Tuscany never fails to amaze visitors from near and far with its incomparable beauty. Many associate Tuscany with sunshine, great food, art, stunning landscapes and wine, not that this marvellous region hasn’t given us many world-famous icons now synonymous with Italy: the leaning tower; cypress trees, olive groves and rolling landscapes covered in rows of terraced vineyards to name but a few. Yet a great deal of the region still remains unexplored, especially by the phalanx of videocam and sneaker-clad tourists who arrive each year in their modern chariots, only to limit their visits to the main city destinations.
With ten provinces to choose from, each containing a cache of hidden and inexhaustible treasures just waiting to be unlocked, there’s really more to Tuscany than meets the eye. Whilst working in Florence on secondment from England, I had all these treasures within easy reach, but I was always far too busy to appreciate them. Like the fleeting tourists, I too stood accused of not understanding what the true spirit of Tuscany was really all about until embarking on my own journey of discovery.
Armed with my compact digital camera I set off to explore the region in its entirety. It didn’t take too long for me to become captivated by the infinitely various and varying colours of the landscape just as Leonardo da Vinci had experienced as a boy in the hills and valleys surrounding his birthplace. Along the way – a Journey that began in the latter half of 1998 and continued until 2009 – I criss-crossed the region by air and along many isolated gravel roads, delighting in photographing the unexpected, capturing the sunlight, a crumbling tower, a questioning smile, or a moment in time.
I also set out to capture not only the familiar views, but also encapsulate intriguing frames of Tuscany, which of themselves not highly noted nor easily recognised, would immediately rouse curiosity. My journey, which started in the province of Massa Carrara and proceeded clockwise to Lucca, Pistoia, Prato, Firenze, Arezzo, Siena, Grosseto, Livorno, and finally concluding in Pisa, was full of many unexpected surprises and experiences. For me, each new experience pieced together an identity.
An identity that lies in a distinctiveness that not only permeates every aspect of Tuscany today, but one that draws its inspiration from a combination of strong historical and cultural traditions, battles for independence and a score of revolutionary thinkers who played a pivotal role in shaping the world as we know it today.
This journey has inspired me to produce a book, which not only contains a collection of photographs taken throughout my journey, but also accompanying text. In assembling this book, which I have called Clockwise around Tuscany, I had two overall objectives in mind. First to not only seek out all the familiar places, but also search for the hidden, little-known gems that truly make Tuscany the magical place it really is, and second, to give readers a chance to savour the richness of this wonderfully diverse and historic region and invite them to venture out and discover the hidden and inexhaustible treasures buried deep within this very seductive and beautiful part of Italy. According to a Chinese proverb, “one picture is worth ten thousand words.”
One picture may be worth ten thousand words, but even the best pictures can never truly do justice to Tuscany’s magic. You really have to experience the real Tuscany to understand. Apart from the proud cities and towns with buildings steeped in tradition and ancient history, the landscape provides a feast of many splendid and vibrant colours just waiting to be discovered. Resonant noises echo throughout the countryside and bustling piazzas, and mysterious fragrances, each evoke special images and memories that will gracefully allure you.
Tuscany is not just a physical place. It is a state of mind and I hope that by taking this journey with me you will be able to experience this too.