Tuscany Introduction

Tuscany Introduction

  • Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel
  • Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel
  • Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Location

Location, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Tuscany (ital. Toscana) is bordered on the west by the long sandy beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea and is sheltered to the north and east by the Apennine Mountains and the Apuan Alps. The region thus defined is one of great fertility, with the wines of the Chianti region and the superb olive oil of the area known to anyone who appreciates good food and wine.

Landscape

Landscape, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

The landscapes of Tuscany are perhaps more varied than in any other region of Italy, varying from the ancient marble quarries of the Apuan Alps to the sand dunes of the Tyrrhenian Coast, but it is the land between, in particular the Chianti district, that most readily comes to mind when we talk of Tuscany. Hilltop towns and villages dating back to Etruscan times are surrounded by vineyards where the vines form geometrically precise rows, olive groves alternate with undulating fields of wheat and sunflowers, slashed in spring by the vibrant red of poppies, and over all a sky of ineffable blue - this is a landscape that has changed very little since the Middle Ages.
No wonder that Tuscany today is so beloved of visitors who come for the exquisitely balanced attractions of culture and relaxation, great food and wine and scenery of entrancing beauty.

History

History, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Look around you anywhere in the region, and the evidence of Tuscany's turbulent history is before you in the shape of castles and fortresses, fortified towns and villages.
First settled by the somewhat mysterious Etruscans, then by the Romans, Tuscany was the scene of constant invasions, wars, battles and sieges throughout the Middle Ages.
Then came the period of the Renaissance, with Florence as the most powerful and influential city, and the world we live in was changed for ever by the ideas and achievements of great writers, philosophers, scientists, explorers, artists, architects and sculptors.

The Etruscans

The Etruscans, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Who were the Etruscans? You cannot travel far in Tuscany without hearing about the them. They seem to have been responsible for the founding of all the chief towns and cities.
Signs of their presence are to be found in most of the walled towns built on hilltops of the region. They are usually referred to as 'mysterious' and seem to have just vanished somewhere between the times of the Ancient Greeks and those of the Romans. In fact, they were absorbed into the Roman civilisation in the first century BC and influenced it greatly, especially in architecture.
They lived in prehistoric times in Italy and Corsica and their origins go back to the Bronze Age They were an advanced civilisation, laid down roads, practised mining and agriculture, and left behind some very fine art.
One of the most fascinating reminders of these long-vanished people is to be found between the lovely hill towns of Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano. In this area nearly 50 narrow, canyon-like 'roads', resembling passages, with walls 30 metres high and barely 2 metres apart in places, were cut into the rocks by the Etruscans. They survive today, and are well worth a visit.

Works Of Art

Works Of Art, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

While the cities of Tuscany - Florence, Siena, Pisa - are the repositories of most of the great works of the Renaissance, there are still surprises to be found out in the country - a museum at Vinci, for example, birthplace of the great Leonardo, or village churches that are home to some glorious work by one of the masters such as Botticelli or Donatello.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Italy now has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world. In Tuscany there are:
- The Historic Centre of Florence
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa and buildings of the Piazza del Duomo
- The Historic Centre of Siena
- The Historic Centre of Pienza
- The Historic Centre of San Gimignano
- The Val d'Orcia

Books About Tuscany

Books About Tuscany, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Tuscany, so beloved of the British, was one of the first places to inspire people to write about their experiences in living there. Many great names of literature appear in book-lists as the authors of books set in, or about, Florence, and Tuscany in general.
When it comes to cuisine or life-style, it seems that the robust cooking, the world-famous wines, and the comfort and colour typical of Tuscan houses has inspired hundreds of writers and photographers.
Here are just a few titles to whet your appetite:
- Under the Tuscan Sun: Frances Mayes
- Bella Tuscany: Frances Mayes
- The Tuscan Year: Elizabeth Romer
- Vanilla Beans and Brodi: Isabella Dusi
- A Summer in Tuscany: Sandra I Swanson
- A Thousand Days in Tuscany: Marlena di Blasi
- A Vineyard in Tuscany: Ferenc Mati
When it comes to novels, check out A Room with a View by E.M. Forster and Summer's Lease by John Mortimer.

Tuscan Films

Tuscan Films, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

The following films were either set or made in Tuscany:
Tea with Mussolini - largely filmed in San Gimignano with Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright.
Gladiator - with a host of stars including Russel Crowe, Oliver Reed and Richard Harris.
Romeo and Juliet - Zeffirelli's version, filmed in Pienza.
The English Patient directed by Anthony Minghella and filmed in Siena, Pienza and Montepulciano.
Stealing Beauty - a Bertolucci film, shot in Siena.
Much Ado about Nothing - a comedy by William Shakespeare, filmed in Greve.
A Room with a View - filmed in Florence and Fiesole with Maggie Smith and Denholm Elliott.
Under the Tuscan Sun - based on the 1996 memoir of Frances Mayres starring Diane Lane.

Chianti

Chianti, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Chianti is the name of the region between Florence and Siena, where most of the wine-making of Tuscany is concentrated. The heart of this region is called Chianti Classico.
The wines of Chianti have come a long way from the days when they were bought more for the distinctive bottle with its raffia covering than for what was actually inside the bottle. Empty Chianti bottles were an essential element in nineteen-sixties decor in London bedsits and trattoria.
Today, Chianti wines are amongst the best produced in Italy, with the Classico appellation reserved for the highest quality, produced to very exacting specifications.

Cypress Trees

Cypress Trees, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

An essential feature of the landscapes of Tuscany, and of northern Italy in general, is the tall, slender spire of the Cypress tree. Yet this tree is not Italian in origin. It was brought to the region by the Etruscans, from Persia and Syria. The fact that it did not drop its foliage in winter gave it mythical and supernatural powers in their minds, and they used to plant it around their burial places - something which can still be seen throughout Italy and Greece, where the cypress tree is always to be found growing around churches and cemeteries.
Legend has it that if you fall asleep underneath a cypress, your soul will be stolen and you will never re-awaken....

Flying To Tuscany

Flying To Tuscany, Tuscany Introduction, Italy, Agni Travel

Flights from the UK to Tuscany are available all year. It is well served by the large Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa and a second, the Amergo Vespucci, in Florence. Flying into Rome can be a realistic alternative, especially if you are considering a two centre break. From there Tuscany is less than 2 hours by train, a fabulous way of enjoying the scenery. Alternatively the region can be reached in a little over an hour by car from either of Bologna's two international airports, Guglielmo Marconi and Forli.

end of column


Places to visit

 - Agni Travel

Florence

Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. One of the best known cities of the world, Florence oozes with romance, architectural masterpieces, history and more. A visit to Tuscany is not complete without a visit to Florence.
 - Agni Travel

Siena

Siena is simply stunning. The breathtaking architecture and culture, combined with the sophistication of the Italian creates a unique atmosphere. The highlight is 'The Campo' - the most remarkable squares (Piazzas) in all of Italy.
 - Agni Travel

Monteriggioni

A beautifully preserved medieval 'walled' village dating from the 13th century. It is only tiny: a small piazza surrounded by a few houses and a Church, but it has a wonderful atmosphere and is one of our 'must-visits' while visiting Tuscany.
 - Agni Travel

San Gimignano

San Gimignano is a medieval Tuscan town, with striking ancient towers which have made it famous. The towers are visible from far away over the rolling Tuscan hills. It offers a great day's visit and the main piazza offers plenty of eating and coffee shops.
 - Agni Travel

Pisa

Famous, of course, for its leaning tower. The tower though is only the bell-tower to a Cathedral which took over 400 years to build! Pisa though has many other delight to offer.
 - Agni Travel

Other Tuscan Locations

It sometimes seems as if every hill in Tuscany is crowned with a medieval town or village, all begging to be explored. Here is just a small selection.

end of column