Most people are attracted to Florence because of its incomparable artistic and architectural heritage. Florence is a city that seems to be an open-air museum with beautiful renaissance palaces, sculptures and museums on every corner. Of course when you visit Florence, you will also look for restaurants that can provide you similar pleasures to those caused by the beauty of the city itself. We recommend you herein some of the best restaurants in Florence that will leave you satisfied with their style, tasty dishes and great selection of rich-flavored local wine.

Cibrèo Restaurant, Via del Verrocchio 8r

Cibrèo Restaurant, opened in 1979 by Fabio Picchi, it’s not simply a restaurant in Florence, but it’s actually a member of a group of five establishments operated by the same family. The opening of the restaurant was followed by the creation of a trattoria (eatery), a café, a cultural association and an oriental restaurant, which are all found very close to each other. The restaurant is strongly attached to the family heritage of Mr. Picchi and the cooking traditions of several generations. The name Cibrèo is actually a ragout that was prepared in the family on special occasions. The most important characteristic of the restaurant is the ever-changing menu, which always adapts to the actual season, and cooking by the rhythm of the seasons is the motto of the restaurant.

Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò, Via San Niccolò 60 r

If you are looking for an old-school restaurant in Florence specialized in traditional Tuscan cuisine accompanied with great quality wine, Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò is a great option for you. Run by the Prosperi family, this restaurant works in a very old building, which used to be a wine customs station before it was transformed into a tavern in the 19th century. The vintage decorations with wine flasks and century old photographs on the wall will take you back to already forgotten times, while you can taste a delicious ribollita (a delicious soup made with black cabbage and beans) or the mouthwatering boar stew they prepare there. The cheese and wine selection is excellent, and actually you can sit in just to have a glass of wine with some cheese.

 

 

Buca dell’Orafo Via dei Girolami 28/r

Established in an old palace from the 13th century, just next to the emblematic Ponte del Vecchio, Buca dell’Orafo is another great restaurant in Florence for those looking for traditional Tuscan flavors. Dining here is also a trip throughout history, since Bucca dell’Orafo recreates the atmosphere of ancient Florentine restaurants. The specialties vary throughout the different seasons. In warmer months great vegetarian dishes such as Taglierini ai piselli (pasta with fresh peas) or cold bread salad can be a great choice, whereas in winter we recommend you the tasty soups or potato gnocchi prepared with sausage and black cabbage sauce.

Ristorante Zibibbo 2.0, Via delle Seggiole 14r

Another great restaurant that offers Tuscan cuisine, but this time with a pinch of Sicilian influence in the flavors, Ristorante Zibibbo 2.0 is one of the top restaurants in Florence. Found in the Santa Croce neighborhood, this restaurant is especially a great option in summer, when you can also eat outside in the lovely courtyard. The menu consists of both classical dishes that have been cooked in Zibibbo for years and newly created culinary fantasies. The pasta they serve is their own production, but on the menu you will also find a variety of meat dishes and fish, which you can accompany by a bottle of fine Tuscan wine.

If you eat in any of these restaurants in Florence, you will surely enjoy a culinary trip into the world of traditional Tuscan cuisine, while you can taste the best local wines.

Already daydreaming about your next Italian adventure? Perhaps you’re beyond the Pinterest phase and ready to start booking a hotel in Tuscany. Wherever you are, Italy awaits you in all her majesty. Here at Dievole we’ve assembled seven bucket-list adventures you simply must experience during your Italian holidays. Check it out.

Enjoy pizza in Naples

Pizza dough being kneaded

Pizza dough being kneaded

Bite deep into a delicious pizza Napolatena. The ingredients of a good pizza are simple: fresh basil, mozzarella, tomatoes—just like the flag—a simple dough, and extra-virgin olive oil. They’re assembled with love and cooked with finesse at extreme temperatures for 90 seconds or less as per tradition. There’s typically more sauce than cheese on a Neapolitan pizza, so the centers are soupy, and savory. For this reason, they are best served as little personal pies, not slices. Buon appetito!

Taste wine where it’s made

Tasting Dievole wine on the spot

Tasting Dievole wine on the spot

So, you know whether you’re a sparkling, red, white, or rosé kind of gal, but have you savored the wine where it’s made? The vineyards of the Chianti Classico region spread from Florence to Siena, and they’re unanimously known as the cradle of the world’s best wines. Interested in expanding your wine knowledge? The best way to learn is from the producers themselves. Plan a wine tasting for your next Italian holiday. No need to look far, Dievole offers wine tastings right here.

Ride a Vespa

The Vespa (model 946) parked somewhere in Tuscany | Photo Alexandra Korey

The Vespa (model 946) parked somewhere in Tuscany | Photo Alexandra Korey

Cue up Audrey Hepburn behind Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, or if you’re of the younger generation, a certain Lizzie McGuire movie – the romance of the 2-wheeled Italian icon is always alive in our imaginations. The first-time Vespa experience can be enjoyed solo or with a group of girlfriends by riding safely behind a guide. Companies like Scooteroma and Florencetown offer vespa tours in Rome and Florence, and every major city will offer something similar.

Stay in an authentic agriturismo

Tuscan hospitality at an agriturismo - Dievole

Tuscan hospitality at an agriturismo – Dievole

Booking your stay at an authentic Agriturismo, or a farm-stay, is one of the most relaxing and rewarding ways to enjoy the beauty of the Italian countryside. It’s even more incredible if that agriturismo doubles as a winery, which here at Dievole we are both. What makes an agriturismo special is that you’re in touch with nature, and can usually visit the vines, kitchen garden, honey production or other things the place makes.

Experience the Palio in Siena

Palio di Siena | Photo Angela Sanders

Palio di Siena | Photo Angela Sanders

The Palio di Siena is an intense bareback horse race where ten of Siena’s neighborhoods, or contrade, compete. The event isn’t for tourists, it’s a heavily felt, local tradition. The Palio is held twice a year July 2 and August 16 in honor of the Blessed Mother and to he delight of passionate locals. It’s the heart and soul of Siena. Rivalries are intense. If you plan to go, mark your territory in Piazza del Campo especially early. The Piazza fills up to the brim, and you’ll want a clear view. Regardless of the heat, you really, really won’t want to miss this event. Bring sunscreen, lots of water, and a fan.

Gaze at sunflower fields

Sunflower Fields | Photo by Marco Pagni on Flickr

Sunflower Fields | Photo by Marco Pagni on Flickr

You’ve seen the sunflower fields in photographs and films, but you haven’t seen them yet in Italy. Why is this, you ask? It may just not be a sunflower year. We recommend researching this before you go looking for them. If the stars align just so, and you find that the sunflowers are in bloom, definitely make time for the adventure during your Italian holiday. That image of you standing amongst the happy blooms is sure to be your profile photo for at least a year to come.

Jump in the Mediterranean sea

The sea at Cinque Terre | Photo Angela Sanders

The sea at Cinque Terre | Photo Angela Sanders

What’s more ideal than swimming in the crystal clear of the Mediterranean Sea? A day at the beach sure beats the city heat, and a dip in the sea, or mare, will leave your mind, body and soul refreshed. Check out our blog post about the best beaches to consider when planning your Italian holidays.

Freshen-up with an ice-cream in Florence

Ice Cream. or gelato, in Florence

Traditional Italian gelato

Nothing like a delicious and refreshing gelato to recover strength after visiting such iconic places as the Ponte Vecchio or the Duomo and steeping yourself in the art of the Galleria dell’Accademia or the Galleria Uffizi. The ice-cream parlours are one of the most sought-out places in the city of Florence. Look out for the genuine creamy Italian-made gelatos in coppetta or in cone. They are delicious! The only problem is that you will have to choose among many different flavours.

 

words by Angela Sanders

Mother’s Day is one of the most intimate holidays of the year, and it’s a perfect time to spend a special weekend with your mother or even your whole family. Is there any better way to spend a memorable Mother’s Day than heading to the countryside and visiting beautiful medieval towns and villages surrounded by nature?

The magical Tuscany offers you endless options to spend a perfect Mother’s Day. It’s a dreamland for all those who love the Mediterranean feeling, sunshine, and picture perfect hilly landscapes. This region in the Northeast of Italy is also a land of culture, art and history together with great gastronomy. The essence of Tuscany can be best lived visiting their villages, here are our recommendations for Mother’s Day.

Volterra

Volterra has always been a popular tourist destination, but it has received even more attention after featuring in the New Moon movie of the Twilight Series. Nevertheless, Volterra is still a calm medieval town, where you will feel protected behind the 13th century ramparts, the origin of which dates back to three millennia ago. The town itself is like an open-air museum with various architectural landmarks, such as the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum with artistic objects from the Etruscan period, the Roman Theater or the Porta all’Arco from the 4th century BC. A beautiful and intimate moment on Mother’s Day is to wait together with your family for one of the most spectacular sunsets in Tuscany.

Pienza

Close to Siena, you will find another precious gem of the Tuscany Region, Pienza. The village was originally constructed following the orders of Pope Pius II, who wanted to construct a great example of Renaissance architecture. It’s a really small village with a couple of thousands inhabitants, hence it’s a perfect place if you want to enjoy the calmest side of Tuscany on Mother’s Day. The obligatory visits in Pienza are the Duomo and the Palazzo Piccolomini.

Piazza Pienza

Pienza’s main piazza

Giglio Castello

Do you know that Tuscany has some islands, too? One of them is Giglio Island, where you will find the hilltop village Giglio Castello, surrounded by an impressive wall fortification with huge towers in it. This is an authentic medieval town from the 12th century, and you will enjoy getting lost in its cobbled streets.

Lucca

Lucca, situated between Florence and Pisa, is one of the most visited towns in the whole Tuscany Region. The medieval walls in Lucca have been perfectly conserved, and walking around in the old town lets your imagination fly back to the middle ages. It might not be the calmest place at weekends, but it’s a great place to combine a cultural visit with great shopping options and get a nice present for your Mum on Mother’s Day.

San Gimignano

Naturally, San Gimignano, one of the most touristic villages in Italy, can’t be left out from our recommendation list. The popularity of San Gimignano is not surprising at all considering the amount of perfectly conserved historical buildings you can visit there. Walking around San Gimignano is submerging into a medieval ambience with picturesque squares and beautiful churches that seem to have come out of a fairy tale. It’s also a very ancient village from 63 AD, when according to the legend Muzio y Silvio, two brothers, decided to construct two castles in the place where San Gimignano stands now. Contemplating the fabulous views from San Gimignano is also a perfect moment to share with your family on Mother’s Day.

San Gimignano

These are just some of the most adorable villages in Tuscany, but we hope to have given you some great ideas to pick your travel destination on Mother’s Day.

Have you ever seen those picture perfect postcards of Tuscany, and wondered where they are taken? Or perhaps you’ve driven around the region and while you’ve seen beautiful things, you have yet to find those mysterious fields of poppies, undulating hills of wheat or seas of yellow sunflowers? Wonder no more; we’ve done the research for you. Below are six of the best picture stops in Toscana, from flowery landscapes to quaint, postcard-worthy towns.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

Its towers stand out in its landscape from far away. Today only around fifteen remain, but in the Middle Ages, 7 ‘skyscrapers’ made San Gimignano one of the indispensable destinations in any given trip to Tuscany. The historic centre of this Medieval town, where we can also find narrow streets and welcoming squares, has been declared a World Heritage Site. Its high towers were once used by the ever-competing wealthy families to show their power, today they are an attraction for tourists. Climbing to the top of one of them and taking a picture of the breath-taking views is really worth it. Besides, in San Gimignano, you can visit the Torture Museum, not for the faint of heart.

La Foce

Cypress tree alley at la Foce, Tuscany

Cypress tree alley at la Foce, Tuscany

This road might be the most famous road in Tuscany. Identifiable by its winding path, with cypress trees on either side, it is found on everything from t-shirts, to posters to brochures. Located about two hours south of Florence, and an hour from Siena, getting there is half the fun. Once you leave the main highways, you will begin to take small, winding roads heading through the Val d’Orcia National Park. Taking the main road that cuts through Val d’Orcia, Strada Provinciale 146, get off at SP40 or Strada Vecchia Senese. Shortly thereafter, you will see this wonderful road, and all the other cars and people parked to admire it too.

Poppy Fields

Poppies in Spring between Siena and Montepulciano | photo by Flicker User Albert de Bruijn

Val d’Orcia is also home to fields of poppies, which bloom between May-June. While it is called a park, the Val d’Orcia area is not really a park in the traditional sense, but rather a protected nature area. As such, it is mainly unspoiled by mainstream tourism and modern industrialism, and therefore it is perfect place to observe wildlife. Poppies bloom in late spring, after the April rains howers and they are particularly fond of the Crete Senesi area of Val d’Orcia due to its the heavy alkaline soil. From Buonconvento take SP451 through this area to get the best views.

Sunflower Fields

Sunflowers in the Crete Senesi, Leonina | photo by Flickr User Antonio Cinotti

Another popular flower in Tuscany is the girasole, or sunflower. While during the summer months, almost every flower market is exploding with these happy blooms, most people rightly want to see the huge yellow fields of them, popularized in TV and movies. While riding on the main highways of Italy, such as the A1, you can certainly catch a glimpse out your window, but to really experience them, you have to take a road less traveled. In particular the SR2, between Siena and San Gimignano is home to many fields of these yellow blooms. If you’re not in the area around Siena, there are also large fields near Cortona to the east.

Cappella Vitaleta

cappella vitaleta

Photo by Flickr user lo.tangelini

One of the most famous chapels in Tuscany, this small building sits at the end of a road, lined with cypress trees, just waiting to be photographed. You can find it about 2 km from San Quirico d’Orcia. Leaving San Quirico heading to Pienza Cappella Vitaleta is about halfway between the two towns. It is not right on the road, so be sure to drive slowly and have a passenger on the look out. It is surprisingly small and easy to miss if you’re not careful. Enjoy this area slowly, because nearby are many other famous picture stops to shoot maritime pines, golden wheat fields and rows of perfect cypresses.

Pienza

cheeseshop

Cheese shop in Pienza | Photo Rachel Smith

Considered the first urban planned city, Pienza was redesigned by Pope Pius II during the Renaissance. It was constructed to perfectly reflect the classical philosophy and principles of beauty, coupled with the influence of some of the best Renaissance architects and humanists, such as Leon Battista Alberti. Nowadays, it is famous for the Pecorino cheese and postcard quality photo opportunities. This town is quaint, off the beaten path, petite and oh-so-charming. It boasts a strategic position, sitting on a hill high above the gorgeous Val d’Orcia. Besides photographing the town itself, head to its borders and look down on the landscape below. In town, don’t miss the cathedral and central square. It’s impossible to get lost here, so after checking the main sights, wander through the oh-so-perfect alleyways and find yourself in another place and time.

So head out with your Cinquecento or another cute car – if necessary read these tips about driving in Tuscany – and be ready to stop by the side of the road a number of times while you get that perfect shot!

unnamed

Our iconic Italian car | Photo Rachel Smith

 

The Arbia river runs through the territory of Gaiole in Chianti and its source can be found on the hills of Castellina in Chianti, at 620 meters of altitude. Its course is 57 km long, stretching just south of Dievole’s estate and passing by Pianella, where our olive mill was built.

Dante quoted the river in the description of the battle of Montaperti in his legendary Divine Comedy:

« Lo strazio e ‘l grande scempio

che fece l’Arbia colorata in rosso, tal orazion fa far nel nostro tempio. »

(It’s the carnage and the cruel slaughter, which stained the Arbia red, that cause such prayers)

Fought on the 4th of September 1260, this combat between the armies of Florence and Siena sparked from the conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines and was one of the bloodiest battles to ever be documented in Medieval times.

 

Where once the waters bled red, forebringers of death and despair, now they shine under the sun and give life to a different kind of ruby hue: that of our vino rosso! Not only has it given us a bountiful crop of Sangiovese vines – it has also fostered the birth and prosperity of other varieties such as Trebbiano, Malvasia and Merlot, that we have used to create white, red and rosé wines so fresh and drinkable that Summer feels as if it were just around the corner.

 

The Arbie river has given us these three fresh varieties of wine!

Look what we found floating down the Arbia river!

Rivers are one of Tuscany’s most vital elements and further embellish our region’s marvellous scenery. Each watercourse has a story to tell and contributes enormously to our winemaking ecosystem, for they help mitigate the harsher climates allowing the grapes to maintain its balance and ripen steadily while retaining vital acidity. The Arbia river has played a fundamental role in creating a unique environment where our vines thrive, teaming up with the Arbiola tream and gives life to a lush, green  land – this is where our new line of Tuscan wines Le Due Arbie comes from and both its name and label design pay homage to the waters that nurtures the soil around its roots.

The two Arbie river’s waterbed is also home and shelter to many animals, amongst which we find a very rare species of molluscs, the Alzoniella Cornucopia, large families of green frogs commonly known in Tuscany as Granocchie and sweet water crabs.

We live and work in complete harmony with our natural surroundings, so to welcome the 54 hectares around the two Arbie river into our great estate and see its wines come to fruition has been one of this year’s the greatest gifts. Like the river, we follow a course towards a sustainable future, a course that we have been digging ever since we set foot on this wonderful land. And like the river, our Le Due Arbie line of wines flows crystal clear, invigorating body and soul with a freedom that only being born in nature can convey.

 

Chianti, Italy stimulates all of the senses: eyes, nose, ears, touch and most famously, taste. It’s no secret that this area is known for foods meant to excite one’s taste buds. However, oftentimes, people simplify Italy’s food culture under a large umbrella of pasta, cheese and wine. However, upon your arrival, you will discover that every region offers something special. Many different flavours derive from the Chianti area and therefore, local towns host food fairs year round. So what does Chianti taste like? Here is a list of Chianti tastes and a few of the area’s food fairs, which celebrate its historically delicious cuisine.

Bread

Tuscan bread, fresh from the oven! Ph Rick Gordon (Flickr CC)

Tuscan bread, fresh from the oven! Ph Rick Gordon (Flickr CC)

More often than not, bread is eaten during every Italian meal. In Tuscany, particularly Chianti country, the bread is sciocco, meaning “unsalted.” Therefore, it is bland in taste and has a hard, tough crust with a soft, fluffy interior. At dinner, Chianti locals serve bread slices, accompanying the primi, first courses and the secondi, second courses. It also pairs perfectly with typical salty antipasti such as meat cold cuts, cheeses and olives.

Another bread commonly eaten is schiacciata. This bread type is flattened and salted on the outside. You’ll see people eating schiacciata bread as a sandwich with tasty meats and fresh vegetables or plain as an on-the-go snack for busy professionals.

 

Olive oil

The complete line of Dievole extra virgin olive oil!

The complete line of Dievole extra virgin olive oil!

Olive oil is an essential cooking ingredient in Chianti country. It’s used as an ingredient in most cooking and baking recipes or eaten “raw” with bread. Olive oil in Chianti has a wonderfully rich taste which is accredited to the country’s terrain, farmers’ expertise and delicate harvesting by hand. Drizzled over bruschetta or mixed into pasta sauce, olive oil is a staple of the Chianti diet and never disappoints. To taste some of the area’s newest and most precious olive oil, visit Impruneta’s New Bread, Vino and Oil festival, occurring every year in the fall.

 

Truffle

Strong, yet tantalizing, truffle is a popular and highly recommended Chianti taste. The white truffle flavour seasons many of Chianti country’s pastas, meats and cheeses. So what is truffle and what does it like? Truffle is a fungus found underground and is beloved by many foodies. It has a rustic flavour and is powerful and distinct, brilliantly transforming simple recipes.

Cinghiale (wild boar)

You’ll find cinghiale dishes on the menu at most traditional Tuscan restaurants. Due to their overpopulation in Chianti country, locals conduct regular wild boar hunts in this region. Most often, the meat is prepared in a thick, savoury red sauce and served alone. Also, it’s made into a meat sauce and poured over tagliatelle, a type of pasta. Every summer, Montespertoli, a small town in Chianti country, hosts the Sagra del Cinghiale, Wild Boar Festival. Here you can try local dishes, many of them including this game.

Pecorino cheese

There are so many varieties of Pecorino - Ph Dan (Flickr CC)

There are so many varieties of Pecorino – Ph Dan (Flickr CC)

If there is one type of cheese that is sure to make you smile, it’s pecorino. Pecorino cheese is made from sheep’s milk, and there are four main kinds of pecorino produced in and around central Italy. Pecorino flavours vary based on ageing: older pecorino has a stronger, sharper flavour and a crumbly consistency, while younger pecorino cheeses are soft, smooth and mild in flavour. For a perfect savoury and sweet appetizer during your stay in Chianti, we recommend pairing pecorino with honey.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)

First introduced to the area by English settlers in the early 1800s, bistecca alla fiorentina is now considered a local specialty. While in Florence, you’ll see this T-bone cut displayed in restaurants and macellerie, meat shops, alluring local customers and tourists alike. This large fillet is prepared with precision: traditionally, the cut should come from a calf, be at least three inches thick and grilled over a hot, charcoal fire. The goal is to eat a lightly salted steak with a well-done exterior and a red, juicy interior. Bistecca alla fiorentina is every meat-eater’s dream!

Wine

The epitome of Chianti Taste: red wine!

The epitome of Chianti Taste: red wine!

Arguably the most celebrated Chianti taste is the area’s century-old wine. Chianti country’s wine production attracts people from around the world for more reasons than its picture-perfect landscape. Strict laws dictate this area’s wine production to maintain excellent quality. Therefore, Chianti wine is made mostly from Sangiovese grapes causing a translucent red hue. One can taste red fruits and balsamic, just to name a couple flavours. Chianti in Greve hosts one of the most popular wine festivals of the year: Rassegna del Chianti Classico. At this event, local wine artisans showcase the country’s best. For more about Chianti wine and how to differentiate Chianti from Chianti Classico, check out this article.

 

These are just a few Chianti’s gastronomic treasures. We encourage you to try and explore the area’s tasty cuisine. Buon appetito!

 

 

Source:

http://www.greve-in-chianti.com/tuscanculinaryspecialities.htm – .WPcY_FOGP6Z

What do Italians drink? What are the market trends? New data released by Tannico, an online wine shop in Italy, reveals interesting facts about Italian wine consumption, including information about the choices women and Milennials make, and even if zodiac signs influence wine choice! This data was collected from 50,000 consumers through the platform’s “Tannico Intelligence” system, representing a sampling of the platform’s massive traffic and sales.

Economics and Italian wine consumption

The biggest spenders in the Italian wine market are, for the most part, located in the North of the country. Lombardy (in the North) and Abruzzo (in the South) are the two regions with the highest average bottle price for sales on the platform, at €11 per bottle, while Sicilians spend 8 euro and inhabitants of Molise spend 6.5 euro. The cities that spend the most are Gallarate, near Milano at 17 euro per bottle, followed by Florence (€13.5) and Milan (€10).

So what are they buying? The two regions leading the way in terms of Italian wine sales are Tuscany and Piedmont, who are often in competition in fact for the production of high quality reds that age well. In the competition between Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, the Tuscan red is the wine Italians love most, according to this study. The primacy of Tuscany in this study is in part based on the fact that Tannico focuses on selling premium wines, and Tuscany counts numerous rightly-renowned denominations including Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Bolgheri (all areas in which the Bulgheroni Family of Wines, to which Dievole belongs, operate).

Amongst some of the more quirky bits of data on buying habits that this study was able to show due to it being based on an e-commerce, Tannico found that buyers on smartphones spend more than those on desktop. And of these, users of Apple’s iPhones – considered more “attuned to design” tend towards high end wines like Brunello di Montalcino and French Champagne as well as those that are in general more elegant and design-oriented, while Android users prefer low end products.

Age and gender

Tannico divided up the demographics of their data to focus on two interesting market shares: women, and millennials. Purchases by women seem to confirm some preconceptions about their drinking habits, tending towards sparkling wines, which make up 47% of their purchases. However, aromatic whites like Gewürztraminer and an increasing number of red wines, albeit light ones (for example from the Alto Adige region), also make their way into ladies’ shopping baskets.

Young people aged 18-35 (of both genders) offer perhaps greater surprises. Although this generation in Italy is statistically a low earner (dubbed “generation 1000 euro” for their average gross salary), the wines they choose online are expensive status symbols. They chose champagne over prosecco, and wines to age (Bolgheri, Barolo, Amarone and Brunello make up 23% of their purchases) rather than to drink right away. Marco Magnacavallo, CEO of Tannico, comments that these are choices made to look cool and to be noticed.

A note of humour comes out in the statisticians’ efforts to connect star signs to wine preferences. Good news for Tuscany: the air signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius like Tuscan wines, while water sign Scorpio has a hankering for Sassicaia in particular. Can we chalk up to the need for balance the fact that fire signs Aries, Leo and Sagittarius seem to gravitate towards bubbly?

The Antipasto – a word which translates literally into “before the meal” – is Italy’s way of tickling your appetite, the opening dance for a menu that will send your tastebuds aflutter.  Every region has its own – many of Tuscany’s antipasti involve toasted bread, for an important part of our regional cuisine is based on frugal habits and recipes were usually conceived in order to not waste food. So “poor man” dishes such as world-renowned pappa al pomodoro, ribollita and the numerous variety of crostini were created as a way to not throw away stale bread and leftovers from the kitchen… so here are 8 Tuscan appetizers you are sure to enjoy, and the good part is: you can always prepare them at home!

 

Crostini neri

An authentic Tuscan antipasto: chicken liver crostini!

An authentic Tuscan antipasto: chicken liver crostini!

Together with bruschetta and coldcuts this is one of the staples of the Tuscan dinner table. No antipasto platter would be complete without this special paté and its peculiar flavour is representative of our region’s cuisine: strong, savoury and with a full, meaty, almost sweet aftertaste. Prepared with chicken livers (sometimes hearts!), sage and bay leaves, vin santo wine (ours is killer in this recipe!) and onions, this famous antipasto is also known as crostini di “Fegatini” (little livers).

Crostini con Pulezze

Although some have completely forgotten this turnip top crostino that was once so dear to Tuscan farmers, especially in the Casentino area. Sometimes also prepared with pieces of Tuscan sausage, pulezze are sautéed in garlic and then put warm on a slice of crunchy bread, softening and giving the crostino its unique flavour.

 

Cold cuts with Cheese

When you don’t understand anything on the menu and the waiter keeps hovering behind your back, pen and notepad quivering impatiently in his or her hands, always point your finger to that part of the menu that says “Affettati con formaggio” – you can’t go wrong. You will be served a platter of cold cuts and dairy products of all varieties, shapes and sizes: fragrant cheeses like pecorino, parmigiano and stracchino accompanied by rippling slices of soprassata, prosciutto di Norcia, lardo di colonnata, finocchiona, mortadella and salame toscano. Sometimes the platter also includes honey (to lather on the cheeses) and vegetables in oil (sottoli) such as sundried tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, olives and eggplant.

 

Tomato bruschetta

A lovely plate of tomato bruschetta

A lovely plate of tomato bruschetta

Ripe sliced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and a smear of garlic: that’s all it takes to make a simple slice of toasted bread into a little piece of heaven for your tastebuds. This antipasto is widespread all throughout Italy but you really want to be in Tuscany when they serve it with fresh Olio Nuovo, at the beginning of the harvest and oil-making season (From mid-October to mid-November).

 

Crostino con Fagioli

Beans, beans, beans! Tuscans love their legumes and they would literally put them everywhere if they could! You’ve probably already seen them served as first course (bean or chickpea soup with pasta) or alongside a glistening row of sausages, but have you ever tried them on a nice crostino drizzled with fresh EVOO? Pure deliciousness! Some pimp the recipe with sautéed bacon, but we’d stick with the simple slice of toasted bread, a spoonful of beans, a dash of pepper and salt and a trickle of our golden DOP Chianti Classico olive oil.

Pinzimonio

A healthy and colorful antipasto: Pinzimonio! Ph Wei-Duan Woo (Flickr CC)

A healthy and colorful antipasto: Pinzimonio! Ph Wei-Duan Woo (Flickr CC)

Considered more of an amuse-bouche or side-dish than a veritable antipasto, this dish of thinly sliced crudité served with a small portion of seasoned olive oil can actually be quite satisfying. It’s easy to prepare and will surely impress your guests with its colourful, healthy palette of ingredients: all it takes are celery, carrots, fennel and, for those who want to be real pros, peppers and radish. The oil dip consists of EVOO, ground blackpepper and salt to taste.  It’s perfect for those warm Summer months because it doesn’t require cooking.

Crostoni con Cavolo Nero

Cavolo Nero, aka Kale, is a big part of Tuscany’s cuisine and this antipasto can be often spotted on restaurant menus from November to late January, when the green leafy vegetable is in season. Usually prepared in the Mugello area during the Christmas holidays, it’s simple to make and incredibly tasty: boil the leaves and dampen the garlic-infused toasted bread with the kale water. Then put a leaf on each slice, drizzle with olive oil and serve with a dash of salt and pepper!

 

Sage Stuzzichini

Last but not least, we couldn’t not add a little bit of fritto, the coup-de-grace that will make your mouths water and hands tingle. Tuscans love to fry – from the seafood frittura mista of the coast to the mixed vegetables of the classic fritto di verdure – so a fried antipasto is definitely a must. The word stuzzichini means “snack”, and this one is muncherrific. Take a few large sage leaves, one marinated anchovy. Put the leaves into a frying batter prepared with eggs, salt and oil, then stick the anchovy between them and delicately position the tasty morsel into the frying pan. Some also just simply fry the sage – a crispy treat for everyone to enjoy!

 

The Uffizi Gallery is perhaps one of the most impressive museums of the Western world. It’s certainly the one with the greatest concentration of famous paintings. Literally, in every room, there is a masterpiece. Visiting this museum is, for many visitors to Florence, a life goal, but not all come out as satisfied as they might be. That’s because, although the works of art themselves are stunning, the museum’s logistics and labeling leave much to be desired. But fear not, we’re here to help: we’ve thought of answers to all the FAQs for a perfect visit to the Uffizi Gallery.

When should I visit the Uffizi Gallery?

The answer depends, in part, on the time of year, and of course on what days of the week you will be in town. The museum is open from 8:15am to 6:50pm every day except Monday, the traditional closure day of Italian state museums (of which this is part). The busiest days are Saturdays and Sundays due to the weekend city-break visitors. Of weekdays, Tuesday is a bit more crowded than the other days because of people who were in town on Monday but the museum was closed. Thursdays are the least busy days. In terms of time, if you’re a morning person, booking a ticket for as soon as the museum opens is not a bad idea. But lots of other people also think this way, so you can find yourself waiting in line anyway. Another wise idea is to go in around 4pm. At this time, the lines have thinned out and you might find yourself quite alone just before closing time.

Do I need to book entry tickets in advance?

Yes, absolutely. There are plenty of companies and platforms that sell Uffizi tickets, but it is advisable to only book through the official platform (linked on the museum’s website), where there are no additional costs beyond the pre-booking fee. If you do not have booked tickets, you’ll have to stand in a very long line up, which is just a frustrating waste of time.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus in its new setting at the Uffizi | Photo Alexandra Korey

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in its new setting at the Uffizi | Photo Alexandra Korey

What is there to see at the Uffizi?

The Uffizi Gallery is a prestigious collection of mostly Florentine Renaissance art. The collection goes from a small room dedicated to the 13th century, to the beginning of naturalism in the “Giotto room”; moves on to the greatest works of the 15th century in Florence and the High Renaissance in Florence. There is a small but excellent collection of paintings from Venice and a few works from Northern Italy and Northern Europe. There are also Roman sculptures. Many are works you’ll recognize from pop culture, like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Leonardo’s Annunciation, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo. If you have had the pleasure of studying art history, you might recognize the Madonna in one of the first rooms, by Giotto, considered one of the first works that show naturalism and put into comparison with similar painting by Cimabue and Duccio. But there is so much more to see here. Pontormo, Raphael, Gentile da Fabriano, Paolo Uccello, Masaccio, Filippo Lippi, Cranach, Durer…

Should I take a tour?

If what’s written above already baffles you, probably you should! A certified guide can take you through the museum, stopping at the highlights and making the visit last a set amount of time. This is a huge bonus if you tend to be overwhelmed in museums. It’ll be more of a learning experience. It’s worth the investment to take a private or very small group tour, so that you don’t feel herded around. But if tours aren’t for you, consider purchasing a guidebook before your visit – on amazon.com there are a few options that will help you spot the highlights and give you the liberty of guiding yourself through the space… without getting exhausted.

What other tips do you have to make my visit great?

It’s important to keep in mind that any large museum involves a lot of time on your feet. Between standing in line and walking through the museum, not to mention stopping to admire the paintings, you are going to be on your feet for at least four hours. Another unfortunate thing in this museum is that there are not many places to sit – there are a few benches in the main corridor. So wearing soft running shoes is a must, no matter what they look like! Be aware also that you’ll be asked to go through a metal detector when arriving at the museum, and umbrellas must be checked. Avoid bringing backpacks or large bags, which you might be asked to store – or if not, you’ll have to carry around.

Easter is one of the biggest holidays on the Italian calendar. From north to south cities and towns throughout the stivale celebrate with holy processions, religious re-enactments, food fairs and folkloristic events revolving around the passion of Christ. Each region has it own rituals and traditions, so we have listed them just for you.

In the north side of the Bel Paese, many cities organise races and contests among their neighborhoords with food and other goodies as prizes. Bormio (in the province of Sondrio, Lombardia), a beautiful borgo located in the heart of the Alps and a year-round ski destination, hosts a special ritual in which five lambs are blessed to celebrate the resurrection of the Christ. 

colomba_easter

Colomba is the traditional Easter cake in Italy – ph N i c o l a (Flickr Creative Commons)

In Milan, Easter celebrations mainly take place inside the city’s churches, particularly the Duomo, with poetry events, reading and live classic music. Public museums are all open including the rooftop of the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery that offers a spectacular view of the entire metropolitan area. Moving to Italy’s central-north area, Tredozio, a small town in Emilia Romagna, host an annual series of competitions featuring eggs. One of the most famous is the “Pallia dell’Uovo” in which locals compete to see who can eat the most eggs in the shortest time. You may never want to taste an egg for a while afterwards, but it is definitely a hilarious sight.  

Colomba is the traditional Easter cake in Italy and it was invented in Milan as a sort of counterpart of Panettone or Pandoro. It is a dove-shaped sweet bready cake that usually contains candied peels, while some variations include chocolate, gianduia or almonds.

Scoppio del Carro in Florence - ph Monica Kelly (Flickr Creative Commons)

Scoppio del Carro in Florence – ph Monica Kelly (Flickr Creative Commons)

In Florence, on the morning of Easter Sunday, an ancient cart called i’Brindellone is led from the Porta al Prato neighbourhood to Piazza del Duomo for a procession through the city center. Once in the piazza, a dove-shaped rocket, la colombina, lights up the fireworks contained in the cart. This tradition dates back to 350 years and a successful explosion is believed to guarantee a good year ahead. In Italy, the Monday after Easter is called Pasquetta and it is a national holiday. Italians spend this day with their families enjoying a picnic outdoors with typical foods of the season such as pecorino cheese, fresh fava beans, bread, olives and Chianti Classico. Many towns in Tuscany also have outdoor markets. Siena usually holds a large one which sells everything from food, ceramics, leather goods and toys.

Of course, because Italy is a Catholic country, Easter services can be found in whatever town across the country, but experiencing a Catholic Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is impressive. In Rome celebrations spread the entire Holy Week. On Good Friday there’s the “Way of the Cross” where the Pope presides a processions from the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill, stopping fourteen times along the way to recall Christ’s journey to the cross. On Easter Sunday, the Pope appears in  St Peter’s square to lead the traditional Holy Mass. Even if you are not religious, it is something you need to experience to fully understand Italian Easter traditions and our country’s long-standing devotion.

procession_easter_sardinia

A devoted woman attending an Easter procession in Sardinia – photo by Davide Cassanello (Flickr Creative Commons)

Moving to the South, Holy Week celebrations are particularly characteristic in the Campania region. Naples is home to numerous parades and celebrations in which the focus is a statue of Jesus or the Virgin Mary that is carried through the city. Other parades include re-enactments of the Passion of The Christ with actors, costumes and hymns. One of the most evocative ones is the “Run of the Angel” in Forio (on the island of Ischia) that dates back to 1600 and reenacts the reconjunction between the Virgin Mary and her resurrected Son. Traditional foods include artichokes, roasted lamb, chicken, chocolate eggs and two special, very typical delicacies: Casatiello and Pastiera. One is a cake made with ricotta and cooked grain while the other is a special bread stuffed with meat and eggs

Continuing down the tip of the boot, the Holy Week rituals of Sardinia are rather spellbinding The Crocifissione di Oliena (near Nuoro) consist of a group of men and women searching for the Resurrected Christ, stopping at all the churches in th area everyday until Saturday, when a statue of Christ is found. 

Of course, Sicily participates in Easter holiday traditions with a series of events all across the region. Particularly, Enna hosts one of Italy’s largest parade on Good Friday, with more than 2.000 friars from every region reflecting the devotion of an entire country.

 

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Featured image by Roberto Zavaglia (Flickr Creative Commons)