Hidden Gems of Tuscany

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Image source: gelateriademedici.com

Hidden Gems of Tuscany

When millions of holiday makers flock to their villas in Tuscany every year, there are a few things that will be high up on all of their lists. The fantastic leaning tower of Pisa, the iconic statue of David and the classic vineyards of Chianti will always pull in the big crowds but they are just the tip of the beautifully formed iceberg when it comes to what this region has to offer.

Something is always more enjoyable and tends to stick in your mind more when you weren’t expecting much from it. So while these famous attractions are definitely well worth a visit, why not check out a few of these hidden Tuscan treats while you’re at it.

Cala Violina – In English it means ‘violin cove’ and is so called because of the sound the sand makes under your feet as you walk along the most picturesque beach you will ever see. This amazing spot lies on the road between Follonica and Punta Ala, near Grosseto in the south west of Tuscany and involves a drive down a long winding track and a walk through a wooded area. However, the crystal clear water and powder white sand of a place that some locals don’t even know exists are sure to make your venture out of your Tuscan villa a worthwhile trip.

A city in miniature – This fantastic piece of intricate architecture can be found off one of the back streets in the city of San Gimignano, Siena and would not look out of place on the main street. It is a scaled down model of what the city would have looked like in medieval times and is narrated by commentaries in both English and Italian. It took five craftsmen three painstaking years to build and over a ton of clay was used to create the 800 buildings that are on display.  There is a lovely little gift shop and entry is completely free.

Gelateria de Medici – This is a shop entirely dedicated to ice cream. Not just any old ice cream though because every last drop is made on site using a mixture of artisan techniques and modern creative ideas. There are over forty different flavours to try, made from locally sourced natural ingredients and providing an effective reprieve from the warm weather. The emporium is located in Florence, close to the Giardino della Fortezza and mustn’t be missed by anyone with even the slightest hint of a sweet tooth.

The mystical baths of Bagno Vignoni – About thirty miles south of Siena lay the ancient baths of Bagno Vignoni. Dating back to the 12th century and beyond, these thermal waters were dedicated to the Nymphs by the Romans and are thought to heal a variety of ailments. They are still sanctioned by Italy’s national health care system today and patients are provided with prescriptions to use them. During your visit you can get involved in some reflexology or different kinds of massage that use water from the baths, or simply enjoy the surrounding scenery and the magical vapours that can be seen escaping from the water.

Sant’Antimo abbey – This is definitely one for all the lovers of beautiful buildings. The abbey is situated in a valley just 7 miles south of Montalcino and offers breath-taking views of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, a town set into the hillside. Its Romanesque architecture puts it among the finest religious buildings in Italy and it is used by the monks that live nearby to practise their prayer chanting. It is definitely worth doing some research and coinciding your visit with these chants that take place throughout the day as it can really add to your experience.
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How to Keep Your Rental Clean

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When most people go on vacation their main priority is to take time to relax and have fun, especially if they're staying somewhere that has on call room service.  When you're staying at a rental property you're expected to keep the place clean and intact, and for some it seems like a daunting task.  When you and your friends are enjoying your Tuscany villas, you don't have to spend time worrying about keeping it clean.  If you follow these simple rental care tips, you'll be able to truly enjoy your vacation.

Survey the Rental When You Arrive

Even though you're trying your best to be a clean and considerate renter, that doesn't mean that the people who stayed at the property before you had the same mindset.  When you first arrive, take time to look around to see if there are any problems or any damage.  The rental owners may already know about some problems, but if they don't you'll be able to ensure that you won't be blamed for any damage that other renters caused.

Bring Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Even though you're expected to keep your rental property clean, you may arrive and be able to find all of the supplies that you need.  If you bring your own supplies you'll be cleaning with tools you feel comfortable with and that you know can easily get the job done. 

Treat the Property Like It's Your Home

When some people go on vacation cleaning is the last thing on their minds, and some even feel free to be as messy as they want since they're staying in another person's property.  Getting into this mindset won't help you keep your rental clean, and it could even ensure that you won't get back your safety deposit.  If you want to keep your rental clean make sure that you and other vacationers treat the house as if it were their own.  If you do you'll be less inclined to make a mess, and you could even end up enjoying your vacation even more.
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Who Wants To Tie The Knot In Tuscany? ‘I Do’

Friday, January 4, 2013

Who Wants To Tie The Knot In Tuscany? ‘I Do’
It may seem surprising but a recent survey suggests that as many as one in four people around the world decide to get married abroad - with over 50,000 UK residents choosing to get hitched on holiday. With a significant chance of better weather for your big day and the opportunity to incorporate the honeymoon into the wedding itself, it looks to be an increasingly popular choice.
With that in mind, there seems no better place to stage your wedding than in front of Tuscany’s picturesque backdrop as its breath-taking scenery, beautiful architecture and warm climate make it the perfect location for any happy couple. As we head towards the quieter winter period, plenty of brides will be planning a summer wedding for next year, so here are a few things that may encourage you to consider a Tuscan ceremony.

Getting ready
For any bride, waking up on the morning of their wedding is one of the best feelings they will ever have but imagine how much more excited you would be upon waking in a Tuscan villa. Unlike hotels, villas in Tuscany offer you your own private space to prepare for the occasion.

Picture yourself sipping champagne by your own exclusive pool, having your wedding breakfast outside in the blazing sunshine and taking photos in front of the stunning scenery. Also, you won’t have to worry about any strangers interfering with your preparations as the only people around will be the people you love the most.

After the dress, the venue is arguable the most important part of the wedding and if you are thinking of choosing Tuscany as the setting for your big day, there will be no shortage of spectacular ones in which to host your nuptials. None more so than the wonderful architecture the city of Florence can offer having been named a world heritage site in 1982. Just a ‘couple’ to consider would be the magnificent Duomo, situated in the heart of the city near the river and the Ponte-Vecchio, a beautiful bridge that houses some quaint little shops.

Florence is not the only place that offers vibrant venues, however. The Castello dei Cipressi Chianti can be found on a hilltop to the north of Siena, looking down toward the town of San Gimignano and is sure to serve as the perfect luxury location. Its luscious lawns and rustic court-yard provide a great place for pictures and the castle itself, once frequented by poets and painters during the renaissance period, offers a great surrounding for the ceremony. You could then set the after party into full swing by sampling some of the classic Chianti wine from the vineyards within the castle grounds.

It would be wrong to ask Tuscany to host your wedding without letting it provide some of its traditional food for you and your guests to enjoy. Italy has a rich culture of wonderfully vibrant food, a lot of which has made its way around the world, so there are plenty of Tuscan delights that would do a great job of filling your guest’s stomachs and fuelling them for a night-long celebration.

It is traditional for all Tuscan families to have a starter or ‘antipasti’ before their main course, whether they eat at home or in a restaurant. These often consist of little toasted bits of bread or ‘crostinis’ topped with chicken liver pate or local cured meats. These are great for a wedding buffet or to have on the table before the main course. You could then move on to a traditional Florentine steak, complete with seasonal porcini mushrooms and then finish off with some delicious handmade Gelato; the perfect feast for the perfect day.
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