Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its permanent influence on high culture. It is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and has been home to many figures influential in the history of art and science. As a result, the region boasts museums (such as the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and the Chianciano Museum of Art). Tuscany is famous for its wines, including the well-known Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino.
Six Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage Sites: the historic centre of Florence (1982); the historical centre of Siena (1995); the square of the Cathedral of Pisa (1987); the historical centre of San Gimignano (1990); the historical centre of Pienza (1996); and the Val d'Orcia (2004). Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves, making Tuscany and its capital Florence popular tourist destinations that attract millions of tourists every year. Florence receives an average of 10 million tourists a year, making the city one of the most visited in the world. (In 2007, the city became the world's 46th most visited city, with over 1.715 million arrivals).
Appennini and Villanovan cultures
The pre-Etruscan history of the area in the late Bronze and Iron Ages parallels that of the early Greeks. The Tuscan area was inhabited by peoples of the so-called Apennine culture in the late second millennium BC (roughly 1350–1150 BC) who had trading relationships with the Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations in the Aegean Sea. Following this, the Villanovan culture (1100–700 BC) saw Tuscany, and the rest of Etruria, taken over by chiefdoms. City-states developed in the late Villanovan (paralleling Greece and the Aegean) before "Orientalisation" occurred and the Etruscan civilisation rose.
The Etruscans created the first major civilisation in this region, large enough to establish a transport infrastructure, to implement agriculture and mining and to produce vibrant art. The Etruscans lived in Etruria well into prehistory. The civilization grew to fill the area between the Arno River and Tiber River from the 8th century BC, reaching its peak during the 7th and 6th centuries BC, finally succumbing to the Romans by the 1st century. Throughout their existence, they lost territory (in Campania) to Magna Graecia, Carthage and Celts. Despite being seen as distinct in its manners and customs by contemporary Greeks, the cultures of Greece, and later Rome, influenced the civilisation to a great extent. One reason for its eventual demise was this increasing absorption by surrounding cultures, including the adoption of the Etruscan upper class by the Romans.
Soon after absorbing Etruria, Rome established the cities of Lucca, Pisa, Siena, and Florence, endowed the area with new technologies and development, and ensured peace. These developments included extensions of existing roads, introduction of aqueducts and sewers, and the construction of many buildings, both public and private. However, many of these structures have been destroyed by erosion due to weather. The Roman civilization in the West collapsed in the 5th century and the region fell briefly to Goths to be re-conquered by the Byzantine Empire. In the years following 572 C.E., the Longobards arrived and designated Lucca the capital of their Duchy of Tuscia.
The Medieval Period
Pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena between Rome and France brought wealth and development during the medieval period. The food and shelter required by these travellers fuelled the growth of communities around churches and taverns. The conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, factions supporting the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire in central and northern Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries, split the Tuscan people. These two factors gave rise to several powerful and rich medieval communes in Tuscany: Arezzo, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, and Siena. Balance between these communes was ensured by the assets they held; Pisa, a port; Siena, banking; and Lucca, banking and silk. By the renaissance, however, Florence had become the cultural capital of Tuscany. One family that benefitted from Florence's growing wealth and power was the ruling Medici Family. Lorenzo de' Medici was one of the most famous of the Medici and the legacy of this time is still visible today in the prodigious art and architecture in Florence. One of his famous descendants, Catherine de Medici, married Prince Henry (later King Henry II) of France in 1533.
The Black Death epidemic hit Tuscany starting in 1348. It eventually killed 50% to 60% of Tuscans. According to Melissa Snell, "Florence lost a third of its population in the first six months of the plague, and from 45% to 75% of its population in the first year." In 1630, Florence and Tuscany were once again ravaged by the plague.
Tuscany, especially Florence, is regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance. Though "Tuscany" remained a linguistic, cultural and geographic conception, rather than a political reality, in the 15th century, Florence extended its dominion in Tuscany through the annexation of Arezzo in 1384, the purchase of Pisa in 1405 and the suppression of a local resistance there (1406). Livorno was bought as well (1421).
From the leading city of Florence, the republic was from 1434 onward dominated by the increasingly monarchical Medici family. Initially, under Cosimo, Piero the Gouty, Lorenzo and Piero the Unfortunate, the forms of the republic were retained and the Medici ruled without a title, usually without even a formal office. These rulers presided over the Florentine Renaissance. There was a return to the republic from 1494 to 1512, when first Girolamo Savonarola then Piero Soderini oversaw the state. Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici retook the city with Spanish forces in 1512, before going to Rome to become Pope Leo X. Florence was dominated by a series of papal proxies until 1527 when the citizens declared the republic again, only to have it taken from them again in 1530 after a siege by an Imperial and Spanish army. At this point Pope Clement VII and Charles V appointed Alessandro de' Medici as the first formal hereditary ruler.
The Sienese commune was not incorporated into Tuscany until 1555, and during the 15th century Siena enjoyed a cultural 'Sienese Renaissance' with its own more conservative character. Lucca remained an independent Republic until 1847 when it became part of Grand Duchy of Tuscany by the will of its people. Piombino was another minor independent state, under both Spanish and Tuscan influence.
In the 15th century, the Medicis, who ruled Florence, annexed surrounding land to create modern Tuscany. The War of Polish Succession in the 1730s meant the transfer of Tuscany from the Medicis to Francis, Duke of Lorraine and Holy Roman Emperor. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon, Tuscany was inherited by the Austrian Empire as successor to the Holy Roman Empire. In the Italian Wars of Independence in the 1850s, Tuscany was transferred from Austria to the newly unified nation of Italy.
Under Benito Mussolini, the area came under the dominance of local National Fascist Party leader Dino Perrone Compagni. Following the fall of Mussolini and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Italy, the Italian Social Republic was established in the northern regions of Italy, with its de facto border at the Gothic Line, a defensive position just north of Florence. Following the end of the Social Republic, and the transition from a Kingdom to the modern Italian Republic, Tuscany once more flourished as a cultural center of Italy.