The rise of European civilization owed much to Florence and the province — some would say state — of Tuscany. The art and culture which they generated brought about a new conception of man and the universe, in a land formed by centuries of struggle, as well as by ambitions which drove the sublimation of life to unknown heights.  At the origin of this remarkable accomplishment were the Etruscans, an ethnic group which had probably come from Asia Minor, and whose civilization developed over seven centuries, leaving vestiges which can still be seen today in the modern province of Tuscany. Then midway through the second millenium the ruling Medici family used its power to make Florence and Tuscany the center of a humanism which was to radiate throughout Europe, spreading its art and its forms to the entire continent.  An aura of glorious things remembered now surrounds the monuments and artistic creations which have withstood the ravages of time. An immense vitality is conveyed by the memory of the stone of Florence — in the Giotto campanile, the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the walls of the basilicas and the frescoes of the palaces.  Rivalries and crimes, conflicts and hatreds of the centuries which lay behind these marvelous works, are now effaced, rather than proclaimed by them, as the wonders of art blur the contours of history.

As the modern visitor stands in awe before this dazzling array of media and styles – from Roma-nesque to Renaissance, in architecture, painting, sculpture, mosaic, fresco and terra cotta – he is aware only of their esthetic qualities.  And the setting of these Florentine gems is in itself remarkable: the Tuscan landscape, sky and light help in our understanding of how the painters of the Florentine school managed to create such gentle backgrounds and such tender madonnas.

Nowhere else in Italy does the atmosphere have the purity, or the sky the luminous quality to be found in central Tuscany. Everything here is harmony: the dark green of the cypresses contrasting with the silver sheen of the olive trees, the rolling hills outlined against the blue backdrop of the Apennines, the villas and the campaniles resting like flowers on the velvet carpet of the land.  The region of Tuscany – the Etruria of antiquity — lies within well-defined natural frontiers, between the mountainous horseshoe stretching from the Apuan Alps to the Apennines and the shores of the Tyrrhenian sea. It offers residents and visitors alike the pleasures of today — mountain walks, even skiing and the pleasures of the seaside all along the Tuscan Riviera while the hinterland holds the wonders of a host of cities which once vied with each other for supremacy in the arts.  In them the visitor can savor the charm of Tuscany, quite as much as in the major tourist centers, and particularly in spring and fall, in what Anatole France called “that delicate light which fondles beautiful shapes and nurtures noble thoughts”.