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Between the 13th and 10th centuries B.C., the so-called 'Villanova people' settled in Tuscany, originally from the Danube countries.

There are still many uncertainties about the earliest history of the Etruscans. Most historians, however, agree that the Etruscans arose from the amalgamation of various peoples, most probably the Villanova culture and groups of immigrants.

In the 2nd half of the 7th century BC, the Latin lands were occupied by the Etruscans, but further south they were stopped by the Greeks. In the north of Italy they did spread and controlled the trade on the Adriatic Sea from there. Etruria was at that time a federation of city-states, the 'lucomonies'.

Around 540 BC the Etruscans ruled over Rome and the entire northern Mediterranean.


In 509 BC the last Roman king, Tarquinius Superbus, fell and the decline of Etruscan power in the Mediterranean began. At the same time, the Roman Republic was founded and the Etruscan fleet was finally defeated by the Greeks.

In the 3rd century B.C. many Etruscan towns came under Roman rule and that meant the end of the Etruscans' independence. Under Emperor Augustus, the Tuscan territory was named a region of the 'province of Italy' and called Etruria; under Emperor Diocletian (3rd century AD), the region was named 'Tuscia' with Florence as its capital.

Middle Ages

The fall of the Roman Empire was hastened in the 5th century by the invasions of Germanic tribes, including Visigoths, Vandals and Ostrogoths. In the period 568-774 AD, the Lombards divided Tuscany, with Lucca as their capital, into a number of duchies. Due to its relatively isolated position, Tuscany suffered little from the invasions of hostile peoples that occurred in the north and south of Italy. This allowed cities such as Chiusi, Arezzo and Massa Marittima to develop undisturbed east of Lucca. A road along Siena and Lucca, the 'Via Romea', further strengthened the unity of the region and ensured further economic development.

Under the Francs (9th-10th centuries), Tuscany became a marquisate and Florence began to develop as the most important city in the region. In 854 Florence was joined to Fiesole and this administrative unit extended from the Apennines to Siena.

From the 11th century, the era of the free cities or "comuni" began. Even the deployment of imperial troops against Florence was to no avail: in 1154 the city was legally given complete control, even over its surroundings ("contado"). Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the cities benefited from conflicts between the emperor and the pope. Sometimes they allied themselves with the papacy, sometimes with the empire, depending on the interests at hand. Cities also often took an opposing position in order to establish a double autonomy in relation to the worldly and ecclesiastical powers. The pope's followers were called Guelphs, the emperor's followers Ghibellines. Florence sided with the Ghibellines, cities like Pisa and Siena sided with the Ghibellines.

De Medici family in power

In 1348, a plague epidemic struck the Italian cities, wiping out about half of the population in Florence. Nevertheless, in the 14th century Florence began to expand its power. In 1406 the important port city of Pisa was conquered and, with the support of several European princes, a new duchy was formed under the rule of a Florentine family, the Medici, who had settled in Florence at the beginning of the 13th century. In the following centuries, they developed into important independent bankers with branches in the most important cities in Italy. In addition, they acquired a great deal of political power and in 1421 Giovanni de Medici held the highest administrative post in the Florentine city council. The Medici's position of power was further strengthened by the support of other important families and they were also very popular with the common people. They also invested a lot of money in the cultural and intellectual development of Florence, which would become the capital of the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. Some members of the family even became popes.

In the 16th century, Italy was added to Charles V's empire, but the Medici remained important to the city as Grand Dukes of the new state of Tuscany. In 1569, Cosimo I de Medici was granted the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany by Pope Pius V. At that time, the economic and cultural situation of Florence and the other Tuscan cities was declining. Because of the discovery of America, the focus of trade was no longer on the cities on the Mediterranean coast, but on the cities on the Atlantic coast. Culturally, Florence was surpassed by Rome.

Tuscany part of a united Italy

Due to the strong economic decline, Tuscany became a predominantly agricultural area. In the 18th century, the Medici dynasty died out: the weak Gian Gastone was the last representative. This was also the beginning of the rule of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine in Tuscany. Under the reign of Leopold I (1765-1790) and his son Ferdinand III, Tuscany recovered and entered a period of development and modernisation.

After a brief 'French Era' at the beginning of the 19th century, Tuscany, enlarged to include the island of Elba, was returned to Ferdinand III. In 1824 he was succeeded by his son, Leopold II. During his reign, Tuscany became one of the centres of the 'Risorgimento', a movement to free Italy from foreign domination and to create a single national state.

In the European revolution year 1848, a constitution was granted and a liberal government installed. However, the Austrians went too far and sent an army into Tuscany. Florence was occupied and the sovereignty of the Grand Duke was restored. This situation repeated itself in the war between Austria and Sardinia-Piedmont/France, when Tuscany sided with Sardinia. In the end, however, Tuscany was annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia by Victor Emanuel II. A plebiscite in 1860 confirmed this fact.

On March 14, 1861, in Turin, the Kingdom of Italy under Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed, in which Tuscany immediately claimed a prominent role. From 1865 to 1870, Florence was even the capital of the united Italy, before Rome!

20th century

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, industrial development in Tuscany was well underway, and this was accompanied by increasing urbanisation and population growth. In 1905, work began on draining the Maremma, which within a few years meant that malaria disappeared from Italy for good. During the First World War, Italy sided with the Allies. In 1919 Mugello was hit by an earthquake.

After the 'March on Rome' on 27 October 1922, Benito Mussolini came to power and at the end of this decade the Tuscan industry and mining were hit by a worldwide economic crisis.

In the Second World War, Italy sided with Nazi Germany, and central Italy and Tuscany in particular became the scene of fierce fighting. Pisa, Livorno and Grosseto were hit by heavy Allied bombing and German bombs destroyed all the bridges in Florence except the Ponte Vecchio. On 12 August 1944 Florence was conquered by Allied troops.

In June 1946, the Republic of Italy was proclaimed. In 1948, Italy was divided into twenty regions and Tuscany into nine provinces: Arezzo, Florence, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa-Carrara. Pisa, Pistoia and Siena. In 1994, the province of Prato was added.

On 4 November 1966, Florence in particular was hit by a major flood from the River Arno. A number of valuable works of art were irreparably damaged.

In 1982, the historic centre of Florence was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a few years later, in 1986, Florence was declared the European Capital of Culture.

In 1988, a law was enacted to ban all automobile traffic from the centres of major cities such as Florence, Lucca, Siena and Volterra.

In 1990 San Gimignano was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List and in 2004 the valley of the Orcia.

In 1992 the Apuan Alps were officially declared a natural park and in 1993 the Maremma Natural Reserve was awarded the special prize for environmental protection by the Council of Europe. In the same year, on 27 May, there was an attack on the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. In this attack, three paintings were destroyed and many other works of art were seriously damaged.

In 1996 the Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano was established, consisting of the islands Montecristo, Gorgona, Giannutri, Pianosa and part of the islands Elba, Capraia and Giglio.

See also the history of Italy.


Aigner, G. / Toscane

Beliën, H. / Toscane/Umbrië

Breuiller, J. / Toscane, Umbrië

Büld Campetti, C. / Toscane
Het Spectrum

Catling, C. / Florence & Toscane
Van Reemst

Florence en Toscane

Leeuwen, G. van / Toscane

Leeuwen, G. van / Toscane, Umbrië

Pelz, M. / Toscane

Romig-Kirsch, U. / Toscane
Van Reemst

Schaper, A. / Toscane, Umbrië en de Marken

Tuscany & Umbria
Lonely Planet

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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