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 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'.
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.
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.
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.