Tuscany forms central Italy’s largest region with a land area of 23,000 square kilometers. Located on Italy's west coast, Tuscany borders the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ligurian coast, the Apennine Mountains and the regions of Umbria and Lazio. The regional capital Florence, or Firenze, was the center of the Italian Renaissance.

Geography and Heritage

Panoramic view of the city San Gimignano in Tuscany
Panoramic view of the city San Gimignano in Tuscany

Tuscany, or Toscana in Italian, includes a range of coastlines, coves, valleys, hills and mountains. The rich soils produce the world-famous wines of the Chianti district. The Alpi Apuane of the northwest is home to the renown Carrara marble quarry. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage Sites include the historic centers of Florence, San Gimignano, Pienza, Val d’Orcia and Siena, and the square of the Cathedral of Pisa.

Florence's Tribute

Wide shot of the city of Florence
Wide shot of the city of Florence

In Florence, the city of artisans, the Galleria degli Uffizi originally provided offices for city magistrates. From 1560 to 1574, painter, writer and architect Giorgio Vasari created the gallery’s horseshoe-shaped design. Francesco Medici supported the production of jewelry, perfumes and medicine in the west wing. The Medicean collection includes paintings and sculptures seized from Tuscan monasteries in the 19th century. The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial south of Florence honors 4,402 American servicemen and women who died in the World War II battle liberating Italy from the Nazis, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission. In the 1940s, the Commission erected this cemetery astride the Greve River by a forested hill.

Pisa's Battle on the Bridge

Wide shot of the leaning tower of Pisa and surrounding buildings
Wide shot of the leaning tower of Pisa and surrounding buildings

Pisa, with its famous leaning tower and cathedral, hosts a game called Gioco del Ponte, where two teams in historic costume compete on the bridge known as Ponte di Mezzo. The game, which originated in 1568, pits two teams of 20 men representing the Tramontana and the Mezzogiorno. Teams on the bridge must push a large cart from opposite sides and force their opponents back. The game’s early violence resulted in abolishing the event in 1785. In 1981, the Council Administration allowed the game to resume. The modern version includes a cart on a short sliding rail.

Lucca's Walled City

Medieval wall surrounding the town of Lucca
Medieval wall surrounding the town of Lucca

Tucked away from the sunny coastline are cities such as Lucca that offer examples of historic urban planning that benefit contemporary residents. Lucca, in northwestern Tuscany, features a walled city built from 1544 to 1645. Composed of small, red bricks, the wall protected Lucca from Florence. A Roman amphitheater inspired a medieval piazza, or town square, where homes followed the outer edge of walls. Within the walls a small garden flourished until the mid-19th century. The wall currently provides a recreational area for biking, jogging and walking.

Pinocchio's Legacy

Puppets for sale in a Pescia-Collodi market
Puppets for sale in a Pescia-Collodi market

In the town of Pescia-Collodi, residents celebrate Pinocchio’s birthday on May 25. "The Adventures of Pinocchio," Carlo Collodi’s story of the wooden marionette that transforms into a young boy, comes to life in a festival. Pinocchio Park features a literary itinerary set by artists specializing in architecture, sculptures and mosaics that integrate art and nature. Seasonal events include puppet shows and puppet-making workshops.