Saving Money Whilst Self Catering in Tuscany

Friday, July 25, 2014


Saving Money Whilst Self Catering in Tuscany
 
One of the most enticing reasons to get a villa in Tuscany is to go out and sample the gorgeous traditional dishes. The whole experience of eating out at a restaurant can make your holiday - struggling with your phrase book Italian with your charismatic waiter, soaking up the atmosphere on a balmy evening…having the opportunity to actually use the expression ‘balmy evening’! Your holiday would not be complete without a few meals out, but costs can quickly escalate.
There’s no reason why you can’t continue that romantic atmosphere and wonderful local flavours back at your villa in Tuscany. Finding a delicatessen or market is a great way to find beautiful local produce and meet some locals. Here are a few tips, products and recipes to try on your holiday.

Where to buy food
Italy has a thriving market culture, where you can buy local food at really good prices. You can be assured there will be plenty of characters down there offering you some samples to try. You’ll find all your deli favourites including sun dried tomatoes, olives and artichokes as well as the lovely fresh produce that the Tuscan sun drenched climate is so good at producing.  There is no typical day for markets in Tuscany, but this link shows you days for various towns.

Where to buy wine
A great tip for buying cheap but good quality everyday table wine is to find a shop selling Vino Sfuso, which is wine straight out of the barrel. Without all the marketing paraphernalia, prices start at around €2 for a bottle and you can sample all the wines on offer for free! You can bring your own bottles to reuse, or buy them in the shop.

Pecorino Toscano cheese
This is a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, which has a delicate flavour and loads of uses depending on how mature it is. When it’s completely matured it’s a perfect local alternative to parmesan, grated over pasta or when slightly younger it works really well with salads, or eaten with fresh fruit or grilled vegetables and some Tuscan honey.

Prosciutto Toscano - dry cured ham
Palma ham is often what people associate with the taste of Italy, but whilst you’re in Tuscany make sure you try the local version Prosciutto Toscano. It’s darker in colour than its more famous relative and has a more intense flavour.

A Quick Tasty Snack
While you’re lazing by the pool of your Tuscan villa, you might not feel like cooking something too complicated, so try making a traditional bruschetta. They are absolutely delicious and are so easy, anybody can recreate that authentic flavour.

Just grill a thick slice of fresh bread on your bbq or on a griddle pan, then simply cut a garlic clove in half and rub onto the toast to gently scratch off a bit of garlic flavour. Drizzle over some local extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. After that, add whatever you fancy. If you’re on a budget just stick to tomato and basil. You can’t go wrong.

At To-Tuscany.com we have hundreds of villas all over Tuscany, for couples, families and large groups. You can book online or give us a call on +44 121 286 7782.
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Where to go cycling in Tuscany

Friday, July 18, 2014


Where to go cycling in Tuscany

The Tuscan countryside was made to be cycled through. The rolling hills, undulating fields and striking views all combine into a cycling dream. Whether one is rolling down hills or panting upwards, Tuscany should be every cyclist’s dream location. And whether you are travelling long distance or on a short trip, it’s easy to get to and from your chosen start-point via Tuscany’s excellent bus or train networks.

Wine Tasting

What could be finer than cycling through Tuscany’s stunning country-side en route to a glass of fine wine? If getting to some of Italy’s finest wine under your own steam is definitely for you, then cycling ‘La Chiantigiana’ is a must.

Strada Regionale 222 is the road that connects Florence and Siena, directly through the Chianti Classico wine zone of central Italy. It passes Italy’s oldest golf-course as well as some wonderful vineyards, meaning that stop-offs at a number of chateaus are a definite option. Wine-tasting via bicycle – just another unique option Tuscany has to offer.

Cycling along the Etruscan coast

Tuscany’s coast is an exceptionally beautiful place, with its warm sea-breeze and fantastic cliff-top views. Some of Tuscany’s prettiest towns, including Pisa, Livorno and Piombino are all located on Tuscany’s coastline and it’s here that you can find some truly exceptional sea-food.

Catching the ferry from Piombino to Elba will undoubtedly become one of the highlights of your trip. Elba is a firm favourite for cyclists, both on- and off-road. The Capoliveri bike park offers over 100 kilometres of stunning biking trails and paths through some spectacular and technically difficult terrain.

 ‘L’Eroica’

L'Eroica is a cycling race which only traditional and antique bicycles can enter . This festival, which has been running since 1997, starts and ends in the Tuscan village Gaiole in October. The route takes you past Siena and through the sublime Tuscan countryside, with supporters and on-lookers cheering you on your way.

The festival is part of a local effort to preserve the tradition and heritage of cycling in Tuscany through local action. There are a total of four routes available to choose from, ranging from the amateur friendly 38km option up to the more gruelling 209 km route.

Interested?

If you are looking to go cycling in Tuscany, why not break up your route with a stop-over in one of our Tuscan villas ? Indeed, if you are interested in starting or ending your trip with a stay in one of our properties, why not contact us today for more information?
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Secluded Cecina

Friday, July 11, 2014

Secluded Cecina

Cecina is a small town on the west coast of Italy, just south of Livorno. With a population of only 28,000 this small point on the map may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Tuscany, but still has a lot to offer should you choose to pay it a visit.
We have villas in Livorno and nearby Pisa which could serve as the perfect base for your trip to Cecina, and even our villas in Siena aren’t too far away from this charming coastal town. So why not add it to your list of places to visit and take in some of the sites below.

This waterpark is an absolute must for anyone travelling to Cecina with children, and will provide a great day out as well as welcome relief from the heat. This park is one of two Acqua Villages in Tuscany and has many slides and pools to keep the whole family entertained for the day. Main attractions include ‘Surfing Hill’ which allows four people to race against each other, the twisting and turning ‘Anaconda’, and ‘Intrigo’ which earned an award in 2011 at the Parksmania awards.

Kids under 3 go free, adult tickets are €22 and children older than 3 are charged at €15. There are also discounts if you enter after 3pm; for anyone wanting to just spend a few hours in the park.

The Archaeological Park –
If you enjoy all things historical and cultural then the archaeological park should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Cecina. The most interesting thing on display here is a Roman villa which was built all the way back in the first century BC and which shows Cecina’s place in the Roman Empire. Along with the villa, there is also a terrific example of an early Roman water system, which has been preserved perfectly and shows the excellent craft that the Romans had. This museum also has some interesting artefacts that were recovered from the villa on display.

The Beach –
Many will say that you cannot visit Cecina without spending time at the beach. There is so much to do that you can spend the whole day there, or just a few hours, it’s up to you. There are many shops and restaurants along the promenade which can feed your appetite as well as giving you a great view of the sunset in the evening.

There are water sports available from certain points along the beach, or you can take a boat trip to other parts of Tuscany; including the beautiful Elba Island. If the heat gets too much, you can always shelter amongst the pine trees in the nearby wood, which have been around for hundreds of years and stretch 13km along the coast.

Gallorose Wildlife Park –
This wildlife park originally started out as a small farm, in 2001, but has since been extended into a much bigger place that showcases animals from around the world. However, as well as exotic creatures such as coatis, kangaroos, monkeys and wildebeest, you will also find many species that are native to Tuscany itself.
The farm started off as a way to allow children to interact with the animals in the area and has since turned into a great attraction that earned a certificate of excellence in 2013 from Trip Advisor. If you fancy a relaxing day out of the glaring sun, or you are a big animal lover; you should ensure Gallorose is high on your list of priorities.

If you would like to book one of our luxury Tuscan villas in close proximity to Cecina then visit our booking page online or head to our contact us page for more information.
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5 Must-Pack Items For Your Tuscan Adventure

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


5 Must-Pack Items For Your Tuscan Adventure

Packing for a holiday never seems to run smoothly. There’s something very stressful about knowing that you are so close to an exciting holiday, but you have to get the packing out of the way before you can set off. And things are never where you left them. The passports have grown legs and wandered into a different draw, there’s only enough sun cream left in the bottle for a couple of days, and just which items of clothing are going to make the cut and receive an honorary place in your suitcase?

But whilst all these questions are running through your mind, here are a few things that should definitely make it through your baggage boot camp.

Guide Books –
With so much to see and do over quite an expansive area, the best way to get the most out of your trip to Tuscany is to consult the guide books. This way you can plan ahead and ensure that you get to do everything you’ve got your heart set on. Guides books always have great inside knowledge and are likely to flag up a few sights and attractions that you probably wouldn’t have been aware of before. So bring these along to make sure you are always one step ahead of the rest of the crowd.

Your Walking Shoes –
One of the best ways to see the towns and cities of Tuscany is by foot, but with so much walking to do you’re going to need your comfy shoes. There are nature parks to wonder through, expansive plazas to stroll around and many tall buildings to climb. You can be sure by the end of the day you will have earned a much-needed sit down, but you will grateful for the sights you have been able to see.

The Camera –
The camera may be one of the first things you usually pack anyway, but even those who aren’t fans of seeing the world through a wide-angled lens will want to capture the views on offer here. If you are planning on just using your phone, you may want to pack a separate camera as well in order to do the beautiful landscapes and historical landmarks justice.

Appropriate Clothing –
If you are heading to Tuscany during the warmer months, temperatures can really be stifling, and so you may be planning to fill your bag with shorts, skirts and strappy tops. However, whilst this may be fine for lounging around in the sun and doing a bit of shopping; they won’t be appropriate for the many churches and religious buildings you may want to visit. Men should pack at least one pair of light trousers and women should bring these as well as something to cover their shoulders.

Home Comforts –
When staying in one of our delightful Tuscan villas, you will obviously have to plan meals for each day. There may be many local delicacies or traditional Italian foods that you are excited to try, but why not bring along a few home comforts that can be easily whipped up, and put on the table in minutes, after a long day of sight-seeing.

Looking for somewhere to go on holiday this year? Why not use our easy booking system and spend a few days in one of our luxury villas. Alternatively, you can visit our contact us page to speak to us directly.
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5 Historical Buildings In Tuscany That Will Take Your Breath Away

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


5 Historical Buildings In Tuscany That Will Take Your Breath Away

 
There are many reasons why people go on holiday. Some of us will just want to get away from it all and lounge be the pool at their Tuscan villa for a week, whilst others will want to cram as much into their break as possible. But for anyone who likes to take in the culture of their surroundings while they are away, there is no better place in the world than Tuscany to do this.
There is a heavy religious influence running all the way through the region and therefore there are also plenty of historical buildings to marvel at. So for those looking to get drenched in culture, here are some must see pieces of architecture. Warning; you may want to strengthen those neck muscles before you come away to prepare yourself for constantly looking up.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

This 13th century church has become an iconic symbol of Florence with its dome-shaped roof, and is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the centre of the city. The building took 140 years to finish and has a wonderfully minimal gothic interior, complete with a range of interesting frescos and sculptures. As well as the main dome, the complex also includes a baptistery and a tower known as Giotto’s Campanile.

Biblioteca Piccolomini –

As libraries go, this one is more than a little bit special. Situated in Siena’s Piazza del Duomo, this building really has some stunning architecture to show off. The inside is literally covered with murals and frescos in every colour you can imagine and the ceiling panels are adorned with people and things from ancient mythology. In the centre of the library there is a Roman copy of the famous Greek statue, Three Graces.

Cathedral of Saint Ranieri –

This beautiful cathedral is part of Pisa’s famous Piazza dei Miracoli which also houses the leaning tower of Pisa. You can buy a combo ticket that allows you to view all the historical buildings in the area, as there is much more on offer than just the iconic tower. Architectural experts will be able to point out the fact that it is a five-naved cathedral with a three-naved transept, but it doesn’t take much knowledge of construction to note its beauty. Building began in 1064 and sadly many of the renaissance works of art were damaged in a fire in 1595.

Chiesa di Sant’Agostino –

If you are not all churched out by this point; this beautiful offering in Montepulciano is definitely worth a visit. Not only is it a great tourist attraction, but it is also used on a daily basis by the locals. It is situated in the middle of this wonderful medieval town and will captivate you with its ornate exterior and quaint front steps.

Santuario di Montenero –

If you are looking for somewhere that’s a little bit quieter than most tourist areas and provides great views as well as historical architecture; the hills behind Livorno are the place to go. You can access this monastery via the funicular railway and the trip will definitely be worth it. The sanctuary itself is very peaceful and thought-provoking and there is a monastery on the complex that shouldn’t be missed either. Legend dictates that the Virgin Mary appeared on the hill and told a shepherd to build the church, however it was only a small shrine until it was expanded into a larger church in 1956.
If all this talk of religious and historical buildings has whetted your appetite for a trip to Tuscany, then don’t hesitate to get in touch and make your booking today. You can use our easy booking system on the To Tuscany website or visit our contact us page to get in touch.
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