Each vineyard has its own yearly lifecycle and is bustling with activity every month to ensure that the best grapes are produced and the best wines are made.

Find out by reading this infographic what are the activities that occur every month in a Tuscan winery.

Does the same activities take palce in other wine regions around the world? Let us know your thoughts.

Field_to_cellar_low

Alexandra Korey

 

 

 

 

 

By Alexandra Korey

While most people think of Tuscany as a playground for adults due to its wine, art, gorgeous landscapes and sophisticated food, its artistic heritage also makes it a very kid friendly place. Italians understand that art plays an especially important part in the lives of children and there are plenty of opportunities to inspire and engage them on your trip. Why not harness this and allow your children to create unforgettable memories in some of Italy’s most alluring places?

Playground

(playground in Dievole )

5 tips for traveling in Tuscany with kids

Before you get going, it may be helpful to consider the following five tips for traveling with children in Italy:

  1. Some hotels offer discounts for children, such as second rooms at half off or free breakfast for children under 6. Be sure to inquire before you book.
  2. Plan ahead if visiting locations requiring a lot of walking or driving by being prepared with extra sunscreen and snacks. It may also be wise to do some pre-vacation preparation to get kids interested in visiting Italy. Reading stories (such as those about medieval nights or Pinocchio) that have their roots in things the children will soon experience is a great way to keep their interest piqued.
  3. It is also good to plan ways to engage the kids between destinations once you’ve arrived. If you make the journey as fun as the arrival, they are sure to have a better time. Why not play a unique game of “I Spy” using newly learned Italian words, listing things that are unique about Italy versus back home, favorite memories so far or even learning an Italian children’s song and singing together. For older kids, having them read the map or feel otherwise helpful to the trip is a great way to keep them engaged.
  4. Allow the whole family to help decide where you will go and what you will see. If each child is able to pick a place they want to visit, they will be more excited to go and try something new.
  5. Make reservations. In Italy, you can make reservations for most museums online. Standing in line for hours is never a good way to spend your precious time in Italy.

4 things to do with kids in Tuscany

Palazzo Vecchio – Florence

Palazzo Vecchio childrens museunm

(Actor in costume at the Palazzo Vecchio childrens’ museum ( Photo MuseFirenze )

This medieval palace, outside of which the David by Michelangelo once stood, today is a museum and government office building. You can take advantage of the museum’s host of kid and family activities offered in English upon reservation (see here). These 1-2 hour tours are sure to keep even the most fickle travelers entertained. One possible option whisks visitors away into the daily life of the Medici family. Children and adults will learn about what being part of one of the most famous families in the world meant and how their days were different from ours today. Guides will dress in costume and speak in historic language, further adding to the appeal. The Palazzo Vecchio also offers an adventure with fresco painting. Children will be able to try their hand at creating art, just like the old masters used to do.

Parco di Pinocchio – Collodi (PT)

Collodi Park

(Collodi Pinocchio park by Sonia Fantoli)

If being outside is more your family’s ideal, consider the Parco Pinocchio near Pistoia. Many people are familiar with this famous tale about a wooden boy and a nose that can’t lie, but few know that he actually has roots in Tuscany. The author Carlo Lorenzini (Collodi) was from Florence. Collodi, where the park is located, is where the author’s mother was from, and he took the town’s name as his pen-name. The park itself is a large garden space where characters from the book and movie are depicted in statues or topiary. These artistic renditions of famous parts of the book are sure to delight any Pinocchio fans. There are some rides, though we’ve heard that they are not terribly up to date, so consider this more a garden than a theme park.

Garzoni Garden and the butterfly house are two other parks within walking distance and both are wonderful to visit as well. Garzoni boasts fountains, statues, beautiful flowers and a picture perfect Tuscan landscape. The butterfly house, open from March to October, has a more exotic setting that is populated by thousands of colorful butterflies.

Leonardo Museum – Vinci

Vinci

(View of Vinci by Bernd Thaller )

An hour west of Florence is the newly renovated and just reopened Leonardo Museum. It contains many drawings and models of Da Vinci’s various inventions. Many exhibits are interactive and encourage curious children to participate. You can take a guided tour exploring Leonardo, “The Technologist and Engineer” or “Leonardo’s Gaze” on his artistic pursuits. There is also a tour called, “Leonardo’s Machines” in which, through an interactive, hands-on lesson, children can try out working models of various inventions. While you’re there, take some time to explore Leonardo’s hometown and maybe inhale some of the same air that inspired him centuries ago.

Chianti Sculpture Park

Cipollone Chianti

(Cipollone Chianti,photo by Alexandra Korey)

The Chianti Sculpture park, which we’ve described for parents here, is also a really good place to help well-behaved children approach art, since the sculptures are all in a natural setting. Although the provided app does not have a channel designed for children, this kind of art is very open to interpretation and you might actually let your kid be the guide for you! Ask her what the works represent and you’ll get surprising, untainted impressions.

  • 8 uovaCantucci
  • 800 g di zucchero
  • 1 kg di farina
  • 8 g di lievito per dolci
  • Vaniglina, semi di anice, gocce di cioccolato (a piacere),500 g di mandorle tostate intere

PROCEDIMENTO: Sbattere le uova con lo zucchero. Raggiungere la farina, lievito e mandorle. Formare dei filoni di 30 cm larghi circa 3 cm. Infornare. Cuocere a 170 ° per 35 minuti. Toglierli dal forno e tagliare. Rimettere al forno e tostare per altri 10 minuti.

  • 1 kg di polpa di cinghiale
  • 1 carota
  • 1 cipolla
  • 6 spicchi d’aglio, vino rosso, olio d’oliva, peperoncino, bacche di ginepro, foglie d’alloro,1 cucchiaio di concentrato di pomodoro, sale, pepe, brodo vegetale

PROCEDIMENTO: Metti a bagno nel vino rosso il cinghiale per 12 ore. Prepara un battuto con aglio, carota, cipolla. Scola il cinghiale, taglialo a pezzetti e mettilo in un tegame largo con L’olio, il battuto preparato, il sale e peperoncino. Fallo rosolare per 15 minuti rigirando tanto in tanto. Quando pezzi di cinghiale sono ben rosolati, bagna con il vino rosso e fai evaporare a fuoco vivace, aggiungi il concentrato di pomodoro e aggiusta di sale. Cuoci con il tegame coperto a fuoco basso per 2 ore, se necessario raggiungendo brodo.

  • Zuppa di ceci e baccala confit5OO gr di ceci secchi
  • 2 carote
  • 2 patate
  • 2 cipolle
  • 1 filetto di baccalà ammollato
  • Brodo vegetale, sale, pepe, l’olio d’oliva,2 foglie d’alloro

PROCEDIMENTO: In un recipiente con abbondante acqua fredda mettere i ceci a bagno almeno per 12 ore. Scolali e mettili in una pentola con acqua e foglia d’alloro, portali a ebollizione e cuoci a fuoco lento per almeno 2 ore.

In un tegame metti l’olio d’oliva e fai un soffritto di carote, cipolle e patate sminuzzate e aggiungi i ceci con una parte della loro acqua di cottura. Metti sale e pepe e continua la cottura per circa 1 ora. Passa tutto con il passatutto.

PER IL BACCALA’ CONFIT: Tagliare il filetto a tranci di circa 2 cm di larghezza, mettere in un tegame e ricoprire di l’olio d’oliva. Accende il fuoco e dal momento che baccalà comincerà perdere il suo succo (piccole bollicine bianche) cuocere a fuoco basso per circa 6 minuti. Scolare e asciugare bene.

Servire adagiato sul passato con un filo d’olio d’oliva e pepe macinato fresco.

There is a reason why wine has been stored in wine caves and underground cellars for hundreds of years – the ideal storage conditions must be focused on: temperature, humidity, angle, vibrations, darkness, odor.  While, storing wine is not rocket science, there are a few key points to keep in mind that will help ensure your wine has the very best chance for long-term survival and optimal aging.
We offer also some tips regarding the wine service. Enjoy it!

Final-How-to-Store-Wine-Infographic-Dievole_For-Web

There is a reason why wine has been stored in wine caves and underground cellars for hundreds of years – the ideal storage conditions must be focused on: temperature, humidity, angle, vibrations, darkness, odor. While, storing wine is not rocket science, there are a few key points to keep in mind that will help ensure your wine has the very best chance for long-term survival and optimal aging.

We offer also some tips regarding the wine service. Enjoy it!

How to Store Wines

Tuscany has long been a destination for those looking to escape daily life and throw themselves into Italian culture, staying in a beautiful Tuscan villa, enjoying great food and fabulous Italian wines.

But, is it possible to live like a Tuscan in one day! This is how we picture a perfect day in Tuscany. 

Dievole IG

judy witts

 

 

 

 

 

By Judy Witts

If you ask any Italian where is the best place to eat in a town, they will always say at my mom’s. There is really nothing like a home cooked meal in Italy. If you are not lucky enough to have your own Italian mamma, the next best thing is to take a cooking class while you are in Tuscany.

Cooking class

(preparing Tiramisu during a cooking class @Dievole)

 

It also solves the problem of what to bring people as a gift, there is really nothing better than inviting people to share a meal at your table and spend time together reliving your trip with tastes from your holiday.

Classes can be arranged at farmhouses or wineries that own a restaurant. Most will teach you how to make fresh pasta, learning the tricks from experts that have been rolling their own pasta for years. Some teach you to roll it out with a rolling pin, like grandma made it, others use the classic rolling machine most people have. There are regional pastas like Pici, which need to machine, and can be easily made by kids. I really enjoy getting everyone into the kitchen to help prepare the pasta. It makes it easy if you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Gnocchi

(Dievole gnocchi served with Tuscan pecorino cheese)

 

When you take a cooking class, you get a chance to meet a local, and not just learn a recipe, but make friends.To cook, you stop and enjoy the preparing of a meal, learn about local specialties and the seasonal regional dishes. The best part of the class is sitting down and enjoying your meal with a glass, or two, of local wine. Often a cooking class at a local winery will feature a wine pairing with each course.
After you take the class, I suggest shopping for local ingredients. When you get back home, it is not always easy to recreate the dishes without the special extra virgin olive oil, or perhaps some special spices or herbs. A stop at a local grocery store is my favorite place to get gifts for friends.
Many of the local wineries can ship directly estate produced extra virgin olive oil and wines, which make the meals so much more special for your guests.
The traditional Tuscan meal for parties is long, starting with a choice of antipasti, then pasta or risotto ( large parties will have a tris, three different dishes), followed by the meat course with vegetables, often twice-cooked spinach, roast potatoes with rosemary, slow cooked Tuscan white beans and a salad as well. Desserts are not always part of the meal, often being substituted by serving cheese and fruit.

Piatto Cinghiale

(wild boar served with shallots and rosemary)

 

Tuscany is famous for their sheep’s milk cheese called Pecorino, which can be soft and fresh to a harder version which has been aged. It is not to be confused with the Pecorino Romano from Rome which is very salty.
To recreate a meal at home, and your Tuscan Pantry, besides Estate produced extra virgin olive oil and wine, I suggest getting some basic pantry products at a grocery store while you are here too, such as sea salt, look for the fior di sale, the best salt crystals to use as a finishing salt. From the dried herb and spice section I would get oregano, the tiny chili peppers and nutmeg which comes with its own tiny grater.
You cannot bring back any meat products to the USA, but you can bring back cheeses, which have been vacuum packed. It is easy to get 24 month old parmesan cheese or one of my favorites, a round of truffled pecorino cheese.

Tuscan pecorino cheese

(Tuscan pecorino cheese)

 

 

To accompany the cheeses, you can also find some fun fruit compotes, made from fig or quince (cotognata) to serve along with the cheese.
Your friends will thank you. An invitation for a meal is always the perfect souvenir.

Helen Farrell_photo_by_Marco_Badiani

 

 

 

 

 

By Helen Farrell

The language of wine is like the language of love. It brims with superlatives and emotions. In winespeak, many of the words used are anthropomorphic, meaning that parts of the human body are used to describe wine.
Let’s start with the idea that a Chianti Classico Riserva can be likened to a tall, dark, handsome stranger. Especially if the bottle is dark in colour and the label lends an air of mystique and allure. After all, seduction, at a visual and verbal level, plays a major part in the wine world.

1. Nice body!

Podere Brizio
Beginning from the simplest of terminology, full-bodied is one of the most popular epithets, used as much as by wine connoisseurs as amateurs who crack open a bottle of “something red” on a Friday night at the end of a tough working week. Interestingly, the same idea of body is also conveyed in the Italian word for the same concept, corposo. The opposite of a full-bodied wine is a slim line or light-bodied one, meaning a wine with less alcohol content and less warmth. Body is the safe fall-back position whenever anyone starts talking about wine. “It has a nice body, don’t you think?”

2. Don’t cry for me, Sangiovese!

Text edits
Before you actually taste the wine, sommeliers recommend that you swirl the glass for several reasons, mainly to release all those intriguing volatile aromas that make the wine tasting such fun! While you’re busy swirling and before you start sniffing, you might want to look for tears. (By this, I don’t mean the ones that rain from your tear ducts if you happened to be overly enthusiastic in your twirling of the glass!) Tears are the dripping ring of clear liquid left on the side of the glass when you’ve got a particularly alcoholic, or bodied, wine on your hands. They’re also known as legs.

3. Sticking your nose in

Articolo

Having wiped away the tears, it’s time to smell the wine. Nosing is my absolute favourite word in wine-tasting vocabulary. It means to smell, to sniff, to capture those wonderful aromas (or not if the wine has an off-putting stink—a friend once informed me that she’s caught sniff of a birdcage while nosing). Tilt the glass at an angle of 45 degrees and let your nose hover over the top of the glass. Inhale deeply. That’s nosing in a nutshell.

4. Feeling flabby?

Now, at last, it’s time to actually taste the wine. Great Italian reds, like Brunello, Chianti Classico, Barolo and Barbaresco are praised as being bone dry and lacking in sweetness on the palate. Wines that are too high in acidity are labelled as green or tart, such as Vinho Verde from Portugal and, up until the recent gold medals awarded in the International Wine Challenge, wines made in the south of England. When wines are lacking verve and acidity, they are often called flabby. “The couscous was yummy, but that Moroccan wine tasted a bit flabby to me.”

5. Pucker up

What makes Chianti wines so quaffable is the balance of tannins, acidity and sweetness. Personally, I enjoy nothing more than that initial crude sensation in the mouth, which almost immediately gives way to a perfect harmony of sweetness and acidity on the taste buds. Tannin is the overriding flavour in tea and comes from the pips, grape skins and stems or develops as a result of the wood in which the wine has been stored. A young Chianti Classico can be mouth-puckering, while the same wine in five years’ time will be smooth, suave and elegant, similar to that tall, dark, handsome Chianti Classico Riserva I mentioned earlier. And there’s nothing seductive than that.

 

Brittany Price

 

 

 

 

 

By Brittany Price
Imagine you’re on a first date and you’re going out to dinner at a nice restaurant. You’re nervous and your mind is preoccupied with what to say next to keep the conversation going – definitely not on what wine you should order and what to do when it’s brought to your table. Here are a few simple tips on how to make the wine selection process easy and possibly even give you the confidence to impress your date.

  1. First of all, take your time when selecting a wine. There’s no rush. If the waiter comes back to take your order two minutes after being seated and handed the wine list, tell them that you’ll need a little more time to decide.
  2. Ask your date if they would like to share a bottle of wine with you. If they are a bit hesitant, consider ordering a half bottle. Try and stay away from each ordering wine by the glass. This is the least economical option. The price of a glass usually covers the restaurant’s cost for the entire bottle. There’s also little guarantee that the bottles haven’t been open for too long or stored in imperfect conditions.
  3. Next, the most crucial step – ask your date for their preference. Red or white? If they say they like both, take the liberty of choosing yourself by the type of restaurant you’re in or by the type of food you’re likely to order. Matching your food and wine enhances the flavor of food and makes the meal more enjoyable. Robust wines compliment heavy, rich foods such as steak or strong cheeses. Mild flavors of fish and oysters pair better with milder white wines. In other words, if it’s a steak place, then choose red. If it’s a seafood restaurant, choose white. For this example, let’s go with red.
  4. Now that you have the list narrowed down by fifty percent, narrow it down further by looking at the types of red wines available to see if the restaurant specializes in wines from a specific region. Are most of the wines from Italy? Or California? If a restaurant has wines from mostly one geographic location, it’s a good indication that they specialize in these wines. Choose from one of them.
  5. Having now paired down the list to a handful of wines, let’s say Italian reds, further narrow down your selection by price. How much are you comfortable with spending? Eliminate the wines that are above your limit.
  6. Next, mentally cross out any wines that you have at home or are very familiar with. You’re out of the house with access to different wines you haven’t tried before. Be adventurous and try something new!
  7. If you’ve come this far in the selection process and still are debating between two or three different wines, feel free to ask for help. Instead of asking the waiter for a recommendation, ask what he or she knows about the remaining candidates. While the waiter may not know anything about the wines, they may refer you to the restaurant sommelier or someone who does. Make your selection based on which wine they seem to know the most about.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully ordered your wine! Now when the bottle arrives at your table, there are a few basic items you should look out for:

  1. First, verify it’s the bottle you ordered by reviewing the label for the vintage, the name of the wine and the producer.
  2. Next, make sure that the wine is opened in front of you and when you’re invited to taste the wine, do so. There’s likely nothing wrong with the wine, but if it’s the rare instance that you receive a bad bottle, don’t be afraid to say something to the waiter. You’ll also likely be handed the cork, but don’t feel like you need to do anything with it. Smelling the cork is really not necessary in this case.
  3. Lastly, check that the temperature of the wine is satisfactory. It is better for both reds and whites to be too cold than too warm. If the bottle is too warm, don’t be afraid to ask for the bottle to be placed in ice.
    Hopefully these suggestions will help make the dating experience just a little easier. And you’ll be able to try out some fantastic wines, no matter how your dating adventures end up going.

Alexandra Korey

 

 

 

 

 

By Alexandra Korey

Maiolica is the term used to define the unique and beautiful tin-glazed pottery of Italy from the Middle Ages until today. This type of pottery was not just used for traditional ceramic objects, such as bowls, dishware and jugs, but it was also used in sculpture and tiling. Maiolica is different from other pottery because of its glaze, a whitish opaque, which is made from tin-oxide, as well as other colours that were combined with it. Tin was very expensive during the Renaissance and therefore, these exclusive products were reserved for the wealthy.

Early ceramics Italy

(Early ceramics in Italy, photo Flickr user @Elisabetta2005)

To produce maiolica in a workshop, there would be approximately eight workers and each one would be given a specialized job. Someone would prepare the kiln, another the raw clay, while someone else decorated and yet another person mixed the glaze. This division of labor ensured a high level of quality control, especially as the master potter oversaw and likely owned the entire shop.

The first Italian pots and plates from the 13th century or so was decorated in only purple, browns and green, and colors mixed from those basics. Then, in 1430-60, cobalt was added and the color palate expanded. This color range further expanded over the following decades so that by the early 16th century, a full range of colors was available. At this time, luster colors were added too, and even became the specialty colors of a few particular workshops. Luster colors included metallic versions of pink and gold which was achieved through a special “third baking” about which potters were very secretive. Designs were varied and often included animals, floral motifs and geometrical patterns, as well as complex mythological scenes.

During the 15th century, Florence led the pack in production of maiolica wares. However, it wasn’t long before Naples, Rome and Faenza were also making beautiful maiolica pottery. Eventually, Rome and Venice began producing it and the style had truly taken off. In fact, it was even being created in workshops as far away as Sicily.

Today, you can appreciate maiolica throughout Tuscany. Many museums include a few pieces, though two have larger collections in which you can observe the stylistic and technical progress described above.

Urbino manufacture plate 1524

(Urbino manufacture plate with mythological scene, 1524 (V&A, London – Photo Wikipedia)

Tuscany has one museum entirely dedicated to this medium, the Museum of Ceramics of Montelupo. This museum has over 21,00 square meters and three floors of exhibition space. It also features a 400 square meter outdoor area and a cafeteria and bookshop. Here, you can view examples of maiolica from the 14th and 15th centuries to today, as well as an interesting reconstruction of a Medieval dining table – set with typical tableware. Montelupo is still an important manufacturing hub for pottery and so it makes sense they would dedicate such an impressive space to this art form. If you take a stroll down the main street here, most of the stores sell maiolica, some with the traditional patterns of Montelupo, others experimenting with more contemporary forms.

Montelupo museo ceramica

(Montelupo museum display, photo www.museomontelupo.it)

In Florence, the National Museum of the Bargello also has an important, high quality collection of ceramic and maiolica pieces. Although it takes up just one room, there are pieces from the Middle Ages to the late Renaissance in almost every style native to central Italy. In this collection, you will see jugs, plates, vases and larger pottery pieces, with a high concentration of mythological or narrative scenes, many of which were made in Umbria. Interestingly, Cosimo I de’ Medici, Duke of Tuscany, had a large collection of pottery and most of it is now at the Bargello. It’s fun to imagine the descendants of Lorenzo il Magnifico enjoying a lively conversation, wine and food surrounded by the very same plates that are on display.

Bargello maiolica roomganimede

(Bargello maiolica room by Instagram user @ganimede )

While in Florence, if you find yourself enamored enough with this type of pottery, it might be worth purchasing some of it for your own home. One shop, Sbigoli, open since 1857, produces their own maiolica pottery right in Florence and ther’re located close to the Bargello. You can also find maiolica shops throughout Tuscany in other small towns and villages, where owners are usually happy to talk about how they follow, or depart from, the tradition of maiolica in Tuscany.

Brittany Price

 

 

 

 

 

By Brittany Price

A – AREA. Of Tuscany’s 60,286 hectares of vineyards, 69.2% is dedicated to D.O.C.G wine production. For ex. only 7,000 hectares of vineyards are registered within the Chianti Classico zone. (Note: A hectare is a metric measure equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres.)
B – BLACK ROOSTER. The black rooster is the trademark of Chianti Classico, chosen by the consortium’s founders in 1924. A label containing the black rooster, or gallo nero, is applied to all Chianti Classico wine bottles.
C – CORK. The vast majority of Tuscan wine producers prefer to use traditional corks to over either plastic corks or screw caps. Traditional cork comes from the thick outer bark of the cork oak tree. A bottle of corked wine should be stored on its side to keep the cork from drying out.
D – DOC / DOCG. DOC stands for the Italian “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” or Denomination of Controlled Origin. The appended “G” on DOCG stands for “Garantita” or Guaranteed. Italian wine labeled DOC or DOCG was grown and produced within a certain limited area in a regulated way. These wines are most often regulated based on the use of specific grape varieties, growing methods, winemaking methods, and ageing. The DOCG label indicates that a wine was produced under the strictest regulations. Only a small portion of all wines from Italy earn the DOCG label and are often considered to be elite. There are eleven DOCGs in Tuscany, the two most well-known being Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino.
E – EXPORT. Wine from Tuscany has been exported from the region since 7th century BC when it was believed to be first exported to southern Italy and Gaul. Today, Tuscan wine is exported all over the world. Exports exceeded the €700 million mark in 2013, a record-breaking year for the region.
F – FIASCO. The word fiasco is actually the name of the traditional Chianti bottle, with its round bottom and straw basket around the bottom. The unique round bottom shape was due to the fact that the glass bottle was originally hand blown by the farmers producing the wine. The straw they used had a dual purpose – it created a flat bottom to help the bottles stand upright and it provided a little protection from the heat during the day.
G – GRAPES. Under the right conditions, the juice of squeezed grapes will ferment on its own due to the presence of the natural yeast found on its skin and the natural sugar within the grapes themselves. The yeast consumes the sugars and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide – without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or water. Because of this, it is believed that wine was the first alcoholic beverage to be invented.
H – HEALTHY. Some health professionals believe that drinking red wine in moderation may actually be good for your heart due to the antioxidants found in red wine. Wine is also a fat and cholesterol-free beverage.
I – IGT Toscana. The “IGT Toscana” label indicates a wine that is produced specifically in Tuscany but does not follow the regulations of DOC or DOCG wine. “IGT” stands for “Indicazione Geografica Tipica” or typical geographical indication. While this designation is the lowest of the three categories of Italian wine regulated by Italian law, the IGT Toscana label does not indicate an inexpensive or low-quality wine. Super Tuscan wines are produced with the IGT Toscana label.
J – JUPITER. It is believed that the principal grape of Tuscany, Sangiovese, is named for “Sanguis Jovis” which translates from Latin to the “blood of Jove (Jupiter)”.
K – KILOGRAM. One full bottle of wine weighs about one kilogram or 2.3 pounds. Priceless information if you’re thinking of taking a few bottles back home in your suitcase from Tuscany!
L – LEGS. A wine’s “legs” or “tears” are the drops of wine that creep down the side of a wine glass after swirling it. Legs or tears were once considered to be an indicator of a wine’s quality, but they are really just an indicator of the wine’s alcohol content and surface tension. Higher alcohol content wine has thinner legs than those with lower.
M – MAGNUM: A magnum bottle contains 1.5 liters of wine, exactly double the volume of a standard (750 mL) bottle. A double magnum bottle contains 3.0 liters.
N – NOSE. In the world of wine, the word “nose” is synonymous with the word “aroma” or “smell”. Swirling the wine in your glass before you smell is the best way to sense the nose of a wine.
O – OXIDATION. Oxidation is the enemy of wine and a chemical process that starts the minute a wine bottle is opened to the air. The taste of the wine in an open bottle starts to degrade after about three days due to oxidation.
P – PREVENTION. Ever wonder why you see rose bushes planted along the end of rows of vines? While today they are mostly planted for aesthetic reasons, they were historically planted to help prevent loss of the crop due to disease. Both roses and grape vines are susceptible to the same diseases, but roses tend to exhibit the signs of disease first. The roses would act as an early warning of fungal disease, allowing the farmers to treat the disease early before it spread. Today, fungicides are typically applied to vines to prevent these diseases.
Q – QUOTE. According to an old Italian proverb, “non si può avere la botte piena, e la moglie ubriaca”. This is the Italian version of the saying, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”. Literally translated it means, “one can’t have a full barrel and a drunk wife”.
R – RED. Tuscany has a very high percentage of production of red wine versus white wine – 80% to 20%.
S – SALUTE! Salute is the Italian version of a “cheers”. Italians often say “salute” or “cin, cin” when toasting a glass of wine. The word “salute” means “health” in Italian.
T – TERRIOR. On a very basic level, terrior is the representation of the physical place grape vines are grown through the flavors and quality of wine they produce. The combination of soil type, climate, degree of slope, and exposure to the sun all play into the terroir of a vineyard. The characteristic of a grape variety itself in relation to the geographic location where it’s grown also plays into the concept of terroir.
U – UVA. The word “uva” is Italian for grape. The most common grape vine species grown in Tuscany is native to the Mediterranean region and called vitis vinifera. There are currently between 5,000 and 10,000 varieties of vitis vinifera. Sangiovese is one of these varieties.
V – VENDEMMIA. Tuscan vendemmia, or grape harvest, occurs every year during the months of September and October. The exact dates of harvest for each vineyard vary widely depending on the weather and the type and maturation of the grapes.
W – WHITE. While Chianti Classico is a red wine, it hasn’t always been made using exclusively red grapes. Traditionally, Chianti Classico was made using a blend of white Malvasia and/or Trebbiano grapes along with the red Sangiovese grapes. 2006 marked the first year that Chianti Classico was made without any white grapes.
X – XANTHOS. Xanthos is the Greek word for yellow and is pronounced similarly to the word “santo” in Italian. The Florentine origin story for the name of the Tuscan wine Vin Santo dates back to 1439 when a Greek priest referred to the wine using the word “xanthos”. The Florentines thought that the priest was saying the word “santo” and started calling the wine Vin Santo from that time onward.
Y – YIELD. A yield is a measure of the volume of wine that is produced per unit surface of vineyard, often in the units of hectoliter per hectare. Yield is often regulated as it is seen as a measure of quality, with lower yields associated with higher concentrated flavors. For example, regulations stipulate that the yield of Chianti Classico wine from grapes cannot exceed 52.5 hectoliters (5,250 liters) per hectare.
Z – ZONE. According to the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, the Chianti Classico area was delimited in 1932 by ministerial decree which described the area as the “the oldest zone of origin”. The boundaries of this original zone contain 71,800 hectares and have remained unchanged since that time.

Judy Witts

 

 

 

 

 

By Judy Witts

Italians have such great food at home, they rarely go out to eat, but when they do, usually it is for food that is better cooked out. Two examples are pizza in a wood burning oven and the bistecca fiorentina cooked over coals. It is a monumental 2.2 pound t-bone steak. At least a kilo.

Gabriele Cantini

(photo by Flickr user Gabriele Cantini)

Why is the bistecca so important in Tuscany? There are several reasons, the quality of the meat and how it is cut. It is a huge cut of meat, originally it was from the large Tuscan cow, the Chianina, like the Charlais. It is not meant to be eaten by one person alone, but rather a celebration to be shared. The meat is grilled and then cut into serving sizes, a normal steak may have 10 pieces, so three or four people could share one. If only two people are dining, normally they do not order anything else to eat and go hungry.

The meat is seared over the hot coals and left rare on the inside. The meat used for the steak is not marbled meat, and if cooked to medium will become tough. It is not worth fighting about, order something else if you don’t like your meat rare.

The bistecca alla fiorentina is a t-bone steak with the filet. Since it is cut so high, there are actually very few pieces with the filet, the other cut is called a costata and is the entrecote, cooked on the bone.

McPig

(photo by Flickr user McPig)

If you cannot fathom eating huge steak, the other option is to order the tagliata. This is a boneless cut of meat, cooked like the steak, but much smaller. Often it is served with a rosemary infused olive oil drizzled on top or with arugula and shaved parmesan cheese.

Since eating the steak is always a celebration, this is the time to drink a fabulous wine and of course pairs beautifully with a Chianti Classico or a Super Tuscan wine. The wine is best if it breathes, so if you know you are going to be having a steak, choose your wine first and have them open it so it can breathe. Then order a lighter wine to enjoy while you are waiting and order an appetizer or pasta to start. Eat like a Tuscan. There is a wonderful Italian saying, “ A tavola non si invecchia” you don’t age at the table. Take your time and enjoy a long leisurely meal with friends.

Foto
To create at home:

The secret to great steak is great meat. Source out a fabulous butcher!

The beef here grazes mostly on grass and is very lean, not pumped up with antibiotics and hormones, so needs to be left really rare to be tender.

Buy a 2 pound T-bone steak.

Leave it at room temperature.

It should be three fingers high!

Get the coals going or heat up a cast iron skillet or griddle.

When the heat is right (coals and wood should not be flaming, but hot coals white and red.

Skillet HOT.

Put the meat on to cook.

No seasonings.

Leave the meat to cook 3-5 minutes per side.

(depending on HIGH the steak is cut; in Italy it is three fingers high and will take longer)

After the steak is cooked, let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

If you cut the meat right away, it will bleed and lose all its juices, drying out!

You want it to be black and blue, seared crispy on the outside, then with a grey layer, then the red , almost raw steak.

Think Prime Rib?

Cut the meat off the bone, into large serving sizes, divide the filet also.

Sprinkle with sea salt and if you like you can also drizzle with olive oil.

Summer in Tuscany is incredible for a number of reasons. We imagine that perfect aperitivo during a shimsical sunset in a medieval piazza, lazy days at the pool or that perfect glass of chilled white wine on a Tuscan terrace with a view of the countryside. Undoubtedly this is a wonderful season to enjoy Toscana ‘al fresco.’ Luckily for those traveling to Italy this year, there are numerous compilations of unique events worth bookmarking scattered around the region and we have compiled a list of our personal favorites just for you. Don’t worry about the heat and the humidity because these ‘cool’ festivals will be more than worth the trip. Get lost in the magic that is a beautiful summer in Tuscany!

1) Terra di Siena festival, running from now until September is a series of interesting musical events in and around the Tuscan city of Siena. Emotions meet sounds in this rich program stretching from the hills of Chianti to Siena’s own doorstep, from opera and dance to blues and jazz – there is something for everyone. The full program of events can be found in English and Italian here.

2) Archeological nights, this July archeological sites and museums will extend opening hours with a special series of lectures, tours, plays, shows, events and workshops and even hiking open to the public. This year’s theme is ‘The Water of the Ancients’. Some of the participating locations include Villa Medicea in Cerreto Guidi, Abbazia di San Salvatore, the Etruscan ingots from the Padule di Fucecchio, the Museum of Palaeontology in Badia Settimo near, the National Archaeological Museum in Florence. We have the entire program (in Italian) of events in the Siena province here.

Siena view

3) The Monteriggioni Medieval festival, July 18/19/20 – 25/26th/27th. A popular festival celebrating the art of ‘Delle Armi e degli Amori’ the historical medieval past of this tiny town. In its 24th year and more popular than ever, this is a fun event for all ages, the whole town participates to become a true medieval village. You can expect tons of music, performers, food and even medieval currency, prices range from around 8-12 euros to enter. For info and how to get to Monteriggioni, check here.

Siena festival

4) Lucca Summer Festival, the entire month of July in Piazza Napoleone. A series of musical concerts featuring famous acts that you really don’t want to miss. Bob Dylan has played here and this year’s lineup includes The Eagles, Stevie Wonder, The Backstreet Boys and much more. For tickets and to see the full list of whose playing, check here.

5) The Famous Palio of Siena, this historical famous horse race featuring the town’s ‘contrade’ around the central square, Piazza del Campo. It takes place July 2 and August 16 and brings thousands to Siena each year, over 40,000 Sienese themselves show up to see the action. The entire city comes to life during this annual event with festivals and dinners and its absolutely a site to see!

Siena

***A few tips for those looking to attend the Palio of Siena
• Bring a big bottle of water as often it is very hot and humid, also sunscreen and a hat is recommended
• Book ahead and come early [like 3pm] or you risk climbing through big crowds
• Support one of the local ‘contrade’ (you can purchase a scarf at many of the local shops to get into the spirit of things)!
• Attend one of the festive open-air dinners held before the event, open to the public, dinner costs around 50 euros a person.

• Hate crowds? Skip the actual event and come a few days before to see the trials held in the piazza, think of it as a palio without the suffocating crowds.

Often in cooking in Italy, you find simple ingredients make the dish. Three is a perfect number and often three ingredients make the base of a dish. For a ragu, or sugo as we call it in Florence, is called a soffritto, and made of carrot, red onion and celery.

Another of my favorite quick pasta sauces starts with aglio, olio e peperoncino; garlic, olive oil and chili. It can be used simply on pasta or as a base for your arrabbiata sauce or carriettiera, both with tomato sauce added. Try sprinkling pasta with breadcrumbs which have been sauteed in the spicy oil, poor man’s parmesan.

Aglio olio e peperoncino
When roasting pork or making the famous porchetta, the herb mixture of choice is aglio, salvia and rosmarino; garlic, sage and rosemary. I call it my porchetta salt. It is so versatile in the kitchen and not just for pork. When I teach classes, I usually try to include this Tuscan herb blend and we first add some to a dish of olive oil and dip in bread. This always wins people over, so much flavor.

I worked with Dario Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti and he shared his recipe for Arrosto Fiorentino, where the herbs are added to a cup of extra virgin olive oil, then black pepper, chili pepper and some fennel pollen are added and the mixture is poured over hot roasted eye of round and left to marinade for 15 minutes. Then the meat is sliced and served in the marinade. Simple Tuscan magic in the kitchen.

This recipe can be used fresh or by adding more salt, leaving it to dry. I only use sea salt to make the salt blend as it is lower in sodium and higher in magnesium. By blending the herbs with salt, you actually use less salt in your cooking and add more flavor. It makes a wonderful gift.

Salt

The Tuscan kitchen and cuisine excels in simplicity. I like to use this salt on small cherry tomatoes, cut, sauteed and sprinkled with herbed salt, great as a pasta sauce or a side dish.

I use what I call the Italian food processor, the mezzaluna, a double handled knife which rocks on the cutting board. If you don’t have a mezzaluna, you can use a knife, but the mezzaluna is fun, safe and fast. I love the smell that comes while chopping, aroma therapy in the kitchen. Try some soon, you will also become addicted.

When I lightly salt the herbs to use fresh, I add to extra virgin olive oil and drizzle on grilled meats before serving. Beef, pork, chicken or salmon. It is great on everything, even popcorn.

Tuscan salt

Tuscan Herb Salt

1/2 cup sage leaves (remove the stems)
1/2 cup rosemary needles (remove stems)
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup fine sea salt

Place all the ingredients on a wooden cutting board and chop finely.
If you are planning on keeping the salt for later use, leave on the cutting board until dry and then put in a jar and keep closed.

Tuscany is a mecca for those who enjoy sporty activities and especially hiking. The diverse terrain is the perfect protagonist for either a long day hiking in Monte Giovi or delving into the paths at the mysterious Elba Island, an incredible island that is part of the Tuscan archipelago. Plus it’s a great way to earn a beautiful pasta dinner at an acclaimed local restaurant which if you are anything like us, is pretty important. Tucking into a dish of freshly-made pici and wild boar ragu with a nice glass of red is our idea of the perfect ending to an active day in the most beautiful region in Italy. Also if being immersed in nature isn’t your cup of tea, urban hiking has been a popular option for city dwellers the world over.

Here are a few of our suggestions on where and when to hike in the region.

  A Mountain Paradise with a Memorable Past
Mountain

Monte Giovi is a beautiful place located not far from Rufina and Pontessieve with a rich history; this was an important point of reference for the Italian partisan movement during World War II. Personally we like to start and end from the town of Acone perched on Monte Giovi in a beautiful panoramic spot. If you continue driving up towards the peak (which at its highest point is around 990 meters above sea level) the paths for trekking are clearly marked if you want a shorter hike. Don’t pack a lunch and instead make a reservation at the local restaurant in town which is famous for their delicious penne all’aconese (a secret recipe that they refuse to share).

Fast Facts: Trail : Acone (Pontassieve) – Galiga – Passo Aceraia – Prati Nuovi – Acone. Round trip: 16,5 km, Hiking Time: 5 ½ hours for the entire route, Difficulty: average-great. You can visit all year around.

Ristorante Pizzeria Acone, Via della Vittoria, 65, Acone Firenze. Tel: 055 836 1719

                      Elba, Island full of great hiking trails
Elba

While many consider Elba Island to be a place for soaking up the sun, it also happens to have some pretty impressive hiking trails for any enthusiast. One of which we adore explores the Ruins of Volterraio which happens to be the most ancient fortification on the island. It has been that there are doubts as to the origins of its name: some say it comes from the Etruscan word Vultur (vulture), others say it comes from the Volterra area, place of origin of the architect Vanni di Gherardo Rau who was in charge of the reconstruction work in the Xlll century. From this vantage point you can see some incredible views of the harbor and island.

Fast Facts: Round Trip: 2.5 km (1.6 miles), Hiking Time: around 1 hour, Difficulty: Moderately Easy, Eat to visit year around.

               What About An Urban Hike?
Siena trekking

While hiking often conjures up images of green mountains and rocky cliffs, we think another very interesting way to discover a city is via an urban hiking. Specific trails in the middle of a city to see a place like you never have before. They occasionally have festivals celebrating these sorts of trails throughout the year in Tuscany (which you can find here, including special tours) but with a little planning, anyone can embark on their very own urban adventure. Grab a map, a history book about the city you are visiting (Siena is a great option) and visit everything by foot, taking time to really get to know a specific area. Head to the tourist information office in town and ask them for a few maps that you can follow.

Tourist information office: Siena, Italy: piazza Campo, 56

*An additional route that is well-worth exploring is traveling along the via fracigena, an ancient road that pilgrims walked from Nothern Europe to Rome. Every Sunday from June until November, you can participate in a three hour urban hike #sienafrancigena based from the city of Siena and stopping at the oldest hospital in Europe, Santa Maria della Scala for only 20 euros a person (less for kids).

More details and booking information: Tel. 0577 280551 – incoming@terresiena.it. www.terresiena.it

Dievole is located just a few kilometers away from the Tuscan city of Siena, known for its palio (historic horse race), panforte (a kind of spice cake), and contrade (the seventeen areas into which the city is divided over its hilly landscape). If you’ve ever been, and perhaps peeked into some of the city’s museums, you may have noticed that this city has its own artistic style. Although contemporary with and in contact with early Renaissance painting in Florence, Sienese works look different. Let’s take a look at how and why this is the case.

While in Florence, Renaissance painting flourished starting in the third decade of the 15th century, Siena’s heyday was slightly earlier. The three most important painters were Duccio di Buoninsegna (active by 1278, died 1318), Simone Martini (active by 1315, died 1344), and the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti (active 1320–44, 1319–47, respectively). Stylistically, these painters’ work is very elegant, often depending on lots of gold and patterning (something that comes from two influential artistic styles – Byzantine and Gothic), and may seem rather “retrograde” to us when compared to Florentine painting. In these cases, we have to look a little harder to see the innovation that actually IS present in the way that these artists started to observe nature and more accurately represent it. Yet they combine this nature with a profound spirituality and sense of civic pride.

Maesta recomposedThe Maestà by Duccio is probably the most important work of this period due to its position on the Cathedral’s high altar; its style and subject were truly influential, setting the pace for Sienese art to come. You can visit this painting at the Opera del Duomo museum, which is part of the Duomo complex. The rather uncrowded museum isn’t super easy to understand because the beautiful altarpiece – a polyptych or multi-paneled painting – has been dismantled in the 18th century, so you see a bunch of separate, golden panels, without a whole lot of explanation. Hopefully reading this can help you! The image above shows a reconstruction of what scholars think the altarpiece looked like on the front, while the back would have been made up of even more small panels, and used less gold.

Maesta DuccioThe central panel of the Maestà, a generic name for paintings depicting the Holy Virgin Mary enthroned, shows Mary with a dark cloak, seated on an architectural throne, holding a rather funny looking little man who should be the baby Jesus, and adoring them on either side are orderly rows of saints and angels. Duccio works within certain conventions of his time, which includes the gold background (created with real gold leaf!). But if we look past these conventions, we can already see how Duccio distinguishes the face of every person in this scene, except the angels who are pretty standard.

In truth, the artist is able to take a little bit more liberty with the sixty-some narrative scenes (showing scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life of Mary) represented in panels that you can see distributed around the same room in the museum. Although gold is sometimes used in backgrounds, there is greater naturalism where subject matter calls for the representation of trees or landscape.
LorenzettiThis brings us to another very famous work, that’s quite different from Duccio’s because it’s in a different medium – fresco – and it’s a much freer representation of medieval life. The famous scenes of “Good Government” and “Bad Government” were painted on the walls of the Palazzo Pubblico (city hall) by Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti from 1337 to 1340. The brothers studied and worked with Duccio, but they also were influenced by the Florence-based artist, Giotto, who was famous for his naturalism and his skill in frescoes.
Lorenzetti sceneThese paintings decorate an important room in the city hall and they represent the effects that good or bad government might have on a city that looks uncannily like Siena! These served as a potent reminder to the men who ruled the city and who commissioned the work. Under good government, there’s a beautiful medieval city, with dancing ladies and commerce, and beyond the gates, a well kept countryside that makes lots of food for the people. Bad government, as you might imagine, produces negative results! This wall is not as well preserved as the positive one, but you can see buildings cracking and people fighting. What’s amazing here is that these are the first extensive “landscape paintings” in Italy, something that breaks with the medieval tradition. It’s also the only painting of this type that has survived (if there were others).
Lorenzetti scenesDuccio and the Lorenzetti brothers were the city’s greatest artists, but by the mid 14th century, they were all dead. Artistically, the city stagnanted somewhat due to the devastating effects of the Black Death in 1348, reflourishing rather later in the Renaissance, yet keeping a tradition of painting that continued to look to these first, important sources.

Here in Chianti, we and many of our neighbours plant vines whose grapes yield the famous Chianti wines. But one of our neighbours plants… art! The Chianti Sculpture Park, just a few kilometers away from Dievole, opened in 2004 and consists of a one-kilometer long path in the woods upon which you discover 27 installations by international contemporary artists.

Piero Giadrossi and his wife Rosalba have been living in the area for over 30 years, with an art gallery first in Siena, then here in the countryside, near the borgo of Pievasciata. It was Piero’s dream to create an art park on the wooded property next to their home-gallery.

Sculpture park
Piero invites artists who are often famous in their home countries but relatively unknown outside to visit the property and choose the perfect spot for their site-specific art. The artists bring their own style and cultural background to their works, but are also inspired by the space itself.
Sculpture

For example, perhaps the most discreet and well-integrated work in the park is by Australian Anita Glesta, whose Dialogue consists of two simple platforms lining the ravine, on which visitors are encouraged to lie down and observe the sky and the movement of the trees – to stop and listen to our dialogue with nature. Local artist Roberto Cipollone’s sculpture called Chianti also works with the woods, responding to shifts in the wind to generate sound. Falling Leaf, by the Egyptian artist Yasmina Heidar, is an interesting contrast: materially heavy, the green glass “leaf” is visually light and responds to the oak leaves in the surrounding woods.

Yazmin Heidar sculpture
On the other hand, you get the sense that Indonesian artist Dolorosa Sinaga has brought a lot of her despair and concerns with her when she made Faith and Illusion, a sad female character enclosed by tall skyscrapers, represented abstractly in metal rods. Similarly, Zavier Barrera Fontenla’s Por la libertad de Prensa (for the libery of the press) makes a political statement that is relatively independent of the space itself, although it is purposefully juxtaposed against a barbed wire fence.

Faith and illusion
Some of the works suggest space for viewers to sit, so that view is directed to be in line with that of the artist. In particular there is the ampitheatre, in carrara marble, with cutout metal figures representing some famous permanent spectators: Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In the summer months, there are classical and jazz concerts held here each Tuesday night at 7pm.

La Fornace art gallery, also on the property, has some beautiful smaller sculptural works available for sale. The gift shop also carries some interesting books and some original small sculptural jewelry and home décor items.

If you’re exploring the back roads near the park, keep an eye out for some playful installations at key crossroads! In collaboration with local businesses and associations, the park’s owners have helped place contemporary sculpture through the area, making Pievasciata into a “contemporary art town”.

The park is open daily from 10am to sundown, though if visiting in the winter months, reservation is recommended at +39 0577 357151. For information, see www.chiantisculpturepark.it.

Forget city life and country dreaming, this summer in Tuscany there is only one thing you really must do if you get the chance – escape to the beach for a refreshing dip in the sea and a fabulous seafood lunch with our local favorite, spaghetti alle vongole veraci. While there are many great choices along the Tuscan coast, one of our favorite spots is only two hours from Villa Dievole, the famous Gulf of Baratti, a small circular bay.

Baratti beach

Baratti is just a stone’s throw from Piombino (where you can hope on a ferry to another Tuscan jewel, Elba Island) and is between the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas. This area of the Etruscan coast combines the perfect blend of nature and surf, plus a few fun beach bars nestled in the nearby pinewoods which have been there for centuries. It’s the perfect weekend escape for those looking to spend some time in an area that many Italians know and love. Plus its easy access to Piombino, San Vicenzo and other areas make it a desirable gateway to visiting a plethora of other destinations.

Sun, surf and much more!
Beach bums will adore Baratti for the sandy beaches on the larger side, perfect for those looking to catch a little sun. The water in this area is also very inviting for those who love to dive and snorkel, the water often being much clearer than other areas of Tuscany. Also with Baratti’s Etruscan roots, you never know what you might find underwater. Hop on a boat for a special tour along the stunning coastline to stop at one of the stunning coves such as Le Buche delle Fate, or one of the nearby beautiful Tuscan archipelago islands.

Surfers of any skill set will delight in the waves of Baratti on a windy day, check the surf forecast before you go. You can also take wind sail lessons or rent a small boat, there is a lot on offer in this area for those looking for a little more activity than just relaxing on the beach. We imagine you will work on quite the appetite so we suggest packing a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shady pinewoods or head to a local restaurant for a fresh fish lunch.
An Etruscan Coastal Town and Open Air Museum.

Baratti

This spot also has a rich history with Etruscan roots, the nearby Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia is a must-see for anyone passionate about archeology and looking to escape the beach for a few hours. The Etruscans once mined iron ore on Elba Island before bringing it to Baratti to smelt.

We highly recommend visiting the fascinating open-air museum that is the tombs of the necropolis of Populonia which remains impressive to this day. There are several itineraries you can follow and it’s also a great place to bring kids (and happens to be pet-friendly as well). Open Tuesday- Sunday from 10am – 7pm until September, you can find more information on seasonal times and tickets here.

Also make sure to check out the impressive 15th century fortified castle commissioned by Jacopo II Appiani overlooking beautiful Baratti. This is a gorgeous area to be around sunset for stunning views over the bay. In the Palazzo Nuovo in Populonia you can also visit the Archeological Museum in Piombino where you will discover prehistoric Etruscan and Roman artefacts from Populonia, as well as Etruscan furnaces and tombs.

Beach Bar lost in the Wild!
A must-visit for anyone heading to the Gulf of Baratti is one of the fun beach bars hidden in the ancient pinewoods. Our favorite is the famous Nano Verde located in the Bosco della Sterpaia pinewoods, they often have aperitivo happy hour with live music during the summer months and are known for making a memorable mojito cocktail. Just look for the funny green signs featuring a gnome pointing in the direction you need to go. If you are looking for a nice dinner spot, we suggest heading to nearby San Vicenzo to La Bella Bertolda in Piazza Della Vittoria 13.

How To Get There?
Arriving to the beautiful Gulf of Baratti is easy, especially by car. Take the highway towards Livorno-Grosseto and exit at San Vincenzo or at Venturina which is the next exit. Follow directions to Piombino and the directions to Baratti are on the right. You can also take the train to the San Vincenzo or Populonia train station and take a bus or shuttle to Piombino or Baratti, just ask the bus driver if you run into some issues.

Volterra, a Tuscan town just a stone’s throw from Dievole’s location in the Chianti area, has a rich history. It was a desirable location when the Etruscans settled there; the Romans also inhabited it; it had a rich Middle Ages and Renaissance too. Each period has left behind at least one good reason to visit. A paradise for history buffs, it makes a pleasant day trip, with plenty to see as well as restaurants and wine bars for food and relaxation.

Volterra

Photo by Flickr user @Vive Toscana

Etruscan Volterra

The town of Volterra is surrounded by walls, some of which are Etruscan in origin. The Etruscans settled here due to the rich mineral ore in the land, and they called the city Velathri or Felathri. Their extensive production of visual material – mainly related to funerary practices – is housed at the Guarnacci Museum. Don’t be put off by the old-fashioned layout of the downstairs of this museum, but head upstairs to concentrate on its two most important works. There is an exquisite cinerary urn that belonged to an important couple, so it’s called the “Urna degli Sposi“. Both the man and the woman are represented very realistically, reclining at a banquet with unprecedented gender equality. If you get up close you can see the amazing details rendered by the sculptor. In the same room is a very different, very modern looking sculpture called “Ombra della sera”, an elongated bronze statuette of a boy, probably an ex-voto figure for fertility from the third century BCE. These two works show just part of the range that Etruscan artists were capable of producing. Explore some of the museum’s other rooms, holding tiny bronze sculptures of animals, coins and much more.

Museo Guarnacci

Museo Guarnacci, Wikipedia

Roman Volterra

For the Romans, the town was named Volaterrae. Romans often adopted Etruscan towns for themselves, and left evidence of their domination. The major Roman element here is an ampitheatre from the 1st century BCE, located along the city walls, just outside the “Porta Fiorentina”. It is very well preserved, with two distinct rows of seating in a semi-circle that could accommodate up to 2000 citizens! The partially reconstructed scaenae frons, the architectural structure behind the stage, was once over 15 meters high. You can imagine that this city must have been very important if it had a cultural apparatus of this magnitude.

Roman Theatre

Medieval Volterra

The town’s narrow streets and its major buildings for administration and worship are purely medieval, making this yet another medieval hill town in Tuscany, similar to many others, but equally enjoyable. It has a traditional square on which is located both the Romanesque Duomo and the 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori. The city hall’s stern façade of which is punctuated by glazed terracotta plates bearing the arms of the families who had held the position of prior, ruler of the city when it was under Florentine domination in the 15th century.

Priori detail

Photo by Flickr user @The Consortium

Renaissance Volterra

The Painting Museum (Pinacoteca) is where you should head if you’re looking for evidence of what decorated the city during the Renaissance. While the main structures were essentially intact, in this period patrons commissioned painting and sometimes sculpture. The main reason to visit this museum is for a quite famous and large altarpiece by the Mannerist artist Rosso Fiorentino representing the Deposition (when Christ was removed from the Cross). Painted by a young artist in 1521, it’s very different from the idealized beauty you may have seen in other Renaissance paintings. Rosso was a peculiar artist, and this is a unique work. Its harsh colours and angular shapes communicate the strong emotional unease that the people in the painting must have been feeling, although it also tells us something about the artist himself.

Pinacoteca

Roman Theatre; Pinacoteca: http://www.volterratur.it