Tuscany gained preeminence during and still owes much of its renown to the reign of the Medici and their patronage of the arts. Their effect on the region made Tuscany the cultural mecca it is today.
Natural beauty also contributes to the region?s allure. Lined by the Apennine Mountains, the Apuan Alps, and the Tyrrhenian sea, and cut through by the Arno river, Tuscany?s gently rolling hills dotted by cypresses, its bright fields of sunflowers, vineyards, and olive groves not only lend to the area?s lulling charm, but also account for Tuscany?s world-famous wines and olive oil.
In ancient times, the Etruscans populated what we now know as Tuscany. Rome annexed the region in 351 B.C., and after the Roman empire?s collapse, it became its own political entity. By the 1100?s, Tuscan cities were vying amongst each other for power and eventually Florence emerged as the dominant city-state.
Medici and Florence
By the fifteenth century, the Medici became the most predominant in the aristocratic oligarchy that came to rule Florence. Often touted as the greatest patron of the arts, Lorenzo de?Medici contributed much to the flourishing of the arts and literature that occurred in the period known as the Renaissance. Florentine Italian became the literary language and is the official language of Italy to this day. During this ?rebirth? after the gloom of the Middle Ages, Florence-dwellers included such writers as Machiavelli, Dante, and Petrarch, and such artists as Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
Toward the end of the fifteenth century, Medici dominance began to fade until they once again came to power when the Holy Roman Emperor conquered Florence and re-instated them in 1530. This rule lasted about another 200 years, during which the patronage of the Medici continued until, when the dynasty completely died out, the entirety of the Medici estate was left to the city.
Becoming a Part of Italy
The Austrian Dukes of Lorraine ruled Tuscany following the Medici, and were active in revitalizing the area following its decline into relative obscurity. By 1861, Tuscany voted to be annexed to Italy. Today Tuscany thrives as a major cultural center and its unrivaled masterpieces, bequeathed to humanity, are enjoyed by millions.