Regional capital: Florence (Firenze)
Provinces: Arezzo, Firenze, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa-Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Siena
Tuscany (Italian: Toscana, pronounced [tosˈka(ː)na]) is a region in Central Italy. It has an area of 22,990 square kilometers (8,880 sq mi) and a population of about 3.6 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence.
Tuscany is known for its beautiful landscapes, its rich artistic legacy and vast influence on high culture. Tuscany is widely regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and has been home to some of the most influential people in history, such as Petrarch, Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Amerigo Vespucci and Puccini. Due to this, the region has several museums, most of which (such as the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace) are found in Florence, but others in towns and smaller villages. Tuscany has a unique culinary tradition, and is famous for its wines (most famous of which are Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino).
Six Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage 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). Furthermore, Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves. This makes Tuscany and its capital city Florence very popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of tourists every year. Florence itself receives an average of 10 million tourists a year by placing the city as one of the most visited in the world (in 2007, the city became the world's 46th most visited city, with over 1.715 million arrivals).
Climate and Geography
Roughly triangular in shape and situated between the northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the central Apennines, Tuscany has an area of approximately 22,993 square kilometers (8,877.6 sq mi). Surrounded and crossed by major mountain chains, and with few (but very fertile) plains, the region has a relief that is dominated by hilly country.
Whereas mountains cover 25% of the total area — 5,770 square kilometers (2,227.8 sq mi), and plains a mere 8.4% of the total area, almost all coinciding with the valley of the Arno River, summing for 1,930 square kilometers (745.2 sq mi), — overall hills make up two-thirds (66.5%) of the region's total area, covering 15,292 square kilometers (5,904.3 sq mi).
The climate, which is fairly mild in the coastal areas, is harsher and rainy in the interior, with considerable fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer giving the region a soil building active freeze-thaw cycle in part accounting for the region once having served as a key breadbasket of ancient Rome
Tuscany was first inhabited by the Etruscans. Most of our knowledge of their civilization is derived from archeological findings in Tuscany and across the Apennines in neighboring Emilia-Romagna. The Romans conquered the region in the mid-4th century B.C., and after the decline and fall of Rome, the area became a Lombard duchy with Lucca as its capital, and still later a powerful fief under the Franks. Eventually, Tuscany became part of the papacy lands, causing a long-lasting strife between popes and emperors, and their backers — the Guelph (pro-papal) and Ghibelline (pro-imperial).
In the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance, Tuscany was a center for the arts and of learning. The Tuscan spoken language became the literary language of Italy after Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Boccaccio used it instead of the traditional Latin to create profound works that are still read today. Notable schools of architecture, sculpture and painting developed from the 11th century in many cities (particularly Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Arezzo).
Under the Medici, the ruling family of Florence, Tuscany became a grand duchy in 1569, and so a powerful political and economic force in addition to being one of the main intellectual and artistic centers in Europe at the time. A visitor needs only to stroll the streets of Florence today from ancient palace to cathedral, wander across the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) that straddles the Arno River, or visit any of the ancient towns such as San Gimignano to be overwhelmed by the region's glorious past.
The historic and artistic legacy of such a past is embedded in both the folkloristic festivals that take place throughout the year and the rich artisan traditions that still survive today. With the industrial revolution, the craftsmen skills of the Tuscan people gradually took two complementing directions. At one end, capable professionals dedicated themselves to maintain and restore the existing historic artistic and architectural treasures. At the other end, the working artistic crafts community invested technical and manual skills in creating more accessible local industries such as jewelry making around Arezzo, fabrics and shoes in Prato, furniture in Poggibonsi and of course, precious marble works from Carrara.
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Chianti Classico
- Elba Aleatico Passito
- Montecucco Sangiovese
- Morellino di Scansano
- Suvereto (new)
- Val di Cornia Rosso (or Rosso della Val di Cornia) (new)
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
- Ansonica Costa dell'Argentario
- Bianco della Valdinievole
- Bianco dell'Empolese
- Bianco di Pitigliano
- Bianco pisano di San Torpé
- Bolgheri e Bolgheri Sassicaia
- Candia dei Colli Apuani
- Carmignano and Barco Reale di Carmignano
- Colli dell'Etruria centrale
- Colli di Luni
- Colline Lucchesi
- Monteregio di Massa Marittima
- Moscadello di Montalcino
- Rosso di Montepulciano
- Rosso di Montalcino
- San Gimignano
- Terratico di Bibbona
- Val d'Arbia
- Val di Cornia
- Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
- Vin Santo di Montepulciano
- Vin Santo del Chianti
- Alta Valle della Greve
- Colli della Toscana Centrale
- Costa Toscana
- Maremma Toscana
- Toscana or Toscano
- Val di Magra
Grapes and wines
Florence's region has shifted its stance in the last couple of decades from a complacent supplier of flask Chianti to the nation's most creative producer of premium wines. Tuscany's revolution began in Chianti and the central hills around Siena but quickly spread to take in the coastal zones that were not previously noted for vineyards.
Much of the progress has come with classical reds, as illustrated by the fact that four of Italy's nine DOCGs are here - Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti and Carmignano. But growing success with other reds (including the stylish table wines sometimes called "Super Tuscans") and a new breed of whites has enhanced the region's reputation.
Chianti, still the dominant force in Tuscan viniculture, has ranked as the most Italian of wines for decades. This is partly because it is the most voluminous and widely sold classified wine, but also because it has a personality that cannot be pinned do cover a vast territory of central Tuscany. In these often rugged hills variations in soil and climage contribute as much to the individuality of each authentic estate wine as do producers' quests for a personal style. These variations may be confusing, but for consumers who persist Chianti offers some of the best quality for value in wine today.
Since Chianti was elevated to DOCG in 1984,its production has sharply diminished and its quality has markedly improved. Chianti may be identified by its subdistricts, though only producers of Classico - whose consortium is symbolised by a black rooster - have made much of a geographical point so far. Many estates emphasise the name of a certain vineyard or area as a mark of distinction.
What Chianti has in common with all the classified red wines of Tuscany is its major grape variety Sangiovese. In the past varieties were often blended, but today the emphasis is strongly on Sangiovese. When the habitat is right, its superior clones - Montalcino's Brunello, Chianti's Sangioveto and Montepulciano's Prugnolo Gentile - must be ranked with italy's, and the world's noblest vines.
Tuscany's wine of greatest stature is Brunello di Montalcino, a DOCG from a fortress town south of Siena with reds of legendary power and the longevity that have commanded lofty prices. Conceived by the Biondi Santi family a century ago, Brunello is now produced under scores of labels, representing small farms, established estates and even international corporations. Brunello production averages less than 2 milion bottles a year, but producers also make the DOCs of Rosso di Montalcino (a younger wine from Brunello vines) and sweet white Moscadello di Montalcino (from Moscato).
Not far from Montalcino is Montepulciano with its Vino Nobile. The "nobile" entered the name centuries ago, apparently in homage to its status among the nobility. The poet Francesco Redi described Montepulciano's red as "king of all wines." After a lapse of decades, Vinto Nobile has made an impressive comeback under DOCG and is once again living up to its name. Similar to Chianti in composition, Vino Nobile can stand with the finest reserves. The DOC Rosso di Montepulciano is a younger alternative.
Carmignano rates special mention as a wine singled out for protection by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1716. Today this rare red from Sangiovese and Cabernet has qualified as DOCG, through the town's rose' and Vin Santo remain as DOC. Pomino, which was also cited in the decree of 1716, is a high altitude DOC zone with a Chardonnay and Pinot. Among numerous other DOC reds, Morellino di Scansano, grown in the coastal hills of the Maremma, seems to have a promising future.
From good vintages, pure Sangiovese wines are rich in body and intricate in flavour with deep ruby-garnet colours. Some are smooth and round almost from the start, but others need years to develop the nuances of bouquet and flavour unique to well-aged Tuscan reds. When conditions aren't right, reds from Sangiovese can be lean, harsh and bitter. That explains why some producers have planted other varieties to complement the natives. Cabenet Sauvignon and Merlot have made progress here.
By no means all the fine wines of Tuscany are classified. The production of up-scale "vini da tavola," which began as a trend in the 1970s, is now an established fact. Sassicaia and Tignanello were the prototypes, but now there are dozens more that rank among the most esteemed and expensive red wines of Italy.
Tuscan whites rarely enjoyed much prestige in the past, probably because most of them consisted of the pedestrian varieties of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Exceptions to the rule stand out from the crowd. Vernaccia di San Gimignano, from the ancient Vernaccia vine, has enjoyed a rapid revival. The rich Vin Santo, pressed from semidried grapes and aged in small wooden barrels, can be an exquisite - or, sometimes, exotic - dessert or aperitif wine.
The best known white is Galestro, made by a group of producers equipped to process Trebbiano with other varieties in a fresh and fruity table wine that is deliberately light in weight. Recently, whites of more complexity and character have been devised in Tuscany, due to the introduction of such varieties as Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco and Grigio, all of which are finding comfortable environments in cooler parts of the region's hills.
Since few of the new style wines are classified, a consortium of producers issues certain types under four categories: Predicato del Selvante for white based on Sauvignon Blanc; Predicato di Biturica for red based on Cabernet; Predicato di Cardisco for red based on Sangiovese.