Surviving Italy as a Vegetarian or Vegan

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tips and Tricks for Surviving Italy as a Vegetarian or Vegan

Posted by Ruth Anne (30/01/2015)

Italy is well-known as a Mecca for food-tourists, however, for vegans, vegetarians, or those with any other kind of dietary restriction, finding the right things to eat in Italy can be tough, especially if you don’t speak the language. Italians have a reputation for being baffled by the concept of vegetarianism and veganism, and, although this is changing slowly, these tips and tricks should make things a little easier.

Useful Phrases
If you want to tell someone you’re a vegetarian, the phrase is “sono vegetariano” for a man or “sono vegetariana” for a woman. For vegans it’s “sono un vegano” for a man or “sono una vegana” for a woman. If you want to ask a waiter if their restaurant has a vegetarian option, say: “Avete un piatto vegetariano?” And finally, an important one when negotiating all those different types of Italian pasta: “Non mangio le uova” is how you say “I don’t eat eggs”.

Hidden Dangers
Guanciale is a common ingredient often used in tomato sauces for pasta. It might sound innocent enough, but it’s actually cured pig jowls (cheeks) so definitely one to keep an eye out for! Anchovies are another one you might find hidden in your sauces, so look out for “acciuga” or “alici” in the ingredients and steer clear. Finally, pancetta is often used to add flavour to various soups that you might otherwise assume were safe, so again, keep a careful eye on the ingredients and, if in doubt, ask.

Tips for Food Allergy Sufferers
If you’re lactose-intolerant, good news; carbonara sauce in Italy is usually made with a base of olive oil, rather than cream. Italy is also well-served with traditionally-made cheeses that are much lower in lactose than your supermarkets standards and the longer they’ve been aged, the lower in lactose they’ll be. And for those on a gluten-free diet, Italy might seem like a nightmare with all that pasta and bread, but potato gnocchi can save you from a non-stop diet of salad. Although some gnocci does contain flour, this is often not the case, so ask and you might just be in luck.

Safe Options
Bruschetta al pomodoro – this is bread rubbed with oil and garlic and topped with tomatoes; simple, delicious and unlikely to contain any secret meat or other animal products.

Pizza marinara – pizza with tomato sauce and no cheese. This might sound a little bland, but in Italy even such a humble pizza is a thing to behold. Of course, for vegetarians your pizza options are wide open.

Salad – Italy’s plethora of widely available fresh ingredients means salad doesn’t need to be the option of last resort. Great ingredients and fresh oil and vinegar-based dressings makes Italy a real haven for salad lovers.

If you’re looking for a base from which to conduct your Italian food journey, why not check out our Tuscany villas and see if we can serve you up the perfect holiday home away from home.
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Renewing Your Vows in Tuscany

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five Location Ideas for Renewing Your Vows in Tuscany
Posted by Dympna Docherty (23/01/15)
If you’ve got a milestone anniversary coming up, if you’ve come through a rough patch, or if you’re simply just the romantic type, you may be considering renewing your vows. This ceremony is not legally recognised – but this is actually a good thing as it removes the legal restrictions, so you can hold it anywhere and get anyone to perform it for you. Read on to see why and where you should hold your personalised ceremony in beautiful Tuscany.

1) The Mountains
You can plan a winter fairy tale up in the snowy Alps, or if you’ve got no head for heights you can stay at the foot of the mountains with the peaks as a backdrop. Pistoia is perfect for your mountain ceremony – Europe’s oldest funicular cable car will take you effortlessly up to the medieval mountain village of Montecatini Alto.

2) A Medieval Romance
Tuscany is full of medieval castles and cathedrals, mixed in with small towns that have retained their authentic, winding streets. You could look into the historical walled city of Lucca, the magnificent Piazza Grande square in Arezzo, or find the ruins of a castle if you have quirky tastes.

3) Green Weddings
Nature lovers will be spoiled for choice. Orvieto, in nearby Umbria, has the nickname the ‘Green Heart of Italy’ because it doesn’t have a coast but boasts a lush, green landscape. One of Siena’s eleven nature reserves also provides many perfect opportunities for rustic, open-air celebrations in the forests or wetlands.

4) The Renaissance
Florence is surely the ideal place for you if you have an interest in the artistic richness of the Renaissance period. You can hold your celebrations in a Renaissance palace, or even a real Machiavellian Castle. Take advantage of the climate in a restored garden or on the ornamental steps of one of the palaces.

5) A Vineyard
You can combine the rural beauty of a vineyard setting with the chance to sample classic boozy delights. Siena lies in the original Chianti region, and there are many vineyards in operation that could provide a perfect backdrop.

Getting Hitched in Tuscany
If these ideas appeal to you for your first wedding, check out the government advice on getting married abroad to make sure you get all the legalities right.

Thinking of a Tuscany Honeymoon?
It’s a great idea to combine the trip for your renewal ceremony with a second honeymoon. We have a great range of villas in Tuscany to choose from, whether you’re looking for a romantic break away for two or a larger place to house 20+ of your guests. Contact us to discuss which of our Tuscan villas is the right choice for your special occasion.  
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Taking a day trip to Elba

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Taking a day trip to Elba

Posted by Dympna Docherty 16/01/15

If you’re staying in Tuscany, it is well worth taking a day trip to Elba Island. Perhaps best known as the island to which Napoleon was exiled, Elba is just 12 miles from Italy’s mainland. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time on the stunning island.

Travelling to Elba

·         By car: If you’re hiring a car for your Tuscan adventure, you can ferry yourselves and your vehicle over from Piombino to Portoferraio, Elba’s largest town, or to the east of the island, landing in Cavo or Rio Marina.

·         By train: You can take the train from most Tuscan cities and towns to Piombino Marittima, which is a stone’s throw from the ferry port. Once on the island, local buses or taxis will take you where you need to go if you don’t have your own set of wheels.

Major attractions in Elba

·         Portoferraio: Make sure you check out Napolepon’s former residence, the Palazzina dei Mulini, which is walking distance from the Portoferraio ferry stop. It is also worth checking out Forte Falcone, built by Cosimo de'Medici in 1548 to defend the town, and Fort Stella, which offers incredible views of the sea and the Medicean dock. The Museum of Napoleonic Antiques, the Misericordia Church and the De Laugier Cultural Centre are worth a visit.

·         The west of the island:  Medieval hill town Marciana and fishing hamlet Cotone are extremely picturesque. Enjoy a gelato and enjoy the view at the Lorraine Door, Marciana’s main square, or enjoy a walk and a spot of yacht-spotting along Marciana Marina. If you have time, the Monte Capanne Chairlift is fun and offers unmissable views. If it’s beaches you’re after, check out Cavoli, Seccheto or Fetovaia, and for shopping head to Marina di Campo.

Places to eat in Elba

·         Lunch: If you happen to be in the south-east of the island, La Taverna dei Poeti in Porto Azurro is a charming lunch venue, but don’t forget to book in advance. If you’re in Portoferraio, Osteria Da Libertaria offers fresh ingredients and sumptuous wines. Osteria del Noce is a great lunch venue in Marciana, while Mokambo is the place to lunch in Cavo.

·         Dinner: You can sample top-rate Italian cuisine and stunning views at Ristorante Publius in Marciana, or, if it’s high-quality meat you’re after, Steak House I Paoli in Portoferraio is an excellent choice. Enjoy your dinner al fresco at Osteria La Botte Gaia in Porto Azzurro or opt for a quiet, romantic meal at Capo Nord in Marciana Marina. The last ferry runs at 9pm, so you may have to grab an early dinner before heading back to the mainland.

If you haven’t already booked your Tuscan accommodation, why not take a look at our selection of Tuscan villas. With destinations in Pisa, Florence, Sienna and various other Tuscan beauty spots, each luxurious To Tuscany villa has its own pool so you can have a relaxing break.
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Coastal Places to Visit Whilst Holidaying in Tuscany

Friday, January 9, 2015

Coastal Places to Visit Whilst Holidaying in Tuscany

Posted by Dympna Docherty 09/01/2015
A Tuscany villa with a pool means that you can go for a swim whenever you fancy, but nothing compares to a trip to the coast and a dip in the sea. Whilst the Tuscan region is renowned for its beautiful countryside and historic cities, there are also some wonderful beaches along the west coast that are really worth visiting. Take a look at our selection of 3 of Tuscany’s best beaches below:

Castiglione della Pescaia

The beaches surrounding Castiglione della Pescaia are great for those looking to soak up some sun and relax by the sea. Originally a fishing town, the modern city is just over an hour’s drive from Siena, and only half an hour away from Grosseto, making it ideal for day trips from your Tuscany villa. Take a stroll along the coast to find the best spot to lay your towel, or grab a sun lounger and pay to use the private areas of the beaches.

Giglio Island

An island in the Tyrrehnian Sea, Isola del Giglio is a brilliant destination for those wanting to experience the Tuscan coast. As part of the Province of Grosseto, visitors can take a ferry from Porto Santo Stefano to the island and explore the beautiful history and surrounding sea. Great for those who want a little more than a sun lounger and a sea breeze, Giglio is known for its scuba diving opportunities and being a prime spot for dolphin and whale watching.

Those heading to the island may also want to check out the hiking routes, known for its near untouched nature and wildlife (nearly 90% of the island is uninhabited).

San Vincenzo

Fifty minutes away from Livorno on the coastal train, San Vincenzo has a beautiful beach. Choose to settle down close to the town, or head south to Rimigliano Park for some quieter beaches. Foodies will enjoy spending the day at the beach near San Vincenzo, as the town is known for its delicious local food, specialising in seafood dishes. If heading here, be sure to try dishes that include bonito, a locally sourced fish that can be found offshore during the spring and summer months.

If you like the idea of spending part of your holiday relaxing on the beach, but don’t want to miss out on experiencing the beautiful Tuscan countryside, why not take a look at our Tuscany villas and see if we’ve got the perfect holiday accommodation for you.

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Contemporary Art Galleries in Florence

Friday, January 2, 2015

Contemporary Art Galleries in Florence

Posted by Dympna Docherty (02/01/2015)

Florence is world famous for its Renaissance art, finding pride of place in the stunning Uffizi gallery, but less is said about the culture for contemporary art. Florence is home to lots of thriving artists and art students building the creative vibes of the city, with an array of contemporary galleries carrying the torch for Florence in this international field. So rather than letting contemporary art sink into the background as the Renaissance grip takes further hold of the city, take a look at our top contemporary picks and walk on past that mammoth queue outside the Uffizi!
BASE – Progetti per l’Arte
This is an artist run space, founded in 1998 by a collective of Tuscan artists who came together to exhibit Italian as well as international work in an atmosphere of debate and discussion. They curate an eclectic mix of mediums and artists, with a slight leaning towards installation work, whilst programming a selection of talks to accompany their exhibits.

Via San Nicolò 18r, Florence
+39 055 679 378

Eduardo Secci Contemporary
Named after its creator, businessman and collector Eduardo Secci, this gallery exhibits mainly sculptural works dealing with existential issues of contemporary life. The gallery has only been open since 2012, but has already exhibited some impressive artists from the beautiful work of Angela Glajcar to the darker musings of Paolo Grassino. Eduardo Secci is intent on bringing contemporary art to Florence to combat what he considers to be a preoccupation on the Renaissance. If you would like to see his efforts extended to the world of painting, look below to the Sangallo Art Station, founded by himself and Martina Corgnati.

Opening Hours: Call to confirm
Vai Fra Giovanni Angelico 5r, Florence
+39 055 0517157
Sangallo Art Station
Sangallo Art Station has been exhibiting contemporary painting as the antithesis to traditional Renaissance Florence since 2009, providing a great opportunity to see the current whereabouts of the medium. Having been through a multitude of movements, painting can seem to lose its momentum, with everything feeling a little to ‘familiar’, but Sangallo exhibits some surprising work that will have you waking up to the idea of painting as a current medium once more. The gallery holds a large permanent collection, which ranges from the undisputable skill of Picasso to the more modern masters, such as Luca Alonari.

Open times: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-1:30pm, 4-7pm
Via Fra Giovanni Angelico, 5r, Florence
+39 055 0517157

CCC Strozzina Center for Contemporary Culture at Palazzo Strozzi
Strozzina is the Tate Modern of Florence, with a packed catalogue of inventively curated exhibitions questioning current life and the evolution of contemporary art. Past exhibitions include ‘Declining Democracy’ featuring work by Francis Alÿs and Thomas Hirschhorn; ‘Virtual Identities’; and ‘Francis Bacon and the Existential Condition in Contemporary Art’. They also have a selection of other events including concerts, films and lectures, some of which are free to attend.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am-8pm, Free Thursdays 6-11pm, closed on Mondays.
Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, 50123 Florence
Info: +39 055 391711
Tickets: +39 055 2645 155

Tethys Fine Art Photography
This remarkable gallery houses an impressive collection of contemporary photography, which along with their temporary exhibitions, question the preconceptions of photography. Traditional subject matter is reimagined, such as with Massimo Borchi’s epic depictions of the urban environment and Sandro Santioli’s twist on landscape photography, by taking aerial shots of Iceland to create a series of what look like minutely detailed abstract paintings. The gallery also goes beyond the traditions of photography with artists like Guido Cozz, who pushes the physicality of the medium to its limits through manipulation and decay to reveal unexpected and vibrant new perspectives.
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10am-1pm, 3-7pm, Saturday 3-7pm
Via dei Vellutini 17/R, Florence
+39 055 2286064

If you’re looking for villas in Florence to form a base for your cultural explorations, check out our website or give us a call on +44 121 286 7782.
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