Tuscany should be visited all year round and the many small local realities give the region its continuing fascination. Our latest Tuscany travel articles below.
The waters of the Serchio Valley plummet towards the Lucca Plain to remind you that this is a hilly zone of Tuscany. You can even ski in nearby Abetone. The towns seem to be hidden away around bends in the road and it is sometimes difficult to get your bearings. One landmark, however, is unmissable, the so called Devil's Bridge in the Media Valle del Serchio or mid Valley.
It is located near Borgo a Mozzano just 20km from Lucca, but its seems like 200 and a couple of centuries. The actual Ponte della Maddalena straddles the river with an incredible arch, commonly referred to as a 'donkey back'.
No doubt much local merchandise has been transprted across the river in such a way over the centuyries, but perhaps the first to use it may have been a local pig. The poor porker was used to exorcise the devil who had offered to help complete its construction in return for the soul of the first human who used it.
Bagnoli a Ripoli is a short hop due east from Florence towards the Val D'Arno. In fact, it is close enough to Florence to have been once called 'Quartum', a reference to the Roman miles from ancient roman Florentia of the time. Ripoli refers to the barrages which held back the annual flooding of the River Arno in the zone.
Our suggestions making up a series of holiday or vacation ideas to keep children and young ones entertained in between your wine tasting cantina visits. in no particular order province by Tuscan province, read on.
Collodi, Parco di Pinocchio; All the classic characters from the story of Pinocchio by Carlo Lorenzini at the town of Collodi, which is also the pen name of the writer. Abetone, The nature Trail; The forest botanical Garden is situated in the high valley of Sestaione at 4000 feet above sea level and covers 3.5 acres. This woodland hosts a wide variety of tree and plant species as well as a stream and all the species of flora present in the mountains of Pistoia.
Prato, Castello dell'Imperatore or the 'Emperor's Castle'; ancient (XIII century), imposing castle built for Frederick II of Svevia.
Tasting olive oil can be a real art or a thoroughly scientific process. In fact, both methods are used to analyse olive oil, detect impurities and separate your extra virgin olive oil from plain olive oil. The difference is not to be underestimated. Rather comfortingly, the nose and palate of a trained expert is almost as infallible as a person in a white coat squeezing things into test tubes.
Delicious Italy participated in an olive oil tasting exercise in the town hall of Castel del Piano near Montalcino in Tuscany. 15 olive oils were sampled and, as is the standard practice, a munch on a slice of apple and a sip of water separated each test.
Typical Tuscan style soup with vegetables, beans and bread.
Red onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, beans, savoy cabbage, leek, zucchini, beans, tomato sauce, thyme, white Tuscan bread, salt and pepper, stale bread.
If you have never heard of the Valdambra in Tuscany, then it's probably because, for a mere 2 km, it does not feature on any map of the Chianti Classico wine route.
Administrative borders have placed the valley and its principal town, Bucine, in the province of Arezzo and also a stone's throw away the River Arno and the province of Florence.
So when Delicious Italy received an email from Tenuta di Lupinari located near Ambra to participate in a weekend long discovery of the zone in the company of a group of Food Bloggers, it was an invitation too good to miss.
The added spice was that Antonella, the owner of Tenuta di Lupinari, had lined up a cooking contest between all of us for the Saturday, as well as Sunday morning choice of quad biking at Pergine Valdarno, the thermal baths at Rapolano Terme or horse riding at Villa A Sesta Polo Club towards Castelnuovo Berardenga.
Easter in Florence Featured
Lo Scoppio del Carro, the traditional Easter Sunday event in Piazza del Duomo Florence, could be best described as the 'Doves of Peace Cart Explosion'.
A literal explanation for what is literally an explosive affair. Its origins go back to the 12th century and the appropriately named Pazzino dei Pazzi.
The crusader was the first to climb over the walls of the besieged Jerusalem and his courage was rewarded with a few stones from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Each Easter Sunday they light the symbolic 'nuovo fuoco'.
A cart in the form of a dovecote is pulled into Piazza del Duomo by two oxen. During Easter mass the stones supply the spark and the cart is suddenly twisting and turning with light and noise supplied by fireworks.
The success of the spectacular guarantees a good harvest and fortune for the city in the year ahead. To see it be there for 11am.
Florence's football or soccer team may play in pink, yet there is another, older game played every year in Florence.
The feast of St. John (Giovanni) the Baptist, patron of Florence, is celebrated by the Florentines in a very particular way with a no-holds-barred Renaissance version of soccer.
In medieval times, Florence divided the city into four geo-political subdivisions (or quartieri) from which it mustered its militia from the most easily riled populous.
On February 17th, 1530, in Santa Croce Square (image below), they devised a tournament (descended from a ball game called Arapasto which was played by Roman legionaries and is a mixture of wrestling, rugby, basketball and soccer) with the intention of using it to keep Florentine citizen-soldiers in fighting trim and, more importantly, to force those in adjacent neighborhoods - hence the most mutually antagonistic and vendetta prone groups of citizens - to work together as teammates and future comrades-in-arms.
Each quaterieri fields a team of 27 players for a three game sudden death tournament, the heats of which are played on each Sunday of June culminating in the final, championship game which is played on the Sunday following June 24th (which is the actual celebration of the St. Giovanni). The object is to throw a 25cm diameter ball into the opponents' goal. Rules: almost none.
The tournaments have been played virtually uninterrupted since they were begun. Millennia-old habits die hard and the events continue to serve as an annual outlet for still quite lively intramural animosities.
All players are costumed in epoch dress and the town celebrates in and around these tournaments with song, drink and merriment.
In the evening of June 24 there is a palio of rowboats on the river in which hundreds of rowboats are unleashed to the mercy of the river's current with lit candles as their only passengers.
The vision of these blazing boats can be best viewed from the Ponte Santa Trinita (the Ponte Vecchio will be in the foreground) which will give you a great spot to watch the fireworks at 10 PM! The rowboat palio is repeated after the grand tournament on the following Sunday. It is an event not to be missed!
The Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano) or the Prince’s Passage in Florence, links the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge to one the city's finest Renaissance palaces.
This passageway, located above the famed Uffizi museum, not only showcases beautiful and rare views of the city, but also contains over 1000 priceless paintings.
These include self- portraits of many famous artists, such as Rembrandt and Bernini.
Ice cream, or rather gelato, is part of the cultural heritage of Italy. The city of Florence celebrates it with a dedicated annual festival (see gallery below) which sees several piazze of the historical centre set up with kiosks where you can taste fabulous ice creams from local gelati makers and others from around Italy and beyond.
The itinerary starts in Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. You can't miss it for the huge mobile gelato making bus called 'Il Buontalenti'. It's impossible to resist, but do note how each artisan gelato maker only presents one flavor for the event. This obliges the visitors to sample at least 3 types and pass by all the stands before making a (difficult) choice.
Before gelato became gelato, people used to flavour ice and snow with fruits, most notably in east Sicily where Mount Etna provided the main ingredients almost all the year round.
During the Renaissance a cook called Ruggeri became so famous for his sorbet ice with sugar and aromas that Caterina de’ Medici employed him in France after she married the Duke of Orleans, soon to become King. The French court immediately loved the ice sweet, but Ruggeri began to miss home and gave the secret of his recipe to Caterina to thank her for her kindness. In Ocotber 1600 the marriage of Maria de' Medici and Henry IV of France changed the history of gelato forever.
Bernardo Buontalenti was a Florence architect who created magnificent scenographic designs for the Court of the Medici. He was also passionate about cooking and he presented for the celebrations his 'crema Fiorentina' which contained additional ingredients such as milk, honey, egg yolk and citrus.
So good was it, that even today in Florence when you ask for a 'crema Fiorentina' you are actually enjoying Buontalenti's original recipe.