Il Cipresso. Do you know that…?

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Do you know that one of the major Tuscan symbols actually has foreign roots?

cipresso solo
cipresso solo

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.

cipressi fila
cipressi fila

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.

Barga View
Barga View

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.

Bogheri Cipressi by T. Pieroni
Bolgheri Cipressi by T Pieroni

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”.

cipresso solitario
cipresso solitario

So,  next time you look at the typical landscape in Tuscany, maybe you’ll see something more among the elegant cypress avenues!

villa con cipressi
villa con cipressi

 

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