Tuscany or Toscana is one of the largest regions of Italy. The Etruscans, people native of Asia Minor, after a mass migration settled in the northern part of Italy but circa the 6th century B.C. a Gallic invasion from north Europe forced them to move south in the Italian peninsula and to be relegated to the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. Such is the reason for the Greeks to call the Etruscans who settled in Etruria “Tyrrhenians”.
The Etruscans were the first inhabitants of the region that in the 6th century B.C. was called Etruria, then Tuscia and finally Toscana. The principal gods of the Etruscans were Tinia, Uni and Menrva. The Romans, mostly pagan at that time, adopted the same deities but changed their names into Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
The Etruscans ruled Rome from 616 to 509 B.C. where they founded the Tarquin dynasty. Some of the most popular Etruscan Kings of Rome were: Lucius Tarquinius Priscus (616-579), Servius Tullius (578-535) and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (535-510) B.C.
Because the Etruscan culture was far superior to the culture of Rome, the Romans who were basically good soldiers resented the Etruscans’ sophistication and tried often to destroy them. In 264 B.C. the Roman legions defeated the Etruscans at Volsinio, and gradually Romans replaced the Etruscans everywhere in Italy.
The rise of Rome started the Etruscan decline; in 509 B.C. the Tarquins were expelled from Rome and Rome became a republic. By 90 B.C. Etruria was absorbed by the Roman Republic and the Etruscans became roman citizens.
Toward the end of the XIII century, after numerous raids and invasions by barbarian hordes and after the collapse of the Roman Empire, Tuscany finally enjoyed a long period of peace sublimated by three great writers that dramatically changed the western civilization with their literary accomplishments: Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, Petrarca, author of famous sonnets and poems and Boccaccio, author of the Decameron.
Dante, Petrarca & Boccaccio were the precursors of the Tuscan dialect called “Dolce Stil Novo” (the new sweet style), that introduced the new born Italian language which gradually replaced Latin everywhere in Italy.
The 1300 is no doubt a century full of glory thanks to the three great poets and writers Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio. The 1300 brings along a considerable number of prominent artists and famous personages as Franco Sacchetti (1330), Santa Caterina da Siena (1347), Jacopo della Quercia (1374), Brunelleschi (1377), Ghiberti (1378), San Bernardino da Siena (1380), Donatello (1386), Frate Angelico (1387), Andrea del Castagno(1390), Michelozzo (1396), Paolo Uccello (1397).
The 1400 opens the doors to the Renaissance with a succession of very famous people like: Della Robbia, Leon Battista Alberto, Mino da Fiesole, Verrocchio, Masaccio, Pollaiolo, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Signorelli, Desiderio da Settignano, Piero della Francesca, Benozzo Gozzoli, Lippi, besides various eminent scholars as: Pulci, Poliziano, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, Lorenzo il Magnifico, and others.
The 1500, called the “Golden Century”, shines with some of the greatest names of the world literature like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Amerigo Vespucci, Nicolò Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini, Benvenuto Cellini, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, Vasari, Ammannati, Jacopo Sansovino, Baldassare Peruzzi, Andrea del Sarto, Bronzino, Berni, Ammirato, Doni, Segni, Varchi, Davanzati, Rucellai, Alamanni, Monsignor della Casa, Pietro Aretino, Giovanni da Verrazzano, Francesco Ferrucci, San Filippo Neri, Galileo Galilei, Evangelista Torricelli, Boccherini, Cherubini, Giusti, Niccolini, Guerrazzi, Bartolini, Dupré, Meucci, Pacinotti, Barsanti, Carducci, Collodi, Catalani, Puccini, Mascagni.
All the above illustrious men were from Tuscany, but there are also a few very famous contemporaries that need to be mentioned, as Cristoforo Colombo from Genoa, Tiziano from Venice, Raffaello Sanzio from Urbino, Ariosto from Reggio.
There is no other region in Italy and no other nation in the world that can vaunt so many illustrious and brilliant painters, sculptors, poets, writers, musicians, composers, navigators and scientists than Tuscany.
The capital of Tuscany is Florence, called Florentia by Caesar in 59 BC, called Fiorenza in medieval time, today is known as Firenze, the “Flower of Italy”. This attractive medieval city is sprinkled with tall slender towers that contrast with the curves of Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome. The two poles of the city, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, represent respectively the religious power and the political power of the city, definitely distinguishable as the two major centers of importance of the city. During the 12th and the 13th century the population of Florence was divided in Guelphs and Ghibellines, that supported respectively the Papacy and the Emperor, the head of the Holy Roman Empire. The two factions were extremely hostile to each other and in 1260, Florence and Siena fought the Battle of Montaperti, that was immortalized by Dante Alighieri in his poem Divine Comedy.
Tuscany has 10 provinces: Arezzo, FIRENZE, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato, Siena. Tuscany abounds in rather unique cities and towns as Fiesole, the Etruscan acropolis only 5 miles north of Florence, San Gimignano famous for its medieval towers, Montecatini and Chianciano famous for their mineral waters, Volterra for its majestic cliffs, Chianti and Montepulciano for their exquisite wines, Casentino and Valdarno for their marvelous parks, La Versilia for its beaches like Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi, Le Alpi Apuane and Carrara for their marble quarries, Livorno (Leghorn) for the magnificent parks of Montenero, Calafuria, Antignano, Ardenza, il Mugello, La Lunigiana, the striking lakes of Massaciuccoli, Montepulciano, Chiusi, i “soffioni” of Larderello, Monte Falterona, that gives origin to the river Arno, Monte Fumaiolo, where the river Tiber originates, Monte Amiata and many others. Well worth mentioning are the beautiful valleys of Val di Chiana, Val Tiberina, Val di Nievole, Val di Pesa, Val di Sieve, Val d’Elsa.
On the Tyrrhenian Sea, just west of the region, there is the Tuscan Archipelago that includes 7 attractive islands like Elba, Gorgona, Capraia, Pianosa, Giglio, Giannutri and Montecristo. What to say about Pisa and Livorno, just a few miles apart from each other, both on the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the XI century when Pisa vaunted its own merchant fleet and navy, when Pisa was already a prominent maritime republic together with Genoa, Venice and Amalfi, the city of Livorno was almost unknown, but today Livorno is an elegant and modern city with lots of industries. Livorno is the seat of the Accademia Navale where all Italian Navy officers are trained. Livorno’s commercial harbor, constructed in 1854, is one of the most significant ports of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although Livorno before the XI century was practically unknown obscured by the fame and glory of the maritime republic of Pisa, during the last two centuries Leghorn has surpassed its neighbor and rival Pisa.
Of course Pisa still attracts everyday thousands of tourists fascinated by the sight of the leaning tower and by the beauty of the Duomo, built in 1063, and its Baptistery, described as a sumptuous lace of white marble from Carrara.