been designated World Heritage Sites: The historic center of Florence; the historical centre of Siena; the square of the Cathedral of Pisa; the historical center of San Gimignano; the historical centre of Pienza; the Val d’Orcia, and Medici Villas and Gardens.
For Demanding Taste Buds
The gourmet will enjoy world-class restaurants and fantastic wine tours as Tuscany is home to wines with great reputation – The ‘Chianti Classico’, the ‘Brunello di Montalcino’ and the ‘Nobile di Montepulciano’ are the three most famous Italian wines and all come from the region.
Those willing to enjoy lazy holidays on sunny beaches will not be disappointed with the coves and the islands along the beautiful sea coast.
From the Etruscans to the Romans
In the late second millennium BC (roughly 1350–1150 BC), the Tuscan area was inhabited by peoples of the Apennine culture who had trading relationships with the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations in the Aegean Sea. During the following Villanovan culture (1100–700 BC), Tuscany was taken over by chiefdoms while City-states developed. After that period the Etruscan civilisation rose. It was the first major civilization in this region which was able to lay down a transport infrastructure, implement agriculture and mining, and produce vivid art. After living in Etruria well into prehistory, the civilization grew to fill the area between the Arno River and Tiber River from the eighth century, and reached its peak during the 7th century BC and 6th century BC.
Between 396 BC and 265 BC Rome captured all the Etruscan cities, and by the 1st century, Rome extended the Roman citizenship to all Etruria, adopted the Etruscan upper class, and established the cities of Lucca, Pisa, Siena, and Florence. While ensuring peace, the Roman civilization developed the existing roads, created the first aqueducts and sewers, and built many constructions which still remain today.
The Duchy and its Growing Cities
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century the region went under the Ostrogoth and Byzantine dominations. In 569, the Lombard conquest made Tuscany a Duchy and Lucca was designated its capital. After the destruction of the Lombard kingdom by Charlemagne, the region became a county, and then a marquisate which went to the Attoni family from Canossa in the 11th century. In this period many castles, abbeys and monasteries were built and towns started to grow demographically, turning themselves into communes mostly independent from the Holy Roman Empire. Lucca was in fact the first commune in Italy; followed by Arezzo, Florence, Siena and Pisa. In the meantime, the south of Tuscany was instead a feudal dominion of the Aldobrandeschi family. During the Middle Ages, wealth and economic development were brought by pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena between Rome and France.
In the 11th century Pisa became the most powerful city in Tuscany and built a trade empire in the Mediterranean area while playing a key role in the Crusades. Florence, Siena and Lucca were the main resource of banking, which became an international activity with branches in Flanders, France and England. In the 13th century Pisa started to decline after its defeat by Genoa at the Battle of Meloria. Conquering the region, Florence annexed Arezzo in 1384, then purchased Pisa in 1405 and Livorno in 1421, which drove it to become the cultural capital of the region.
From 1434, the increasingly monarchical Medici family started to rule the city but was overseen in 1494. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the region was alternately dominated by republic, papal proxies, and the monarchic Medici family. In 1691, the Holy Roman Emperor elevated the Medici to royalty. But the senior branch of the House died out in 1737, which made its descendant Francis Stephen de Lorraine crowned. Until 1859, the ruling Houses were consecutively the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, the House of Bourbon-Parma, the House of Bonaparte, and the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.
The Italian Independence
In 1859, the Second Italian War of Independence opposed a united French-Italian army to the Austrian army and was followed by a revolution which evicted the last Grand Duke. Tuscany was annexed to the United Provinces of Central Italy first and then to the Sardinia-Piedmont Kingdom after a landslide referendum. In 1860 Tuscany officially became part of modern Italy. Florence replaced Turin as Italy’s capital in 1865, hosting the country’s first parliament, but was superseded by Rome six years later, in 1871.
The area came under the dominance of local Fascist leaders under the rule of Mussolini, and became part of the Nazi controlled Italian Social Republic after the armistice in 1943. After Italy’s conquest by the Anglo-Americans during summer 1944 and the transition to the modern Italian Republic, Tuscany flourished as a cultural center of Italy. In 1975 its regional autonomy was established.
A Matter of Art
Tuscany has a unique cultural and artistic legacy, 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.
Florence is believed to have the largest concentration of Renaissance art and architecture in the world and it is often nicknamed the “art palace of Italy”.
Painters such as Cimabue and Giotto, the fathers of Italian painting, lived in Florence and Tuscany as well as Arnolfo and Andrea Pisano, renewers of architecture and sculpture; Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio, forefathers of the Renaissance; Botticelli, Paolo Uccello and the very famous Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Numerous museums and art galleries keep the heritage alive, many housing some of the world’s most precious works of art. Such museums include the Uffizi, which keeps Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the Pitti Palace, and the Bargello. Most of the frescos, sculptures and paintings in Tuscany are held in the region’s abundant churches and cathedrals, such as Florence Cathedral, Siena Cathedral, Pisa Cathedral and the Collegiata di San Gimignano.
Every year Tuscany and its beautiful villages are home to numerous Medieval fairs, animated by characters in historical costumes, minstrels and storytellers, wandering musicians, flag throwers and more. Tuscany, with its rich history, is ideal for these events which are organized throughout the year in the following cities – Malmantile in May, San Gimignano and Castiglion Fiorentino in June, Colle Val d’Elsa and Monteriggioni in July, Roccatederighi and Volterra in August, Lucca and Montevettolini in September.
Easter Day – Explosion of the Cart
This religious holiday is in fact a very special celebration in Florence. In the morning the Easter candle is lit by priests and is used then to light some coals which are placed in a container on the Cart. The Cart is an elaborate wagon standing two to three stories high pulled by a pair of oxen decorated in garlands. The procession delivers the Holy Fire to the Archbishop of Florence and the Cart is rigged with fireworks, waiting in front of the cathedral until the ‘Gloria’ is sung inside the church. The Archbishop then uses the fire to light a dove–shaped rocket, the ‘Colombina’, which flies out down a wire to the outside of the church and collides with the Cart in the square, setting off a spectacular firework display – the Explosion of the Cart!
June 16th – Luminara of San Ranieri
This event takes place in Pisa, in the evening of the eve of the patron saint’s feast day. The tradition of lighting the city with candles dates back to 1688, when the urn containing the remains of Saint Ranieri, patron saint of Pisa and of travellers, was changed and placed in the cathedral by Cosimo III of the Medici. Today the windows, cornices and balconies are decorated with white wooden frames on which candles are attached and lit after sunset. At about 11 p.m. a firework show from the Cittadella Vecchia is visible from along the river.
Lucca Summer Festival
The Lucca Summer Festival is the main event in Tuscany, taking place every year in the historical center of Lucca in Piazza Napoleone and boasts various world-renowned artists.
This event, which takes places in Livorno, is a combination of art, music, theatre, poetry, cabaret and crafts. Venezia is one of its historic districts, with an amazing web of canals which hosts many shows for the occasion. The Fortezzia Vecchia and the Fortezzia Nuova are two forts which mark the district and are also home to the events.
One of the world’s most famous fine art museums with collections dating back from classical antiquity to Renaissance paintings and sculptures. You will appreciate the famous Birth of Venus and Primavera by Botticelli, as well as Venus of Urbino by Titian. The first hall offers gothic art while the hall of Early Renaissance hosts the beautiful profile of Federico da Montefeltro. Do not miss the largest hall where paintings by Botticelli can be found. Whatever the type of art you prefer, you’re sure to have your breath taken in one of the most outstanding museums in the world.
The Leaning Tower
The famous Leaning Tower is the bell tower of the cathedral of Pisa and is known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. The tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. It increased year after year before the structure was completed and stabilized in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The height of the tower is 55.86 metres from the ground on the low side and 56.67 metres on the high side. The tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees but a restoration work between 1990 and 2001 has made the tower lean at about 3.99 degrees now, which means that the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres from where it would be if the structure were perfectly vertical.
The ‘Duomo in Siena’ is located on a place above the Piazza del Campo, a great Gothic building filled with treasures by Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio. Built between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure, the cathedral is shaped like a Latin cross with a slight projecting dome and bell tower. The exterior and interiors are decorated in white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes.
Bargello National Museum
The Bargello National Museum has a remarkable collection of Renaissance art and sculpture. Built in 1255 and located in the impressive Palazzo del Bargello it was used as a prison for a long time. Since the 19th century, the museum has been collecting more and more works of art. The building itself is amazing with a unique courtyard. For Renaissance art lovers, the Bargello is to sculpture what the Uffizi is to painting.
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