Tuscany’s Rock’n’Roll Summer

Thursday, May 31, 2012

When you think of Tuscany, you certainly do not think rock’n’roll. After all, verdant landscapes, quaint towns and traditionally designed Tuscany villas are not exactly synonymous with loud guitars or a party atmosphere. However, that status quo seems poised to change, as Tuscany faces a summer rife with rock concerts and other large-scale musical events.

In fact, the normally quaint and peaceful southern Italian region has seen several concerts by renowned international artists booked for the summer months, promising what should be one of the most interesting peak seasons of recent years. Boasting shows by such luminaries as Madonna, Radiohead and “The Boss” himself, Bruce Springsteen, the region seems set to make sure the traditional and quaint Tuscany villas that constitute its main form of lodging have their foundations rocked beyond repair!

And while Springsteen, Madonna and Radiohead are the summer’s main attractions, fans of less bombastic music genres will also find their tastes catered to. Concerts by local rock queen Fiorella Manoia, folkstress Loreena McKenitt, Tiziano Ferro, Chris Cornell (frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave) and legendary bluesman B. B. King ensure nobody is left without an excuse to attend a musical event in the region this summer. All in all, a diverse and extremely interesting menu, which will no doubt help boost the demand for Tuscany villas to even higher levels than those the region experiences at present!

Should you find yourself planning, or enjoying, a holiday in the quaint southern Italian region during the summer months, you should make sure to attend some of the many scheduled musical events happening during that period – it may help you discover an entirely different, rockier side of Tuscany!
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Tuscan Cuisine

Friday, May 25, 2012

One of the best ways to pin down and define the identity of any given region of the world is through its food and drink. Tuscany is no different, and Tuscany villas are far from the only thing giving the southern Italian region its distinctive “flavour”.

In fact, Tuscan cuisine plays as much of a part in defining the region’s personality as anything else, and tourists should not pass up on the opportunity to try some of the area’s distinctive food and drink.

Made almost exclusively with locally farmed ingredients and using traditional recipes and methods, Tuscan cuisine works off a principle of simplicity, while at the same time retaining all the flavour and taste of often far more complicated dishes. Probably the region’s most famous offspring is ‘pappa al pommodoro’, but tourists renting Tuscany villas or taking tours of the area should also make sure to taste bread soup, barley vegetable soup, 'panzanella' bread salad, tripe, and the traditional chestnut cake known as 'castagnaccio'.

If your focus is on individual towns, rather than Tuscany as a whole, fear not: there is still plenty for you to sample. Siena’s 'ricciarelli' pastries, its Panforte Margherita cake or its traditional pasta, called 'pici’, are all must-taste dishes, as are Florence’s steak and traditional entrees.  And of course, all these flavours can be properly complemented by a good Chianti or Brunello wine!

Those looking to bring a little of the traditional taste back to their Tuscany villas will also be pleased to know that many of the region’s stores and restaurants allow you to purchase these dishes as well as eat them, making a culinary tour of Tuscany an even more’ appetizing’ idea, which should not be passed up on!
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The many Advantages of a Tuscany Villa Rental

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

For a visitor to the area, a Tuscany villa rental is something that they might not have thought about. There are a number of reasons why a rental home might have slipped their mind, but the most common reason is the cost. Many people are under the mistaken impression that a rental will cost a ton and not be financially feasible. The simple fact is that if you are staying for a longer period of time, hotels can be just as expensive as rentals if not more so.

There are a number of villas that are more than affordable and offer many of the amenities that you don't get in a hotel. For instance, there might be a two-bedroom house that has a tennis court and hot tub and is pet-friendly. Most hotels won't have a tennis court and their hot tub will be something you have to share. And pet-friendly hotels? In your dreams! Also, many rentals will have the advantage of a fantastic view of the Tuscan countryside, which an in-town hotel won't be able to offer.

When you are making your travel arrangements, make sure to look at your options thoroughly. Take the time to consider whether the amenities, location, views, or villa size matter the most to your stay so that you can get the rental that is right for you. With a little bit of searching and luck, there will be a villa that perfectly matches all of your needs.

Hotels offer you certain things, but what they don't offer you is true privacy or the experience of living in Italy. Even at the best hotel, you will always feel like a visitor. Feel like a local and pay no more for the privilege with a Tuscany villa rental.
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Villas in Tuscany Offer Romantic Honeymoon Opportunities

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Honeymooners have an endless supply of options to choose from, but none are quite like the option of villas in Tuscany. To Tuscany provides an amazing array of personalized, dream-vacation villas for newlywed couples. Tuscany is famous for the breathtaking landscapes, rich artistic atmosphere, and mouthwatering array of restaurants and wines. Deciding to visit this exquisite countryside will create a memory you will want to revisit over and over again. The romantic atmosphere, diverse selection of activities, and hard-to-beat prices are all reasons to plan your honeymoon in a Tuscan villa.

One of the most important parts of a great honeymoon is the romance and there is no shortage of that here! To Tuscany's amazing, hand-selected and high-quality villas provide places where you will feel that you are the only couple in the world. You can choose a villa with a private pool or one near a location you would love to explore. You can go for a stroll hand-in-hand while admiring the beautiful views and soaking up local culture; faster-paced couples can hop on a bike to do their exploring. Having a villa allows couples to have a private, beautiful, and convenient home base, while still being able to enjoy everything about Italian culture.

There are an incredible number of options for couples vacationing in Tuscany. Choose to go wine tasting, go on a beautiful hike or treat yourselves to an incredible spa experience. You will feel as if you are being catered to and pampered all day long, but unlike having to go back to a hotel, you will have unrestrained privacy and intimacy with a villa to come home to. No matter what activity you might choose to do, knowing that you have a villa that adheres to the most stringent standards for excellence will allow you to spend more time enjoying yourself and less time worrying about anything else.

To Tuscany also has a price promise that guarantees your satisfaction with the price of your personal villa. This price-match guarantees that you can enjoy your honeymoon without worrying about whether or not you made the best decision for your wallet. You can focus all of your attention on the one you love and know that the two of you are in for the time of your life.
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The Tuscan Archipelago

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When one thinks of Tuscany, villas, vineyards and rolling green landscapes immediately come to mind. However, the region has even more natural wonders waiting to be discovered, some of them not as well-known as the region’s main attractions, but no less worthy of a visit.

Such is the case with the Tuscan Archipelago, a group of seven islands that form the protected area known as the Tuscan Archipelago Natural Park - incidentally the largest marine park in Europe. And while interested visitors will not find many Tuscany villas in either of these islands – due to the fact that they are protected wildlife areas -  they are still well worth a visit, if only to discover a less explored side of Tuscany!

The economy of Elba, Giglio, Capraia, Giannutri, Montecristo, Gorgona and Pianosa – each with very distinct identities, from sandy Elba to deserted, leafy Montecristo -  revolves primarily around fishing, wine production and tourism, the latter of which is a booming trade despite the relative dearth of Tuscany villas to rent. Their main attraction factor, however, is the stunning array of fauna and flora, sure to enchant and enthral nature lovers. Those with sportier inclinations may also enjoy the wealth of opportunities for water sports, including kayaking and scuba diving on the pristine, unspoiled, crystalline waters. And to top off your glorious day of mingling with nature, why not enjoy a hearty, typically Tuscan meal - complete with a good bottle of wine – in one of the island’s many restaurants?

It is clear, then, that a visit to the Tuscan Archipelago is a must for any nature lovers visiting the region. So, if you are planning a holiday in Southern Italy anytime soon, make sure to include these seven jewels in your itinerary!
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Tuscany in Fiction

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tuscany’s stunning scenery, quaint towns, and traditional Tuscany villas have long captured the imagination of fiction writers, with the Southern Italian region serving as a backdrop for an increasing number of literary releases. The trend went so far as to generate a brief “craze” for the genre, after the movie adaptation of ‘Under a Tuscan Sun’ hit theatres a few years ago.

With all this literary wealth, it stands to reason that tourists renting Tuscany villas will want to take a book about the region along with them. Fortunately for them, the selection is vast, stretching from the classics to lesser-known works of fiction, and even the odd non-fiction book. Below are some suggestions for Summery Tuscan reading.

Starting with the big one itself, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ has fuelled many a dream revolving around the restoration of run-down Tuscany villas. For that is exactly what the heroine does, with stunning results, in this modern-day romance. The book has been so successful that it has spawned a sequel, ‘Bella Tuscany’, and a slew of books with ‘Tuscan Sun’ in their title. Of these, the most interesting is probably the nonfiction ‘Burnt By the Tuscan Sun’, a ‘traveller’s guide’ to Italy from the perspective of a local, in this case blogger Francesca Maggi. ‘Too Much Tuscan Sun’ – a humorous book written by a local tour guide – is another good call, provided you are capable of laughing at your touristy self.

A Thousand Days In Tuscany - A Bittersweet Adventure’, the sequel to ‘A Thousand Days In Venice’; ‘A Small Place In  Italy’; or ‘Vanilla Beans and Brodo - Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany’ (a nonfiction about life in Montalcino written by a relocated Australian) are other interesting Tuscany-centric reads. Don’t forget to pack one or two in your bag before leaving!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pinocchio Park

"The Adventures of Pinocchio" is a novel written in about 1880 by Carlo Lorenzini who took the pen name of Carlo Collodi. The book does not need much of an introduction as this is a well known classic for both children and adults. Pinocchio, first and foremost, is a Tuscan gem. The villages, the countryside and the Tuscany villas are scattered among the pages of Lorenzini’s famous work.

Carlo Lorenzini was born in Florence in 1826. He worked for years as a journalist and translator for various newspapers and publishing houses. During a stay at "Villa del Bel Riposo" in the Florentine hills, he conceived the best idea of his life: to tell the story of a wooden puppet who transforms into a real child. At "Villa del Bel Riposo", a souvenir plaque shows tourists the places and characteristics of the area that inspired Lorenzini to write his literary jewel.

Pinocchio's roots are to be found in Collodi, a small medieval village in the province of Pistoia. Lorenzini chose his pen name Collodi because it was a place that loved. His mother was born there and he spent part of his childhood living in the village. As well as ‘Pinocchio’, Collodi is known for its beautiful scenery and architecture. Among them are the Ancient Fortress and the beautiful "Villa Garzoni", which boasts a historic garden that features in all guidebooks dedicated to Tuscany villas.

The most important tourist attraction is Pinocchio Park, a true insight into the masterpiece of Lorenzini: buildings, statues and other works of art unfold along the way so that we can relive the most significant events of the novel.

Traces of Pinocchio in Tuscany are also found along the nature and walking trails. Simply go to Capannori, in the village of San Martino in Colle, and venture into the park where there is another of the Tuscany villas: Villa Carrara. Here you can find a tree that locals call the "Oak of Pinocchio." It is believed that here Lorenzini drew inspiration for the setting of the sad scene of Pinocchio’s hanging at the hands of the Cat and the Fox. The oak tree is really impressive and is in fact considered to be the second largest in the region.
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Tuscan Wine Suggestions

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tuscany is as world-renowned for its wines as it is for its stunning scenery and quaint towns. But while casual tourists hiring Tuscany villas will not be familiar with many castes other than Chianti, wine connoisseurs know that the region has many other wines to offer.

Chianti, with its traditional image and outstanding reputation, does remain the quintessential Tuscan wine, as well as the stereotype many people adhere to when they think of “Italian wines”. But those wishing to stray away from this somewhat clichéd choice will find a wide variety of other wines on offer, all perfect to be enjoyed from the quaint front porches of traditional Tuscany villas.

The Perbruno, for example, is an interesting discovery for wine explorers. Perfectly representing Italian winemakers’ chaotic methods, this wine is born from a cross-pollination of different types of grapes, giving it an interesting, fruity taste, which owes more to new world wines than to traditional Tuscan and Italian vines. In addition, it is a pleasantly affordable bottle, which makes it a perfect choice for those just looking for good food wines to enjoy in the comfort of their Tuscany villas.

Brunello, produced in the region’s second most important ‘wine town’, Montalcino, is another good call. This wine is mandated by law to age at least four years, giving it the deep, rich taste wine lovers expect from their vintages. The downside is, of course, that this refinement makes the wine soar in price, meaning Brunello may not be for everyone’s wallets.

Still, if you are looking for alternatives to the standard Chianti, you may want to look into these two castes, which represent the ‘hidden’ side of Tuscan wine production!
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Panforte: the sweet symbol of a city

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

IMAGE CREDITS: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Lucarelli

While there are few certainties in life, there is one thing that we can be sure of: it is impossible not to love the Tuscan cuisine! Tuscan delicacies can be enjoyed whether you are in big cities, in the small taverns of medieval villages, in the farms or in the Tuscany villas that have been turned into restaurants.

But what are typical Tuscan dishes? Well, there are many...

Nobody can claim to know the Tuscan cuisine without first having tasted a Fiorentina steak, or a plate of Acquacotta , Ribollita, or having tried a slice of Pecorino Toscano (Tuscan sheep’s cheese).

But today we want to talk about desserts, in particular one delicious sweet dish that has become a symbol of Siena: Panforte.

Panforte is a type of Christmas cake with origins dating back to medieval times. At that time it was called “Pane natalizio” which translates as “Christmas Bread”. For many centuries it was considered a dessert for the rich and could only be found at the banquets of nobility who lived in castles and in the Tuscany villas. The original recipe contained expensive spices that only the affluent could afford.

There are many different flavours in the mixture including pepper, honey, sugar, candied fruit and almonds. The recipe remained unchanged for many centuries, until 1879. In that year, "Margherita di Savoia" who had recently been crowned Queen of Italy, paid a visit to Siena. It was customary in Italy to devote a revised version of a typical dish to famous or royal people when they visited a city. In Siena, therefore, the classic recipe of Panforte was changed to make it lighter and vanilla icing sugar was added on top.

And so, “Il Panforte Margherita” was born in Siena and it is the same recipe that we are familiar with today. In fact, for the same reason ten years later, the world famous Pizza Margherita was born in Naples.

Of course, now Panforte isn’t exclusive for the noble and rich of the Tuscany villas. Panforte has become a popular sweet and can be easily found in shops around the region.

A final curios thought: To make Panforte correctly, in accordance to the Sienese, you must include precisely seventeen ingredients, one for each of the seventeen districts (Contrade) of the famous "Palio di Siena"!
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