I'm Lisa!

I’m a magazine founder & editor, a private food & shopping guide and watercolour artist who wants to share everything I know about the best-kept secrets in Tuscany with you.


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Sunflowers – Girasoli

10 + Interesting facts that you may not know……

Sunflowers - Cecina, Livorno

When one thinks of Tuscany, often the images of olive groves, vineyards, cypress trees and Sunflowers come to mind.  They are so often portrayed in art, books and media as symbols of ‘La Toscana’.

I remember my joy when sitting on the train upon my arrival in Italy when I first caught a glimpse of the golden sunflower fields.  I sighed and smiled, Yes I had arrived in beautiful Tuscany!

Sunflowers are called Girasoli in Italian and this literally translates as ‘Turn to the Sun’.

Last weeked, while driving home from the beach, we passed this amazing sunflower field.  Anxious to get up close and take some great photos,  we quickly took the next exit and found the dirt road that ran alongside the field.  It was so amazing to stand at the edge of this sunflower field and look across at the flowers all standing to attention, facing the same direction in military uniformity.  They were so gorgeous and yes, the thought did cross my mind, “How difficult would it be to pull one up and take home with us?”  Not to fear though!  Please note that no theft occurred in the Cecina Sunflower field last Sunday 1st August!

So when we got home and I downloaded the photos, I thought I’d do a little research on Sunflowers.

I found out the following very interesting facts (thanks to Wikipedia) which I thought you may also like so I have shared below :

1)     What is usually called the flower is actually a head of numerous florets crowded together.

2)      These florets within the sunflower’s cluster are arranged in a spiral pattern.  Typically each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the Golden Angle, 137.5°, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. (not even going to try and explain Fibonacci numbers here!!)

Florets forming Interconnecting Spirals

3)      Sunflowers most commonly grow to heights between 1.5 and 3.5 meters.  Scientific literature reports that a 12mt (40 ft) traditional, single-head, sunflower plant was grown in Padua in 1567.

4)      To grow well, sunflowers need full sun.  (Yep! Think we all knew this one!!)

5)      Sunflowers in the bud stage exhibit heliotropism. At sunrise, the faces of most sunflowers are turned towards the east. Over the course of the day they follow the sun from east to west, while at night they return to an eastward orientation. This motion is performed by motor cells in the pulvinus, a flexible segment of the stem just below the bud. (Incredible, just like the Italian locals at the beach!!)

Sunflower Soldiers

6)      The sunflower is native to the Central Americas. The evidence thus far is that it was first domesticated in Mexico, by at least 2600 BC.

7)      Many indigenous American peoples used the sunflower as the symbol of their solar deity, including the Aztecs and the Otomi of Mexico and the Incas in South America.

8)      Sunflowers can be processed into a peanut butter alternative, Sunbutter. (Sounds divine!  Think I may have to make that!!)

Sunflower & friend.....

9)      For commercial farmers growing commodity crops, the sunflower, like any other unwanted plant, is often considered a weed. Especially in the midwestern US, wild (perennial) species are often found in corn and soybean fields and can have a negative impact on yields.

Sunflower Seeds are inside those Black Husks

10)   However, Sunflowers can be used to extract toxic ingredients from soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium. They were used to remove uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90 from soil after the Chernobyl disaster.

11)      The sunflower is the state flower of the US state of Kansas, and one of the city flowers of Kitakyūshū, Japan.

After learning all of those new facts, I now have added respect for this gorgeous flower!  Who would have thought they were that complex, talented and useful on top of being so beautiful!  No wonder we all love them so much!

Sea of Gold

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Ciao, I'm Lisa B,
I’m a magazine founder & editor, a private food & shopping guide and watercolour artist who wants to share everything I know about the best-kept secrets in Tuscany with you.

I created This Tuscan Life blog, magazine and experiences to share everything I love about Florence & Tuscany, one of the most popular and visited regions in Italy.   Add a splash of watercolour & you've got a creative mamma of two who wants to show you the true & authentic side of Tuscany.

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I always love discovering new fashion brands and so you can imagine my delight when I was recently introduced to a beautiful new Florentine brand called @pavonefirenze.

Founded in 2019 by Creative Directors Angela Testani and Massimo Brilli, PAVóNE FIRENZE is a women’s shoe and accessory collection, designed and created in Florence.