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Tuscany was one of the main geo-political and strategic regions in European history, since the Etruscans until the unification of the Kingdom of Italy.
The main historic events can be resumed in some important periods: the Etruscan Period, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance with the Medici's supremacy, the Austrian rule and finally revolution and independence.
The Etruscan Period and the Roman Empire
The Etruscans dominated northern and central Italy in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.
At the end of the sixth century B.C., Rome became independent and fought for supremacy against the Etruscans and other italic tribes. The war ended about 280 B.C., as the Etruscans were defeated by the Romans. Etruria became the seventh region of Italy during the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Western Empire in the 476 A.D., Tuscany was ruled successively by the Germans under Odoacer, by the Ostrogoths, by the Eastern Empire through Narses, and by the Lombards.
The Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages Tuscany became a part of the Frankish Empire during the reign of Charlemagne and it was turned into a margravate.
In 1030, the margravate fell to Boniface, coming from the Canossa family. Boniface was Duke of Spoleto, Count of Modena, Mantua and Ferrara as well, and he was one of the most powerful princes of the empire. Beatrice was his wife, who was in charge to be a regent for their minor son and then for their daughter Matilda when the son died. In 1076, Beatrice died too. She and her daughter had adhered enthusiastically to Pope Gregory VII's policy. After Matilda's death in 1115, the papacy and the emperors fought for a long time to obtain her possessions.
From 1139 to 1145, Margrave Hulderich ruled Tuscany. Hulderich was followed by Guelf, Henry the Lion's brother. In 1195 the Emperor Henry VI gave the margravate to his brother Phillip. In 1209, Otto IV renounced to Matilda's lands in favour of the Pope, like the Emperor Frederick II in the Golden Bull of Eger of 1213, but both firmly maintained the rights of the empire in the Tuscan cities.
The Medici's Era
While the popes and the emperors were struggling for power and after the fall of the Hohenstaufens, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo and other Tuscan towns became gradually independent and autonomous.
In the 14th and 15th centuries all Tuscany, except Siena and Lucca, was ruled by Florence and the Medici. In 1523 Alessandro Medici was made hereditary Duke of Florence by the Emperor Charles V. Cosimo I, Alessandro's successor, acquired the last remaining Tuscan towns that still enjoyed independence both by force and bribery.
Philip II, who required Cosimo's aid against the pope, granted him Siena which in 1555 had surrendered to the emperor. But a small part of the Siennese territory remained Spanish.
When the Pope made Cosimo Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Medici obviously acquired the whole Tuscan territory. Cosimo created an absolute power on his grand duchy, although there had been sevaral conspiracies against him. He perfectly ordered his state on the foundation of justice, equality of all citizens, good financial administration and sufficient military strength. Art, literature and learning also enjoyed a new era of prosperity.
Francesco I (1574-87), Cosimo's son, received from the Emperor Maximilian in 1576 the confirmation of the grand ducal title.
He was tightly linked to the Hasburg dynasty in his foreign policy, whereas in the national policy his power was in the hands of women and favourites and this contributed to the corruption of the nobility and the discontent of the common people, which got even worse with the increasing of taxation.
After his wife's death, the grand duke married his mistress, the Venetian Bianca Capello.
As he had only daughters, one of whom was the French queen, Maria de Medici, and the attempt to substitute an illegitimate son failed, he was followed by his brother Cardinal Ferdinand (1587-1605) who was accused, without any historical proof, of poisoning his brother and sister-in-law.
Cardinal Ferdinand became independent of Spain and supported the French King Henry IV who returned to the Roman Catholic Church influenced by Ferdinand himself. Ferdinand administrated his grand duchy very professionally and he also began some large public works. He repressed the brigandage too, taking care of the safety of his people.
Ferdinand married Henry III's daughter of France Christine, after resigning the cardinalate. His son was named Cosimo II and he married the sister of the Emperor Ferdinand II, Margareta. Cosimo II raised the prosperity of the country to a height never before attained.
His eleven-year-old son Ferdinand II succeeded him with the regency of his mother, who was unfortunately too weak to reign so that Tuscany lost the Duchy of Urbino.
From 1628 Ferdinand ruled independently. He formed a close union with the Hasburg dynasty which involved him in a number of Italian wars which were devastating for the region together with pestilence.
Cosimo III brought Tuscany to ruin: he used the clergy for police purposes; he executed the heretics and tried to convert by force the worshippers of other religions.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the grand duke desired to remain neutral, although he had accepted Siena in fief once more from Philip V.
In this period Tuscany was destroyed by pestilence and taxation that had increased once more because of the war.
Cosimo III tried to transfer the succession to his daughter as he didn't have had any grandsons. Instead of his plans, Cosimo III was followed by his second son Giovan Gastone (1723-37), who permitted the country to be governed by his unscrupulous chamberlain, Giuliano Dami. When he died, the Medici dynasty ended.
The Austrian Power
Thanks to the Treaty of Vienna in 1735, Francis of Lorraine, whose wife was Maria Theresa of Hasburg, was proclaimed grand duke in place of the Spanish Bourbons' heir. Tuscany became an Austrian territory, so it was dependent on Vienna. However, the country once more greatly advanced in economic prosperity, especially during the reign of Leopold I (1765-90), who cautiosly began a series of reform and improvings, like his brother the Emperor Joseph I. In 1782, Leopold suppressed the Inquisition, reduced the possessions of the Church, suppressed numerous monasteries, and interfered in purely internal ecclesiastical matters for the benefit of the Jansenists. After his election as emperor, he was succeeded in 1790 by his second son, Ferdinand III, who ruled as his father had done.
During the French Revolution, Ferdinand lost his duchy in 1789 and 1800. It was given to Duke Louis of Parma on 1st October, under the name of the Kingdom of Etruria.
In 1807, Tuscany became part of the French Empire: Napoleon's sister, Elisa Baciocchi, was its administrator with the title of grand duchess.
After Napoleon's overthrow, the Congress of Vienna gave Tuscany to Ferdinand and added Elba, Piombino, and the Stato degli Presidi to it. A number of the monasteries suppressed by the French were re-established by the Concordat of 1815 but otherwise the government was influenced by the principles of Josephinism in its relations with the Catholic Church.
When the efforts of the Italian secret societies for the formation of a united national state spread to Tuscany, Ferdinand formed a closer union with Austria, and the Tuscan troops were placed under Austrian officers as preparation for the breaking-out of war.
The administration of his son Leopold II (1824-60) was long considered the most liberal in Italy, although he reigned as an absolute sovereign. The Concordat of 1850 also gave the Church greater liberty.
The secret society organization had a fruitful growth in Tuscany as the rulers and administrators were seen as foreigners and tyrants by the Tuscan people.
From the revolution to the Kingdom of Italy
In 1847, a state council was established. In 1848, a constitution was issued and then opened. Nevertheless, the discontent grew so that many street fights against the Austrians took place all over the region. A provisional republican government was established in Florence, which gave the possibility to raise an opposing movement of moderated Liberalism. After this, by the aid of Austria, Leopold was able, in July 1849, to return. In 1852 he suppressed the constitution issued in 1848 and governed as an absolute ruler, although with caution and moderation.
When in 1859 war was begun between Sardinia-Piedmont and Austria, and Leopold became the confederate of Austria, a fresh revolution broke out which forced him to leave. For the period of the war Victor Emmanuel occupied the country.
The Peace of Villa Franca restored Tuscany to Leopold, who abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand IV.
In 1859 a national assembly declared the deposition of the dynasty. After a second assembly Tuscany was annexed to Piedmont.
Since then Tuscany was part of the Kingdom of Italy, whose capital was Florence from 1865 to 1871.