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A classic Tuscan face captured by Botticelli

Brilliant, medieval-style pageantry before Siena’s Palio A rare sight today – farming with oxen near Pienza

Even the working day of many Tuscans echoes that of their ancestors centuries ago. For people who work out in the fields, the day begins at sunrise, as early as 4:30am in summer,

Farm and vineyard labourers will have completed a day’s work by noon, when they retire indoors to eat and rest.

Until the 1950s, most Tuscans were familiar with this pattern of life: the region still relied on a feudal system, mezzadria, whereby peasants working on the land without payment took a share of the crops as their reward. Today, agricultural produce remains an important ingredient in the Tuscan economy, but

Clerics in conversation, Colle di Val d’Elsa only 20 per cent of Tuscans now work in agriculture. Many farming families left the land in favour of a stable income and a shorter working day as factory hands. Town dwellers have a much easier way of life, but the old rhythms prevail: the siesta period is still observed, so that almost everything closes for a few hours in the afternoon. Wise travellers soon learn that it pays to follow the same pattern, rising early to join the cafe throng, before heading out to study ancient frescpes in peace. In the middle of Florence there are several lively early morning rnarkets where you can buy fresh, local produce (seep267). Bargain hunters and food-loving Tuscans frequent them, but by 9am the stallholders will have packed up.

Churches open at 8am, and, except on Sunday when mass is held, there will be few other people to disturb your thoughts if you stray into one. Today, very few Tuscans go regularly to church and Sunday is spent visiting friends, watching sport or enjoying

A cheese stall in Florence

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