Tuscany is famed around the world for its art, food and natural beauty. But, even if you’re familiar with the main sights, there may be plenty of facts about Tuscany you might not know. Here we open the pandoras box of fascinating trivia about one of Italy’s most famous regions.
Tuscany’s impressive 7 UNESCO sites
Not bad for a single region. Which are they? Florence of course, Siena‘s Medieval historical centre, the Square of Miracles in Pisa with its Leaning Tower. There’s San Gimignano and its perfectly preserved house-towers, the dreamy landscape of the Val d’Orcia, Pienza the ‘ideal city’ and lastly, but by no means least, the 12 Medicean Villas near Florence, where the Medici used to spend their leisure time.
Florence’s dialect gave birth to the Italian language
How did this happen? Think of Italy being politically and linguistically fragmented in the 14th century, with plenty of dialects being spoken in the different areas, and Latin used for writing official documents and literature. Florence-born Dante Alighieri wrote the “Divine Comedy” (1308-1320) in Florentine dialect. His poem became extremely popular and had many imitators all around Italy, and this led to his dialect becoming the the ‘standard language’ that educated Italian people would understand. Dante gave his “common tongue” the validity of a literary language. Today Tuscany is the only Italian region where the ‘dialect’ spoken is practically Italian.
Tuscany’s hall of fame
Dante Alighieri wasn’t the only famous character to take his first steps on Tuscan soil. The mathematician Fibonacci who taught the Western world the Arabic numeral system and Galileo Galilei, are both from Pisa. Tuscany has also given the art world geniuses in the form of Michelangelo and Leonardo da (from) Vinci, not to mention Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Giotto, and Masaccio. Amerigo Vespucci, the explorer who gave his name to the new continent America, was from Florence and started his working life under the Medici family. Not a bad roll call for one place.
Dan Brown and Dante’s death mask
In Florence you can follow in the footsteps of Professor Langdon from the “Inferno” novel and try to steal Dante’s death mask. The mask shown in the film does indeed exist and it can be found in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It can be seen by anyone visiting the building in Piazza Signoria. It’s not been made from a cast of the dead poet’s face, but it’s eerie enough.
Want to play Indiana Jones? Well, in Tuscany you can. The Etruscans, that mysterious people who were already producing wine in this part of the world in the 8th century B.C., left a rich heritage behind them. Their necropoli, or cities of the dead, can be visited today in the Maremma and the territory is riddled with other Etruscan remains too.
Meat delicacies for the daring
Carnivores rejoice! Tuscany is meat heaven. Meat is taken very seriously here indeed – from the bloody Fiorentina steak to some of the best cured meat in Italy (made from the pig breed known as cinta senese). But there’s more. Do you know that one of the most popular delicacies amongst locals is boiled cow’s stomach, also known as Lampredotto? If you can manage that we suggest you try cervello fritto too, or fried brain.
Tuscany’s Sword in the Stone
Arthurian legend meets Medieval spirituality in the Montesiepi Chapel near Chiusdino, dedicated to San Galgano. This is where the knight-turned saint Galgano Guidotti thrust his sword into the stone to renounce violence and embrace God. Today we can still see it and it reminds us that the Medieval past is never far away in Tuscany.
Tuscan wine isn’t all about Chianti. Chianti is famous, delicious and very carefully regulated. But some wine producers in the 70’s decided to try something different, deviating from the standard formulas, to create pure alchemy in the vineyards surrounding Bolgheri. This is how the Supertuscans were born. Superior wines with a price to match.
A first in history
The Gran Duchy of Tuscany was the first state in the whole world to abolish death penalty. It happened in 1786 during the Lorena rule.
It’s not all about scenic countryside
Its countryside makes Tuscany famous all over the world with countless postcards. But there’s also the Accona desert south of Siena, the Apuan Alps with their famous marble quarries, and the Apennines where people go skiing in winter. As for water, there’s a scenic Orbetello lagoon in the south.
Read more about Tuscany’s diverse landscapes.