Do you know that one of the major Tuscan symbols actually has foreign roots?
It seems that Cypresses, from Latin “Cupressus sempervirens”, were introduced in this region by the Etruscans, a fascinating population whose origins remain object of debate. The tree appears to have come from “Anatolia”, nowadays part of Turkey.
Etruscans, great travellers and sailors, came to this part of Italy (at that time called Etruria) through the sea, settling down in the areas currently corresponding to Tuscany, west Umbria and North Lazio .
Cipresso, one tree many symbols
Over the centuries this tree, as a symbol , always had a strong relation with spirituality.
For the Etruscans first, the Romans later, the cypress was a sign of the link between Earth and Sky, earthly life and spirituality. That’s why we find lean, tall cypress trees in every cemetery. Etruscans were the first to plant cypresses near tombs, followed by Romans and the tradition continues still today.
Il cipresso later also became a symbol of fertility for the Romans as well as in the Middle Ages when , rich families, used to plant a cypress for each newborn daughter, as a fertility lucky charm. Equally part of the tradition was the cutting of the tree during weddings, and using the cypress wood to build elegant wooden chests for the wedding lingerie.
Interesting to know: the plant’s scented wood has strong insect repelling properties. Perfect for storing those precious lingeries.
Cipressi & Via Francigena
One last curious fact about this interesting tree: did you know that, at the time of the Via Francigena, Cypress trees were used as “road signs” for pilgrims coming from northern Europe to Rome? Well visible from afar, 1 Cipresso indicated “a rest area”, 2 Cipressi a “restaurant” or “inn”, 3 a “hostel”.
So, next time you look at the typical landscape in Tuscany, maybe you’ll see something more among the elegant cypress avenues!