Throughout Tuscany, beautiful landscapes are graced by the familiar and charming Cypress tree (Cupressus sempervirens). Here, we will explore seven things you didn’t know about Tuscan Cypress.
The Cypress has long been a part of the Tuscan scenery; some say that this noble tree was introduced by the Etruscans, but others believe that it was brought here by the Romans. These ancient cultures thought of the Cypress as a religious symbol and of life and death, and used it in many sacred sites.
Two quite different varieties of the Cypress exist in Tuscany. One is the wild variety, with open and irregular branches that do not form a point. The other is the graceful cultivated variety that travelers are familiar with and that has so often been used by landscapers and the designers of Tuscan gardens. This cultivated variety of Cypress is known as the masculine varietal (pyramidalis), and its familiar branches cling closely to its trunk, forming the easily recognizable tapering silhouette.
In many parts of Italy the Cypress is used almost exclusively as an ornamental part of parks and cemeteries. In Tuscany, however, Cypress trees are a prevalent part of the landscape, as you will see in one of our tours. Whether in long lines bordering streets and lanes or beside homes and churches, they seem to stand like watchmen, overlooking grand villas and humble farmsteads alike.
The long lines of Cypresses to be seen throughout Tuscany aren’t just there for beauty. They serve as windbreaks, and they provide an excellent source of strong and valuable wood. The fruit of the cypress is rich in tannin, which is of pharmacological use.
The Cypress can live to be a thousand years old, and usually grows to a height of 20-25 meters: the graceful and majestic Cypress is still a vital symbol today.
While the symbolic origins date to Etruscan and Roman times, the Cypress has had a continual role in historically symbolic landscapes, such as the knoll of Montaperti, where in 1260 the Ghibellines defeated the Guelphs.
Sadly, in recent years this great symbol of the Tuscan landscape has been attacked by the Coryneum Cardinale virus, possibly brought from the United States during World War II.
Scientists are battling to save these trees, and hopefully they will succeed. In a way, saving them means saving Tuscany.