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.
This article was forwarded to us by Heather Jarman of Sapori & Saperi Gastronomic Adventures and she gives a professional take on traditional farming methods in Tuscany.
"People are always telling you to learn from the past, but it’s often difficult to see how past circumstances apply to the present. I trained as an archaeologist and spent ten years working on the Early History of Agriculture in Europe project at Cambridge University. We were puzzled about the location of the earliest sites with evidence of cereal agriculture.
This is a typical pasta dish for early Spring and Easter from the hilly Mugello territory of north east Tuscany in the province of Florence.
6 eggs, 500g flour, 100g spinach, 500g fresh sheep ricotta cheese, 200g parmigiano reggiano cheese, 30g pecorino cheese, salt, nutmeg
The Tuscan city of Colle Val D'Elsa in the province of Siena is not on many tourist excursions. But this once flourishing medieval town along the Via Francigena pilgrim route is worth an extension as they say in trade. Firstly, because the city is built on three gradients or hills and is formed of a borgo, castle and plain. It looks like a Hollywood film set ready for a Saracen attack.
This recipe was prepared in front of our eyes by Chef Camilla Monteduro who has her own television show 'LE CONSERVE DI CAMILLA' on the Gambero Rosso Channel. It was a quick cooking lesson as part of a Food Bloggers Contest organised by Antonella, owner of Tenuta di Lupinari in Tuscany. While she was making the conserve, Camilla also gave everyone useful tips on how to prepare ingredients and cook professionally.
3kg fresh red Tropea onions, 900g white sugar, 900g brown sugar, 4 spoons of sultanas softened in tepid water, glass of Calvados, glass of apple vinegar, 2 lemons, 1 orange, 1 fresh vanilla stick, salt, fresh peperoncino, dried marjoram.
A rich alcoholic cake from Florence.
A Zuccotto is Tuscan dialect for a cardinal's skull cap and perhaps this dish was originally prepared to honor a guest at a marital festival during the Renaissance.
We did look for a recipe for 'semi freddo' having enjoyed it at a wedding in Bologna. If we come across one it will be posted here in the future.
50g prepared almonds, 50g shelled hazelnuts, 300g Madeira cake, 3 tablespoons of cognac, 2 tablespoons maraschino liqueur, 2 tablespoons Cointreau, 140g semi sweet chocolate, 500ml whipping cream.
The pecorino cheese of Pienza is one of the best in Italy, especially the version 'sotto cenere' or 'under ashes'.
The cheese has ancient origins and has probably been produced in the zone since man first settled here. Sometimes known as 'Pecorino della Val d'Orcia' or 'Cacio di Pienza' it is produced between October and July and seasoned for up to 2 months to give it its distinctive flavour.
Until the beginning of the 15th century Corsignano had always been a small farming hamlet, but it had the good fortune to be the birthplace of Enea Silvio Piccolomini in 1405.
Born to parents who were marginalised from Siena by the no holds barred politics of the time, young Silvio embraced his destiny to eventually become Pope Pius II
The new Pope had great plans for Corsignano and it took just 4 years, from 1459 to 1462, to achieve a total transformation to a precise design encompassing the ideals of the Renaissance, a sort of perfect city.
It was duly proclaimed Pienza. Today, visit the Museo Diocesano di Pienza to find out more.
Do stop by nearby Monticchiello which is located right in the middle of the Orcia valley. This smalled walled town was originally a XII century hosptal for pilgrims and is much as it was at the time.
If you are also wondering where the classic Tuscan postcards are photographed, it's here.
The Butteri come not only from the Maremma zone in Tuscany, but also from Lazio.
The imagery of the Roman countryside and the Pontine marshes in the 18th century was full of mounted cowboys with blue trousers herding flocks of buffalo and Maremmana cattle.
With the draining of the marshes and the successive cultivation of that immense wild empire of the Pontine marshes, many herds and butteri moved north, recreating their world, especially around Grosseto which became the capital of the Maremma.
Even today, very little is known about the life of the last examples of their kind, barricated between the Tolfa Hills in Upper Lazio, Etruria, the Tenuta dell'Alberese, which is now a part of the Maremma Natural Park and the Fattoria del Marruchetone where they demonstrate their spectacular skills in a legendary show to let people participate in those old traditions.
The Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany has remained much as it was since the ancient Romans were using the sturdy oak trees of the zone to construct the Empire.
The river also offered a convenient way of transporting the timbers all the way to the capital.
Notwithstanding this activity, the first permanent towns only rose in medieval times thanks to the presence of various monasteries.
Indeed, the monks of the St. Romualdo order set about regulating the zone by controlling the traffic on the river and issuing contracts for land cultivation.
Today, the woods and country walks are as wild as they used to be and visitors can enjoy the rare flora and fauna in special protected zones, as well as the more common deer, badgers and foxes without too much difficulty.
Do head to the artificial Lake Montedoglio in the centre of the Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany where bird spotters can see a range of water birds from herons to the fabuously named ‘Knights of Italy’.
Read on about the individual towns of the valley, but do make a note of the following areas to explore further: the thick woods of Germagnano and Montecasale, the chestnut and beech tree forest of Caprese Michelangelo and the green meadows of Badia Tedalda and Sestino.
The theater was commissioned in 1672 on the site of an old convent.
Following a period of French domination, when it was named the Teatro Nazionale, it reached its most glorious period in 1819 when Maria Luisa di Borbone took it over having become sovereign of Lucca.
It is the most classic of Italian opera houses and if you do make a visit to Lucca also drop in on the 'Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini' just inside the imposing town walls from the railway station.
Founded in 1996, the aim of the center is to promote the life and work of the Lucca born composer as well as staging his most famous works.
Born in Lucca in 1858 when the city was still under the control of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Puccini was considered a musical genius at the young age of 17 for his complex orchestral works that could not even be performed by the Lucca Orchestra because it was not large enough.
He then went on to study and compose opera for Milan's Teatro all Scala and Turin's Teatro Regio before composing many world-famous operas such as Madame Butterfly and Turandot.
Every year since 1955 the town has celebrated this great man by offering performances of both his most famous and his most obscure pieces as part of the Puccini Opera Festival.
As the event has matured it now features some of the greatest performing talent available.
Performances are held in the Open Air Theater beside Torre del Lago in Viareggio during the months of July and August.