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Region Italy : Toscana

Italy : Toscana

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Ghibello by Uggiano, Podere Centoia, Cordella

Toscana is the fifth largest region in Italy and ninth in population. It stretches from the northwest bordering Liguria to the central part of the peninsula neighboring Umbria and Lazio. Florence is Toscana's administrative capital, and its other provinces include Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa-Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena.

Prehistorically, Toscana was largely under water, and what is now the coastal strip was submerged. The hills leading down to Lucca and Livorno were originally islands. Later, the southern part of the region was formed by active volcanoes.

The Etruscan were the first advanced civilization to inhabit the region. They were incredibly artistic along with being great engineers and builders. The Etruscan were accomplished farmers, and it was on their account that viticulture flourished in the area. The Etruscan were eventually colonized by the Romans, and around the third century BC, they were completely absorbed into the Roman Empire. However, their language and great culture greatly influenced the Romans, so they named the region after the Etruscan.

From the fall of the Roman Empire, Toscana went through a flurry of Barbarian invasions. It was not until the Longobard (sixth to eight century) that things began to settle again. The invasions were not as bad as they were in other parts of Italy. This factor was undoubtedly key to the relative preeminence of Tuscan cities during the Middle Ages.

From the era of the struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, between bishops and feudal rulers, the Tuscan cities flourished and became wealthy. Eventually their powers collided into rivalry wars: Pisa against Lucca, Florence against Fiesole, Siena against Arezzo. Ultimately, Florence came to rule the roost and emerged as a capitalist city. Grown wealthy on commerce, particularly the textile trade, Florence also began to dominate on a cultural and artistic level. It was during this period that the Medici family became the new ruling dynasty. A Florentine family of middle class bankers, they gained the support of the key European families and Monarchies. During their long rule, until the first part of the 18th century, the arts rose to an all-time greatness. Under the Midici's patronage, many famous artists emerged: Brunelleschi, Donatello, Alberti, Ghiberti, Masaccio, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci.

After the Medici dynasty came into the hands of the House of Lorraine and under Napoleonic reforms, Florence became the capital of the "Kingdom of Etruria". Tuscany, divided then into three districts, was annexed to the French Empire, only to be returned into a Grand Duchy and given by Napoleon to his sister.

Tuscana entered into united Italy in 1860, and Florence went on to be the temporary capital of Italy from 1865 to 1870. During World War II, Toscana was badly hit, especially along the so-called Gothic line. Florence, Pisa and Livorno were damaged by intense bombing, and the region took a very active role during the resistance as it did with the vigorous post-war reconstruction.

Today, Toscana has become one of the tourist meccas of the world. Most of the castles are now "Agro-Turismo", and the Chianti area with its famed vineyards is parceled out to many international investors. Much like Bordeaux and Napa Valley, the Tuscan countryside and its vineyards have become a status quo of the rich and famous.