Tuscans are the people of the central Italian region of Tuscany, located on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Tuscany, covering some 22,991 square kilometers, contains the provinces of Massa-Carrara, Lucca, Pistoia, Firenze, Livorno, Pisa, Arezzo, Sienna, and Grosseto. The population was estimated at about 3,600,000 in 1983. The name derives from the Etruscans, a tribal people who settled the region in about 1000 B.C. As in all of Italy, the population is predominantly Roman Catholic. Tuscany has long been and remains a major cultural and artistic center in Italy. The capital is Florence, with other major cities including Siena, Pisa, Livorno, Lucca, and Piombino. The Tuscan dialect of Tuscany is the basis for Standard Italian. In addition to its art and culture, Tuscany is also a major agricultural region. The primary crops are wheat, olives (and olive oil), grapes, and other fruits and vegetables. Chianti is the best-known of the wines produced in the Region. Cattle, pigs, poultry, and horses are also raised. Major industries include metallurgy, chemicals, and textiles, with tourism important along the coast and in major cultural centers such as Florence and Pisa.
From an economic and cultural perspective, Tuscany is part of what is called central Italy, a designation encompassing parts of Tuscany, Emilia, Marches, Umbria, Lazio, and Abruzzi-Molise. Within central Italy there are significant differences between life in the urban and rural locales and Between life in the agricultural interior and on the seacoasts.
Anthropological interest has mainly focused on the "traditional" peasant communities of the interior plains. Central Italy is often contrasted with southern Italy, with the latter considered by some to be economically and socially backward.
The interior plains of Tuscany and neighboring Umbria until recently displayed many typical features of traditional rural central Italian economic and social organization. While some of these typical features remain, the region has been experiencing continual change since the end of World War II, as discussed at the end of this essay. The following is a summary of traditional rural economic and social organization. Communities consisted of a central town surrounded by Individual farms. The landowners ( padrone ) lived in town; the tenant farming families lived on the farms. Each farm was a largely self-sufficient unit, farmed by the same family for a number of generations. If a landowner owned eight to ten contiguous farms, they were operated as a frattoria for joint production and distribution.
The ideal peasant family was a three-to four-generation patrilocal extended family. Thus, these families were often large (twenty or more persons) and were headed by the senior male, the mezzadro. The relationship between the tenant and the landowner was defined by the mezzadria contract, usually renewed on a year-to-year basis. In general, the owner provided the land, working capital, and equipment while the peasant and his family provided the labor. In return for their labor, the family got about 50 percent of the crop and 50 percent of the proceeds from sales. There was a clear class distinction between owner and peasants, with the former also playing a patron role for the latter. As the region has been integrated into the national and international economic System, this patron role has disappeared.
In addition to the owner-tenant relationship, other important features of the traditional social organization included a strong sense of being neighbors ( vicini ) among neighboring farmers and work exchange ( aiutarella ) between farms.
Major changes in this traditional pattern of organization include smaller farms, more owners of land with each owning less land, more absentee owners, a movement of farmers off the land, commercialization of agriculture and wider involvement in distribution networks, increased mechanization, smaller families, and collective ownership of farms.
Silverman, Sydel F. (1965). "Patronage and Community-Nation Relationships in Central Italy." Ethnology 4:172-189.