Tuscany and Italy in general are famous for the celebrating local customs and traditions. Every city and village has their own cultural agenda with a large variety of fairs and festivals, especially during the summer months. Many events are dedicated to food and local crafts, but there also several folkloristic festivals in which ancient traditions are celebrated. One of the most curious festivals of this kind takes place on Ascension Day (25th May in 2017) in the lovely Cascine Park in the city of Florence, the Festa del Grillo, which literally means the Cricket Festival.

There are many festivals around the world that are dedicated to animals, but the cricket is not often chosen as a symbol of local festivity. Actually there are several different theories about the origin of the Festa del Grillo, which dates back to the Middle Ages. Some experts say that it’s a pagan festivity to welcome the spring season, and the sound of the crickets is actually the symbol of the arrival of that. Others believe that this festivity has a much more practical explanation, that is, the day of the Festa del Grillo actually served to clean their fields to reduce the number of crickets, since long time ago these animals caused a lot of damage in the crops. In 1582 a huge cricket invasion devastated the agricultural production that year.

Even though we can’t be completely sure about the reasons, it’s known that according to traditions on this day parents bought small cages to their little children. These cages then were used on the day of the Festa del Grillo to put crickets inside, which they found in Cascine Park on the right bank of the Arno River. People spent the whole day in the park, and it was also a custom for young people to give crickets as a present to their loved ones. The cages were later hanged in their doors and windows, since according to the popular belief the sound of these animals brought good luck and protected the house.

Cascine Park

Later people who didn’t feel like searching for crickets could also buy them on the celebration day from the grillai, local traders who brought crickets from the Cantagrilli, a mountain, which is found very close to Florence. Nevertheless, the original tradition significantly changed in 1999, when the local government in order to protect animal rights decided to forbid the sale of living crickets in cages. Since then, people have kept on celebrating this day, but instead of real crickets they use wooden and plastic ones, which still imitate the sound of these animals.

The Festa del Grillo is one of the most peculiar folkloristic events in the whole cultural calendar. Although living crickets were substituted with plastic ones, it’s still a great day to spend it outdoors in Cascine Park celebrating an ancient tradition.

Tuscany is one of the most visited places in Italy. The demand by tourists is high and there’s a very broad selection of accommodations to serve them. There are all kinds of places where to stay in Tuscany from budget options to luxury hotels. In addition, since the region has a very rich architectural heritage, many of these accommodations are found in historically and artistically important buildings.

If you want, you can stay in luxury hotels that were once palaces used by the rich aristocracy. If you look for a more humble option, a B&B (Bed & Breakfast) hotel can be a great choice, since these are small and cozy accommodations in beautiful natural places or charming villages. If you look for options on the budget end, there is also a great network of hostels and campings.

In order to get a full experience of the Tuscan lifestyle, the best pick is to stay at one of the several “agritourism” accommodations. These are rural palaces and houses, where you don’t only sleep, but you also get to experience the agricultural production going on nearby. You can learn, and of course you can also taste the wine, olive oil, honey or jam they produce in these places.

As we said, the choice is almost infinite; herein we present you some really great options where to stay in Tuscany.

Villa Dievole Località Dievole 6, Vagliagli

If you look for a really romantic stay, Villa Dievole, our 4-star agritourism facility is situated at only 12 km from Siena, in an estate of nearly 400 hectares. A historical villa from the 16th century that was a place of the Tuscan nobility, it is situated in a picture perfect location over a valley, from where you can enjoy real fascinating views. The accommodation complex consists of 27 suites, apartments and double rooms in five farmhouses, all restored following the original Tuscan architecture. The food served for the guests is based on local products and is accompanied by the finest wine we produce in the surrounding vineyards. You can book your room now!

Suite at Dievole - Where to stay in Tuscany

Palazzo di Camugliano Vía del Moro 15, Florence

A wonderful place to feel like a king or a prince at least, this luxury hotel is found in the antique Palazzo Niccolini Bourbon, a renaissance palace belonging to the Florentine aristocracy with a lot of history. The palace was beautifully restored while the original decoration was kept. During you stay in this fascinating palace, you will be able to contemplate an art exhibition of old paintings. There are 11 suites in the hotel, all showing real class and elegance with beautiful decoration. The hotel is found in the heart of Florence city, a perfect luxury option where to spend a few nights in Tuscany.

Hostel Pisa Via Filippo Corridoni 29, Pisa

A really great and modern budget option located near the railway station in Pisa, Hostel Pisa is not far either from the famous leaning tower. This hostel has both private rooms with bathroom and dormitories. Both the rooms and the common area are clean and well maintained. They also offer you cheap all-you-can eat buffet for both lunch and dinner. The staff is known to be super friendly, and the whole hostel has a real friendly vibe. It’s really a great choice, if you look for a good budget solution of where to stay in Tuscany.

Elba Island is one of the paradises of the Tuscany Region. This island has become famous for being the place where Napoleon spent years in exile, but the island might have been too inspiring, since from Elba he returned to the battlefield, seemingly more powerful than ever. The island is a gem of the Italian coastline, and it’s a perfect destination for a very complete trip. You can hike, visit precious villages, sunbathe, scuba dive or simply relax on the island.

And what about the beaches? The island has an almost 150 km long coastline, where you can find all kinds of beaches, amongst them some of the best beaches in Tuscany. The sandy beaches you can find are mostly between Cape Enfola and Portoferraio and on the south of the island. If you are looking for tranquility, you can find beautiful rocky coves, although most of these are not easily accessible. Families who prefer longer beaches with all kinds of amenities can also find great options, like Procchio Beach, which is a very long golden sandy beach, while those who want to do scuba dive usually end up in Sorgente or Samson Beaches, where water is of turquoise color and crystal clear. The choice is very wide and depends on your taste, but here is our subjective list with the best beaches on Elba Island.

Marina di Campo

Marina di Campo is the largest beach on Elba Island, a golden sandy beach surrounded by a dense pine tree forest. It’s a perfect starting point to go on some great excursions to the nearby archeological sites or you can also visit some of the wine cellars where they produce excellent dessert wines.

Cavoli Beach

Cavoli Beach is situated on the South coast of the island at 5 km from Marina di Campo, going towards Fetovaia. It’s a 300 meter-long of white sand beach and it’s very popular amongst young people for the parties they hold there. It’s always pretty crowded; hence you shouldn’t go there, if you are looking for your moment of tranquility.

Biodola Beach

In Biodola Bay, you can find several beaches, from which Biodola Beach is the largest one (the beaches of Forno and Scaglieri are also located there). Biodola Beach is very easily accessible from Procchio, and the white sand beach is simply perfect for families, since all kinds of facilities and services are available there.

Beach in Elba Island

Paolina Beach

One of our favorite beaches on Elba Island is Paolina Beach, which is found at merely 2 km distance from Procchio village. It’s a beach with sand and pebbles, and it got its name to honor Paolina, Napoleon’s sister. You can get to this small beach following a 200 meter long steep trail from the road or in a half hour long kayak ride from the main beach of Procchio. Your efforts will be fully compensated, since the crystal clear water and the picture perfect location makes Paolina one of the most beautiful beaches in Tuscany.

Sansone Beach

We end our selection of the best beaches on Elba Island with Sansone, a white pebble beach on the Northern side of the island. On days when there’s no wind and the sea is calm, the water is as transparent as a natural swimming pool. This is one of the best beaches in Tuscany if you are fond of snorkeling, since the visibility is usually fantastic and you can find lots of colorful fish around the rocks.

View from Elba Island

This is just a short selection of our recommendations, but independently of your choice, on Elba Island you will find some of the most spectacular beaches of not only Tuscany, but of the whole Mediterranean Sea.

Florence (Firenze in Italian) is without doubt one of the most famous Italian cities, recognized for its fantastic architectural and artistic patrimony. Florence is the capital of the Tuscany Region in Italy, and it was declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. A walk along the banks of the Arno River, while you contemplate the beautiful renaissance architecture, is something that you should experience at least once in a lifetime. We propose you here the 10 most essential points of interest to visit in Florence.

The Duomo

One of the main symbols of Florence is its Duomo, built originally in gothic style. Spend some time simply watching the beautiful details of the neo-gothic façade. We also recommend you to take the stairs and climb up to the cupola to enjoy the most breathtaking views of the city.

The Florence Baptistery

Situated at the same square with the Duomo, the Florence Baptistery is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. We especially recommend you to check out the bronze doors with relief sculptures, the Gates of Paradise is the most famous of them.

Palazzo Vecchio

One of the most essential points of interest to visit in Florence is the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall, which formerly was the headquarters of the ruling body of the Republic of Florence. The most impressive chamber to visit inside is the grandiose Salone di Cinquecento with outstanding frescos on the wall.

Piazza della Signoria

Just in front of Palazzio Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria is a charming square, hosting an incredible amount of astonishing statues. You can’t miss the David replica and the Fountain of Neptune there.

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is probably the most famous icon of Florence and the most antique stone bridge in Europe. Walking along the river Arno and crossing this bridge will take you to medieval times.

Ponte Vecchio

Piazzale Michelangelo

For those who are fascinated with great views, Piazzale Michelangelo is a must-see place, where you can enjoy an outstanding view of Florence, the Arno River and the bridges on it. The best moment of the day to visit is around sunset, when the magic of colors makes the view even more breathtaking.

The original David by Michelangelo

Although you can see a replica of David in the public square Piazza della Signoria, the original of probably the world’s most famous Renaissance sculptures you will find in the art museum Galleria dell’Academia. The beauty and the dimensions of the statue will surely amaze you.

Funerary monuments in the Basilica di Santa Croce

Also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories, the Basilica di Santa Croce is famous for being the burial place for many of the most important characters in the history of Italy. Your imagination will travel through history, while you will visit the tombs of Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo Galilei, amongst others.

Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence

Oltarno

Oltarno, which is found on the other bank of the river from Piazza della Signoria, is a much calmer area of Florence with a small town vibe. This area is packed with history and art, and it’s also a good place to find a nice restaurant or cafe with really authentic atmosphere.

The Uffizi Gallery

The Galleria degli Uffizi is also one of the main points of interest in Florence, especially for those fascinated by the arts. It is one of the oldest museums on our planet filled with Renaissance masterpieces painted by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, for instance.

 

The capital of Tuscany needs quite some time to get well explored, but our list with the 10 things you must do in Florence will help you to organize your visit.

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