Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The iconic trees of Tuscany

The iconic trees of Tuscany
They may have originated in the Middle East, but for most people cypress trees bring to mind only one place – Tuscany.

Believed to be supernatural by early tribesman due to their ability to survive even the harshest winters, the evergreen Tuscan cypress tree can live for up to 2,000 years and was historically planted around burial grounds. The fragrant scent of the resin was thought to ward off evil spirits and ensure safe passage to the after-life. Planting cypress had a practical use too. The aroma masked some of the less pleasant smells coming from burial sites and the wood, rich in essential oils, was perfect for crafting coffins and shrines. According to the Bible, Noah’s ark was made from cypress wood, as was the very cross on which Jesus was crucified.  

Today, it’s the visual appeal of the Tuscan cypress that lingers. Tall and strong, a row of cypress trees on a hill not only make for a great wind-break to protect the land, but a majestic framing device to compose a masterpiece from even the most everyday landscape.

In the Middle Ages, cypress trees were planted as part of the development of any new community, with a large cypress, or on occasion cedar, tree forming the central point of every convent or monastery. A symbol of immortality to signify sacred space and a detachment from the everyday mortal world.

It’s this enduring spirit of detachment, or escapism that helps make the landscape of Tuscany so enchanting to locals and visitors alike.