In the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance, Tuscany was a center of the arts and of learning. The Tuscan spoken language became the literary language of Italy after Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Boccaccio used it. Notable schools of architecture, sculpture, and painting developed from the 11th cent. in many cities, particularly Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Arezzo. From the 16th cent., however, intellectual and artistic life was almost wholly concentrated in Florence. There are universities at Florence, Pisa, and Siena.
This prosperous economic region is mostly hilly and mountainous. There is much fertile soil, especially in the Arno River valley and in the Maremma, a coastal strip. The Apennines are in northern and eastern Tuscany; in the northwest are the Alpi Apuane, where the famous Carrara marble is quarried; and there are also mountains in the south, where iron, magnesium, and quicksilver are produced. In addition, borax is produced in the Maremma, and iron is mined on Elba island. Along the northern coast, which is low and sandy, are fine pine woods. Farm products of the region include cereals, olives, tobacco, and grapes; sheep, goats, and hogs are widely raised. The wine produced in the Chianti district near Siena is world famous.
Tuscany has considerable industry, although farming is still an important chief occupation. Manufactures include cotton and woolen textiles, metal products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles, precision instruments, glass, refined petroleum, and fertilizer. The region is also well-known for its artisans, especially those in Florence, and tourism is an important industry.
Modern Tuscany corresponds to the larger part of ancient Etruria, and most of our knowledge of Etruscan civilization is derived from findings there. The Romans conquered the region in the mid-4th cent. B.C. After the fall of Rome, it was a Lombard duchy (6th-8th cent. A.D.), with Lucca as its capital, and later a powerful march under the Franks (8th-12th cent.). Matilda (d.1115), the last Frankish ruler, bequeathed her lands to the papacy, an act which long caused strife between popes and emperors.
In spite of the dual claims, most cities became (11th-12th cent.) free communes; some of them (Pisa, Lucca, Siena, and Florence) developed into strong republics. Commerce, industry, and the arts flourished. Guelph (pro-papal) and Ghibelline (pro-imperial) strife, however, was particularly violent in Tuscany, and there were strong rivalries both within and among cities. After a period of Pisan hegemony (12th-13th cent.), Florence gained control over most Tuscan cities in the 14th-15th cent.; Siena (1559) was the last city to fall under Florence's influence.
Under the Medici, the ruling family of Florence, Tuscany became (1569) a grand duchy, and thus again a political entity; only the republic of Lucca and the duchy of Massa and Carrara remained independent. After the extinction of the Medici line, Tuscany passed (1737) to ex-duke Francis of Lorraine (later Holy Roman Emperor Francis I), who was succeeded by Grand Duke Leopold I (1765-90; later Emperor Leopold II) and then by Ferdinand III (1790-1801; 1814-24). The French Revolutionary armies invaded Tuscany in 1799, and it was briefly included in the kingdom of Etruria (1801-7) and was ruled under the duchy of Parma, before it was annexed to France by Napoleon I.
In 1814, Tuscany again became a grand duchy, under the returning Ferdinand III and then under Leopold II (1824-59) and briefly under Ferdinand IV (1859-60). In 1848, Leopold was forced to grant a constitution, and in 1849 he had to leave Tuscany briefly when it was for a short time a republic. However, in 1852 he was able, with the help of Austria, to rescind the constitution. In 1860, Tuscany voted to unite with the kingdom of Sardinia.
Tuscany is known for its landscapes and its artistic legacy. Six Tuscan localities have been UNESCO protected sites: the historical center of Florence (1982), the historical center of Siena (1995), the square of the Cathedral of Pisa (1987), the historical center of San Gimignano (1990), the historical center of Pienza (1996) and the Val d'Orcia (2004).
Tuscany is divided into ten provinces:
The Etruscans were the first major civilization in this region of Italy; large enough to lay down a transport infrastructure, implement agriculture and mining, and produce vivid art. The people who formed the civilization lived in the area (called Etruria) well into prehistory. The civilisation grew to fill the area between the rivers Arno and Tiber from the eighth century, reaching their peak during the seventh and sixth centuries BC, and finally ceded all power and territory to the Romans by the first century. Throughout their existence, they lost territory to the surrounding civilisations of Magna Graecia, Carthage and Gaul. Despite being described 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 of the reasons for its eventual demise was this increasing lack of cultural distinction, including the adoption of the Etruscan upper class by the Romans.
In the 1400s, the rulers of Florence, the Medicis, annexed surrounding lands to create modern-day Tuscany. The War of Polish Succession in the 1730s, however, ended in the transfer of Tuscany from the Medicis to Francis, the Duke of Lorraine, who would become Holy Roman Emperor. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon, Tuscany was inherited by the successor to the Holy Roman Empire, namely, the Austrian Empire. With the Italian Wars of Independence in the 1850s, Tuscany was transferred from Austria to the newly unified nation of Italy.
Tourism is the economic backbone of the so-called "Cities of Art" (Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Cortona, Pienza), as well as on the coast and in the isles (Elba). Marble is quarried in the Alpi Apuane (Carrara, Versilia and Massa), in Garfagnana and in Lunigiana.
Towns of Tuscany with a population of 50,000 or more:
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