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.
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
An invitation to visit Cantina Antinori cannot be overlooked, especially if it includes the new headquarters in Bargino together with the historical and spiritual home of the business in Badia Passignano. Both were on an itinerary proposed by the Comune of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa in Chianti as part of an international bloggers weekend in April 2014. You can follow it again via #chiantidavivere.
The new headquarters of Antinori opened in October 2012 and to the public in March 2013. I got my first glimpse of it during WineTown in Florence which was partly held in Palazzo Antinori in the city center. A huge plasma screen had been set up to showing a timelapse video of the construction of the building over a 7 year period from 2005. It was mind boggling and at the time the biggest construction site in Europe.
The best pecorino cheese in Italy officially comes from Pienza in the province of Siena, Tuscany. And the best of the best is made by the Azienda Agricola Fattoria Pianporcino in Pienza who won the gold medal of the 'Concorso Pecorini d'Italia a Latte Crudo' in September 2007.
The event was part of the annual Fiera del Cacio. A parallel event for organic cheeses saw over one hundred cheeses competing from 14 regions of Italy. The gold medal went to the Azienda Agricola Sant'Anna dei Fratelli Sanna from Monteroni d'Arbia in the province of Siena for their pecorino, while the silver medla went to the Azienda Agricola Querceta in Putignano in the province of Bari, Puglia, for their caciocavallo.
The now (just about) archived mad cow scare across Europe had the effect of increasing the amount of labelling on all Italian meat products - 'Genuine Sicilian', 'Hand-reared Lazio' etc. In a strange way 'mucca pazza' has been good for typical regional products.
There are many ancient breeds still surviving across Italy and each has strong regional identities. Those of central Italy have been grouped under the name 'Vitellone Bianco dell'Appennino Centrale' or 'White Veal of the Central Apennines'. The EU have even labelled them IGP, a protected status mark or 'Indicazione Geografica Protetta'. Just seek out the above logo.
Montepulciano near Siena is synonymous with Tuscan wine. Last time we looked there were 6 DOCG wines from Tuscany, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was one of them. Of the 34 DOC, Montepulciano lends its name to a Rosso and a Vin Santo, ignoring any reference to those produced in Abruzzo from the grape of the same name.
The largest specimen of white truffle in the world was found in 1954 in the district of San Miniato in a village called Balconevisi. It weighed 2520 grams and traveled across the Atlantic to be donated to the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower.
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.
Castagnaccio is a classic autumn sweet from the chestnut woods of Monte Amiata in south Tuscany, although slight variations can be found wherever there are chestnut woods in Italy.We ate lots of it in the cantine of Castel del Piano as part of the vino novello celebrations one December weekend.
300g chestnut flour, 100g raisins, 50g pine nuts (or walnuts), 4 spoons of extra-virgin olive oil rosemary, salt, water.