Culture and history info
Inhabited in prehistoric times mostly around the lakes and rivers, far from the marshes of the coast, the region was occupied in the 11th century BC by the Etruscans, people of Eastern origin, who originally occupied a great part of central Italy including Tuscany, Umbria and Marche. The Etruscans were artisans and merchants, and established an organized civilization in the region, founding cities like Chiusi, Volterra, Cortona, Arezzo, Fiesole.Like the Greeks, their political organization was based on federations of independent cities, united by national and religious identity and, though the source of their rich culture, this was also the reason of their defeat by less civilized but better militarily organized peoples like the Romans, who finally in the 3rd century BC occupied the region, which was first still called Etruria (and included also Umbria) but later, as the Septima Regio of the Empire, came to be called Tuscia and its capital city became Florentia.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was occupied by the Lombards who established the Tuscia Dukedom in the early 7th century AD, then by the Franks who founded the marquisdom of Toscana with capital Lucca. In 1115 Countess Matilde left all her possessions to the Church, which was at the origin of the conflicts with the Empire and the rise of the two parties Guelphs (followers of the Pope) and Ghibellines (followers of the Emperor), and wars were fought between the Tuscan cities, until the Guelphs, at whose head was Florence, finally prevailed.In Florence at that time a model capitalistic economy developed, based on the financial power and banks on the one side, and on the textile industry on the other. Wealth and independence gave rise to culture and art, to the supremacy of the Tuscan dialect which became centuries later the model of the Italian language and therefore to strong feelings of national identity for Italy that, though would remain politically divided until 1860 and beyond.
From the Renaissance
Tuscany was the starting point of the Revival of Learning and the Renaissance, long before the conventional date of the end of the Middle Ages in 1492. The Tuscan cities, that had enjoyed for century independence, economic wealth and freedom, were gradually suppressed first under the Medici rule and then in 1569 when Cosimo I Medici was appointed by the Pope as Granduke of Tuscany.
When finally the Medici dynasty died out, the region passed to first in 1718 to the Spaniards, and then in 1737 under the Habsburgs of Austria. Apart from the Napoleonic period, the restoration of Grand-Duke Leopoldo II marked a period of liberalism and tolerance, and Tuscany became a center of reforms, though the movement in favor of Italian unity under the Savoy prevailed, and Tuscany was united to the Italian Kingdom through a referendum in 1860.