Luxury villa rental in Tuscany with air conditioning
History of Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy, situated in the central-western part of the peninsula, north of Rome and south of Genoa. The Apennine Mountains border it to the north and east, the Apuan Alps on the northwest and the Tyrrhenian Sea bounds it on the west. With a land area of around 9,000 square miles (23,300 square kilometers), it contains several major cities including Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo and Pistoia. The Arno is the region’s principle river, which originates in the Apennines and passes through both Florence and Pisa.
Tuscany was the primary territory of the Etruscans, an ancient civilization reaching back to 700 BC which was later annexed by Rome in 351 BC. It was after the fall of the Roman empire that the region became known as Tuscany (Toscana in Italian), as it fell under control of a series of rulers (Ostrogoths, Longobards, etc.) and eventually developed into a political unit with its own rulers. Tuscan cities, by the 12th century, were steadily gaining their independence as republics and pressing the nobility to live in the cities. By the 13th and 14th centuries the cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo and Pistoia had become extremely wealthy due to textile manufacture, banking, trade and agriculture. While there were constant wars between the city states to conquer territory and power, eventually Florence dominated all other cities in the region.
The Renaissance and the Medici
Florence attempted various models of representative government, and finally became ruled by an oligarchy of wealthy aristocrats including the dominant Medici banking family. In the 15th century, under the sponsorship of these wealthy families, the arts and literature enjoyed a period of tremendous flourishing that we know as the Renaissance or “rebirth” after the Middle Ages. Florence was home to such eminent writers as Dante, Petrarch and Machiavelli, and great artists and architects including Botticelli, Brunelleschi (who constructed the spectacular dome of the cathedral), Alberti, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Michelangelo. Due to its importance in literature, the Florentine language became the dominant language of the Italian peninsula and is the language of Italy today. Cosimo de’ Medici and his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent, who ruled Florence in the 15th century, were extraordinary patrons of the arts, with much of their glorious Renaissance patronage is still visible in the city today.
Decline and Renewal
After the death of Lorenzo in 1492, the Medici bank declined and their power collapsed. The fiery Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola ruled Florence while the Medici family were exiled. After Savonarola challenged the Pope, he was first excommunicated and then in 1498 hung and burned in Piazza della Signoria. Meanwhile after 1492 the center of commerce moved away from the Mediterranean and toward the Atlantic, causing the economy of Tuscany to drop. By 1530 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V overthrew Florence and restored the Medici family to power. At this point they became dukes of Florence and soon after, Cosimo de' Medici was entitled Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Cosimo paved the path to economic revival, building the port at Livorno after the port of nearby Pisa had silted up. His further credits include founding universities, promoting the navigational voyages of explorer Amerigo Vespucci (after whom the Americas take their name) and sponsoring the significant work of Galileo Galilei. After Duke Cosimo began the next decline of the Medici until, in 1737, the last male Gian Gastone died without an heir. We have to thank his sister Anna Maria Luisa for bequeathing the entire Medici estate and art treasures to the city of Florence, where they can forever be enjoyed.
After the Medici, the Austrian Dukes of Lorraine took over rule in Tuscany. However during the 17th century Florence and Tuscany gradually lost their power and significance and did not revive until the 19th century. Of note the Dukes of Lorraine streamlined local administration, implemented agricultural improvements, reorganized religious institutions and abolished capital punishment. The attainment of Italian independence eventually led to the end of the Lorraine rule in 1861 when Tuscany voted to annex to a united Italy. Florence served as proud capital of the newly-unified kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871.
Today, Tuscany is a prime cultural center and one of the most popular and scenic areas to visit in Italy. Tourists flock to the region to visit its museums, galleries, churches and monuments filled with paintings, sculptures and architectural wonders. Topped by picturesque landscapes, quaint hill towns and scrumptious food and wine, Tuscany is the ultimate travel destination.