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The story of cypresses, the symbol of Tuscany

Posted by GLflorence on February 15, 2021


Cypresses are the symbol of Tuscany. You can see them almost everywhere both in the city and in the countryside, giving shape to the amazing hills of Val d’Orcia or adorning the entrance to the many villas of the area. You may think they’ve always been part of the Tuscan landscape but the truth is, they were not born in Tuscany. Here’s the story of the most famous trees of our region, and where to find them to take the most beautiful pictures.

The origin of cypresses

Cypresses were born in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, between Persia, Greece and Egypt, where they grow spontaneously. They were imported to Italy by the Phoenicians and the Greeks, and to Tuscany by the Etruscans. The cypress was used to adorn villas and gardens, but also to build sarcophagus for the high society members in Egypt. It’s said that the cross where Jesus was crucified and Noah’s ark were made of cypress wood too, since it was strong and resinous. Furthermore, they were planted around cemeteries, because the perfume of their resin could cover the smell of the dead bodies. Artisans still use cypress wood for their works: the fibre is regular and compact, perfect to build boats hulls, villas doors and entrances, music instruments and furniture. During the Middle Ages cypresses were used in monasteries to repair from the wind, which is quite strong in hilly areas, but also to divide the sacred spaces from the profane ones.


Cypresses in art

Cypresses are present in so many works of art! Starting from Renaissance artists, from Beato Angelico to Paolo Uccello and Leonardo da Vinci, these beautiful trees were widely used to adorn hills and divide spaces. They became real protagonists in more recent artists, such as Rosai and Van Gogh – it’s impossible not to remember “The Starry Night”. They became important in literature too: Foscolo in its “Sepolcri” says “All’ombra de’ cipressi e dentro l’urne / confortate di pianto è forse il sonno / della morte men duro?”, but we found citations also in Carducci’s “Davanti a San Guido” and Mario Luzi’s works. Enough to understand that these trees deserve a visit when in Tuscany.


Cypresses in Tuscany

Tuscany considers cypresses as a monumental element of the landscape. It repairs churches from the wind, it adorns cemeteries without ruining the tombs, but cypresses are also an artistic element that create a romantic and peculiar environment in the Southern countryside. If you are wondering where are the best spots to take a photo of these iconic trees, here’s the answer: Val d’Orcia. We picked up the best spots for you, which include:

-       Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta

-       Poggio Covili

-       Poggio Manzuoli

-       San Quirico d’Orcia

Take a look at the guide on our Instagram account to know their exact location and plan your next trip!



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