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 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.
The highest zone of Chianti wine growing is Chianti Rùfina, and do take note of the small accent over the 'u'. The production area stretches from just outside Florence to the River Sieve where where the typical Tuscan hills merge with the last offshoots of the Appennine hills.
It is, in fact, one of the smallest and most homogeneous sub areas for Chianti with just 1000 hecatares dedciated to, above all, Sangiovese and selected clones of the grape variety. These vines comprise parts of the municipal districts of Pontassieve, Rufina, Pelago, Londa and Dicomano all in the province of Florence.
This part of Tuscany is north east of Florence and sits snugly in a zone where the the last parts of the Appennine hills roll into the classic Tuscany countryside we know so well by the River Sieve. We have a book of local recipes but this risotto recipe with grapes and red wine caught the eye.
1 onion, butter, 320g rice, 1/2 glass Chianti Rufina wine, 100g parmigiano reggiano cheese, ripe Sangiovese or Canaiolo grapes, vine leaves.
Learning how to make fresh pasta does actually change your life. What could be more Italian and what could be more tasty than the correct combination of flour, eggs, salt and water. Here's a recipe from an evening pasta class I took part in in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa near Forence at www.lamiapasta.
If you arrive in Impruneta from one of the country backroads you might just come across a number of the smaller workshops producing the famous terracotta. Roughly translated that's cooked earth, and the dark brown clay pots, statues and atistic objects are just that.
Synonymous with Tuscany, Impruneta is the capital of terracotta manufacturing in Italy, at least historically since 1098 for a number of documented reasons: the local clay is waterproof and resistant to cracking at very low temperatures; an abundance of woodlands feeding the kilns; the vicinity of Florence as a market
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.
The Palio of Siena first took place in 1555 as an act of defiance by the 17 armies based the town. They came together to ride for the prize of the 'Drappellone' and to also demonstrate their independence from the forces of the Medici. In the 460 years of the event the 'contrada' with the most victories is 'Oca' or Goose who claim 65. Their colors are green and white with a red trim and their motto, fittingly enough, is 'clangit ad arma' or 'call to arms'.
The whole event is more colorful and lively than you can possibly imagine and a genuinely ruthless race both before, during and after, assuming you are the losing jockey. Of all the annual 'feste' throughout the year the Palio of Siena truly gives a glimpse of how life and entertainment must have been all those years ago.
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.
This traditional and delicious soup recipe with tomatoes and bread is very simple and typical of Tuscany. The secret is selecting top notch ingredients, so stay away from the supermarket and buy from your local 0km market. Once you've mastered this, try you hand at ribollita.
300gr stale Tuscan bread, 500gr mature tomatoes, basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 liter of broth, olive oil, salt & pepper