Tuscany has been an important focal point for trade relations in the Mediterranean area for many centuries. The region’s central location made it ideally qualified for business within the country, but also for handling goods that were heading to Europe and the Orient via the ports of Genoa, Venice and Pisa. The Romans captured Pisa in about 180 BC and built the first port on the coast near the city in order to use it as a base for their military activities in the Mediterranean area. During the course of time, Pisa developed into a significant maritime power and trading city on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The main port for the town of Volterra, which is located to the west of the harbour on a mountain ridge above the Cecina valley, was built in Vada, just a few kilometres south of Pisa, in ancient times. The port town was located right next to the ‘Via Aurelia’ Roman trading route, which went from Rome as far as Pisa at that time.
Large trading towns were built further inland at the same time. Florence in particular became extremely important in the course of this process. The historic city centre, which is still very well preserved and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, still demonstrates the city’s medieval wealth. The town developed into a trading power through the dominance of the Medici family and textiles from Florence were well-known far beyond the country’s borders. Various small manual craft centres and workshops for leather and paper goods can still be admired today, particularly in the former working district of Oltarno. The Palazzio Pitti (also known as Pitti Palace), which was used by the Medici family as their headquarters, and the Boboli Gardens behind it with their numerous statues bear witness to the city’s historical, economic and political power. When Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy for a short time in the 19th century, the Piazzale Michelangelo was built; the bronze copy of the artist’s work, David, stands in the centre of the square and the site offers visitors a breathtaking view across the city and to the hills in Tuscany.
The Uffizi Gallery is located on the north side of the river Arno, at the heart of the old city. Visitors are not only able to admire works of sculpture, but also famous paintings such as “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli at the world-famous art museum. The Museo Galileo is located just a few steps away, directly in the neighbouring building, and it provides exciting insights into the geocentric world view and different kinds of discoveries that were made during the 15th and 16th centres. It is an absolute must for all those interested in science!
The central element in the old city is the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, which is primarily famous for its dome. It was built by Filippo Brunelleschi between 1420 and 1436 and is classified as the largest brick dome in the world – its diameter measures 45 metres and it is more than 116 metres high overall. The interior of the dome is decorated by an enormous fresco, which was extravagantly put in place by several artists during the 16th century.
Tuscany, however, also has a large number of interesting places that are worth visiting away from its capital. Ideally, you should allow at least one week, or preferably two, to discover the beauty and variety of the region and also have time for a break to enjoy some Italian ice cream!
The Museo Leonardiano Vinci in the small, inconspicuous village of Vinci, to the west of Florence, provides some idea of the life and the ground-breaking discoveries made by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest universal scholars of all time. The exhibition not only contains numerous scientific and technical models, but also medical exhibits of Leonardo’s studies of the human body. The Palazzo Pfanner is located right at the heart of the town of Lucca. The building appears to be rather dreary and unassuming from outside, but is home to a magnificently designed garden at the rear of the property. The Pfanner family from Bavaria purchased the palace in the 19th century and opened Italy’s first brewery with an accompanying beer garden there. The Pfanner family still owns the palace today. The rooms and the gardens have been opened for visitors and special events for several years.
A dream in white! One of the world’s largest deposits of marble is hidden away in the north of the Tuscany region, in the middle of the Apuan Alps. The precious Cararra marble has been quarried here since the Roman period. It is even possible to drive into the quarry in your own car at some places and view it from inside. The hollow areas that have been created are now so large that they are not only used for guided tours for visitors, but some of them for events such as fashion shows too.
The medieval town of San Gimignano is described as the “Manhattan of Tuscany” because of its towers built to commemorate noble families, some of which rise to a height of more than 50 metres. Only 15 of the original 72 towers still exist in the town today. Wealthy patrician families not only used them as an object of prestige in the past, but also as a place of refuge if the town was attacked and besieged. The Torre Grossa is the only tower that people can visit today. There is a wonderful view of the extensive Tuscan landscape from the top!
The Palio di Siena takes place twice a year. It is regarded as the toughest horse race in the world and is also the most important cultural event in the town. The various districts of Siena (contrada) have been competing against each other on a circular course, which is about 300 metres long in the centre of town, for centuries. The horses are ridden without a saddle and the horse that crosses the finishing line most quickly after completing three circuits is the winner – whether it still has its rider on its back or not!
With a tilt of 3.97 degrees, it is not the most crooked, but is probably the most famous tower in the world: the leaning tower of Pisa. It took 200 years from the time that the foundation was laid until the tower was completed because the building work had to be interrupted for several years. When the first three floors had been completed in the 12th century, the foundations gave way on one side and the tower tilted towards the south-east. The upper floors were then constructed with a less prominent angle of tilt in order to compensate for the misalignment so that the equilibrium was restored to a certain extent. If you stand right next to the 55-high metre tower that is made of Carrara marble, you will discover that the tower is not only crooked, but appears to be misaligned within itself because of the different angles of tilt used within the structure.
The island of Elba is located off the coast of Tuscany. It is Italy’s third-largest island and is primarily well-known for the fact that Napoleon Bonaparte lived in exile here for ten months in 1814. Elba is now well-known for its many small beaches and crystal-clear water, which is absolutely ideal for diving or snorkelling. You can also obtain a particularly spectacular view from Monte Capanne, the highest mountain on the island. It is about 1019 metres high and offers a view of the Italian mainland and even as far as Corsica, if the visibility is good.
Italy did not have a standard language for centuries. A unified language and literature, which people could understand all over the country, only developed out of the many local dialects that were spoken when various scholars joined forces to form the so-called “scuola siciliana” at the court of Frederick II during the 13th century. The poet and philosopher, Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321), played a particularly important role in the creation of the language that was suitable for people all over Italy. He used the Tuscan language in his works and it was considered to be the prestige variety at that time and what is now standard Italian ultimately developed out of it.
Tuscan cuisine is as varied as the region itself and it places particular emphasis on local ingredients such as vegetables or venison. Different kinds of food are still planted and made according to traditional methods. The bread in Tuscany, for example, still does not contain any salt – in contrast to the rest of Italy. This can be traced back to the fact that Florence had increased the tax on salt in the 12th century and bread has been baked without any salt since that time. The following dishes can be ideally combined with ‘pane sciocco’, the bread from Tuscany, for example:
The Colline del Chianti range of hills extends between Pisa and Montalcino in the centre of Tuscany. Chianti wine has been produced in this region for several centuries; it is a red wine and is well-known far beyond the borders of Italy. Chianti formerly epitomised Italian wine and it can now be purchased directly from numerous local vineyards. The directions to the vineyards are normally displayed on small information signs at the side of the road.
The slopes of the Tuscan hills are covered by a large number of extensive olive groves – and so what could be more appropriate than buying fresh, cold-pressed oil directly in the region? There are often shops or small stands from local agricultural companies and they sell their olive oil there at affordable prices. If you ask nicely, you can normally sample the product before buying it.
Sheep are still a major element in Tuscan livestock farming. And they are the source of the pecorino – a kind of cheese that has a tradition going back centuries. Both Lorenzo de Medici and Pope Pius III are supposed to have enjoyed it in the past too. Almost every region in Tuscany produces its own pecorino cheese, so that a large number of different varieties exist. The cheese is available as a mild or full-flavoured variety, but also with herbs or blossoms.
In addition to having countless attractions for tourists, Tuscany has plenty to offer logistics specialists, thanks to its central location in the Mediterranean region. A modern motorway network, which involves 500 kilometres of roadway in all, connects more than ten metropolitan areas with each other here. The main line on the Italian railway system also passes through Tuscany and this means that the region has ideal links with other European countries as well as the north and south of Italy – about 75 percent of the Italian market is located within a radius of 400 kilometres from here. Livorno has the largest port in Tuscany and it is also Italy’s third-largest port. It has maritime links as far as Spain and Morocco or to the islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to the extensive infrastructure at the multi-purpose port, it can handle all kinds of goods. A separate railway connection also ensures that the port is linked to the most important national railway and road networks – and the international airports at Pisa and Florence. Rhenus Italy also provides different logistics services in Pisa and Florence, especially domestic and cross-border truck transport operations, which account for more than 80 percent of the logistics market in Tuscany. Rhenus is also available to provide home delivery services for its customers in its warehousing division.
With a coverage of more than 40 branches in Italy, Rhenus offers solutions for road freight, air and ocean freight, warehousing and home delivery – based on your needs. For logistics solutions in Tuscany get in touch with the Rhenus team in Prato, Calenzano, Firenze or Pisa!
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