Make 2013 The Year You Visit Tuscany

Friday, March 29, 2013

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Tuscany is a beautiful region in Italy that meets nearly every holiday goers needs. Rich in history; Tuscany also boasts a thriving night life, stunning beaches and delicious cuisines. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday, a holiday of sightseeing or a week of nights out in quirky bars, Tuscany has it all.

History- Tuscany is a place that is rich in History and is named after its pre-roman inhabitants the Etruscans. There are many sites to see in each town and village-

·         Pisa- Known for the leaning tower of Pisa, there is much more to see here than the tower alone! When in Pisa of course visit the tower, but also try Pisa’s medieval centre and its various parks.

·         Siena- Siena is a medieval town with some great examples of medieval architecture. Visit Siena’s bell tower and the Piazza Del Campo.

·         Lucca- Visit one of the few walled cities left in Tuscany. There are walking and cycling paths around the walls so you can see the city from all angles. There are also several towers in which you can climb to see a view of the city from above.

Nightlife- Whether you’re looking for quaint little pubs, trendy bars or lively night clubs, Tuscany has something to suit your mood every night of the week. Try-

·         Trip Per Tre- Borgo Ognissaanti, Florence. This quirky bar has a clientele of bikers and ‘punks,’ but don’t let this put you off! This bar is extremely friendly and always has a great atmosphere. It usually gets busy around 10pm and stays open till the early hours every night of the week. You’re sure to meet the owner here as it takes it upon himself to walk round the bar making sure all his customers are happy. You will feel very welcome here.

·         The Joshua Tree Pub- Via Della Scala, Florence. This unusual Irish/Italian bar is known for being friendly, cheap and overly generous on servings of beer and liquors. There is always an event on here, whether that be a DJ playing or a screening of a football game.

·         Beach Club- Clinquale.  This club is situated in Versillia on the sea front, hence the name the beach club. Opening in 2010, this club has been a huge success ever since amongst locals and holiday goers. It’s great for a big night out and to mingle with locals and other travellers.

Beaches-Tuscany boasts some beautiful beaches, whether you are looking for a busy buzzing beach, or a quiet secluded experience there are lots to choose from-

·         Versillia Beach- The beach in Versilla is very long stretching from Forte Dei Marmi in the north all the way to Viareggio in the south. There are quieter points of the beach and some busy points with restaurants, bars and umbrellas. It’s just a case of what you feel like; there is a part of the beach to suit everyone’s needs. The current in the water can be quite strong, so make sure you are aware of the safe areas to swim.

·         Pisa Beach- Unlike Versillia beaches the beaches in Pisa are narrow and back onto woodland. Pisa beaches are a good choice for families are they are quite secluded and the strong tide is barricaded by stone walls.
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5 Must See Events On Your 2013 Tuscany Escape

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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5 Must See Events On Your 2013 Tuscany Escape

If you are already starting to plan your holiday to Tuscany in 2013 then you may want to arrange it so that it coincides with some of the exciting events that happen all over this region every year. As this area is so diverse and traditional, there is always so much to see and do and taking part in one of these yearly events could really make your holiday.

Using one of the many villas in Tuscany as your base, you can travel around the area by car, train or even bus, exploring all that this region has to offer as you go. If you truly want a unique taste of Tuscany then try experiencing one of these fantastic festivals…

What – Scoppio Del Carro (Explosion of the Cart)
When – Easter Sunday
Where – Florence

Tell Me More – This traditional event dates back to as early as 1102 and is steeped in history. When the crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, a member of the Florentine family Pazzi was the first to raise a Christian banner above the city. As a reward, he was given three bits of stone from the Holy Sepulchre which were then used in Florence every Easter to light the fire that symbolises new life. People would then come from all areas of the city to relight their hearths from this fire.

Nowadays, to symbolise this, a large decorative cart is pulled by white oxen through the city to the cathedral square. The festival then commences and culminates in the cart being lit from a dove shaped rocket which travels down a piece of wire from the cathedral. Fireworks explode into life, bringing amazing colour and noise to the air.

What – Giostra dell’Archidado (Crossbow Competition)
When – Usually Whitsunday but for 2013 Sunday 2nd June
Where – Cortona

Tell Me More – Hundreds of competitors and countless more people on horseback parade through the streets of this historic town dressed in medieval attire. The competition is to commemorate the wedding of the Lord of Cortona and a noblewoman by the name of Antonia Salimbeni which happened in 1397. The archers taking part in this amazing spectacle come from Cortona’s five quarters and compete for the golden arrow.

What – Palio
When – 2nd July and 16th August
Where – Siena

Tell Me More – This is arguably the most famous event in the Tuscan calendar and is one that really should not be missed if you are in the area at the time. Daring riders from the town’s different neighbourhoods race bareback on their horses around a sand track in the middle of the Piazza del Campo in order to compete for the Palio; or banner in English. Large feasts of traditional Tuscan delicacies are then laid out afterwards and the streets are awash with a party atmosphere. Tickets for the seating areas can be expensive but it is free to watch from the floor of the Piazza.

What – Volterra A.D 1398
When – The last week of August
Where – Volterra, Pisa

Tell Me More – This is one of the biggest and best medieval festivals in the whole of Italy and it really is a week-long celebration of the country’s history. Food, games and costumes are all used to get people into the medieval spirit; they even use medieval money.

What – Chianti Classico Wine Festival
When – The second week in September
Where – Greve in Chianti

Tell Me More – This is definitely one for all the wine lovers but anyone can enjoy this wonderful celebration of one of Tuscany’s post popular exports. There is a plethora of different wines to try and all you need to do is buy a glass and then fill it up as much and as many times as you like. You may want to cancel any plans you have for the next day as well though.
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Taste of Tuscany: Three Easy to Make Tuscan Dishes

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tuscany region is famous for two things: its unique art and delicious food.  It's safe to say that most people who reserve Tuscan villa rentals will be spending a lot of time sampling the local cuisine when they're on their vacation, and some may even miss eating Tuscan cuisine when they head home.  You don't have to fly to Tuscany if you want to eat Tuscan dishes; there are some famous foods you can make in your own kitchen.

The word crostini means "little toasts" in Italian, and there are a variety of ways to prepare this popular bread appetizer. There are people who are put off by this traditional Tuscan dish because chicken livers and other organ meats are the main ingredient, but most people forget any of their doubts after they taste it.  The livers (or other organ meats) are sautéed with onions, capers, wine, and other select seasonings in order to make a delicious bread topping.  The complex taste and beautiful presentation makes some people think that this dish is difficult to make, but you can make a good batch of crostini di fegato in less than a half hour.

When many people in the US and UK think about pasta noodles they think about spaghetti or linguine, but there are countless variations of this popular food.  Pappardelle pasta is a type of noodle that is very large and flat, some people think that it looks like wide fettuccine.  Some pappardelle have fluted edges like lasagna noodles, but pappardella that's made from dried egg usually have straight sides.  The name pappardelle is derived from the Italian verb "pappare" which means "to gobble up", and these large and flat noodles are perfect for easy eating.  There are an array of ways you could make pappardelle pasta, but the recipe in this blog post utilizes fresh mushrooms to make a unique taste.

If you have some bread that's gone stale this Florentine salad can save you from having to waste food.  Panzanella (also known as panmolle) is a simple salad that uses stale bread that's been soaked in olive oil and seasonings as its main ingredient.  In the past onions were a main ingredient in the salad, but in the 20th century tomatoes became more popular to use.  Cucumbers, boiled eggs, and fresh basil, mozzarella, anchovies, and other typical salad garnishes can also be used in the dish.  Panzanella has been enjoyed for centuries.   The 16th century poet and artist Bronzino wrote about his love for onions with oil and vinegar served with toast, and then immediately mentioned his love for a salad made up of purslane, onions, and cucumbers.  Some people believe this particular food ballad describes the earliest form of panzanella salad.

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Tuscan Literature Spotlight: Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuscany is famous for its beauty and contribution to the arts, but when people think of art in Tuscany they tend to forget that art doesn't just involve paintings and sculptures.  The art of the written word is greatly appreciated in Tuscany, and the region's famous Tuscany villas have been home to an array of poets, writers, and novelists.  There quite a few people who believe that Tuscan literature begins and ends with Dante's Inferno, but there's a lot more to the Tuscan literary scene than a centuries old epic poem.  Tuscan citizens have been writing fantastic works of art for centuries, and some people would be surprised to learn that some of their favorite stories have been written by Tuscan writers.

A Full Life

Did you know that the infamous story about everybody's favorite boy puppet had its origins of Tuscany?  There are a few people who know that Pinocchio is supposed to take place somewhere in Italy, but not too many people know that the story's setting was inspired by the author Carlo Collodi's home in the Tuscany region.  Some people think that Collodi was born in the small village that shares his last name, but Collodi was actually born in Florence in 1826 with the surname of Lorenzini.  Collodi was his pen name, but he didn't choose the name Collodi by coincidence.  His mother was born and raised in Collodi, and his parents met in his mother's home town.  Carlo chose "Collodi" as his pen name so he could honor the town of his mother's birth and his parent's roots. 

Collodi was a volunteer in the Tuscan army during the Wars of Independence from 1848 to 1860, and before his volunteer stint he managed to create a satirical newspaper called Il Lampione.  The newspaper was censored by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1849, but the paper was revived after Collodi became a famous writer.  In 1856 Collodi earned critical acclaim for his novel Un Romanzo in Vapore, and he started to work on political newspapers.    From the time he wrote his first novel in 1856 to 1880 Collodi spent most of his time writing satirical stories for various publications, and even had some of his humorous sketches published along with his work. 

Pinocchio's Origins

Throughout his literary career Collodi was always looking for ways to express his thoughts and opinions through his work.  Collodi wanted to create a lovable yet mischievous character he could use to allegorically express his own thoughts and feelings, and in 1880 he started to write Storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette), the story that would eventually become Le Avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio). 

The first half of his novel was originally published as a series of magazine stories from 1881 to 1883, and his story was a far cry from the positive children's book we know today.  Collodi initially intended to end his story when Pinocchio was hanged for his faults and crimes, but his editor requested that Collodi add more content to make the story happier and suitable for younger audiences.  Collodi ended up creating the Fairy with Turquoise Hair (Disney changed her name to the Blue Fairy in their animated film) character to transform Pinocchio into a real boy and help him learn from his faults.

Children's books were a new idea during Collodi's time, and his story ended up being one of the earliest examples of acclaimed children's literature.  Unfortunately Collodi would never learn of the impact his book had in the literary world.  When he died in 1890 he was respected for his lifetime of social commentary and literary contributions, but his book didn't become popular until it was translated into English in 1892. 
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The Ultimate Culinary Experience In Tuscany

Friday, March 1, 2013

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The Ultimate Culinary Experience In Tuscany

No trip to the beautiful Italian region of Tuscany is complete without sampling the various traditional foods the country has to offer. Always a huge part of most of our holidays, over indulging and eating out is a must, and let’s not forget the wine! <!–more–> Here is a look at the different experiences to be had while holidaying in Tuscany-

Food Markets

There are lots of food markets and stalls in nearly every town and village. You can buy a wide range of products which are all locally grown and made, such as olive oil, handmade pasta, locally reared meat and freshly caught fish. Here is a list of some of the best weekly markets-

·         Arezzo-  Every Saturday

·         Cortona- Every Saturday

·         Lucca- Every Wednesday and Saturday

·         Voltera- Saturday

·         San Galzano- Daily market

Florence has several daily markets to that should not be missed!

Food Festivals

Unlike any festival we have here in the UK, the white truffle festival is held in San Miniato every November for three consecutive weekends. The festival boasts hundreds of food stalls all smelling of the rich natural truffle. All the stalls sell food that incorporates the truffle into their dish. You can also pick up gifts and things to take home such as white truffle oil.

Held in May is the snail festival! This unusual festival is hosted in Camucia and celebrates the eating of the snail. You can find the ingredient on pizzas, pastas or rustic in the shell.

A great summer’s day in Tuscany can be spent at the wine festival in August held in Panzano’s main square. A lovely idea, you buy a tasting glass for ten Euros and then proceed round the stalls tasting the wines on offer. All the products are available to buy, so if you find a wine you particularly like you can take a few glasses home.

What To Try

While we are abroad why not fully embrace the experience and eat traditional local food. Perhaps you would not usually eat some of these dishes, but being on holiday is all about trying new things and having different experiences. Try these dishes while visiting Tuscany-

·         Chicken Liver Crostini- A traditional starter in Tuscany, this is a popular choice for locals on Christmas day, but can be found in lots of restaurants throughout the year. Crostini is a traditional bread.

·         Panzanella- This is a summer salad recipe influenced by the colours of the Italian flag. This is an age old traditional dish. It is first recorded in a poem in the 1500’s by famous artist Bronzino. Stale bread, tomatoes, onions and cucumber make up the basis of this salad.

·         Cacciucco- This fish stew is fairly famous in Tuscany and can be found in many restaurants. It’s best to try this dish on the coast as you know the sea food will be very fresh. It’s usually served with crusty bread to dip in and is really moreish!

If you decide you don’t want to eat out every night, make sure you visit the Tuscan markets to pick up rustic and traditional ingredients. Prepare them at home; there are lots of traditional villas in Tuscany to choose from to ensure you get a truly authentic experience. Serve any meals you make yourself with good Tuscan wine and bread.
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