|Tuscany is siyuated in the centre of Italy and borders on Liguria and l'Emilia Romagna to the nord, Marche and Umbria to the est, Lazio to the south and Tirrenian Sea to the west. It is divided into 9 Province - Florence, Arezzo, Siena, Grosseto, Pistoia, Lucca, Massa-Carrara, Pisa and Livorno. The Regional Administrative Centre is Florence.||
In the general panorama of the Italian regions, Tuscany can well claim a position of prestige, not only for its advantageous geographical location in the very center of the entire Mediterranean basin, but even more so for the historical, artistic and cultural heritage which has marked its evolution throughout the centuries. From the remote era od Etruscan civilization, which gave the region its name, to the splendors of the Renaissance and later periods, Tuscany has played a consistent and determining role in the modelling of Western Civilization. The most significat and culturally rich period of Tuscan history is generally dated from the end of the 13th century up to and including the entire 16th century. Tuscany claims the double merit of having preserved this immense historical and artistic heritage, almost intact, and at the same time, of having revitalized this glorious past in step with the times. On the map Tuscany appears as a triangle with the Tyrrhenian coast as its base, the Appenine mountains forming one side bordering on the neighboring Emilia-Romagna region and the Umbria foothills and the Lazio plain completing the third. Winter in Tuscany is reasonably mild; the summer long and dry. These two climatic factors enhance the region's tourist vocation for both foreign and domestic visitors. Add to this the typical olive-green, silver-gray colours of the Tuscan countryside and the result is a natural paradise of unequalled beauty.
AGRICULTURE, INDUSTRY AND THE ARTISAN SECTOR
The two principal agricultural products are table and wine grapes, and olives, used mainly for oil. Tuscan olive oil is universally recognized as one of the premium Italian oils for its light and savory taste. The agricultural activities denotes a definite and progressive trend towards quality rather than quantity production. Regarding wine production, the Chianti area, between Florence and Siena, is internationally famous for its high quality wines, the result of centuries of painstaking wine-making traditions. Another agricultural activity of increasing importance in Tuscany is floriculture and horticulture.
The economy of Tuscany is characterized by the widespread diffusion of small and middle-sized enterprises often agglomerated and integrated at local levels. Manufacturing activities in Tuscany are extremely varied: chemical industries on the coastal plains, geothermal energy plants at Lardarello, naval shipyards at Leghorn (one of the major countainer ports of the Mediterranean), high-precision instruments, machinery and machine tools in the industrial zones of Florence, Pistoia and Pontedera, textile factories in the Prato area, glassworks in Empoli, furniture and gol-jewelry manufacturing in Arezzo, leather and shoe districts in many of the provinces. Carrara marble, quarried since Roman times out of the shining white slopes of the Apuan mountais, merits special mention: it was here that Michelangelo selected the best quality blocks for his masterpieces. But perhaps Tuscan skill and spirit of invention find their most creative expression in local handicraft industries. This is a sector in which Tuscany exercises an uncontrasted supremacy which is transformed into a myriad of products unmistakeably Tuscan in style and in demand on both domestic and foreign markets. Leather goods, shoes, woll and silk fabrics, embroidery-work, wrought iron, ceramics, and enamelware, inlaid woodwork, semi-precious stoles, silver filigree, Volterra alabaster, granite, fashion accessories of all kinds: the list is infinite, extremly varied and perpetually innovated to meet changing tastes and fashion trends. The center of this intensive handicraft activity is naturally Florence which offers an unparalleled concentration of artisan workshops, boutiques and picturesque shops.
ART AND TOURISM
The most flourishing business sector in Tuscany is undoubtedly the incredible number od activities connected with tourism. An uninterrupted stream of visitors flows into every corner of the region and it is more and more difficult to define a specific tourist season. Thousands and thousands of visitors arrive each year not to mention the more or less permanent guest who have chosen Tuscany as their second home. Tuscany is not merely Florence and its surroundings. The well-travelled guest is also familiar with the famous mineral water resorts at Montecatini and Chianciano Terme, as well as the beaches of Versilia renowned for its natural beauties and top-level tourist and recreational facilities. He knows the picturesque sea resorts in the southern part of the region from Quercianella and Castiglioncello (south of Leghorn) and the spectacular promontory of the Argentario peninsula with its two charming villages of Porto S.Stefano and Porto Ercole,the itineraries through the mountains of Tuscany and the suggestive beauty of the islands of the Tuscan archipelago. Then there are the countless mountain resorts which offer a pleasant surprise to so many first-time visitors: winter and summer vacations spots like Abetone or Cutigliano (nestled in the Appennine range) or the winter ski resorts in the Cimone and Amiata areas. Ultimately, however, the principal attraction of Tuscany is its history and art, for the most part, concentrated in its major urban centers. Florence obviously occupies a priviledged position as the city of Giotto and Cimabue, Gilberti, Della Robbia, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli: a treasure-chest of art and history, unparalleled anywhere in the world. Masterpieces of generations of artist fill its museum and galleries, churches and palaces, monasteries and open-air porticos, making the Tuscan capital the very incarnation of the ideals of harmony and beauty, of sublime perfection, in Western art. Siena and Pisa, on a smaller and more intimate scale, contend Florentine renown with immeasurable works of art: Siena with its Cathedral and celebrated Piazza del Campo which truly deserve their top-rating on international tourist circuits and Pisa with the world-famous Leaning Tower. Pisa, an urban center located just a few kilometers from the estuary of the Arno River, has concentrated in one single area, Piazza dei Miracoli, several of the most famed monuments in Italy: the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Ancient Cemetery and, of course the sublime majesty of the Leaning Tower. Arezzo with Piazza del Vasari and the frescoes by Piero della Francesca; Pistoia, Prato, Massa and Carrara, Lucca, Leghorn and Grosseto, all contribute to make Tuscany's cultural heritage even more precious than the normal tourist circuits would suggest. Other towns, smaller but certainly not to be considered minor for the wealth of their traditions and works of art, are San Gimignano, Volterra, Cortona, Montepulciano, Populonia, Empoli and Sansepolcro.
The transport system and services in Tuscany are widespread and reach every area of the region. The road network, classified into freeways, State highways, provincial and extra-urban city roads, guarantees excellent connections between all the important centers of the region. Airport facilities at Pisa and Florence offer both national and international connections. Given Tuscany's extensive coastlines (approximately 361 miles including the island territories), it is easy to understand the great importance of shipping. The most important ports both for passengers and freight are Leghorn, Marina di Carrara and Piombino. To complets this brief outline of transportation facilities in Tuscany, it is necessary to point out its 1,425 kilometer railroad network and the many private bus lines providing efficient passenger service for the entire region.
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
The immense cultural heritage of Tuscany though consolidated through centuries of tradition, has responded to new stimulus, to new interpretations in step with the changing spirit of each successive era. Its museum, libraries, universities, galleries, and archives among the wealthiest in the world, are the evidence of this enormous cultural legacy. Florence is again in the foreground: art exhibits, lecture circuits, concerts, theater, film festivals and various other events follow one another incessantly throughout the entire year. Tuscany boasts three universities at Florence, Pisa and Siena which are highly-rated study and research centers at national and international levels. The more than 90 museums and galleries making up the regional museum system are extremely diversified as to contents, geographical location and dimensions. In Florence alone the list is long: the Uffizi and Palatine Galleries, the Bargello, the Accademia, not to mention the scores of private collections and those connected with churches like the Museum of the Cathedral. The seasoned visitor should also note the silverwork and seme-precious stone collections, the famous archeological museum and the interesting exhibit of antique musical instruments. Tuscany's bibliographical resources include myriads of private libraries and collections and hundreds of public libraries which range from the immense National Library in Florence to the special collections in its smaller cities. In addition to its renowned artistic and literary traditions, Tuscany cultivates an oustanding musical heritage. Concerts and opera events are not only limited to Florence but have become a part of the cultural life in many of the smaller urban centers. Such intensive cultural activity together with countless handicraft exhibits, folk traditions, fashion shows and many other initiatives perpetually recreate and enrich the image of a region in constant evolution.