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.
These cooking classes are based on the recipes of The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes and can be enjoyed over a single day, as a series of lessons or as a full Tuscany cooking vacation. They are conducted personally by Silvia Baracchi, chef-owner of Relais Il Falconiere in a dedicated kitchen of the property which has been designed to reflect the atmposhere of a typical Tuscan country house.
You will learn to cook authentic Tuscan dishes from antipasti through to dessert. Each are simple enough to be able to repeat your own back home for family and friends. The classes are for 2 to 12 participants and include dinner in an adjacent dining space.
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'.
The recipe for these common carnival fried pastry or frappe is similar across Italy, but regional dialects and slight variations have led to a handful of local names such as 'bugie', 'risole', 'manzòle' and 'fiocchetti'.
In Tuscany, these doughnuts may also be called 'chiacchiere'. In Venice 'fritole'. All are delicious and typically sprinkled with icing sugar like a light layer snow on the hills of the lower Appenines at this time of year.
250g flour, 80gr sugar, 2 eggs, caster sugar, olive oil, orange and lemon peel, sweet wine, salt to taste.
They take their carnival very seriously in Viareggio. And not without reason as it is one of the best and most famous in all of Italy. Visitors to the seaside town in Tuscany at other times of the year might stumble upon wire meshing and huge clowns' heads lying in back streets, all witnesses to the build up for the all important month of February.
Viareggio has a relaxed charm and stretches along the coast to a quaint port and a mini canal system. The name comes from a tower which stood on the Via Regia. The celebrations get under way during February with the election of Miss 'Carnevale di Viareggio' as well as a concert at the 'Teatro Politeama' highlighting the official songs for the carnival.
The famous wine growing zone of Chianti is sometimes difficult to pin down. For example, the annual production of the comune of Montespertoli in the province of Florence used to be designated a third 'Chianti Colli Fiorentini' and two thirds 'Chianti'.
Monte Amiata is perhaps south Tuscany's only mountain, in contrast to the famous rolling hills which attract thousands of visitors each year. This now extinct volcano sits on the borders of Siena and Grosseto and is easily reachable from any of Arezzo, Orvieto, Perugia, Viterbo and Chiusi.
Surrounded by the Monte Labro and Civitella massifs, Amiata supplies crystal clear water to Siena and Grosseto, to the Orcia valley and the Maremma plains. It is an incredibly interesting zone and even boasts its own wine, Montecucco, which is produced at the foot of the mountain.
If you are travelling from Florence towards Chianti then you may want to stop off in the zones of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and neighboring Barberino Val d'Elsa. It is here you will find people and small companies keeping traditional artisan skills alive. I had the opportunity to do just this courtesy of an invite from the Comune of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and was taken to Sambuca Val di Pesa to visit the workshop and showoom of L'Argento Firenze.
This gnocchi recipe is typical of the Liguria and Tuscan border in places such as Val di Vara and Lunigiana. Pesto and chestnut are truly local flavors and combine perfectly in this zone. It is a recipe perfect for autumn and winter meals.
for the potatoes dough: 700 gr. of potatoes, 100 gr. of white flour, 100 gr. of chestnut flour, 1 egg, a pinch of salt
for the pesto sauce: basil, 40 gr of pecorino cheese, 40 gr of parmesan cheese, 100 gr. of olive oil, pine-nuts, garlic, pich of salt.
The Florence Chamber of Commerce makes some good suggestions as to what and where to buy handmade items or artisan products in the city.
The list includes gold and silver, paper and bookbinding, mosaics, brass and bronzes, leather goods, linen embroidery, upholstery and terracotta.
Visitors are invited to shop in the traditional small 'botteghe' or workshops where the products are both made and sold. The streets and corners not to miss are named as the following: Ponte Vecchio, Por Santa Maria, via Maggio, Borgo Ognissanti, via dei Fossi, San Frediano and via Tornabuoni.