Tuscany, by vocation, is a land of wonder. It is the cradle of the Renaissance, the birthplace of the most important artists of history, the region that danced on the notes of the most famous classical music. Tuscany is a land of culture, the one where the Italian language was born and the one that, over time, enriched the history of the “boot”.
Tuscany, however, does not get tired to amaze and, among its riches, it also emerges as a land of the engines. Indeed, the sound of the internal combustion engine was heard for the first time along its valleys and Father Eugenio Barsanti and engineer Felice Matteucci were the ones who raised its roar. In fact, the creation of the first four-stroke engine by Nikolaus Otto – who, with Karl Benz, developed of the Benz Velociped in 1886 – is nothing more than the consequence of the discovery made by a physics teacher from Pietrasanta, Father Eugenio Barsanti, and of its developments carried out with an engineer from Lucca, Felice Matteucci. On June 6, 1853, no less than 14 years before Nikolaus Otto’s patent, Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci deposited at the Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence a document describing the invention of the first internal combustion engine in history – unfortunately, at that time, the patent office did not exist yet. So be it, official historiography may have overshadowed Barsanti and Matteucci’s endeavor, but today we know that their ingenuity pierced the mantle of time and left a much more than indelible mark, especially in their homeland. Here it is not uncommon to hear the roar of rumbling engines and to see curtains of dust rising from dirt roads crossing the endless countryside dotted with gold and emerald. A journey that is the sum of many journeys, the meeting of experience and passion, a journey that goes through centuries and fashions, transcending people and blending into a feeling of belonging to a local but cosmopolitan horizon wet by the hot and precious yellow of the Tuscan sun at sunset.
Tuscany has always been a region quivering with energy and responsiveness, thus, by character and sociocultural predisposition, it could not but be linked to the world of engines and speed. This is underlined both by the presence of the Mugello Circuit, internationally renowned race track, and by Tuscans’ unconditional love for rallying. In fact, every year constitutes the opportunity to renew the envied, and enviable, beauty of a prestigious rally season in dreamy settings. Moreover, the marvelous Tuscan roads are the natural stage of fascinating, world-famous car races, first of all the iconic Mille Miglia.
By virtue of this fundamental inclination for racing, especially in recent years, Tuscany is becoming more and more a meeting and travel destination for enthusiasts: from car rallies in the countryside and towns, to reliability trials, even for inexperienced drivers like the Crazyrun; from the new Pontedera Circuit, to outstanding automotive brands, such as Mazzanti Automobili, able to handcraft amazing supercars.
Indeed, Tuscany is a dreamlike road by which to be charmed. It is a land to go through, touring it accompanied by a panorama that is itself worth the journey, being hauled on an itinerary that gives the opportunity to tastes the pleasure of the slowness as described by Calvino. In a region that retains most of the artistic heritage of our country, we climb on board and take off to discover the countless towns that represent the essence of history. Traveling by car or by motorcycle through the Tuscan roads gives a privileged sense of freedom, allowing to capture the profile of the most beautiful countryside and the authenticity of the alleys. On a classic car or, better still, on a convertible, we elegantly travel in the Tuscan warmth to build a wealth of experiences and memories of unrivaled value. Reaching Montepulciano, an inestimable gem of the province of Siena, between Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia, is not only worth for its divine nectar, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. If to drive we must drink responsibly, we can safely get our souls intoxicated with the rolling hills covered with olive trees and vineyards, and the old farmhouses restored to a new shining and dazzling beauty. Entering the town and slowing the pace, the images flowing by the window are the ones of Piazza Grande and of the cathedral, then the municipal building, the well of griffins and lions, the Pulcinella clock tower, as well as all the medieval and Renaissance churches and palaces that enrich this town. Continuing to explore the province of Siena and entering the flourishing Val d’Elsa, a break in San Gimignano, considered the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” for its many towers, is a must. The town has been preserved intact since the 1400s and – like Pienza, the other jewel-town – it was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site for the characteristic medieval architecture of the old town.
Between San Miniato and San Gimignano, there is one of the largest and richest truffle areas in Tuscany; a precious uncontaminated oasis where the precious White Truffle is found. The ancient wisdom of the driver is the balance between the push to accelerate and the ability to discern when it is necessary to brake, stop. In the same way, the most authentic experience of Tuscany is condensed in the swing between these two trends – between motion and stasis – to discover new glimpses and views and to enjoy the taste of earth’s products – from wine to extra virgin olive oil; from honey to Mushrooms; from chestnuts to the fragrant traditional bread without salt; from fine cheeses to the high quality cured meats, mostly produced with Cinta Senese, internationally renowned Tuscan breed of pigs. Moving to the province of Grosseto, we find Pitigliano, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. The town, where an important Jewish community took settlement centuries ago, is built on a tuff cliff surrounded on three sides by as many ravines full of caves dug in limestone; a breathtaking location that sculpts in the heart the emotion of the suspension of time. Entering the town, on four or two wheels, we cross the arch bridge that leads into the ancient town, to the Fortress and to the Orsini Palace, and further, to the Seven Spouts Fountain, the Jewish Ghetto with the Synagogue, the ritual bath And the oven of the unleavened.
In the province of Pisa, the queen of towns is undoubtedly Volterra, famous and appreciated all over the world for the extraction and working of precious alabaster. In it, preserved and blended, there are a splendid old town of Etruscan origin, ancient Roman ruins and intact medieval buildings. Our imaginary and imaginative journey on wheels in the heart of Tuscany can not exclude Anghiari, a small village in Valtiberina in the province of Arezzo. A medieval casket between the Tiber and the Arno, it is remembered for the famous battle between Florentine and Milanese armies in 1440.
The echo of the past does not fade away yet and blends with the noise of the engine that has, once again, started to spin. We never stops to discover the Tuscan land that is ready to whisper new stories and to invoke new adventures. Past and present are constantly meet in the skilled hands of local artisans experts in the art of working glass, faithful keepers of the ancient tradition of working terracotta and hard stones – such as onyx -, as well as decorating ceramics in great detail. The land on which we travel is the same from which the abilities, traditions and the most special fruits arise. Land of Tuscany, fertile of speed and of impetuous, unstoppable life; land that incorporates past and present; land that quivers and smells of future.