Why Does Tuscan Olive Oil Taste So Good?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Why Does Tuscan Olive Oil Taste So Good?

Posted by Kiri (14/07/2017)

When we visited Tuscany last year, we went to a wine and olive estate. The owner said, a lot of people say our olive oil is the best they have ever tasted. And she wasn’t over exaggerating. After just one taste of their freshly made, local olive oil I was hooked. It’s just got such a distinctive flavour that once you taste it, you can’t go back. The awful olive oil you buy from supermarkets simply can’t match up.

I have heard that a good olive oil from Tuscany should scratch your throat slightly. We bought back as many bottles as our suitcases would fit, and when I was devastated after I poured the last drop onto my salad. Thankfully, we recently got sent some more. And after surviving on supermarket olive oil for a while, I forgot how strong Tuscan oil tastes, and caught the sharpness at the back of my throat. Hello old friend.

Contrary to popular belief, olive oil, unlike many wines, does not get better with age. The fresher the oil is, the more exquisite the taste. The oil in Tuscany is often made on farms and vineyards where excellent wine is also produced.

The flavour changes slightly depending on what part of Tuscany you are in, because the scenery, soil and trees vary quite a bit. The quality is consistent throughout the region, but the limited single estate extra virgin oil from the Chianti region is considered the best.

 Here’s why Tuscan olive oil tastes so good.

In Tuscany, olive isn’t just an ingredient, it’s a lifestyle
This is a key factor in why the olive oil tastes so amazing here. It’s because it’s a huge part of the Tuscan culture. For the local people it’s a part of their everyday life, and they see it as a key ingredient in most meals.

You won’t find much butter in this region, as people here prefer to drizzle oil on their bread instead. The locals grow up with olive oil and its taste reminds them of their childhood. Olive oil, along with saltless bread, has been the core of the Tuscan diet for centuries. It’s used in cooking, but also as a dressing for salads and bread.

This lifestyle and love for olive oil goes into its production, and that’s partly why it’s so delicious. The people here know what a quality olive oil should taste like and won’t settle for anything less than perfect when it comes to the oil they shower their food in.

It has to meet high standards
Extra virgin olive oil is not allowed to have an acidity level of less than 0.8%, and it should not contact any chemicals. These rules help to maintain the high standards of oil produced here. The process of picking the olives from the trees and turning it into olive oil shouldn’t take over four to six hours.

Another reason why the oil is so good here is when you taste it, it’s been made and bottled locally, keeping the fresh flavour. When olive oil is shipped its quality can drop, especially if it isn’t kept at an optimum temperature.

The conditions are ideal
And lastly, but most importantly, the conditions for growing olive oil are favourable. Tuscany has the right climate and fertile lands, which helps the locals to create some of the finest oil around. The right sort of trees also grow here (including the Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio and Moraiolo).

Plus, the techniques used when picked and making the oil have been passed down and perfected through families for generations. The olives are usually picked by hand so that the fruit doesn’t get damaged which can impact the taste. The most skilled part of making olive oil is knowing when to harvest the olives, as this determines the flavour and acidity levels.
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Three Artistic & Creative Holidays In Tuscany

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Three Types Artistic & Creative Holidays You Can Enjoy In Tuscany

Posted by Virginie (06/07/2017)

It’s not just romance that can be found in Tuscany. Beauty can ignite romance and passion. but it can also inspire creativity. What better place to get your creative juices flowing than amongst the breathtaking countryside in Tuscany? It’s no wonder the author of ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’, Frances Mayes found such inspiration here.

Tuscany is also a magnet for culture and art, with Florence being the artistic hub. So, if you are after more than time away to unwind, and want to escape somewhere to complete a project or find the creative motivation you need, hide away in Tuscany for a few weeks. Here are some creative activities and holidays you can enjoy in Tuscany.

1. Painting holidays
There are plenty of painting classes and workshops you can attend throughout Tuscany, including courses for complete beginners. The magical and awe-inspiring vistas across Tuscany have been transformed into spectacular paintings by artists for centuries. There’s just so many beautiful views and interesting things to paint throughout the region.

Combine a few days of painting, with adventures to medieval hilltop towns, and visits to enchanting cities like Florence and Siena where you can admire Tuscan artistic masterpieces in the art galleries.  Florence Art School is a wonderful place to visit, they run courses in traditional Italian decorative arts. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to paint, Tuscany is quite simply an artist’s dream.

2. Cooking courses
There’s an endless selection of cooking classes and experiences to choose from in Tuscany. Attend a cooking class at a local family run restaurant where you can learn how to cook dishes from scratch. Then, head back to your self-catering apartment in Tuscany and test out some of your new skills. Our self-catering apartments come with a fully equipped kitchen.

If you feel like being extra creative, visit the local food market and pick up some fresh ingredients, and rustle something up based on what you find. Fresh, local ingredients are a crucial part of Tuscan cooking, the locals will make dinner based on what vegetables and foods are in season.

We have put together a list of all our favourite cooking classes and schools in Tuscany, click here to book one. Or, if you would prefer to be wined and dined, why not give yourself a night off and book yourself a private chef?

3. Photography holidays
If you are passionate about photography, you can put your skills to the test in Tuscany. There’s literally something to photograph around every corner. Make the most of your time in Tuscany and take a photography class where you will learn how to photograph some of the region’s hidden gems. Take pictures of everything from vineyards and wine cellars, to olive groves, Chianti farms and classic Italian gardens. You will return with some absolutely stunning pictures of Tuscany that you can treasure forever and use for your photographic portfolio.
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Things That Tuscany Is Famous For

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A One of Kind Destination - Things That Tuscany Is Famous For

Posted by Ruth (29/06/2017)

Tuscany is famous for quite a few things, which is pretty impressive considering it’s region, and not a country. Until you visit Tuscany, you won’t truly understand just why it’s so well known for certain things. You need to cast your eyes up the magical views, experience the medieval hilltop towns for yourself and treat your taste buds to Tuscany’s culinary delights. Here are some of the main things that Tuscany is famous for.

The wine
Of course we have to start with wine, because it’s perhaps what Tuscany is most famous for. Wine lovers and connoisseurs from around the world travel to Tuscany to enjoy the wine. Chianti is the most well-known wine producing region, it's home to the infamous Chianti Classico wine, with the Riserva being the most sought after.

And then there’s the rather pricey Brunello di Montalcino, it bagged the Gold Decanter World Wine Award in 2015. Vineyards are synonymous with Tuscany’s landscapes, and there are plenty of vineyards and farms that offer authentic wine tasting experiences.

The olive oil
Olive oil is as much a part of the culture here as the wine. Tuscan people see it as a key ingredient to pretty much every meal, they use it in cooking and as a dressing for salads and bread. The olive oil has a slightly different taste depending on what part of Tuscany you are in, but perhaps the most prestigious oil is the limited single estate extra virgin oil from the Chianti region.

The food
Many people return from Tuscany and really miss the food. Why? Because it’s so satisfying and delicious. The food here is made mainly from fresh local ingredients, and meals are created depending on what’s in season.

The food is packed full of flavour, yet you won’t find any extravagant sauces. The Tuscan people pride themselves on the quality and flavour of their fresh and often locally grown ingredients. Some of Tuscany’s best known dishes include Ribollita Tuscan soup, Pappardelle pasta, truffles, Cacciucco and Bistecca Fiorentina.

The hilltop towns
There’s nowhere else on earth with towns like those found in and around Tuscany. The hilltop towns are most definitely a major part of Tuscany’s fame. They are steeped in history, authentic, and packed full of character.

Plus, many of them are set high up in the hills with the most spectacular views of the countryside and beyond. San Gimignano, Pienza, Lucca, Montalcino, Montepulciano and Arezzo are some of the most well-known and impressive hilltop towns. We’ve got a handy guide to some of the towns and villages in Tuscany, check it out here.

Florence and Siena
Florence and Siena are two cities that are on many travellers to do lists. They attract tourists from around the world, and are a huge part of Tuscany’s fame. Florence is perhaps the more famous of the two, but both are most definitely worth a visit. The architecture in both cities is a wonder to behold, with awe-inspiring buildings and incredible artwork.

Beautiful countryside
Tuscany’s rolling hills take centre stage on many postcards, paintings and photographs. The countryside is a huge reason why so many people flock to this part of Italy. It’s quite simply breathtaking. The countryside is filled with vineyards, olive groves, cypress trees and vibrant colours, and it’s the perfect place to get away from it all and relax.

The Art

Tuscany, and in particular, Florence is a magnet for art enthusiasts. There’s a huge selection of magnificent art collections in galleries across the region, some of which are home to work by Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo. Art lovers won’t want to miss the chance to visit the galleries in Florence such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia where you can admire Michelangelo’s David. 
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Michelin Star Restaurants In Tuscany

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mouth-watering Cuisine, Michelin Star Restaurants In Tuscany 

Posted by Sonia (23/06/2017)

We all know that a Michelin Star restaurant means exceptionally good food. Tuscany is full of fantastic restaurants, from hearty, family-owned local establishments, to lavish gourmet restaurants. Whatever type of restaurant you prefer, you will find it somewhere throughout the region.

It’s not surprisingly that Tuscany is home to a rather large collection of Michelin Star restaurants. It even has a three star restaurant. So, if you want to be wined and dined, and experience the extravagant, high end side of the Tuscan cuisine, check out one of the Michelin Star restaurants below.

Michelin classification
· one star: A very good restaurant in its category
· two stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour
· three stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

3 star restaurants
A restaurant in Florence offering an exquisite combination of modern and classic dishes. Ideal for wine lovers and those who like cosmopolitan vibes and plush restaurants.

2 star restaurants
Often, you will stumble upon the most spectacular restaurants in the smallest of villages and hamlets. Bracali is an excellent example of this. Here they serve unusual dishes and the restaurant is run by two brothers, one chef and one who serves in the restaurant.

Caino is in an absolutely stunning medieval hamlet (Montemerano). Sample the bold tastes of the Maremma and tuck into yummy food served in this welcoming, family restaurant.

Arnolfo is based in a town in the Siena region called Colle Val d’Els. As with many restaurants in Tuscany, the food in Arnolfo is made with only the freshest local ingredients. The restaurant’s terrace offers gorgeous panoramic views of this classic Tuscan town.

Piccolo, Lucca
Lucca is one of Tuscany’s must-visit towns, and it has plenty of excellent restaurants, including Piccolo. Apparently, having dinner here is ‘like choosing to live a dream’. This gourmet restaurant is based in the The Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte and has a charming atmosphere, first class service and an intimate setting.

1 star *
     L’Imbuto (Lucca)

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Visit Florence or Siena?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Should You Visit Florence or Siena?

Posted by Mikolaj (15/06/2017)

These two cities have long been in competition with one another. From quarrels over deciding where one ends and the other begins, to trying to out do each other by attempting to build more impressive cathedrals and domes.

Have you heard about the story of the black rooster? Legend has it that to decide where the border should be, both cities sent a horseman out on a race at the crack of dawn. Each city had a rooster to signal this, the Florentines left their black rooster famished so it crowed just before dawn. This gave them a headstart and consequently they claimed the majority of the lands.

We’re not trying to add fuel to the fire, but we know this is a common decision our customers face. If you are only going to Tuscany for a short period, you may only have time to visit one city, so how do you choose which one? Is it better to stay in Florence or Siena?

 It isn’t an easy decision. Many people end up going to see the more famous Florence, but Siena should not be underestimated. To help you with your decision, here are some reasons to visit both.

Florence is obviously home to some very famous sights, so if you love museums, art galleries and sightseeing then this is your city. Be sure to check out key attractions including the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile,  Palazzo Vecchio, The Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and the  Palazzo Pitti.

Florence can get extremely busy during peak season, so if you don’t like crowds you may want to plan a visit in the off-season. There’s often huge queues for the main attractions, especially during busy times. It’s to be expected as Florence is such a huge tourist city.

Experience panoramic views of the city at the Piazzale Michelangelo where you can take in the classic and famous Florentine vistas. Florence is a city of the arts, and it’s packed with culture, so if this is your scene, you may prefer to spend a few days here instead of Siena.

Keep in mind if you visit Florence parking and driving is a bit of a nightmare. So if you have a car, Siena may be the better option. There are no driving zones in Florence where only the locals with permits are allowed, which limits where you can go.

But it is possible to drive and park if you do your research before you go. If travelling by train or bus, there are plenty of public transport options in Florence that will take you to towns nearby. Florence has much better public transports than Siena, so that’s something to consider.

If you want to visit Siena and the surrounding area, then it’s probably best you drive or hire a car. Siena is actually a really good base for touring Tuscany, because it’s within reaching distance of many of the hilltop towns like San Gimignano.

Compared to Florence, Siena is quieter and has more of an authentic Italian vibe. It can still attract hordes of tourists but not quite on the same scale that Florence does. Wander around the cobbled narrow streets, admire the medieval walls and enjoy an ice cream in the famous main square.

Siena also offers magnificent views of its own, all you have to do is make it up the steps to the top of the Torra del Mangia. The region of Siena is Tuscany at its absolute best, with pretty Tuscan towns, amazing scenery and excellent wine.

So there you have it. Both cities have their strengths, and both are most definitely worth a visit. Where you go just depends on your priorities and mode of transport. If you are staying in Tuscany longer than a couple of days then you can easily do both, they aren’t that far apart. You can drive from one to the other in one or two hours depending on whether or not you take the toll road.

If you are still stuck and can’t decide, why not let the apartment you stay in influence your decision. Have a look on our website for villas near Siena and Florence and simply choose your favourite property.
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