Situated in western Italy, north of Rome, Tuscany is known for its artistic and cultural legacy. Florence, the region’s capital, is widely believed to have given birth to the Italian Renaissance and incorporates the largest concentration of Renaissance art and architecture. Tuscany is shielded by the Apennines in the north and east and by the Mediterranean Sea in the west.
Home to the Etruscan civilization before it was annexed by the Romans in 351 BC, the land of Tuscany boasts a very rich history. It was under the governance of the Romans that the city of Florence was established. Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, a Roman general and statesman, commonly known as Sulla, laid foundations to the city in 80 BC as a military settlement for his veteran soldiers. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Tuscany fell under the tutelage of a series of rulers, most notably the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines.
By the middle ages, the region saw steady growth in textiles, trade, agriculture and banking. The cities of Pisa, Arezzo, Siena, Pistoia and Florence became affluent and prospered. Eventually, Florence eclipsed them all.
After a succession of different forms of administrations, Florence was governed by an oligarchy of wealthy aristocrats, including the Medici Family who practically ruled the city on their own for decades to come. Giovanni de Medici, a papal banker, made Florence his business headquarters in 1397 and within no time got involved with the Florentine public, laying the foundations for the rise of his son and a key figure in Italian Renaissance, Cosimo de Medici.
In 1429, after the death of his father, Cosimo rose to head the bank and using his significant economic strength, consolidated his power over the city making the Medici Family the de facto rulers of Florence.
It was under the patronage of the Medici Family that Florence became the cultural capital of the world, encouraging art and literature and producing the likes of Dante, Boticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Macchiavelli and Petrarch, among other legendary figures from the Renaissance period. Because of its dominance in literature, the Florentine language became the lingua franca of the region and i the Italian language as we know it today.
Among all the Medicis who ruled Florence, the most prominent of them all was Lorenzo de Medici, the grandson of Cosimo. Lorenzo’s patronage saw Florence reach its greatest heights during the Renaissance.
In 1494, Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican friar and preacher led an uprising against the Medici Family forcing them to flee. Savonarola rule was short lived however and he was burned as a heretic in 1494.
The shift in power and the lack of a stable government, Tuscany faced an economic decline. In 1530 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V conquered Florence and reinstated the Medici Family as the Dukes of Florence. And within a few decades, Cosimo I de’ Medici became the Grand Duke of Tuscany ushering an aggressive economic revival that saw Florence yet again rise above its peers to become the art and culture capital of the world.
To this day, millions and millions of tourists visit Florence every year to gaze upon its incredible collection of Renaissance art and buildings.
Basilica di San Lorenzo
Piazza della Signoria
Dome of the Duomo of Florence
Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels
Santa Maria del Fiore