Healthy Eating In Tuscany

Friday, September 23, 2016

Healthy Eating In Tuscany
Posted by Mikolaj (23/09/2016)

There’s no debating the fact that the Italians know how to eat, drink and live well. All these things are ingrained in their traditions and way of life. Italians don’t eat to live, they live to eat, and you will quickly notice this when you spend time in Tuscany.

If you expect Italian food in Tuscany to mainly consist of pasta and pizza you will be in for a surprise. Often people visit Italy and discover the ‘traditional dishes’ are not what they might expect, and are very different from the meals served up in ‘Italian’ restaurants in the UK.

Thanks to the variety of landscapes and being on the coast, Tuscany is able to grow and catch all kinds of healthy foods including fish (freshly caught from the sea), meat and vegetables. Wild game is always available thanks to the Tuscan countryside, which is home to animals such as wild boar, rabbit, partridge and pheasants.

Tuscan cooking
Traditional recipes are cherished here and often passed down through many generations. The people here very much believe that excellent food is based on the quality of ingredients that are used.
Fresh local ingredients are key to a delicious Tuscan dish. Elaborate sauces are rare, as the people here feel the mask the taste of the fresh ingredients. Think basic, hearty and wholesome dishes with simple yet tasty ingredients. The food here is consistent with the delights of the Mediterranean diet.
One of the reasons why the food here is so healthy is because no nasty additives are added and you benefit from the vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in locally grown ingredients. Of course a diet that consists of fresh, homegrown and homemade food is going to be extremely healthy. The food in Tuscany is a fine example of the very best of Italy’s home cooking.

Plenty of veg
Over centuries, the people here have learned how to grow their crops in a way that brings out their full flavour. You will have the opportunity eat plenty of fresh, locally grown vegetables in Tuscany.
Another tradition here is to only eat vegetables that are in season, which provides the local people with a healthy variety of different vegetables throughout the year. Plus vegetables that are in season simply taste better. Vegetables in Tuscany are often served raw or steamed and drizzled in a healthy drizzle of olive oil.

Bread and pasta
Bread and pasta are also extremely popular throughout Tuscany. Most dishes are served with some sort of bread. You may think this isn’t that healthy, but the bread doesn’t contain salt, and the pasta is usually always made from scratch.
Although we have been lead to believe that a diet full of carbs is unhealthy, we still need enough carbohydrates in our diet to stay healthy. Freshly baked bread and homemade pasta are far from unhealthy (if consumed in moderation).

Olive oil
One of the main things that Tuscany is famous for is its olive oil. When added to salad and drizzled on dishes, olive oil adds some much needed good fats to your meal. It’s much better than using animal fat for cooking and it has many beneficial properties. For example it is very rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E.

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Discovering the Local Side Of Tuscany

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Discovering the Local Side Of Tuscany

Posted by Virginie (16/09/16)

As well as Tuscany’s enchanting cities and main attractions, there’s a wonderful selection of smaller villages and towns to visit that better represent the local side of Tuscany. It’s nice to come home from your holiday feeling like you really got to know the area and immersed yourself in the local culture.

Tuscany is well-known for its charismatic little villages, with their traditional charm, beautiful architecture and distinctly local feel. It’s in these places where you will get a sense for the real Tuscany, and uncover some amazing hidden gems.

You simply cannot visit Tuscany without seeing some picturesque local spots for yourself. Taking part in some traditional activities such as wine tasting, a cooking class or attending a local festival can help you to discover the local culture. Spend a few days in a local town in Tuscany and see what local Tuscany has to offer. Here’s a few tips on how to see the local side of Tuscany.

People watching
One of the best ways to witness the local feel that is present in many Tuscan towns and villages is simply to do some people watching. Find a nice little cafe, order yourself a fresh Italian coffee and a pastry, and sit and watch the world go by. You will probably notice subtle things like the way the locals interact with each other and see the odd tourist wandering around.

Chatting with the locals
If you don’t speak Italian then obviously chatting with the locals may be difficult. However, if you can try and learn some basics, then you will be able to communicate with them on some level and ask them questions about the local area. If you're lucky some of the locals might have a chat with you in English.

Eating in small, independent restaurants
A great way of getting a sense of the local vibes in a little town is to eat at a traditional Italian restaurant. You can sample some of the local dishes and wines and dine with the local people. The culinary scene is a big part of the local side of Tuscany and it’s nice to get a feel for the sort of flavours they use and specialities they serve.

Visiting local markets
Whilst in Tuscany, make sure you find the time to visit a local market. Here you can pick up all sorts of things including local products like olive oil, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Try and buy some local products to take home with you. Restaurants in Tuscany pride themselves on the quality and freshness of their ingredients, many of which they pick up locally at the market.

Returning to the same village year after year
Another way in which you can really discover the local side of Tuscany is to visit the same town or village on numerous occasions. You will really get to know the locals and begin to understand the local way of life if you visit a few times.
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Best Things To Do In The Tuscan Countryside

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Best Things To Do In The Tuscan Countryside

Posted by Ruth (09/09/2016)

A trip to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without spending some down time in the countryside. Lose yourself in the rolling hills, lush vineyards and magical scenery. The countryside in Tuscany is picture perfect, and there are many different ways to uncover its beauty.

You can be as lazy as you like while you soak up the peaceful atmosphere, or find active ways to explore the area. Here are some of the best things to do in the gorgeous Tuscan countryside.

Head out hiking
Put your hiking boots on and embark on a mesmerising journey through Tuscany’s landscapes. There are plenty of different walking and hiking routes to choose from, you could even book a guided walking tour.

Discover this region on foot and you will instantly fall in love with its beauty. Stop off at little hilltop villages on your route and grab a bite to eat in a local restaurant or cafe.

Go Truffle hunting
Even if you aren’t a truffle fan, heading out on a truffle hunting trip can be both fascinating and fun. This rather expensive fungus can be found deep within the Tuscan countryside. Tuscany is particularly well known for its white truffle, which is used in many pasta dishes throughout the region.

Not many people visit Tuscany without going wine tasting, and one of the best places to go wine tasting is in the Chianti region. Visit some of Tuscany’s top wineries and learn about how the wine is made, how to taste properly and what to eat it with. Take in the spectacular countryside views whilst tasting some of Tuscany’s finest wines.

If you want to cover more ground, then cycling is a great way to travel around Tuscany. Cycle past vineyards, castles, mountains and medieval towns. There are plenty of places where you can hire a bike and also cycling tours that you can join.

Get creative
Let your creativity flow whilst spending time in the great outdoors. The Tuscan countryside has inspired many artists, writers, musicians and photographers. Getting creative can help you to really absorb the scenery and the beauty that surrounds you.

Enjoy a picnic
Head to a local market, stock up on some fresh local ingredients, and throw together a delicious picnic to take with you into the countryside. Find a particularly picturesque spot, and enjoy a first class picnic that you will never forget.

Go on a road trip
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to see the Tuscan countryside is actually by car. This is because there are many scenic driving routes and roads throughout Tuscany that will blow you away. Make sure you take a drive on the Chianti Road (Via Chiantigiana) between Florence and Siena.

Hot air balloon ride
See the Tuscan countryside from the sky, and you will be mesmerised. Treat yourself to a hot air balloon ride and sip on some champagne or wine whilst you take in the views. A hot air balloon ride in Tuscany is most definitely an experience of a lifetime.
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How The Laid Back Tuscan Lifestyle Teaches You A Few Life Lessons

Friday, August 26, 2016

How The Laid Back Tuscan Lifestyle Teaches You A Few Life Lessons

Posted by Kiri (26/08/2016)

Tuscany has really made its mark on me. Every time I think back to our holiday there, a feeling of calm runs through me. Why? You will have to visit Tuscany to really understand, but it just generally feels like a place where time stops, and the laid back way of life and tranquility of the countryside leaves you feeling at peace.

While we were there it was like we were in a dream world, with all of our favourite things (delicious hearty food, red wine and spectacular scenery). Tuscan really does change you, and it opens your eyes to a slow paced way of life that’s easy to get sucked into. I’m not saying Tuscany will change your life, but it will definitely teach you a few life lessons, such as...

Being outdoors nourishes your soul
Visiting Tuscany is about being outdoors, breathing in the fresh countryside air and opening your eyes to the beauty and nature around you. With out nine to five office jobs, many of us simply don’t spend enough time in the great outdoors.

Whether you are climbing bell towers, trekking through the countryside, cycling on Tuscany’s winding roads or uncovering medieval castles, some time outside in Tuscany will do you a lot of good.

It’s refreshing to embrace a slow pace of life
Tuscany teaches you to live in the moment. We stayed in a very quiet location right in the heart of the Chianti hills. I think I first started to relax and get in the moment when I was on my balcony, and all I could hear were the sounds of nature. The sheer beauty of the region makes you slow down and take notice of the magical scenery.

You will also see that the local people are very relaxed and have settled into a slow pace of life. This is infectious, and you can’t help but immediately feel at ease as you settle into their way of life.

Food should be savoured
In Tuscany food isn’t a necessity, it’s an experience. Food is a central part of daily life, and a lot of passion goes into Tuscan food. Meals are eaten at a slow pace and every flavour is savoured. When you return from Tuscany you will have a new appreciation for food, especially Italian food.

Hard work pays off
Whilst we were at a farm wine tasting, the owner was explaining to us about how the people in Tuscany view work. She said her family work hard to keep things going, but they also know how to have fun, and put so much passion into their work.

Between the family, they run a very successful local farm and wine tasting venue, Casanuovadi Ama. It’s the same throughout the region, the people work really hard, but they also appreciate the value of happiness and doing something you love.
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Planning My Next Trip To Tuscany

Friday, August 19, 2016

Planning My Next Trip To Tuscany - A Rough Itinerary

Posted by Kiri (19/08/2016)

Ever since I got back from my first every trip to Tuscany, I have been dying to go back. I feel like the wine, food and hills are calling me! So, I have decided to book another trip. Sadly I can’t go until next autumn, but on the plus side, that gives me ages to plan the ultimate Tuscan adventure.

Last time, we stayed in Lecchi in Chianti, in this stunning apartment. I’m not sure how we are going to top our first holiday, as we both said it was probably our favourite together so far. Read about what we got up to on our last trip here.

This time, we want to visit Tuscany during the grape harvest. Plus, when we out there last time, a few people said September/October is a good time to visit if you want to see the flowers in bloom, brightening the Tuscan hills with their colours.

The Tuscan grape harvest
One of the main reasons we want to visit in the autumn is to witness the grape harvest, and take part in a grape harvest experience on a Tuscan farm. During this time of year, Tuscany really comes to life with the colours of Autumn, with leaves turning a rusty gold colour and the flowers fill the fields and countryside with a rainbow of shades.

The weather is also very pleasant, with mild temperatures in the daytime and refreshingly cool evenings. The exact dates of the Tuscan grape harvest or ‘vendemmia’ are decided each year, and depend on the weather, amount of rain and variations between vineyards. The grapes have to have the right level of sweetness before they are harvested. You can even join in the grape harvest, picking and preparing grapes and getting involved with the Tuscan wine culture sounds like great fun.

Food and wine festivals
Being a massive foodie, I was slightly disappointed we didn’t get to go to a food festival on our last visit. However, I’m going to make sure our trip coincides with one this time. I love sampling freshly made food and buying delicious local products, so I will be going to some of the best food festivals Tuscany has to offer on my next trip.

In the autumn, many of the local towns, villages and hamlets are getting ready to host food and wine festivals. It seems most town has one at some time during the year. As well as wine festivals, there are olive, truffle, chestnut and mushroom festivals.

Wine tasting
One of the best things we did on our last trip was wine tasting at Casanuova di Ama. Daniela was the perfect host and prepared us an absolute feast, and we really enjoyed all the wines. I don’t think I could go to Tuscany again without doing another wine tasting session. We could go back to the same place again, or explore another farm that offers different types of wines.

Ticking more hilltop towns off the list
Last time, we managed to see San Gimignano, Lucca and Montalcino. However, I’m dying to uncover more medieval hilltop towns. Maybe next time we will head South of Siena and go to Pienza and Montepulciano, which come very highly recommended. I also want to check out Greve in Chianti, which we were close to but didn’t manage to visit last time.

My partner recently completed the Dallaglio Cycle Slam, which was an extremely tough cycling challenge for charity. When we were in Tuscany we were frustrated we hadn’t taken our bikes, because of the endless beautiful roads to cycle along. The 2016 Giro d’Italia also went through a town near where we were staying.  We were envious of all the cyclists we went past. So next time, we will either take our bikes or hire some, and try and cycle on some of Tuscany’s most impressive roads.

It’s early days, as we are not planning on going until autumn 2017. I will post a more detailed itinerary closer to the time, as I’m sure there’s loads more activities and experiences I will want to try and fit in. Watch this space!
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