Tuscany offers a range of thermal baths, from luxurious spas to truly local free experiences. Using these baths is a long tradition, one enjoyed by the Etruscans and Romans and by Medieval popes, and it is still considered a local treat by Tuscans.

Near Siena

Siena is a wonderful Medieval town, about an hour by superstrada away from Florence. If you are in Florence and want to visit Siena and the baths you can do so by local transportation, though having your own car is often an advantage. There are also discounted taxis available that will take you to your relaxing destination.

Bagni di Petriolo Close Up | Photo Flickr User Lorraine Ann Flack

Terme di Petriolo

The baths are located in the town Monticiano, a small town half an hour outside of Siena in the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. The perfect time for use is during the icy winter days, when its water temperature is at around 42 degrees Celcius.

Location Bagni di Petriolo, Monticiano (SI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: termepetriolo.it

Terme di Chianciano

A resort packed with a wellness park, thermal baths and medical services. The medical services include nutritionists and personal trainers. During the summer the wellness park hosts music festivals, events, wine and food tastings.

Via delle Rose, 12, Chianciano Terme (SI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termechianciano.it

Fonteverde Tuscan Resort & Spa

Fonteverde is a five star resort loaded with thermal baths, a wellness center for body, face treatments, and a spa. In 2014 this resort was rewarded with the Wellness Travel Award.

Località Terme 1, San Casciano dei Bagni (SI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.forteverdespa.com

Terme di Sant’Elena

Sant’Elena’s thermal baths are located on the hillside with a beautiful view of Chiusi, Montepulciano and Lake Trasimene. It offers thermal pools, wellness treatments, and recreational activities. It is also famously the town where the mineral water ‘Acqua Sant’Elena is bottled.

Via della Libertà 12, Chianciano Terme (SI)
Email: info@termesantelena
URL: www.termesantelena.it

Terme San Giovanni – Rapolano Terme

In the heart of Chianti there is Rapolano Terme, a place that offers thermal baths, fresh water pools, beauty treatments, and a nutritional center that advises those who want to eat healthy.

Via Terme San Giovanni – Rapolano Terme (SI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termesangiovanni.it

Near Pisa and Lucca

Pisa and Lucca are two beautiful towns with a lot of art and history. After a visit to the Leaning Tower and a long walk on Lucca ancient walls, you can take some free time to relax and enjoy healthy beauty treatments.

Lucca Thermal Baths (Grotta Piccola) | Photo Flickr user ARPAT

Terme di Casciana

Located in the Pisan Hills, this bath is notorious for using Acqua Mathelda. Acqua Mathelda is commonly used for modern rehabilitation therapies, digestive functions and respiratory treatments. Spa pools, massages, and thermal pools are also available.

Piazza Garibaldi, 9 – Casciana Terme (PI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termedicasciana.it

Terme Villa Borri

This resort is neighbors with Terme San Casciana and features a large open air pool, as well as wellness treatments for the face and body. Skin care is one of the specialties of this center with a cosmetic line based on the exploiting properties of Acqua Matelda. In addition Terme Villa Borri has a rehabilitation center

Via Galilei 34, Casciana Terme (PI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termevillaborri.com

Terme Bagni di Lucca

Featuring an open air pool with a green garden, comfortable lounging chairs, and fresh fruits cocktail are just some of the things you can get if you visit this resort. It also has a restaurant for romantic dinners and exclusive cocktails. Packages and discounts are also available.

Piazza San Martino 11, Lucca
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termebagnidilucca.it

Terme di Uliveto

One of the most unique resorts on the list boats multiple open air thermal pools with beautiful garden. In this resort you can schedule a meeting with a “Ben-essere” expert who will analyze your physical situation and give advice for the best treatments for your body.

Via Provinciale Vicarese 124, Uliveto Terme (PI)
URL: www.termediuliveto.it

Bagni Pro Palace & SPA

This five star palace comes with thermal pools, massages, beauty treatments, and a spa. This structure doubles as a hotel with restaurants, bars, and conference rooms. A perfect choice for quality memories whether you are here for work or for pleasure.

Largo Shelley 18, San Giuliano Terme (Pisa)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.bagnidipisa.com

Near Florence

Gambassi Terme

Gambassi Terme is the perfect solution for a quick break from everything else Tuscany has to offer. Its water is very similar to the one of Vichy with a temperature of 14.6 degrees and is very useful when it comes to curing respiratory diseases.

Piazza Giuseppe di Vittorio, 1
50050 Gambassi Terme – Florence
Email: l: [email protected]
URL: www.termedigambassi.it

Near Grosseto

Grosseto is a town on the coast of Tuscany where the crystal seawater meets the beautiful woods.

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Saturnia’s Thermal Baths | Photo Flickrs user Jarle Refsnes

Saturnia

The biggest, most southern, and one of Itay’s most known thermal pools is Saturnia. This resort has both indoors and outdoor pools, an olympic-sized pool, thermal walks, beauty care services, and a spa. It also has a very large golf camp and a very popular restaurant. If you decide to stay for more than one day, a visit to the small and beautiful town of Saturnia is highly recommended.

Loc. della Follonata, Saturnia-Manciano (GR)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termedisaturnia.it

Other Areas

Venturina’s Thermal Baths | Photo Flickr user ARPAT

Terme di Venturina

Located in the countryside of Livorno, these thermal pools are not very far from the sea and the town. Hot water, beauty treatments, and personal trainers for gym and other physical activities are available.

Viale delle Terme 36/40 Livorno
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termediventurina.it

Montecatini Terme

One of the well-known and beloved baths in Italy, it offers a complete wellness experience ranging from thermal baths and body and facial treatments to healthy eating consiliences. A fun fact about this bath is that it has been the official venue for Miss Italia for nearly sixty years.

Via Verdi 41, Montecatini Terme (PT)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termemontecatini.it

Grotta Giusti Resort Golf & Spa

Grotta Giusti is a four star resort with outdoor and indoor thermal baths as well as a millennial grotto for thermal steam bathing and hydro massages. There is also a large golf camp that your significant other can use while you are busy with your beauty treatments.

Via Grotta Giusti 1411, Monsummano Terme (PT)
Email: [email protected]
URL: grottagiustispa.com

Sassetta’s Thermal Baths | Photo Flickr user ARPAT

Terme di Sassetta

Thermal baths, body and face treatments, gym and walk camps, restaurants and beautiful villas to rent. A perfect place for few days of total relaxation and tranquility.

Via Campagna Sud 143, Pian delle Vigne, Sassetta (LI)
Email: [email protected]
URL: www.termedisassetta.it

If you’ve never had Pecorino cheese directly from Italy, you’re in for a treat. This sheep’s milk cheese can be hard or soft and comes in hundreds of varieties. Despite this, there are four main types, which boast being the “holy grail” of Pecorino. All four enjoy protected PDO (Protected Destination of Origin) status (known as DOP in Italian). This means that pecorino accompanied by this distinguished label is produced in a manner and location specifically outlined by the European Union, often adhering to ancient standards. Everything from the aging of the cheese, the type of sheep that can produce it, to the way it is cured, is tightly controlled. The following four protected variations of Pecorino are all unique, delicious and absolutely should not be missed while you’re in Italy – they only place where you can truly enjoy them in their freshest (or oldest) form.

Pecorino for sale in Pienza | Photo Flickr user Dan

Pecorino for sale in Pienza | Photo Flickr user Dan

Pecorino Romano PDO/DOP

This hard, salty, aged cheese is produced in Sardinia, Lazio and the Tuscan province of Grosseto. It is one of the most popular varieties of Pecorino that can be found outside, and inside, of Italy. Additionally, it is one of the oldest varieties of cheeses in Italia, dating back almost two thousand years. Famous ancient Romans, such as Pliny the elder and Virgil extolled its virtues as part of a healthy diet and Pecorino Romano was even rationed to solders before battle to help ease fatigue. It has a strong flavor and is produced by aging for about one year (although it can sometimes be aged for shorter or longer).

How to enjoy it: This cheese is best grated, due to its salty, hard nature. You can try it in place of parmigiano reggiano if cooking for yourself, or find it on the menu in such dishes as cacio e pepe or l’amatriciana at restaurants.

Pecorino Sardo PDO/DOP

Also know as Fiore Sardo this is a raw, hard cheese produced on the Italian island of Sardinia. Strict standards indicate that each cheese must be made from a single flock of local Sardinian sheep. The cheese is aged six months and is less hard than its Roman counterpart. It has a dark brown rind, and boasts a sour, earthy smell. This Pecorino is rich and can come in a variety of flavors, ranging from caramel sweet, to salty, to spicy or even floral.

How to enjoy it: Because of the complexity of flavors in this cheese, it is wonderful served as an antipasto. It also makes a great counterpart to wine, and enjoying it with both mature and young varieties would bring out the some of the distinctive underlying tastes and scents. Alternatively, it can be grated on top of dishes in place of Pecorino Romano, although eating it this way disguises some its uniqueness.

Pecorino Toscano

Tuscan pecorino cheese aging on shelves

Tuscan pecorino cheese aging on shelves

Unlike the other two Pecorino cheeses, Tuscan Pecorino is a soft or semi hard ewe’s milk cheese and only aged for 1-6 months, on average. The rind is often straw yellow and isn’t very hard to the touch like the previous varieties. It can also be found with a red rind, made from tomato dye, which is a clear indication that the Pecorino is a Sienese variety. This cheese is flavorful and fragrant, sometimes smelling of the local herbs and grass that the sheep ate. It is not however a pungent cheese and it shouldn’t smell strong or biting to the nose.

How to enjoy it: Pecorino Toscano is a pleasing mild cheese that is good for those who don’t like strong cheeses. It can be enjoyed as part of an antipasto, with other richer meats and sides, or in a panino. The younger varieties are a great choice for kids, as those who already know and like mozzarella will find it has a similar, pleasing milky mildness.

Pecorino Siciliano

This is easily the most unique of the four PDO varieties. The cheese is aged in fasceddi or special rattan baskets, giving the rind a particular, identifiably wrinkly exterior. It is then cured with salt a day after production, further distinguishing it from its other PDO counterparts. Pecorino Siciliano is made from sheep milk of free grazing animals and the specific pastures of the Sicilian countryside impart an earthiness to the finished product. However, this is not a mild cheese; the flavor is intense and sometimes spicy due to the fact that it is aged for four months. Interestingly, this cheese may be one of the oldest cheeses in Europe, as in 900 B.C. Homer quoted Ulysses in The Odyssey saying, “he curdled half the milk and set it aside in wicker strainers”. The wicker strainers give an indication that he was likely referring specifically to Pecorino Siciliano. Pliny the Elder (who must have really loved his Pecorini) also wrote in the first century A.D. that he found the Pecorino Siciliano to be the best of all the varieties.

How to enjoy it: With multiple millennia of history behind it, this is a cheese you need to try. Enjoying it plain as part of an antipasto definitely the easiest way to appreciate its textures and flavors. Alternatively, if you can find arancini di riso (delicious fried balls of rice and cheese) they are sometimes made with this pecorino variety.

The best way to enjoy pecorino: straight!

The best way to enjoy pecorino: straight!

Enjoy your pecorino!

The best way to enjoy pecorino is straight up! Slice and display on a plate, either plain, or enhanced with local honey and jams. Figs and grapes are a great accompaniment. If you’re tasting multiple types of pecorino at once, arrange them on the plate from mildest to most aged, and start your tasting with the mild one to get the most out of its delicate flavours. Of course, it goes without saying that pecorino cheese is a born accompaniment for red Chianti Classico wine. The aged pecorino, for example, goes great with a Dievole Novecento Chianti Classico Reserve.

Next time you’re looking at a vineyard, take your eyes off the grapes for a moment and look at the ground between the vines. What do you see? If you see a rigorous assortment of plants growing there, it’s a good thing!

Dievole’s agronomist, Lorenzo Bernini, explains what plants we see here and why. “Our philosophy is to regenerate the earth, to increase its physical and chemical fertility in a natural way in order to encourage a more vigorous growth of flora and fauna.”

Green between the vines | Photo Marco Badiani

Green between the vines | Photo Marco Badiani

How do we do this? Right after the grape harvest, we go in and work the earth between the vines in an important and very deep process. Piercing the earth to about 60cm down, we oxygenate without turning the earth. This favours the activity of the roots of the vines, as well as creating happy microflora and microfauna.

After the oxygenation process, in October, we plant a variety of seeds between the vines. We’re still experimenting to find out which plants are best for our particular terrain. These plants include:

Facelia: This pretty purple flower, commonly called purple tansy, attracts bees. This increases bio-diversity as well as cross-pollination.

Facelia in our fields

Facelia in our fields

Mustard: this plant has deep roots that help lend structure to the terrain; as with all plants, it helps avoid soil erosion.

"Brassica juncea wild mustard" by Petr Pakandl / Wikipedia

“Brassica juncea wild mustard” by Petr Pakandl / Wikipedia

Trifolium incarnatum: Known in English as Crimson Clover or Italian clover, its oval-shaped leaves grow in threes. It produces beautiful red flowers throughout the summer. Being a legume, it enriches the soil with nitrogen.

Trifolium Incarnatum (photo: Wikipedia)

Trifolium Incarnatum (photo: Wikipedia)

Field Bean (favino): The Latin name of this little bean is Vicia faba minor L., and it’s a variety of the edible bean. In our fields its function is to enrich the soil with nitrogen.

Favino (photo: nicobio.it)

Favino (photo: nicobio.it)

While these are the seeds we’ve planted, the terrain is so fertile that other seeds often take hold, and we’re happy to welcome them! On a recent visit between the vines we photographed a number of other little plants with different coloured flowers which Lorenzo says are an indication that “we’re working in the right direction!”

Spotted in the fields (photographed with a macro lens)

Spotted in the fields (photographed with a macro lens)

At the end of April, we go through and mulch the plants, leaving them on the surface in order to not be invasive – we don’t want to expose any microorganisms or any of our nutritive earth. The mulched plant material provides an excellent organic fertilizer for our vines.

All in all, as Lorenzo explains: “We want to create a favourable habitat for our vines, seeking a perfect balance through earth that is not compact but rather vital with nutrients and oxygen. This lets our vines create deep roots in the best possible expression of our terroir.”

Monteriggioni is a small medieval village, idyllically situated on the top of a hill, still surrounded by an entirely intact, formidable wall. It is on the medieval road, Via Francigena, a famous pilgrimage route that connects Rome to France and Canterbury. Additionally, Monteriggioni was even mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, who noted the towns impressive towered walls, comparing it to a crown. Tourist groups often pass by this small hamlet, in favor of the nearby San Gimignano, but Monteriggioni is worth a visit all on it’s own. Below are five reasons this tiny hilltop hamlet is sure to steal your heart.

1) It’s entirely walkable and easy to get to

Via Francigena, Monteriggioni | Credits by Flickr user @Paolo Ramponi

Via Francigena, Monteriggioni | Credits by Flickr user @Paolo Ramponi

Parking in Monteriggioni is a breeze as there is a huge parking lot right below the town. The lot can accommodate everything from huge tour busses to your average car or motorino. Once parked, there is a clear path leading to the entrance to the town, and while the walk is a bit steep, the resulting views are worth it. Once you’re in the down itself, you can begin to wander without ever fearing getting truly lost. This little town is so tiny that the whole perimeter can be walked in about 20 minutes. Enjoy the luxury of wandering aimlessly without ever having to consult a map; it’s a truly rare treat. You’ll feel instantly safe and peaceful here, but to avoid big crowds, try to come in the morning or late afternoon. Additionally, the lack of traffic and few cars makes it a great place for kids.

2) The views

Monteriggioni | Credits by Flickr User @antoncino

Monteriggioni | Credits by Flickr User @antoncino

Monteriggioni is on a hill, and that means the views of the valley below are outstanding. You can take a minute to appreciate it for free while walking around the town and peering through the old gated entrances such as the Porta di Ponente, which faces in the direction of Florence. Alternately, you can pay to climb up and walk around the, mostly original, 13th century stone walls and 14 towers, which are still intact. From this vantage point, you can see much more of the valley below and truly take in every direction.

3) The history is alive

Camminata di Ronda, Monteriggioni | Credits by Flicker user Paolo Ramponi

Camminata di Ronda, Monteriggioni | Credits by Flicker user @Paolo Ramponi

Coming to Monteriggioni you will feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. The cobblestones, the winding alleyways and the quaintness give an aura of centuries past. The fact that you don’t need a map to appreciate it makes it that much easier to soak in the historic atmosphere. Additionally, for history buffs, Monteriggioni does not disappoint. The hamlet was founded in 1213 as an annex of Siena in their everlasting feud with Florence. As a fortified town, it survived many attacks from Florence and even Volterra. The buildings on the interior are mostly all original and made of beautiful stone. Additionally, be sure to check out the quaint church in the center of town, Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta. It was built in the 13th century, and while the interior has been renovated recently, it still has its original facade and church bell, which dates from 1299.

If you’re going to be going to Monteriggioni during the summer months, be sure to check out their historic festivals. In July, they host Monteriggioni Medievale, which draws adults and children from all over Tuscany. Jugglers, musicians, markets and dancing, this festival truly has something for everyone. Since the town itself is so well preserved, you will feel as if you’ve stepped directly into the middle ages.

4) It’s the perfect place for a break

The town's main square with the historic well. It's all here!

The town’s main square with the historic well. It’s all here!

A full day of touring can be exhausting, but Monteriggioni is a great place to unwind and relax. Turning off Via Maggio, consider stopping in the main square, Piazza Roma and getting a glass of wine, cheese and meat to enjoy in the sunshine. You will be able to listen to the buzz of the natives, observe their daily rituals and soak in the distinguished atmosphere of this adorable town.

5) Nature lovers, rejoice!

If nature is your thing, the hills around the Monteriggioni offer unparalleled hiking and exploring. You can find a tour guide and information on available hikes by checking out their tourism website here. Additionally, the other castles and towns that dot the countryside below can be easily added to your day trip to Monteriggioni. This is a great place to enjoy some truly unspoiled Tuscan countryside and the guides and hikes available are for various skill levels and time commitments. You can find everything from 2 hour, easy hikes to full-day advanced level excursions.

Monteriggioni is a great addition to any trip around Tuscany. This little hamlet, while small, has something for everyone and is sure to please even the most discerning traveler. Consider adding it to your trip, if you want to experience the perfect slice of historic, untouched Italy.

 

If you’re visiting Tuscany at any time of year, there is so much to take in, from art and culture to food and wine, that it’s hard to come up with the perfect itinerary to fit it all in. But one of the most authentic things you can do is to participate in a local event, where you are bound to pick up some local culture, meet new friends and bring home memories. With guests at Dievole in mind, we’ve compiled this list of recurring annual events in Siena Italy and also in the surrounding countryside.

January

Siena Guitar Festival (Siena)

The philosophy of the Siena Guitar Festival is that good music should not be defined by genres. Thus the festival is instrument-based, i.e. anything guitar. Creativity and experimentation are welcome in an open usical dialogue that takes place at Siena’s Teatro dei Rozzi.

For info: http://sienaguitarfestival.blogspot.it/

February

Carnival

February means it’s Carnival time in Italy, the “party time” before the lenten solemnity that precedes Easter. Every small town has its own Carnival parade and events, so ask around, don a mask, and make sure to taste some of the local sweets that abound at this time of year.

March

Palio dei Somari (Torrita di Siena)

Palio at Torrita di Siena (wikipedia)

Palio at Torrita di Siena (wikipedia)

Torrita di Siena’s palio is in honour of Saint Joseph, protector of woodworkers, inspired by the values of simplicity and hard work. There are parades, flag throwers, and much fanfare to celebrate the day that ends with a ball game played by the city’s eight contrade near its historic walls. Unquestionably a very local event!

For info: www.paliodeisomari.it

CiocoSì (Siena)

This is for chocolate lovers! A fair to taste and purchase various kinds of chocolate, made locally and around Italy. Each year there are new and special events, such as liquid chocolate barman shows, cooking shows, and areas dedicated to specific types of chocolates. The fair takes place the second or third week of March in Piazza del Campo, and also travels to other cities.

For info: www.chocomoments.it

April

Gran Premio delle Palme (Montepulciano – Siena)

An important horse race in Montepulciano takes place at the city’s main racetrack, usually the first Sunday of the month of April. Riders ride bareback as this is a traditional event, and visitors can taste local products in between key moments.

For info: Unione Polisportiva Poliziana A.S.D., Via dello Stadio, 1 – 53045 Montepulciano (Si), tel +39 0578 767539, www.unionepoliziana.net

Val d’Orcia Wine Festival (Val d’Orcia – Siena)

Towards the end of the month, the city of San Quirico d’Orcia hosts a wine festival at which it is possible to taste local wines through special wine tours, aperitivi, or at the booths. There is also poetry and music and various activities.

For info: www.comunesanquirico.it

May

Maggiolata S. Angelo Scala (Val D’orcia – Siena)

Trenonatura | Photo Flickr Antonio Cinotti

Trenonatura | Photo Flickr Antonio Cinotti

A May 1st tradition in this area is to take the historic steam train that departs from Siena at 8:50am and takes you through the marvelous scenery of the Crete Senesi, Val d’Orcia and Amiata mountains. The destination is Sant’Angelo Scalo, where there will be a lunch, folk dancing, a fair and more. But as you know, the destination is just a pretense for the voyage!

For info: to reserve, contact Agenzia Viaggi Visione del mondo, [email protected] / tel. +39 0577 281834, organized by Ferrovia Val d’Orcia, [email protected], tel. +39 0577 207413 / 338 8992577

June

Festa Medievale (Monteriggioni – Siena)

Monteriggioni's medieval festival \ Photo flickr user @marco "Il Pensatore"

Monteriggioni’s medieval festival \ Photo flickr user @marco “Il Pensatore”

Two weeks of July (in 2015, the dates are July 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12) and 2 days in June (in 2015, June 27-28) are host to a medieval fair that has nothing to do with the kind they have in other countries. Monteriggioni’s fair is known to be one of the best as a representation of Tuscan tradition, medieval style. The quaint little medieval town is a natural backdrop to the celebration, which includes everything from jugglers and firebreathers to jousts and playacting. There are activities especially for kids, too.

For info: www.monteriggionimedievale.com

Festa del Barbarossa (San Quirico d’Orcia – Siena)

The Barbarossa reinactment

The Barbarossa reinactment

Frederick I of Hohenstaufen, known as “red beard” or Barbarossa in Italian, entered San Quirico d’Orcia in the year 1155 for a meeting with Cardinals, which was the last step towards his coronation as Emperor. For the village of San Quirico d’Orcia, Barbarossa’s visit and the events surrounding it represent the most important episode in its history; at this time, the town was made into a Imperial Vicariate, a political-administrative role which it maintained until the fall of the Republic of Siena. The festival in June celebrates this moment with a historical re-evocation full of costumes and music, flag throwing and a parade put on by the town’s areas, who compete to put on the best show.

For info: www.festadelbarbarossa.it

Torrita Blues (Torrita di Siena)

The town of Torrita di Siena has been hosting this imporant musical event since 1989. An occasion for all jazz and blues-lovers to hear some good music played by local and national talents. The event is usually held in the third week of June.

For info: www.torritablues.com

July

Palio di Siena (Siena)

The Palio of Siena is probably the most famous event in Tuscany, if not in all of Italy – when horses run, guided by jockeys that represent the town’s rioni (areas), in the picturesque Piazza del Campo. For the Sienese it’s not just an event but part of their identity. Some of the rules date back to the first year that it was run, in 1644. The Palio is on the same 2 days every year: July 2 and August 16.

For info: www.ilpalio.org

Concerts at Parco Sculture del Chianti (Chianti senese – Siena)

10km outside of Siena and just a few kilometers down the road from Dievole is the Chianti Sculpture Park, where in July and August there is a weekly performance of music or dance.

For info: www.chiantisculpturepark.it

Settimana Musicale Senese (Siena)

The prestigious Accademia Musicale Chigiana puts on a calendar of classical concerts in the month of July in various churches and theatres in Siena. A don’t miss if you’re in the area!

For info: www.chigiana.it

Mercantia (Ceraldo Alto – Siena)

This street festival in the medieval town of Certaldo Alto is truly magical! With the whole town lit up and full of music and delights, you’ll be enchanted by performers of every type, on stilts, in costumes, reciting poetry, being funny for kids, and everything else you can imagine. An event of exceptional quality that has been continuing for 28 years.

For info: www.mercantiacertaldo.it – The 2015 dates are July 15-19.

August

Giostra del Saracino (Sarteano – Siena)

August 15th is Ferragosto, an important holiday in Italy. In Sarteano the day is marked with the Giostra del Saracino, a re-evocation of a historical joust against the Saracens that is today carried out with a dummy. No animals or humans will be hurt, but a good time is sure to be had.

Corsa dei ciuchi (Sovicille – Siena)

Have you ever seen a donkey run? It’s quite a scene at Barontoli, outside Sivicille in the province of Siena. Seven contestants from different areas near the town compete for the victory in this show of very local, very countryside tradition.

Bravio delle Botti (Montepulciano – Siena)

One of the most amusing events in the area is the “Bravio delle botti” in Montepulciano, where men push a barrel weighing 80 kilos over one kilometer. He who goes fastest wins, of course.

September

Palio dei Ciuchi (Asciano – Iesa – Monteroni d’Arbia / Siena)

The towns of Asciano, Iesa and Monteroni d’Arbia get together to compete in the annual donkey race (see above) in September, which isn’t just a race but really a town party, with plenty of food and fun.

October

Boccaccesca (Certaldo Alto – Siena)

Boccaccesca stand

Boccaccesca stand

Boccaccesca is a much awaited annual event in the town of Certaldo Alto. The town is transformed into a wonderful assortment of foods to taste, including things made with the local red onion. Beyond food stands, all very cute and in line with the town’s medieval look, there are games, cooking demonstrations, and even nutritionits on hand to help you improve your diet.

For info: www.boccaccesca.it

November

Giallo come l’Oro (San Gimignano – Siena)

Saffron is the star of this food fair in November in the medieval tower-town of San Gimignano, which is historically known for the production of this “yellow gold”. The event helps you imagine the vastness of cooking possibilities of the flower, which you can of course purchase to bring home.

December

Mercato del Campo (Siena)

The medieval Christmas market of Siena is set up in Piazza del Campo, with artisan treats as well as enogastronomic delights.

 

When it comes to romance and intrigue, Tuscany is the perfect backdrop. Its range of landscapes and cityscapes is a directors’ paradise – from the rolling hills of the Chianti Senese to the monumental beauty of Florence or the charming sidestreets of. Over the years, many films have incorporated Tuscany either as a backdrop or as part of the plot of a film. Here’s five important ones.

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Tuscany is well known and regarded for its red wine. But you might be surprised to know that Tuscany also produces a sweet dessert wine called Vin Santo. When visiting the region, you will often see Vin Santo wine on restaurant dessert menus served along with cantuccini. Cantuccini are long and rectangular-shaped, hard  cookies (what in America is called “biscotti”) that are meant to be dipped into the Vin Santo before eating – just as you might a circular, chocolate cookie into milk. Like the wine, these cookies are native to Tuscany. Vin Santo may also be served alone in small glasses for sipping as typical with sweet dessert wines.

dipping-vin-santo

Dipping Vin Santo

There are several types of dessert wines but Vin Santo is different for several reasons. Vin Santo is unique not only in its taste, but also in how it is made. Unlike port or sherry wines, Vin Santo is not fortified with spirits. Vin Santo is typically made with two types of white grapes from Tuscany called Trebbiano and Malvasia. There is also a red version of Vin Santo, called “occhio di pernice” (translated as “eye of the partridge”), and is made out of sangiovese, malvasia nera and/or cannaiolo grapes.

How vin santo is made

1. Harvesting of the grapes. The selection and picking of the grapes is completed by hand to ensure the grapes are handled with extreme care. The grapes have to be perfectly healthy and free of damage or impurities because they have to dry out for weeks – sometimes months – without going bad.

2. Drying period. Once picked, the grapes are laid on nets or hung in windy locations in the shade to dry out for several months until they become raisins. As the water within the grapes evaporate, the concentration of sugar increases.

grapes

grapes

3. Pressing and barreling. Once properly dried, the grapes are pressed and the resultant must is placed into small traditional wooden barrels (15 to 50 liters) called “caratelli”. Along with the must, the wine maker will add either yeast or “mosto madre” (mother must). Mosto madre is a small portion of the must leftover from the previous years’ batch and it helps with the creation of yeast in the wine over the long fermentation period.

4. Fermentation and aging. The caratelli barrels are then kept perfectly sealed without any contact to the air for several years. Traditionally, the barrels are kept in a room, such as an attic, without temperature control. It’s believed that a room with frequent temperature changes between night and day and between seasons will increase the quality of the aroma and the taste of the Vin Santo. The period of time the wine is allowed to age in the barrels varies between wine makers, but it is frequently six years or more.

wine barrel

wine barrel

With this lengthy and highly variable production process, it is understandable why the resultant wine is so uncommon and special. It is also why the taste of the wine itself can vary so widely between different wine makers. It should also be noted that traditional Vin Santo is different from wine you will find in the supermarket labeled Vin Santo Liquoroso which is is a fortified product and further sweetened with concentrated must.

The exact origins of the name “Vin Santo” are unknown. As directly translated from the Italian language, Vin Santo means “saint wine”. There are several stories which have propagated through time to explain the origin of the name. The two most popular stories come from two of the largest cities in Tuscany – Siena and Florence.

Vin Santo e cantucci

Vin Santo e cantucci

The story coming from Siena dates back to 1348 when a Franciscan friar started to use the wine that was normally used by the friars during mass to cure the plague. The Sienese people started to believe that the wine was actually curing them and so they started to call it “saint wine”. The story originating from Florence dates back to 1439 when a Greek priest referred to the wine using the word “xanthos”, which means yellow in Greek. The Florentines thought that the priest was saying the word “santo” and started calling the wine Vin Santo from that time onward.

If you love art, you may get to Florence, Italy, and decide to stay a lifetime. But sometimes, a day trip is all you can manage. That’s okay, we’re sure you’ll be back later.

If you love art and have one day in Florence, what should you see? Should you try to see the biggest highlights in the most important museums, or should you hit up lots of churches? It really depends on your interests as well as on your resistance to standing on your feet all day! Unless you’re a really die-hard museum-goer, the best idea is to find a balanced way to enjoy as much of what the city has to offer and come away with a positive impression that will make you want to return soon, for a longer stay.

Church of Santa Croce

Santa Croce by Bruce Stokes

Santa Croce by Bruce Stokes

Start the day at the Church of Santa Croce, located near the Arno river – if you arrive before the church opens at 9:30am (daily except Sundays), head over to the river for a good view and a photo! The reason this is a good place to start is that the church was begun in the late 13th century (although its façade was made only in the 19th century!) and it’s an opportunity to experience art in situ. Wealthy families commissioned frescoes for their chapels, and altarpieces also decorate these spaces. You can also explore the cloister, chapter house and refectory to the side of the church; these were the practical areas of the monastery, where monks could walk, talk, and eat.

Bargello Museum

Bargello by Giuseppe Moscato

Bargello by Giuseppe Moscato

Depending on how long you’ve taken at Santa Croce, we’d suggest going into one of the less crowded museums in town. The Uffizi and the Accademia both have long lines, even if you reserve in advance, and the Uffizi takes half a day to visit in and of itself. The Bargello is the city’s sculpture museum and it houses a few important monuments in the history of art. There’s a statue of Bacchus by the young Michelangelo, whose flesh-like figure you can admire up close, and a whole room dedicated to the great early Renaissance sculptor, Donatello, whose various standing saints were fundamental to the progress of Western art. In the summers it’s open until 5pm, while in the winter it’s open only in the mornings.

Piazza Duomo

Duomo by Tim Rawle

Duomo by Tim Rawle

The Duomo Complex – as it’s called since it contains more than one important building – should take some time to visit. You can experience it quite well from the outside, but you might also want to go inside either the church or its baptistery with its golden mosaic dome. If you are wearing comfortable shoes and have enough time, you can also consider walking up either the dome or the belltower. The view is pretty much the same from each. A cumulative ticket for 10 euro gets you full access, though it’s free to enter the church itself.

Historic shops

Zecchi from the store's website

Zecchi from the store’s website

If you’re at all interested in creating art yourself, Florence’s most historic art supplies store will be heaven for you. Zecchi, located on via dello Studio, a tiny street to the side of the Duomo, has a lot crammed into a small space. We could gaze all day at the display of pigments in jars behind the cash.

Not an artist? Another historic shop that is a delight to the senses is the Officina Profumeria Santa Maria Novella, a historic pharmacy that was run by the Dominican monks of the church of the same name. Their highly scented products are all natural. While it’s a pricey place, it’s perfect for picking up a special gift.

A note about Gelato

After any church or museum, we recommend a gelato break. While walking towards the Duomo from Santa Croce you may hit the very famous Vivoli’s, or go to Gelateria dei Neri on via dei Neri – owned by the same people as Vivoli’s but less well known, they have a ton of flavours and have kept their prices down a bit. Between the Duomo and the Accademia, there’s a tasty place called Le Parigine, which specializes in ice-cream sandwiches made on the spot. Finally, there’s Sicilian-owned Carabé, whose granite (a kind of fresh slushie) is a real treat.

Salsa verde

Salsa verde

I use freshly collected Tuscan capers often in cooking as they add a nice kick to dishes. One of my favorite recipes which I like to keep in my refrigerator as a sauce is Salsa Verde, a parsley based sauce which is one of the sauces used with many Tuscan recipes. The street food Lampredotto  (a tripe sandwich) is served with salsa verde and a chili sauce. Bollito misto, a classic meal for Christmas has salsa verde, mayonnaise, olive oil, salt and pickled vegetables as condiments.

I recommend serving the salsa verde with a potato and green bean salad, either hot or cold in summer. When I make my stuffed hard boiled eggs, I mix the egg yolks with salsa verde instead of mayonnaise and then drizzle with some balsamic vinegar.

Salsa Verde recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup parsley leaves, no stems
  • 2 tbs capers, salt packed or in vinegar 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovies, packed in oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • pine nuts
  • bread soaked in vinegar
  • hard boiled egg, minced

Instructions

Mince the parsley, capers and garlic together.

Add the anchovy filets and mince until fine.

Place the mixture into a small bowl and add extra virgin olive oil. Add vinegar to taste.

The mixture should have a nice tang. The richer version also has pine nuts finely chopped and a piece of bread soaked in red wine vinegar and crumbled into the sauce.

One of my favorite versions adds a minced hard boiled egg to the sauce for additional richness.

(fresh capers)

(fresh capers)

 

 

 

 

Going on at least one wine tour should be a requisite for every visit to Tuscany. I’ve been on quite a few winery tours over the last couple of years – some fun and fascinating ones – and few less so. Yes, a good tour is always aided by a fun and engaging tour guide, but regardless of your guide’s enthusiasm, you can have a good time and learn a lot about wine.

The following are a few recommendations I have on how to maximize your good time and make the most of your experience.

Be inquisitive and ask questions.

Degustation (photo by Dievole) 

Degustation (photo by Dievole)

Ask the sommelier or winery representative good questions. Here are some suggestions for what to ask:

  • What makes their winery and wines special and different from the rest? Learn about the different kinds of wine they make and which variety they are most well regarded for producing.
  • Is there a story behind the design of the labels or behind the name of the winery? The labels and winery names often have interesting histories behind them.
  • Does the winery have other properties in Tuscany? Wineries in Tuscany usually have more than one piece of land in different areas to take advantage of the different terroirs.
  • How many grape varieties does the winery grow? While the most common grape grown in Tuscany is sangiovese, you’ll be surprised to find that many wineries grow international varieties as well such as merlot, cabernet, and petit verdot. Wineries use these international grape varieties in the wines commonly known as Super Tuscans.
  • If you purchase a bottle of wine, how long can you store it for and when would be the best time to drink it?
  • What type of food goes best with the wine you are tasting?
  • What vintages have been the best in the last decade?

The most important thing to remember while on a tour is to not be shy and ask any and all questions!

Mingle!

(photo by Dievole) 

(photo by Dievole)

Unless you’ve reserved a private tour or it’s a quiet day at the winery, there will be other people you don’t know on the tour with you. These fellow wine enthusiasts could be from anywhere in the world. Make small talk with them and perhaps make some new friends – even if it’s only for the duration of the tour. I’ve met some very interesting people while on wine tours and have learned a lot about the world from them. Making friends along the tour also makes for a more convivial atmosphere as you wander from cellar to cellar.

Learn about the history and work behind the wine!

(photo by Dievole)

(photo by Dievole)

There are several reasons that we taste wine. If you ask a random sampling of people, they will likely tell you that we taste wine because it compliments or enhances food, because they like it, or because it helps them relax. These are all good reasons, but I believe that the most important one is because of the unique history and craftsmanship behind the libation.

Wine isn’t made overnight and the Chianti hills have been producing wine since Etruscan times. Any labor and time intensive beverage that’s been around for that amount of time must be special. There aren’t shortcuts when it comes to making a good wine and while the technology behind the production of wine has improved over the years, the basic methodology and traditions remain the same which is impressive. On your next tour, take a moment to think about this heritage and the wine making process from start to finish.

 (photo by Dievole)

(photo by Dievole)

Take your time and drink all the wine that is poured into your glass. Don’t necessarily spit or pour it out as you might if you were professionally tasting wines. When you are at a beautiful winery in the Tuscan countryside with your friends and family on vacation, really just relax. Truly enjoy yourself and the wine!

Certaldo, a town about halfway between Florence and Siena, boasts an idyllic medieval village and a one very famous inhabitant. Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote The Decameron in the 14th century, was born here (we think) and Certaldo continues to celebrate him, even 700 years after his death.

(view from Certaldo, photo Francesco Sgroi)

(view from Certaldo, photo Francesco Sgroi)

The town is divided into lower and upper parts, the lower being much larger and more modern, where people live but not so much for tourists to visit. To enjoy a leisurely day, there is a convenient car park in Piazza Boccaccio, directly below Certaldo Alto. You will know you’ve arrived when you spot the 18th century statue of Boccaccio himself, made to commemorate 500 years since the illustrious author’s death.

(Certaldo Alto, photo Peter Gorman)

(Certaldo Alto, photo Peter Gorman)

Heading up to Certaldo Alto on Via Costa Alberti, either by foot (10 minutes, uphill) or funicolare, one arrives in a well-preserved historic town. Via Costa Alberti turns into Via Boccaccio, a pedestrian street that serves as the main drag. Most buildings are made of brick and overall, it doesn’t look like it has changed much since Boccaccio wandered these same streets. In fact, wandering is easy to do without getting lost as almost all the main buildings are on this road.

(photo Alexandra Korey)

(photo Alexandra Korey)

A little ways up his namesake street, on the left you’ll find Casa Boccaccio, which now functions as a museum. On January 15, 1944 an air raid destroyed almost all of the original building, but it has since been restored to reflect what it likely looked like around Boccaccio’s lifetime. Interestingly, the only part of the house that remained after the attack was a frescoed wall by Pietro Benvenuti. The painting dates from the early nineteenth century and depicts Boccaccio sitting at his writing desk. On the first floor is a library with an impressive collection of works from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries as well as rare translations of The Decameron.

Continuing up the hill, you may notice an interesting tall tower. This tower is located at the Palazzo Machiavelli and made almost entirely of brick. It is remarkable because the tower has not been reworked since its construction sometime before the 1350’s. In the middle ages, towers were used to indicate the power of the family that built them, and as such, were often destroyed by warring factions. In later years, towers were also lopped off at the top, to be repurposed as building material for new projects. You can still see, by observing the pockmarked surface, where wooden balconies and scaffolding would have been. This tower, remaining in its entirety and in such excellent condition, is a rare architectural treat.

(Certaldo City Hall, photo Andrew Magill)

(Certaldo City Hall, photo Andrew Magill)

At the far end of Via Boccaccio is the church of Santi Jacopo e Filippo, or the church of the saints James and Philip. It was built in the early part of the thirteenth century, originally to function as a priory for the Pieve di San Lazzaro at Lucardo. In the fifteenth century, it became property of the Augustinian monks and remained so until the Augustinian order was suppressed in 1783.  The building has undergone some renovations and changes but largely remains in its original splendor. One more recent update came in 1900 when Provost Pieratti had the original stucco removed and commissioned the redecorating of the church with neo-Romanesque floral murals.

Walking through the church towards the altar, Bocccaccio’s cenotaph and epitaph come into view. A bust of Boccaccio holding his famous Decameron, which was carved in 1503 by Giovan Francesco Rustici, resides over Boccaccio’s marble tomb slab. Continuing past this, heading into the chancel area, are two Della Robbia tabernacles worth stopping to admire. Also nearby is an altarpiece by Della Robbia’s workshop, which marks the tomb of Blessed Giulia, a saint born in the fourteenth century, famous for saving a child from a burning building.

(Detail of painting by Ugolino di Nero in Certaldo's sacred art museum, photo Lisabelle)

(Detail of painting by Ugolino di Nero in Certaldo’s sacred art museum, photo Lisabelle)

After you have had your fill of saints and history, head back out into the daylight and consider stopping for a snack or a glass of wine at one of the quaint restaurants that dot Certaldo Alto’s tiny streets. Aim to have a dish with the famed red onion named after the town: Cipolla di Certaldo. In the winter there’s onion soup, in the summer panzanella, a cold bread salad with cucumber and red onions. On a nice day, sit outside and admire the impressive brick town that you have just explored, and raise a toast to the notorious author who helped ensure its extraordinary preservation.

If you’ve ever dreamed of time travel, consider adding a day trip to San Gimignano to your itinerary when visiting Italy. This medieval hillside village, an hour from Florence or half an hour from Siena by car, boasts an impressive skyline dotted with tall towers. Even though there are no direct train routes, San Gimignano can be reached easily by car or by bus. To arrive by bus from Siena or Florence, you will need to take a bus or train to Poggibonsi and from there, a local bus to San Gimignano.

When approaching the town, you will most likely notice first, the 15 impressive towers that still remain out of the original 72. At one time, these served to protect the tower-home’s inhabitants from warring factions. Now, they serve as beautiful relics of the past and seeing them gives us a rare glimpse into how a bustling city or town would have looked in the 13th and 14th centuries.  In these same centuries, the town really began to flourish when their economy of wine, wool and saffron took off. Today these products are still important to San Gimignano and serve as their major exports.

(San Gimignano view, by Flickr user Antonio Cinotti)

(San Gimignano view, by Flickr user Antonio Cinotti)

After arriving, make your way on foot, through Porta San Giovanni up the Via San Giovanni, heading towards the town’s Piazza Duomo. The church (that isn’t technically a duomo (cathedral) because the town doesn’t have a Bishop) has a plain facade but the interior is worth exploring. It is decorated almost entirely in trecento and quattrocentro frescos that show evidence of both Florentine and Sienese artistic influences on the town. Don’t miss the Last Judgement scene by Taddeo di Bartolo (1393). This fresco gives us a glimpse into the mind of God-fearing Catholics of the late 14th century. Depicted are various interpretations on the horrors of Hell, with no sin unaccounted for and no crime unpunished. After you’ve had your fill, move deeper into the church and appreciate it in its entirety. The Collegiata, as the church is called, was begun in 1056 and while it has seen a few renovations since then,  it remains in much of its original 14th century glory.

After leaving the Collegiata consider checking out the nearby “clock tower” or Torre Rognosa. This tower is one of the oldest and best-preserved towers in San Gimignano. Built in 1200 and standing at 51 meters high (167 feet), it is an impressive architectural relic. It is also the second highest and affords amazing views of the town below if you’re brave enough to climb it. You can even buy combined tickets and climb additional towers, if getting an excellent work-out is part of your ideal itinerary.

(San Gimignano towers, photo by Flickr user Rodrigo Soldon)

(San Gimignano towers, photo by Flickr user Rodrigo Soldon)

If all those stairs have left you exhausted, consider taking a break in a caffè or trattoria and enjoy some of San Gimignano’s famous white wine, Vernaccia. In 1966 this wine was the very first white wine in Italy to be labeled DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), which is the highest certification that a wine can obtain. Today, only a handful of wines are bestowed this exclusive labeling. Aged in oak barrels and produced under the strictest of standards, it is definitely something to relax and enjoy. After a rest, consider wandering down a picturesque side street and finding a shaded spot that might be a little off the beaten path in this tourist-heavy town. While drinking your wine, consider ordering one of the many saffron rich dishes you will likely encounter, as this area produces very high quality saffron.

(Vernaccia by Flickr user Smaku)

(Vernaccia by Flickr user Smaku)

In the afternoon,head back out onto either of the main streets and make your way towards the other end of town, towards Porta San Matteo, to the Piazza Sant’ Agostino. This piazza is home to a lovely church, with free entrance, where you can marvel at a 15th century fresco cycle depicting the life of Saint Augustine. The artist, Benozzo Gozzoli, treats viewers to an interesting glimpse into life as a child long ago, with his two scenes depicting St. Augustine as a young schoolboy, an accurate representation of Renaissance schooling. Don’t miss seeing Saint Augustine getting his bottom spanked by a cane and the familiar scene of a mother sending her young boy away from home for the first time.

Benozzo Gozzoli affresco (Wikipedia)

Benozzo Gozzoli affresco (Wikipedia)

After leaving Piazza San Agostino, wander back towards Porta San Giovanni. A little way past the Collegiata, is worth stopping in the Piazza della Cisterna, which is the one of the most beautiful piazzas in San Gimignano. The middle of the square has an octagonal travertine well, which was built in 1273 and enlarged in 1346. This gorgeous piazza has an inlaid brick floor with irregular triangular patterns and one can easily get lost in the unique geography of the pavement when visiting here.

(Piazza della Cisterna, photo by Flickr user 7Bart)

(Piazza della Cisterna, photo by Flickr user 7Bart)

San Gimignano is truly a place to delight all five senses. From the rich taste of saffron, to the scent of the Vernazza wine, the sight of incredible medieval towers and the sounds of bells and a bustling center. In fact at the end of the day, you may find that you never want to leave. Luckily, it’s impossible to forget this beautiful Tuscan town and the memories created here are sure to last a lifetime.

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 at 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

Tuscany has long been a destination for those looking to escape daily life and throw themselves into Italian culture by 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. 

Perfect day in Tuscany - Dievole Infographic

Perfect day in Tuscany – Dievole Infographic

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. It also solves the problem of what to bring people as a gift, as 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.

Cooking class

(preparing Tiramisu during a cooking class @Dievole)

Classes can be arranged at many 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 a 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.

Buy ingredients to recreate the meal at home

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.

Tuscan pecorino cheese

(Tuscan pecorino cheese)

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.

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, 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 aged 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.

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.

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!

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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

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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.