Central Italy contains several distinctive regions that have played a formidable role not only in Italian history, but in world history, as the centres of the Etruscan and Roman civilizations and of the Holy See of the Catholic Church.
The cradle of the Rinascimento (Italian Renaissance), a region of history, culture and wine, featuring the formerly warring cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa and lots of lovely countryside
A mountainous region of winding roads, black truffles, cinghiale (wild boar) and some famous walled cities such as Assisi, Perugia, Spoleto and Gubbio
Formerly called Latium, this was the heart of ancient Rome
- Rome — called the "Eternal City", this modern capital of Italy was the seat of ancient Rome's power and remains the world headquarters of the Catholic Church. This great walking city features the Vatican, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Campidoglio and hundreds of great churches.
- Florence — there is so much culture and history packed into this city that there is a name for the cultural overload some visitors experience here: "Stendhal syndrome"!
- Latina — the capital of Latina Province of Lazio, it was inaugurated in 1932 under Mussolini and is mostly notable for some Fascist architecture
- Perugia — a charming medium-sized walled, cobblestoned city with some notable artistic attractions, schools and the Perugina chocolate factory
- Pisa — the city of the Campo dei Miracoli, which includes the famous Leaning Tower
This region of Italy was settled very early. Quite a number of the more beautiful towns in what are now Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio started their existence as Etruscan hill cities. Later, the ancient Romans, from their base in Rome, expanded into the Etruscan lands and conquered these cities.
As part of Medieval and Renaissance Italy, the Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa vied for power and a monopoly over European trade with Asia. Most of the rest of this area was under the control of the Pope as part of the Papal States, except for most of Abruzzo, which was part of the Kingdom of Naples and then the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, initially under the control of France and then for hundreds of years prior to Italian unification, under the control of Spain.
In historical terms, Florence is second only to Rome in the history of this part of Italy, as the city of Dante, Petrarch, Donatello, Giotto, Michelangelo, and many other important figures of the Italian Gothic and Renaissance. In fact, Florence is considered to have started the Renaissance, and because its writers were so important, it is the Tuscan form of literary Italian that was taken as the standard language of the entire country.
In terms of tourism, too, the cities in this part of the country that are on nearly everyone's whirlwind "Italy in one week" list are Rome and Florence. However, though those cities are so full of things to see and do that you could spend months or more visiting sights there and not exhaust them, there is so much else to see, including not only the other cities mentioned or listed above but also a myriad of pleasant small towns and gorgeous countryside, country estates and gardens like those of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli and the Medici villas outside of Florence, Etruscan remains, such as the necropoli near Tarquinia and stelae on display in several archaeological museums including the ones in Arezzo and Volterra, hot springs (terme in Italian), pleasant mountains, and two coasts.
These regions of Italy have maintained their different dialects and accents since Italian unification in 1871, but if you speak Italian, you are unlikely to have much trouble understanding people throughout the area. But don't expect everyone to speak English, even in Rome. People will try their best to help you, but they will definitely appreciate any attempt to speak some Italian.