country blessed with beauty, Tuscany is, arguably the most
Not only. The food, the wine and the olive oil
are also the best. Without going into endless disquisitions about
Italian food (one of the preferred
subjects of conversation among Latins in general and Italians in
particular), the food is wholesome and tasty.
In Tuscany, however, nature ends up by being
just a frame to man's achievement.
With a singular single-mindedness, Italians
have been busy accumulating endless treasures of art and architecture
all over the country - since the Etruscans (9th century b.C.) to the
Romans, then the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, until today.
With some exceptions, the Italians have mostly
opted for leaving the old buildings alone and to build the new ones
elsewhere. Also, some of the towns, once rich and busy building
monumental churches and palaces, have fallen on hard times at some stage
during their history - and have become frozen in time, with hardly any
new buildings for hundreds of years.
As you travel across Tuscany, you will find
Etruscan and Roman fragments embedded in medieval churches. Churches
which, in turn, have not been completely redecorated during the Baroque
rush for renovation, like in Rome.
I don't know whether it's the land, the sun or
the wealth accumulated by the rulers - but Tuscany has produced scores
of great artists. As often in Italy, the greatest painters' and
sculptors' works are sheltered in churches or palaces - enough art to
drive nuts the curator of any museum.
Considering how much has been sold, looted,
stolen and destroyed for centuries - enough to fill museums and
collections around the world - there is still enough art all over Italy
to fill churches, palaces and museum stores to overflowing - and nowhere
more than in Tuscany.
Italy could be one of the richest countries in
the world - if it sold just a small part of its art. Luckily they have
the sense not to. What's the price of a painting by Raffaello, a statue
by Michelangelo or Bernini? There is no price - this kind of objects
just don't come on the market and you can only see them in Italy -
practically all over the place.
Volumes have been written on Tuscany - many
with considerable talent - pictures probably speak louder than any
All right, I will admit it, I am rather biased.
And you know what's bet? There are still
Italian regions untouched by the rat race and tourism - waiting to be
discovered. The locals are not always willing to give away their little
secrets - with good reason.