In this paper the relationship between rural and urban areas from the 4th to 7th centuries is discussed. We shall explore its changes first in general terms (mostly in central and northern Italy), and then in the Tuscany. Archaeological evidence highlights the different dynamics acting on North and South. A complex picture emerges, where the role and the fate of the city and its aristocracy are crucial for the interpretation of observed transformations of the rural areas. The need to supply urban centres, demographic trends, the transformation of the Mediterranean economy and tax system, combined with political and military events, defined new forms of relationship between the cities and the countryside, particularly from the end of the 6th-7th centuries. By this time the Roman institutional and fiscal links between the city and the countryside were largely replaced by the aristocratic network of land ownership. Villas, often monumentalised in the 4th century (especially in the north of the region), and farms were replaced by villages and a few central places directly linked to the cities, where the new aristocracy also continued to live.