Top 10 things you didn’t know about Tuscany

Nestled on the coast of Italy, the region of Tuscany is packed with beautiful scenery, historical architecture and luscious vineyards. There are plenty of reasons to visit Tuscany, from Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell'Accademia delle Bella Arti in Florence, to the world famous leaning tower of Pisa, and if you’re planning a trip you’ll certainly have a packed schedule if you plan to see it all. However, there are also many things for which Tuscany is notable, yet so many visitors pass through the region without realising them. Here are ten of the top facts about Tuscany that you probably didn’t know, and which should make your time there all the richer.
Church of San Michele degli Scalzi in Pisa - Apse and (leaning) bell-tower [Photo Credits: Samuele Manfrin]
Church of San Michele degli Scalzi in Pisa - Apse and (leaning) bell-tower [Photo Credits: Samuele Manfrin]
  1. Tuscany is the birthplace of the Italian language: As the heart and soul of the Renaissance, Tuscany was an incredibly important cultural centre, consequently being a major influencer of the commercial and artistic development of Europe, and indeed the world. Whilst Italian clearly shares a close relationship with the Latin language, the modern Italian that is spoken throughout the country today is based upon the Toscano (Tuscan) dialect which was formed during the Renaissance period.
  2. Tuscany has more premiership football teams than any other Italian region: As a country which is famed for world class football teams, Tuscany has to be the place to head to if you want to see some top sporting action. Head to the Artemio Franchi in Florence to see the superstars of Fiorentina in action, or pay a visit to the Montepaschi Arena near San Domenico to see smaller, but no less talented, AC Siena play. The third team worth a visit are AS Livorno, a small and friendly club who play at Stadio Armando Picchi in Piazzale Montello.
  3. Tuscany was the first region to adopt pavements: In 1339, the city of Florence became the first European city to pave their streets. A product of the rich banks and merchants of that era, Florence set the bar for cities around Europe and the rest of the world with this trend setting action. 
    Montepulciano - paved street [Photo Credits: Serena Puosi]
    Montepulciano - paved street [Photo Credits: Serena Puosi]
  4. There are more UNESCO World Heritage sites in Tuscany than in Australia or South Africa: For those seeking a cultural trip, there are few places in the world that can come close to the riches Tuscany has to offer. Just steps from the stunning villas in Tuscany you can find historically significant, artistically pioneering and architecturally outstanding places to visit, including the UNESCO sites of Siena, Florence and Pienza.
  5. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is not the only one: Believe it or not, there are other towers in Tuscany with a distinct lean to them, including at the church of St. Nicola and the bell tower of the church of St. Michele dei Scalzi. In fact, the word ‘Pisa’ comes from the Greek word for ‘marsh land’, and the Italian architects might have done well to consider this fact before they built the 15,000 tonne tower.
  6. Pinocchio is from Tuscany: Although most people associate Pinocchio with the 1940 Disney film, the original story was written by Carlo Collodi in 1826 who hailed from Florence.
    Dogfish in Collodi - Pinocchio Park
    Dogfish in Collodi - Pinocchio Park
  7. Tuscany is Europe’s answer to Hollywood: The sheer beauty and magnificence of the Tuscan countryside has lent itself to becoming a film set for a number of blockbuster hits, including Twilight New Moon and Gladiator. It might not have as many A-list celebrities enjoying the local restaurants as the Beverly Hills do, but it certainly has a claim to fame.
  8. Marble Arch is of Tuscan origin: You may well be familiar with the huge arch in London that marks the corners of Park Lane and Oxford Street, but did you know almost all of the marble that was used in its construction was shipped over from Tuscany? Many of the great artists of the Renaissance made the most of this wonderful natural resource too, fashioning such icons as Michelangelo’s David which you can see in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.
  9. Tuscany has ski resorts: You might associate Tuscany more readily with warm weather and lush vegetation, but in the winter the slopes of Mount Amiata and Abetone become a haven for skiers, snowboarders and hikers looking to enjoy the wintry conditions.
  10. You’ll find it hard to find a ‘free’ beach in Tuscany: Travelling to the beaches, you will notice a good few require payment to access them. The trend for ‘private’ beaches in Tuscany can be a little off putting at first, but the result of having paid access is that the beaches are quieter, cleaner and safer than you would experience otherwise. 
    [Photo Credits: Ingunn Kjøl Wiig]
    [Photo Credits: Ingunn Kjøl Wiig]
Next time you’re in Tuscany, you’ll be able to show off your superior knowledge and understanding of the culture with this canny list of interesting facts. Don’t forget to take a great guide book too, as the Tuscan region is full of hidden gems and fascinating history that you could miss if you don’t know where to look. Charlie Stephenson is the Managing Director of the Villa & Ski division at Red Savannah. Charlie regularly visits Italy (Tuscany, Umbria and the Amalfi Coast are his particular areas of expertise) and the Caribbean to source luxury rental villas. You can contact Charlie here and follow him on Twitter.