Hidden Gems of Tuscany

The size and diversity of Tuscany makes it a rich region to explore. Being home to the Tower of Pisa and the Uffizi gallery in Florence, culture-seekers are understandably attracted to the Tuscan landscape. But sometimes it’s nice to get off the beaten track, in search of the nuances and hidden gems that are lesser-known.

To help you to discover these Tuscan secrets, we have asked those who live in the region for the locations that the guides miss.

 

Photo by: Fabio Muzzi

Photo by: Fabio Muzzi

Pienza

The town of Pienza is a historic town dating back over 600 years. Rebuilt by Pope Pius II around 1460 as the ideal Renaissance town, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The town boasts picturesque streets steeped in history. Pienza is located in the Tuscan province of Siena towards the south east of the region.

John B Thomas Jr is a traveller and writer for travelearnshare.com. Choosing his recommendation he recalls his time in Pienza:

“From Pienza there is beautiful panoramic scenery from the high wall behind the church. We have have eaten at the little restaurant in the square Ristorante Pizzeria La Mensa Del Conte Di Rosignoli Lucia Rita.

There are some shops where you can buy local fare. The town saw some action during WWII and the church in the town square has the bullet holes to prove it.

It’s close to one of the main sites featured in the movie The English Patient where we roamed around the good part of an afternoon. Not even touristy for its great location! Watch the movie before you go so you can see where you’ve been!” Read more

10 Ways You Know You’re Embracing Italian Culture

Everyone loves a brief taste of Italian culture, but for those of you looking to stay longer, and possibly even set down new roots, you may find your life starting to change in unexpected ways.

We spoke to four expatriates who have moved over and fully embraced new lifestyles to see what they thought were the quintessential ways to know you’re living your life the Italian way.

Our four guest expat bloggers are:

Nicola Ferlei Brown

Nicola Ferlei Brown is a Rome based British writer and has written for the likes of Marie Claire Italia, Italy Magazine, Macs Magazine and Wanted in Rome Magazine.

Elizabeth Knight

Elizabeth Knight from Rome… If You Want To

Francesca Maggi

Francesca Maggi from Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

Gina Tringali

Gina Tringali from GT Food and Travel

Read more

24 Hours in Florence

With Tuscany proving to be one of the most beautiful and culturally rich regions in all of Italy, it’s no wonder it attracts millions of visitors every year. But what if you’re only passing through? To make the most of a short visit, we’re taking you on a one day tour of the Tuscan capital, Florence. Without further ado, let’s begin with breakfast!

8am – 9am: Breakfast at Giubbe Rosse

There are many great breakfast venues, but not many cafes can boast an intellectual twist with private exhibitions and literary discussion. That’s why we recommend starting your day at Giubbe Rosse. With a rich menu and friendly staff who will heartily recommend the best of their local produce, sitting out in the sun is the perfect breakfast. It’s located right in Piazza della Repubblica in the heart of Florence!

 

24 Hours 1

9am – 11am: Florence Cathedral

Just five minutes away from your breakfast, it’s only fitting to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Built towards the end of the 13th Century, on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata (the remains of which can be visited in the crypt), the cathedral is home to many pieces of beautiful artwork, the largest of which being Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgment. While you’ll be looking to get the most of out your 24 hours, we won’t blame you if you get lost strolling through Florence’s history and enjoying the sights of the Cathedral.

24 Hours 2

11am – 1:30pm: Ponte Vecchio and Boboli Garden

Sweeping down from the Cathedral, head south across one of Florence’s most appealing attraction, the Vecchio bridge. The oldest bridge in the city, it was formally the only means of crossing the Arno River in the city. Its current iteration, since 1345, has survived everything from World War II to when the Arno flooded in 1966. It also houses a bust of Benvenuto Cellini, a 16th century goldsmith, as trade on the bridge at that time was restricted only to goldsmiths and jewellers to improve the lives of all who crossed it.

24 Hours 3

Once you reach the other side, you can head down to Giardino di Boboli to take in the beautiful sculptures and horticulture. Decorated with ancient and Renaissance statues and filled with gorgeous fountains, strolling through the garden is serene. It’s also the perfect setting for you to indulge in some lunch.

1:30pm – 4pm: Shopping at Via de’ Tornabuoni

We couldn’t set out a day in Florence without giving you some time to enjoy the vast wealth of fashion on offer, and there’s no better place than Via de’ Tornabuoni. Looping round the east from the gardens, head north over the Santa Trinita bridge to find yourself in the heart of Florence’s fashion scene. From boutiques to flagship stores for international brands such as Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, you could easily wile away the day seeing Italian fashion at its best.

4pm – 6pm: Accademia Gallery

Be careful not to spend too much in Florence’s stores, mind you, as a day in the city wouldn’t be complete with seeing one of art’s absolute masterpieces, Michelangelo’s David housed in the Tribune section of the Accademia Gallery. A wealth of other work from the classic artist is also on show, with a private collection of historical musical instruments along with the history of the invention of the piano.

24 Hours 4

As well as the staple exhibits for everyone to enjoy, be sure to see the Accademia Gallery site to find out about any special exhibitions that are scheduled over the year. Time your 24 hours in Tuscany so that you see something extra special!

 

6pm – The End of the Night: Evening Meal at Fuoco Matto and Drinks at Casa del Vino

24 Hours 5

By now you’ve already explored Florence’s best fashion stores, cultural attractions and breath-taking landmarks. The only thing left is to dedicate your evening to the culinary expertise and delectable wine selections. Coming out of the Accademia Gallery, head west to find Fuoco Matto and indulge in an authentic Italian pizza. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations on wine to pair with your meal.

From there it’s just a few minutes’ walk south to the wine bar Casa del Vino for a more intimate experience, where you can enjoy the best Panino in the whole city! Wind down the end of your day by chatting with the locals and enjoying some wonderful wine tasting. You might just get some recommendations for the next time you visit.

You can squeeze so much out of just one day in Florence, soaking in the culture, scenery and culinary delights. And that’s just one city in the beautiful region of Tuscany, meaning before you know it you’ll be back again for even more!

Tuscany Now attend the #SLBloggerBash

On Friday we attended the #SLBloggerBash hosted by Search Laboratory and co-hosted by popular fashion and lifestyle blogger, Scarlett London. The event was held at the very stylish 1 Alfred Place in Soho, and included a mix of different brands such as Urban Outfitters, Quiz Clothing, Modern Rugs and Wynsors shoes.

Bash Setup

 

The #SLBloggerBash was aimed around fashion, lifestyle, beauty and travel bloggers coming together to have a glass of wine, play a few games and try their luck at one of the competitions which many of the brands had running on the day.

Bash Stand

We wanted to do something a little different, so we decided to host our very own wine tasting competition.  Our lovely winners, Debbie from Hello Deborah, Charli from Adventures of a Nice Girl, and Ulrike from Found some paper, have all won a food and wine hamper.

Event Composite

As well as plenty of wine, we also brought a selection of tasty cheese and meat for everyone to try, which seemed to go down a treat.

Event 3

We all had a great day and enjoyed sharing a glass or two with lots of lovely people, if you are interested in trying some of the wines we used in the taste testing, these can be found below:

White from Campania
Greco di Tufo D.O.C.G.”

White from Veneto
“Servo Suo Brut Prosecco di Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. “

White from Lazio
“Calanchi di Vaiano 2013 Chardonnay I.G.P.”

 Red from Umbria
“Colli Amerini – Rosso Superior D.O.C.”

 Red from Tuscany
Chianti Classico 2010 D.O.C.G.”

Hopefully see you all again soon!

An Introduction to Italian Neorealism

Leeds plays host to a night of vintage Italian cinema

Ever mindful to introduce people to aspects of Italian culture people may not immediately leap to, we invited Leeds’ local bloggers and film fanatics to a fantastic night of Italian neorealism.

Bike Thieves Screen

Neorealism was one of the most influential genres of European cinema. Born out of the destruction brought by World War II, neorealism strove to blend art-house and popular cinema by presenting life as realistically as possible. Stripped of the happy-go-lucky feel of Hollywood entertainment, neorealism films used few professional actors, filmed much of their action on actual locations rather than constructed sets and took an uncompromising look at the struggle and poverty that was rife in Italy as it recovered from wartime.

Bryn Talk

For a great, intimate atmosphere we took to the Library Pub in Leeds, and leading the night was film lecturer, author and editor of Deep Focus Film Studies, Bryn Young-Roberts. A massive fan of the genre, he delivered an excellent talk introducing neorealism, explaining its place in history, its key characteristics and looking into some of its most prominent films.

Cinema Crowd

“It was great to see so many people eager to learn about a fascinating piece of European cinema history. Bicycle Thieves is an all-time great, and I encourage everyone to hunt out and watch more of these classics.” – Bryn Young-Roberts

‘Tuscany Now gave us a delightful evening, showcasing the best of Italian Neorealist cinema and educating the people of Leeds about the relevance of the movement in relation to the history of European cinema as a whole’ – Hope Vanda Churm from The State of the Arts

For those who couldn’t make the event, you’ll find a full recording of Bryn’s introductory talk below!

The tale of Pinocchio and the Italian Legacy

Adopted as the wooden son of Tuscany, Pinocchio is a moral story that is enjoyed around the world. In order to explore the true meanings of the tale, and what it means to modern day Italy, we spoke to literature experts from the Italian Bookshop, as well as marionette and woodwork company Bartolucci.

How was Pinocchio born?

Originally published as a series in a children’s newspaper, il Giornale per I Bambini, the complete story was written between 1881 and 1883, and published after gaining popularity.

The author, Carlo Lorenzini, though known by his pen name Carlo Collodi, was born in 1826 and died in 1890. Collodi was a well-known writer and political commentator from the city of Florence. The story only found worldwide acclaim after the translation of Pinocchio two years after Collodi’s death. Read more

‘La Lingua Toscana’ – The Tuscan Dialect

In light of the recent ‘Dillo in Italiano’ petition, launched in Italy to encourage Italians to ‘speak more Italian’, we explore the origins of the Romance language.

Italian is a fascinating language that varies hugely depending on the area that you visit. The Tuscan dialect however, stands out amongst them all. During the Renaissance period it was this dialect that shaped the standard Italian that is spoken today. But how did the dialect come to be, and what are the key differences?

Birthplace of the Italian language

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, trade grew around the country’s most influential cities, and so did the languages. This was until Dante wrote the ‘Divine Comedy’ in the Florentine dialect (a sub dialect within Tuscany). What followed was unification, with press, politicians and the aristocrats adopting the dialect and popularising it in Italian regions.

Dante was not the only writer to raise the profile of the Tuscan dialect. Petrarca, Boccacio, and later, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, followed suit by writing in the dialect. Along with the rise of Florence’s economic power, and the dialect’s likeness to Latin, it was promoted to standard literary Italian.

In 1861, the Tuscan dialect gained the status of being the official language through Italy’s unification.

1861

Gorgia Toscana

The Tuscan dialect as a whole has significant differences. There are also some subdialects within Tuscany, such as Florentine, Siennese and Pisan, that can be distinguished by slight differences.

The main feature that separates the standard Italian and Tuscan subdialect, Florentine, is the phonetic characteristics called “Gorgia Toscana” simply translated as the “Tuscan throat”.

Gelato, which means ice cream in Italian, is pronounced as [dʒeˈlaːto] (with a [dʒ] sound as in judge), however in Tuscany it is pronounced with a [ʒ] sound (as in vision), making it [ʒeˈlaːto]. ‘Ponte’, meaning bridge, is pronounced in standard Italian as [poːnte], and as [φoːnte] in Tuscan. The [φ] is an f-sound that is made only by using the lips. The main noticeable difference is the pronunciation of ‘c’ as ‘h’ sound. There is a well-known tongue-twister in Italy designed to spot a Florentine. Ask them to say “Coca Cola con la cannuccia corta”.

Hoha

A Lesson in Lexicons

The main difference between the dialects can be seen in the different words, or lexicons, that Tuscans use compared to standard Italian. There are quite a few to choose from, so we picked out a few of our favourite and most useful when visiting Florence:

Cacio- Cheese, Diaccio- Cold, Abbollore- Very hot, Dàgnene- Giving something to someone, Topini- Gnocci

 

What do the experts say?

We asked Alex Preston, an award-winning author of the Florence-set novel In Love and War, about his experience of Florentine. He told us that he hears people saying “’gento’ rather than ‘cento’ for a hundred” and “’Va’ia’ all the time when I’m speaking Italian. It’s like a marker that you’re from Florence, a calling-card from the city.”

We also approached Florence for Free blog, Italy best travel blog in 2013, for their favourite ‘Florentine-isms’:

 “One Florentine-ism we have adopted is ‘ganzo’, Florentine for ‘cool’. Although it comes with a warning: it can also mean mistress or lover, so calling someone ‘ganzo’ might even get him or her into a bit of trouble in the wrong context!”

Ondine Cohane, Tuscany and New York-based Contributing Editor at Conde Nast Traveler, also commented on the playful nature of the dialect saying that it is “hilarious how Tuscans can swear like few others, most involving some awful incarnation of Porca or Madonna. They make the craziest blasphemies!”

So when you’re visiting Florence or other Tuscan regions, don’t forget to use these tips or the cheat guide below so you can fit in with the locals!

Cheat Guide

Cook-Off Competition Winner Revealed

Congratulazioni Alexandra!

We loved all of the entries into our latest Cook-Off Competition and it was great to see such a wide range of dishes. We received everything from pastas and biscuits to breads and cakes, but there can only be one winner. And that winner is:

Alexandra McDermott from The Lass in the Apron

Tuscan Panforte Biscotti

We were blown away with Alexandra’s Tuscan Panforte Biscotti, a twist on the classic festive treat, and decided to catch up with her after the win.

Read more