Tuscany is in central Italy. It borders Liguria to the northwest, Emilia-Romagna to the north, Marche and Umbria to the east, and Lazio to the south. To the west, the coastline is washed by the Ligurian Sea to the north, and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the south. The shore is mostly sandy beaches, with a number of rocky stretches. As well as the regional capital Firenze (Eng. Florence), the other provincial capitals are Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa-Carrara, Pistoia, Prato and Siena.
Present-day Tuscany corresponds closely to ancient Etruria – inhabited by the Etruscans – then Tuscia and finally Toscana (Eng. Tuscany). The landscape is mostly hilly and mountainous, with flatlands covering barely 10% of the region. The islands Elba, Il Giglio, Capraia, Montecristo and Pianosa all belong to Tuscany. The Arno is the main river.
The regional economy is based mainly on the tertiary sector, thanks mostly to tourism in the region’s great artistic and cultural cities, and at its beaches around Versilia and Grosseto. There are thermals spas at Chianciano Terme, Montecatini Terme, and Saturnia, and mountain tourism around the Abetone and Mount Amiata. Rural tourism is a growth area, based around the warm, welcoming ‘agriturismo’ farmhouse accommodation. The enchanting landscapes of the Chianti area, in particular, attract vast numbers of overseas visitors. As well as the many industrial centres distributed throughout the region, agriculture and winemaking remain major economic forces. Six wines are certified DOCG (‘Controlled and guaranteed designation of origin’): they are Carmignano, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Morellino di Scansano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Tuscany’s olive oils are also highly prized. The Tuscan cigar, made of local tobacco leaves, is also world famous. The port of Livorno is the most important of many in the region, with sea links to the islands and recreational sailing.
The beautiful city of Arezzo, full of monuments and artistic treasures, is economically dynamic, with a noteworthy gold-working milieu. Grosseto, the capital of the Maremma; Livorno and its port; Lucca with its city walls and prestigious architecture; the mountainous Garfagnana and Versilia with its beaches, Massa-Carrara with the Alpi Apuane (Eng. Apuan Alps) and its highly valued white marble; Pisa with the unique and spectacular Piazza dei Miracoli, packed with architectural marvels and the world-famous Leaning Tower; and, nearby, the ancient town of Volterra. Pistoia with its nurseries of plants and flowers; the village of Collodi, associated with Pinocchio, the children’s book by Carlo Lorenzini (1826‑1890), who used the pen name Carlo Collodi. Industrious Prato with its medieval centre and, finally, extraordinary Siena with its artistic treasures, the medieval villages of Pienza and San Gimignano and the surrounding area, and the century-long tradition of the Palio.
Tuscan cuisine is varied and delicious. The main dishes from the peasant traditions are as follows: bistecca alla fiorentina, taglio di vitellone, lardo di Colonnata, pappa al pomodoro, pici (thick, hand-rolled pasta, like fat spaghetti, from Siena), ribollita (potage made with bread and vegetables), testaroli (from Lunigiana), trippa, either alla fiorentina, or ‘lampredotto’. Other specialities include Livorno fish soup, known as ‘cacciucco’; ‘fettunta’, a variety of bruschetta; finocchiona, a kind of salami flavoured with fennel seeds, game, and many, many more. Sweets include ‘cantuccini’ biscuits eaten with vin Santo dessert wine, brigidini di Lamporecchio, castagnaccio, cialde di Montecatini, and, from Siena, panforte and ricciarelli.
In cycling, Gino Bartali entered the history and folklore of Italy. Then follow Gastone Nencini, Franco Bitossi, the late Franco Ballerini, Franco Chioccioli, Mario Cipollini, Michele Bartoli and Paolo Bettini, twice world champion. And there are many, many others: the unforgettable Fiorenzo Magni, who died in 2012, and his great friend Alfredo Martini (1921‑2014). A man of noble mind and great moral stance, within and beyond cycling. A uniquely wise, compassionate man and referee, who is recognised and remembered dearly. Thanks to Tuscany’s passion and warmth, the Giro d’Italia is truly at home here, with milestone moments in its long history. On top of that, a number of long-standing Classics confirm the region’s fondness for cycling.