Christmas is in the air in Tuscany. It’s that time of year when the cooler weather makes you want to cuddle up by the fire with a nice glass of Chianti Classico wine and listen to Michael Bublé’s classics… Or, head out and get into the mood with holiday markets, photos of your child making Christmas wishes on Santa’s lap, Christmas shopping and a touch of vin brûlé. Tuscany offers a bunch of Christmas markets that will help you get in the mood.

In Tuscany, Christmas festivities start at the end of November when cities and village squares masquerade themselves in festive cheer with local products, tastings, and of course, special meetings with Santa for the children. Here’s a list of the best christmas markets this winter.

Il Mercato nel Campo, Siena

December 5 – 6, 2015

Siena’s Campo, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, evokes the Middle Ages during this re-enactment of the “big market” that was held here in the fourteenth century, with kiosks made in wood. Here you will find local products as well as those from other of Italian regions, wine and food tastings and some lovely handcrafted goods for your Christmas presents.

Mercatino di Natale di Montepulciano, Montepulciano (Siena)

November 21 – January 6, 2015

Christmas Market in Montepulciano

In Piazza Grande, Piazzetta Danesi and via San Donato, Montepulciano hosts a market with 60 beautifully decorated wooden houses that feature high-quality, original products. There will be performances and entertainment for the whole family in this huge space. From ornaments and Christmas decorations to food, sweets, clothing, and handicrafts, this market will cover all of your Christmas needs… and be fun!

Il Paese di Babbo Natale, Chianciano Terme (Siena)

November 6 – December 27, 2015

In the thermal bath town of Chianciano Terme, the Christmas market is particularly family-focused. Attractions include not only the usual Christmas market, but also an ice-skating rink, a lifelike dinosaur exhibit, a Polar Express train ride that recreates the magical atmosphere of the animated film, and a go-kart track.

Weihnachtsmarkt, Florence

December 2 – 20, 2015

Weihnachtsmarkt in Florence | Photo by Alice Baricelli on Flickr

Weihnachtsmarkt in Florence | Photo by Alice Baricelli on Flickr

This is the most famous Christmas market in Florence (and perhaps in all of Tuscany) and it is traditionally held in the beautiful Piazza Santa Croce. The German-themed market this year will contain 40 wooden huts and street vendors that serve traditional products such as sweets, mulled wine, beer and hot dogs, among other foods. Also available will be traditional crafts, Bunzlau ceramics, Pfefferkuchen spice cookies, Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, and more.

Marradi Mercatini di Natale, Marradi (Florence)

December 6 and 13, 2015

In the adorable mountain town of Marradi, a pilgrimage for Christmas-market seekers every year, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or try a delicious sausage cooked over the fire. You also can’t go wrong with the fresh roasted chestnuts (a local speciality) and mulled wine, a perfect combination on a cold day. The market will of course also feature Santa Claus, who will respond to your Christmas letters, and there’s a puppet show for kids and adults.

Magie dell’Avvento, Palazzuolo sul Senio (Florence)

Every Sunday in December

The Magie dell’Avvento, or Advent Magic Christmas market will take place in the small village of Palazzuolo sul Senio in their central piazza, Piazza IV Novembre. This market is the highlight of the town’s social calendar, so it’s a don’t miss! The sound of Christmas music and the sight of nativity scenes will fill the air with Christmas joy. There are stands that sell Christmas products such as nativity figures, tree decorations, candles and much more.

Natale in Piazza, piazza San Francesco, Prato

December 8 – 23, 2015

If you want to discover a hidden gem of Tuscany, Prato is perfect for you. This beautiful town – which is only a short train ride away from Florence – host every year a market in piazza San Francesco that features classic Christmas items such as crafts, antiques, collectibles, and more.

These are just a few of the various Christmas markets hosted in Tuscany every year. From Lucca to Pisa or Signa to Arezzo, almost every town celebrates this magic period with markets, concerts and other fun activities for the whole family.

If you can’t wait for the winter holidays and you are a huge fan of the big guy with red-cheeks, white hair, and a funny smile, Tuscany is the place to be!

 

Words and research assistance by Steven M. Bramel.

With the holiday season just around the corner, the time has come to start making those lists and checking them twice. No matter whom you’re buying for, you’re bound to find something that suits their tastes in Tuscany. Ranging from handcrafted Florentine treasures to zesty seasonings and snacks from all over the region, our fifteen Tuscan gift ideas put your standard stocking stuffers to shame.

1. Leather goods

Leather school at Santa Croce | Photo Marco Badiani

Leather school at Santa Croce | Photo Marco Badiani

The quality of Tuscan leather has been world-renowned for centuries. There’s no shortage of leather artisans in Florence and throughout Tuscany, spoiling you for choice. Butter-soft bags, gentlemanly gloves, classic jackets and belts all make memorable gifts that the lucky recipients can use for years to come. Florence’s most traditional leather makers also specialize in hand-tooled books and desk ornaments (like in the photo above taken at the Leather School of Santa Croce).

2. Panforte

Panforte | Photo Flickr user Min Liu

Panforte | Photo Flickr user Min Liu

A Sienese Christmas sweet tradition, this delicious sweet is filled with tasty fruits and nuts. Literally translated “strong bread,” panforte owes its name to its mildly spicy and punch-packing flavor.

3. Marbled Paper

Marbed Paper Binder | Photo Flickr user batwrangler

Marbed Paper Binder | Photo Flickr user batwrangler

With its swirling patterns and psychedelic color combinations, Florentine marbled paper makes both a pretty and practical present. It’s an artisanal tradition that can be traced all the way back to 17th-century Tuscany. Marbled paper makes a great gift for anyone in the family, particularly those who need some motivation to keep in touch—it makes a beautiful hint!

4. A Case of Chianti Classico from Dievole

Sometimes there’s simply nothing as fine as “red, red wine!” To be labeled Chianti Classico DOCG, a wine must not only be produced in the Chianti region, but also must meet strict production regulations. At Christmas wine is truly an appreciated gift! Wow your friends with your wine know-how by bringing a bottle of it to a holiday party, or wrap it up for someone special.

5. Cantucci (Biscotti)

Cantucci with Vin Santo | Photo Flickr user Paolo Piscolla

Cantucci with Vin Santo | Photo Flickr user Paolo Piscolla

Know someone with a sweet tooth? You can’t go wrong with cantucci, a traditional treat from Prato dating back to the Renaissance. These tough, almond-based cookies—Americanized variations of which are typically called biscotti—make perfect gift-pack staples, especially when paired with Dievole’s Vin Santo. In addition to dessert wines, they taste delicious with coffee (cookies for breakfast? Why not?)

6. Florentine Fragrances

fragrances

Many unique fragrances | Photo Flickr user Roving-Aye!

Someone you know looking for a new signature scent? Instead of shopping at chain beauty boutiques and department stores, look to one of Tuscany’s famous fragrances. In Florence, the world-famous Santa Maria Novella pharmacy and profumeria (near the church of the same name) carries a wide variety of scents, from orange blossom to magnolia to ‘Angels of Florence.’ Another option is the iconic Aquaflor brand, known for its historic shop on Borgo Santa Croce. Hailing from the Tuscan island of Elba, Acqua dell’Elba is available at their Florence flagship store and in many boutiques and perfume shops, and is sure to delight with its fresh scent and packaging.

7. Pietre Dure

pietre_dure

Marble artisan at work | Photo Alexandra Korey

One of the most expensive and difficult to make artistic processes in Italy is marble inlay, or pietre dure. The eye-catching colors of these marble mosaics are the result of the artisans’ careful use of the natural color variations in the stones which are cut into puzzle-like shapes to create a composition. Used in church decoration as well as for impressive pieces of furniture from the Renaissance until now, a few artisans in Florence still use the historic technique to make things you’d want in your home.

8. San Gimignano Saffron DOP

Saffron | Photo Flickr user glasseyes view

Saffron | Photo Flickr user glasseyes view

Known as “red gold,” saffron is so treasured in San Gimignano that in 1228, the local government used it to pay off their debts when they had no cash on hand. This scrumptious spice adds a savory kick to many traditional recipes from the area: pick it up for the creative cook on your list.

9. Handcrafted and Painted Tuscan Ceramics

A certain type of traveler—the interior design devotee—comes to Tuscany in droves. Often what they’re after are handcrafted, handpainted Tuscan ceramics, adding color to their kitchen collections, coffee tables and mantles. Friends who’ve just moved, gotten married or graduated could probably use help on the home décor front: patterned Tuscan vases, plates or saucers will add a marvelously Mediterranean touch to any space that needs spicing up. The town of Montelupo is probably the best known for maiolica, though you’ll find it just about everywhere. If you’re also interested in historic maiolica check out our article about where to learn about and see maiolica in Tuscany.

10. Mugello Sweet Chestnuts IGP

Fresh chestnuts | Photo Flickr user Otto Phokus

Fresh chestnuts | Photo Flickr user Otto Phokus

When it comes to taste and aroma, these chestnuts are off the charts! With slight hints of vanilla, IGP Mugello sweet chestnuts are tasty enough to make you start humming a certain Nat King Cole classic. They fall from trees in October and can be purchased hot-roasted from street vendors, whereas to bring some home as a gift you’ll want to look for chestnuts in their most portable forms, as jams or spreads, or as Marrons Glacés.

11. A Case of Olive Oil DOP from Dievole

Olive oil from Dievole

Olive oil from Dievole

With the olive harvest season upon us, now is a great time to pick up a case of this top-shelf DOP Chianti Classico extra-virgin olive oil from Dievole. Dievole produces a line of 6 olive oils, from Italian blends to a mono-cultivar of Leccino olives cultivated just behind our villa. The Dop Chianti Classico oils are the best expression of this territory and an important part of this area of Tuscany’s history – after all, what would Chianti be without those olive-grove-dotted landscapes? This perfect olive oil exalts the flavour of any dish and should be added “raw” to top off anything from a salad to a warm bowl of soup.

12. Tuscan Truffles

Truffles | Photo Flickr user Wei-Duan Woo

Truffles | Photo Flickr user Wei-Duan Woo

Tell someone you love them with a tuber! The world-renowned tartufo grows only under certain trees and is often part of haute recipes prepared by the globe’s top gourmands. ‘Humble home cooks’ can try truffle shaved over scrambled eggs, a tasty Tuscan breakfast idea. You can also buy truffle butter, which keeps without refrigeration until it’s open, and is a good economic option that you can add to toast or spaghetti.

13. Zesty Seasonings

Tis the season for… seasonings! A gift that can last all year and that is much appreciated is Tuscan mixes of seasonings for pastas, sauces and more. You can get pesto mixes as well as amazing dried herbs in beautiful packaging. This light and easy to ship item is a stocking stuffer that our family asks for every winter.

14. Creativity in Translation

The FLR - page spread from Issue 1

The FLR – page spread from Issue 1

Italy lovers on your list will love to know what’s new in the world of Italian literature. While not strictly Tuscan (at all), Elena Ferrante’s dreamy trilogy makes for a good boxed set and almost begs the recipient to slow down and enjoy herself in front of the fire during the colder months. As a stocking stuffer, consider a very creative new entry in the publishing world: TheFLR The Florentine Literary Review is an illustrated collection of short stories by emerging Italian writers, published in Italian and in brilliant English translation.

15. Tempting Travel

Perhaps the best gift of all is time. A beautiful card with the most beautiful of messages could be placed under the tree: a promise of a trip to Tuscany, together. An opportunity to slow down and enjoy life, sipping wine and enjoying the view. We at Dievole would be happy to help you plan a surprise week or long weekend that you can book now in time for next Summer, giving you – and them – something to look forward to for months to come!

Everyone needs a day off once in a while, better yet if that day is a Sunday. There are a lot of things to do here in Tuscany – you could try out a guided tour of a museum or a specific area of the city, visit a local artisan shop, savour a full Tuscan meal at a restaurant and then go on a shopping spree, obviously. Although it is not possible to do everything, here are some suggestions on how to spend your well-deserved day off.

Get lost at the museum

 

Photo by Kotomi_ on Flickr

Photo by Kotomi_ on Flickr

If you are spending your Sunday in Florence, you don’t want to miss a visit at the Uffizi. It is Italy’s most visited museum and contains the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance paintings, from Giotto to Botticelli, including the worldwide famous Primavera. There are so many masterpieces collected here that you will probably consider returning the following weekend. If you’d rather stay in Siena, don’t miss its small churches, and historical squares, filled with Gothic architecture and paintings from the Sienese school. You can also visit the Civic Museum of Siena that preserves beautiful works of paintings and sculptures, along with frescoes and other works of art. At the end of your visit, enjoy the incredible view over the Southern part of Siena from the Loggia at the upper floor.

Wander off the beaten paths

 

Photo by Sandy Kemsley on Flickr

Photo by Sandy Kemsley on Flickr

When visiting Tuscany, travellers mostly head to Florence, Siena or Pisa, but there are a lot of hidden gems which are also very easy to reach and not far from the most popular cities. Arezzo is about 80 kms from Florence and it was one of the most important cities of the Etruscan times. The historical centre was almost completely destroyed during World War II but a lot of buildings, monuments and works of art luckily remain to this day. Piazza Grande is the main square and every first weekend of the month hosts the famous antiques fair with more than 500 vendors from Italy and more than 30.000 customers a month. If you are a fan of Pinocchio, Collodi is the birthplace of Carlo Lorenzini, author of the world-famous novel, and boasts an ancient fortress and a beautiful medieval castle. There is also a park dedicated to Pinocchio, with itineraries and activities inspired by the fairy tale. This is definitely a perfect place for a fun weekend with your little ones.

Visit the planetarium

 

Did you know that Florence has a planetarium? It was opened in 2002 as an addition to the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica di Firenze’s structure and offers the chance to learn more about celestial phenomena. Each session focuses on themes ranging from observing the sky to mythology and astronomy in the Divine Comedy and contemplating the motions of the Moon, Sun and the planets. In the same building, you will find a collection of scientific instruments and a library that fulfils the didactic function of this institute. Other interesting and visit-worthy planetariums are in Marina di Carrara, Livorno,  Prato and Pistoia.

Enjoy a full Tuscan meal

 

Photo by mike feist on Flickr

If you are not in the mood for travelling, you can join a cooking class and prepare a full Tuscan meal, from antipasto to dolce. You can start by preparing fettunta – a grilled slice of bread with garlic, olive oil and salt – which is also a great way to taste olive oil. Pappa al pomodoro – basically a tomato and bread soup – is very famous among locals and it is often served as an appetizer before the  primo piatto di pasta, like pasta al forno – which is oven baked pasta with tomato sauce, mozzarella and ground meat. There are a lot of options for a second course and they are usually meat-based. Last but not least, dessert and coffee. Meals always end with an espresso in Italy, no matter what the hour, it’s part of the tradition. You can also add a sweet touch to your menu with a delicious Vin Santo and Cantucci.

In Italy, drinking wine is a part of everyday life. It’s part of the ritual of dinner, in particular, and in fact any sommelier you meet will tell you that the most important thing about wine is how you pair it with food. So if you’re visiting Italy, and in particular Tuscany – where some three fifths of Italian wine is produced – it’s a good idea to take a wine tour or wine tasting at a nearby winery. This will be different than any wine tastings you might have done at home at your local wine shop, so here’s a few things to expect if you take a wine tour in Tuscany!

 

  1. If you’re taking an organized tour, most of them are day trips from Florence so you’ll be visiting one or more wineries in the Chianti or Chianti Classico denomination zones as these are closest to the Tuscan capital.

 

  1. There will be breathtaking scenery! Most winemakers have an eye for the good things in life. We’ve rarely seen an ugly winery! So make sure you leave some time to take in the area’s beauty!
Check out Dievole's vineyard view! Doesn't it make you want to organise a wine tour in Tuscany RIGHT AWAY?

Check out Dievole’s vineyard view! Doesn’t it make you want to organise a wine tour in Tuscany RIGHT AWAY?

  1. There will be both variety and similarities. One of the joys of visiting a few wineries in an area in one day is that you can compare and contrast their winemaking methods. If you’re planning your own tour rather than taking a bus tour, try to pick different types of wineries, like large or small, organic or not, family run or part of a group.

 

  1. Some wineries have fantastic villas or others may have sculpture parks in their gardens, others may be just a building and a lot of land. Some have hotels and a winery restaurant on the property, which might be handy depending on the time of your visit. If you’re organizing your own tour, ask each place how long their tour lasts and what it includes so that you can properly plan your schedule.

 

  1. Expect to be shown the cantina or wine cellar where wine undergoes the vinification process, as well as an ageing cellar, by an expert guide (who is usually a qualified sommelier).

 

  1. Sometimes you’ll be shown the vines up close, sometimes not. Most wine cellars are in direct view of the vines, but depending on the time of year, it may or may not be worth venturing in to them.

 

  1. 90% of wine produced in Tuscany is red, so at any given producer it’s likely that you’ll taste one white wine and the rest will be all red.

 

  1. An exception to the red wine rule is in the area around the lovely medieval town of San Gimignano, where they make a famous white wine called Vernaccia.

 

  1. You’ll be given a few wines to taste (usually at least three). These aren’t full glasses, and you’re not expected to finish them if you don’t want! There will be a spittoir where you can spit out the wine rather than swallow it if you prefer.

 

  1. The sommelier will be used to all sorts of visitors, so if you’re a beginner and still learning how to taste wine, she will be really happy to guide you! Taking a wine tour is supposed to be a learning experience, so don’t be embarrassed to ask questions, both about the wine specifically and about wine tasting technique.

 

  1. Most wine tours come equipped with some small snacks like crackers so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach, but don’t expect a full meal unless you’ve paid for it.

 

  1. There will, of course, be wine available for sale. Should you buy some? If the wine tasting was free, it’s courteous to pick up a bottle of whatever you liked best. If you particularly enjoyed the wine and want to enjoy it later, ask if you can buy wine and have it shipped

Here at Dievole, wine plays an important role every day. Like a silent yet loving relative, at Christmas wine warms up our table and makes our guests feel at ease. Holidays without its soothing presence are simply unthinkable for us but selection is key, so we want to give you a few useful tips on how to choose and enjoy the right wine companions for your merry banquet table. Christmas menus vary across regions and countries, even within our Tuscan territory there are manifold traditions.

Each family has its own secret recipe hidden in the cupboard, just waiting for that special time of year to be served and enjoyed by all. Even the turkey, absolute king of Anglo-Saxon tables, has made its way into the Italian realm of festive gastronomical wonders. From north to south in Italy, one thing’s for certain: in the sacred ritual of holiday feasting, time has no importance whatsoever. Plate upon plate, glass after glass – forget the clock and let the goodness flow.

The Preludial Toast

While champagne or spumante are classic for toasting and appetizers, in Tuscany it’s not a given. In terms of your Christmas wine choices to start the night, we suggest warming up your guests’ palate with warm crostini topped with chicken liver paté or a simple drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil, alongside a tasty selection of Tuscan cold cuts and cheeses. The ideal pairing with these Tuscan starters is the Chianti Classico annata like our Chianti Classico 2014.

 

A lovely plate of tomato bruschetta

A lovely plate of tomato bruschetta

First Course

Every region has its own culinary tradition, but in Italy the primo usually involves the queen of the Mediterranean diet: pasta. Generations reunite around steaming pots and prepare fresh tagliatelle, tortelli, tortellini and lasagna served with meat sauce or in broth. Another important role is played by risotto, especially in the northern areas of the boot. A vivacious red wine goes hand in hand with the endless flavor possibilities of homemade pasta.

A tasty turkey dinner! | Ph. Jennie-O (Flickr Creative Commons)

Let’s talk turkey

Ever since Victorian times, poultry has been the very essence of the Anglophone Christmas menu. The low fat content and mild flavor of the meat is enhanced by a variety of accompaniments, such as mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing. In terms of important choices made at Christmas wine that properly matches this meat is a biggie: choose a full-bodied white or a medium-full red, lush in flavor, to yield and balance the oiliness of the meat and the richer taste of its side dishes.

In case you prefer fish – served often in Southern Italian families over the holidays – a mineral white wine should do the trick.

The icing on the cake

When the last dish has been served and the adrenaline starts to dwindle, settle in for a long afternoon or evening by pouring yourself a glass of our most refined sweet meditation wine: Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice is the perfect end to the sweetest of evenings. Ideal with dessert or simply served in a small chalice, sip slowly to savor the nuanced hints of almond and vanilla.

The banquet battlefied

When the evening is over and the last guest has left, the banquet battlefield is in your hands. Here’s a traditional tip to remove those pesky wine splatters from the tablecloth: apply toothpaste or lemon juice with a drop of soap and rub it in with sparkling water and let it do its magic for a few minutes before you toss the whole bundle into the washing machine.

Pasta is without a doubt the mast on which Italy’s culinary flag soars high and Tuscan pasta dishes are definitely among the most renowned. Pici with “cacio e pepe” (cheese and pepper), tortelli with spinach and ricotta, tagliatelle with boar ragù… all delicious and full of stories to tell!

Pasta pioneers: the Spaghetti & Tomato Sauce Story

One of our Tuscan pasta dishes: pici with tomatoes and tarragon pesto!

One of our Tuscan pasta dishes: pici with tomatoes and tarragon pesto!

Perfection takes time and the classic Spaghetti and Tomato sauce combo is no exception. It took over 500 years for these two ingredients to be reunited in what is now an essential staple food not only in Tuscany but throughout Italy and beyond. Many believe the recently debunked legend that saw Marco Polo returning from his Chinese odyssey in 1292 with the concept of coiled spaghetti. But the truth goes way back to the beginning of the 9th century, when the arabs first took over the island of Sicily introducing this unique dried threadlike ingredient used during military missions because of its easy-to-make and easy-to-pack characteristics. Pasta enjoyed widespread success thanks to the Genoese merchants who travelled all over the mediterranean. But to finally get to that final, lip-smackingly good pomarola magic we had to wait for 1554 when tomatoes were imported from Perù by Cortez and started being cultivated all throughout the peninsula!

The Al Dente Dilemma

There is no rule of thumb when it comes to the tricky cooking times of pasta. That perfect consistency between undercooked and overcooked has been coveted by many and the success of your homemade Tuscan pasta dishes largely depends on this fleeting moment. Many techniques have been tested to but there’s no need to overly complicate things: al dente means to “the tooth” so you really have no choice but to… taste it! Cooking pasta to perfection requires presence and dedication so don’t let that pasta pot out of your sight! Dont’ be shy: ask an Italian nonna for tips!

Not only wine and oil: Pasta Pairing is essential!

In Tuscany, there is nothing worse than a faux pas in the pasta-sauce combining department. If you want to impress your friends, before being daring be sure to have acquired the necessary smarts. First of all, choose your shape – each type of pasta has its own design meant to enhance its accompaniment. There are over 600 different types of pasta so take your pick and experiment! Long pasta pairs perfectly with light seafood or oil-based sauces, shell shapes (conchiglie, lumache) welcome chunky dressings while twists (fusilli, trofie) and tubes (penne, rigatoni, paccheri) are great with vegetables and smoother sauces. Fresh pasta requires hearty sauces, oh, and by the way: spaghetti bolognese is an international scam! Bologna-style ragù is compulsorily served with fresh egg pasta like tagliatelle or Tuscan pappardelle! By the way, did you know that the word “pappardelle” stems from the jargon verb “pappare” (to eat)? Fun stuff!

Pici: maybe the most ancient of Tuscan Pasta dishes

The tomb of the Leopards in Tarquinia. Definitely worth a visit!

The tomb of the Leopards in Tarquinia. Definitely worth a visit!

Here at Dievole, we particularly love pici, a type of fresh pasta that has become representative of the Siena province. But you should know that this thick, hand-rolled strips of dough actually go back to the Etruscans, a civilization of ancient Italy that developed after about 800bC in the area comprising Tuscany, western Umbria and northern Lazio. According to the inscriptions in the famed 5th century Tomb of the Leopards burial chamber, this wealthy and refined population probably already served something similar to pici at their banquet tables. This would explain why this recipe is present all throughout the former Etruscan territories under different names: “bringoli”, “stringozzi”, “strangozzi” or “umbricelli” and “ciriole”. Although in the past this so-called peasant food was traditionally served with minced onions and abundant servings of olive oil, in our kitchen we like to pair its simple flavours with rich meat sauces.

Pasta addiction?

According to recent studies, Italians eat the most pasta: one citizen alone consumes about 26 kilos per year! But did you know that it wasn’t widespread until 1913? This was the year when Italy exported over 70 thousand tons of Pasta thanks to the massive introduction of production machines.  In 2016 the worldwide pasta production actually almost doubled, going from 9,1 to  14,3 million tons. In 2015 alone Italy exported over 1.8 million tons of pasta. We’ve already written an article on the benefits of fresh pasta but now even scientists believe that eating pasta triggers feelings of happiness and well-being… so let the addiction begin and make your own Tuscan pasta dishes!

Nocellara. The word alone should suffice to convince you – round, buttery and the epitome of all things Mediterranean. Originally hailing from Sicily, where it arrived thanks to the ancient Greeks who settled on the island in the mid-eighth century b.C, its firm, juicy and slightly bitter pulp are renowned all throughout the oil world. Have we managed to stir up your appetite for Nocellara olives? Well here are a few reasons why you should try this variety of Dievole’s exquisite Monocultivar Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

A prized fruit

Raw materials are fundamental when it comes to creating the perfect olive oil and nocellara olives are one of the most coveted varieties because of their culinary versatility. As a fruit, it’s the perfect accompaniment for a well-deserved dry martini at the end of the day or can be served in salads or with cheese and cold cut platters. Some like to preserve it in light brine as a quick, healthy snack. When pressed, its vivid green juices release persistent spellbinding aromas that pair perfectly with seafood, pasta dishes and vegetable soups. Our oil expert Marco Scanu suggests you drizzle it aplenty on your Summer panzanella (A typical Tuscan salad dish made of stale bread and tomato) – make a note for next year! It is also particularly good for frying because of its stable chemical structure.

Nocellara olives are Vitamin-friendly!

Nocellara olives radiate mediterranean goodness and are full of health benefits. They are easily digestible, very balanced and help absorb important vitamins such as A, D and K which are known for their positive effects on the skin, eyesight and bone strength. Its strong antioxidant effect hinders the aftermaths of cellular ageing. After all, Nocellara olives grow in the temperate area of Italy’s southern tip, basking in the sun, gently caressed by sea breeze from the coastline.

This year’s harvest

Dievole grows Nocellara olives on its estate in the Basilicata region, precisely in the inland areas of Rosaneto and San Giorgio Lucano. After being manually picked according to the ancient “brucatura” methods, Nocellara olives are put into sealed containers and transported up north to Dievole’s Olive mill in Pianella. What many people don’t know is that in Dievole’s olive groves Nocellara presents two sister varieties: Belice and Messinese. The names derive from the plant’s Sicilian origin, the areas where the trees were first known to grow: Messina and Belice. Nocellara of Messinese olives are more rare, known for their low acidity levels and their deep, purply black color. Nocellara of Belice olives are the only Italian olive variety to have earned two DOP titles. When ripe, these olives tend to take on reddish nuances. In its monocultivar extra virgin olive oil, Dievole blends the sister breeds into a well-balanced, fruity compound that truly brings out the best of both. The harvest usually takes place between September and November and although this year’s loot was not particularly abundant the quality of Dievole’s olive oil will be exemplary.

Even though they don’t require any type of introduction, the Medici were the wealthiest and most powerful ruling family in the Renaissance and their efforts and careful investments truly shaped Florence’s splendour. The Medici Bank founded by Giovanni soon became the most profitable business of the time and their excellent diplomatic skills helped them build partnerships with institutions and clergymen, even the Pope. That is why their incredible story has been re-enacted on Italian TV network RAI in the hit tv show “I Medici”,  featuring award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman and young talent Richard Madden, that recently concluded its first season with a shocking finale (don’t worry, we are not going yo spoil it for you!).

So, in a region so rich in nature and enological bounty, one might ask him or herself: did the Medici family drink wine? In order to stay strong and healthy, their daily meal plan boasted a wide range of delicious food, especially carbohydrates, meat, vegetables and, of course, wine. It was their favourite drink and was often used to seal a deal and sometimes to “solve problems” – showing that even a delicious nectar might have a dark side.

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Giovanni de’ Medici (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman) while tasting a variety of red grape – photo from “I Medici” S01E01

Trebbiano – a fruity white wine that used to grow in the valleys just outside Florence‘s walls – was very popular. The wine was usually divided in various flasks, lowered in icy water wells, kept there for a while until it reached the right temperature and served very cold. The grapes were often blended with other varieties like Malvasia in order to make a stronger fruity nectar to be savoured on special occasions and banquets. Caterina de’ Medici, who married the king of France, Henry II, imported this grape variety across the alps and it is now used to make Cognac and Armagnac, thanks to its high acidity levels.

Since the Middle Ages, Carmignano was also quite well known for the good quality of its wines. In 1716, the Gran Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de’ Medici, identified four areas of Tuscany that produced the highest quality  – Chianti Classico was naturally one of these areas with its Sangiovese vineyards. Carmignano was one of these areas and was given legal protection and other areas were forbidden to use the same name for their wines. It basically became the wine label of the Medici family. Its prestige increased during the years until when the Queen of Great Britain, Anne, requested regular shipments of the wine for her family. Other varieties of red wines were produced by the Medici using grapes of a particular area that was called “Lega del Chianti” that already displayed the Black Rooster symbol and was divided in three main “terzieri”: Castellina, Gaiole and Radda.

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The Medici family at dinner eating fresh food and red wine – photo from “I Medici” S01E02

Wine was very well known and appreciated by the Medici family but it was not used only for drinking purposes. The black art of poisoning was not rare during the Renaissance and in the Medici Granducal Archives there are a series of documents confirming Cosimo I de’ Medici’s involvement in a plot to assassinate Piero Strozzi – a member of the other rich family in Florence – with poisoned food or drink. Even Cosimo’s son, Ferdinando, was suspected by some to have poisoned his older brother in order to obtain the Granducal throne. The Medici archives record that wine was often used to resolve political problems and controversies. The poison was usually odourless and tasteless, perfect to be dissolved in wine, and the victims were usually heads of state or enemies of the family.

Did the Medici family drink wine? They sure did – and they did much more with it too!

Sources: 1 2 3

On October 18, we called it a wrap and announced the closing of our hospitality season. 2016 has been an extremely fruitful year for Dievole’s estate, full of changes, creativity and new friends. Weddings, dinner parties, wine tastings, romantic weekends… we’ve seen it all and just the thought fills us with joy. We have been undergoing a relentless transformation, moving towards our lifelong dream made of high quality and dedication to preserving our terroir and values. We would like to thank our staff and everyone who has contributed in making this year unforgettable. We would also like to welcome Stefano Capurso, our new managing director! Waiting for next Summer, we would like to share our highlights of the year, hoping that 2017 will be even more full of surprises!

The new face of Dievole

Who knows if these will last until next Summer... our Chianti Classico 2013 is already out of stock!

Who knows if these will last until next Summer… our Chianti Classico 2013 is already out of stock!

Overlooking vines and olive groves, since 1090 the very heart of Dievole’s essence lies in its wines and olive oils. In February we launched our new line of Chianti Classico wines, decorated with a new label that features a drawing of Dievole’s main landscape and architectural features – a true declaration of love towards our land and property, which makes this wine the most classic of Chianti Classico. 2016 has definitely been a year of bold experimentation. Encouraged by the success of our olive oils, in March we decided to take on yet another challenging adventure: the production of a new line of Chianti Classico Wine Vinegar prepared according to Tuscan tradition. Who knows what else we’ll be inventing before next Summer!

For a Heavenly stay

The deluxe room of our Villa Limonaia. Doesn't it look inviting?

The deluxe room of our Villa Limonaia. Doesn’t it look inviting?

After attentive restoration works, in Summer we finally opened the doors to our Villa Dievolino and Villa Limonaia, two annexes revamped to perfection and styled according to Dievole’s new image. Villa Limonaia’s interiors are decorated with citrus paintings inspired by Medici-court painter Bartolomeo Bimbi to homage the Villa’s previous use as a “Limonaia” building once dedicated to the protection of lemon plants in the winter. The rooms are cozy, light-filled and perfect for a relaxing vacation in the heart of Chianti Classico… it’s time to start thinking of your next Summer vacation!

Dievole’s Kitchen

Monika's mouthwatering coratina Panna Cotta...

Monika’s mouthwatering coratina Panna Cotta…

This year, our restaurant decided to take its cuisine to a whole new level. Under the careful creative supervision of Chef Monika Filipinska, our menu became even more seasonal and authentic, introducing ancient flours, handmade fresh pasta, wild herbs and berries from our garden and homemade ice-cream in the Summer. Some of the most iconic recipes of the year such as our Ribollita macaron, coratina-drizzled Panna Cotta and Chianti Classico Wine Vinegar reduction were featured in our pairing menu at our Vinitaly Cooking Show, one of Italy’s most important food&wine events we attended in March.

La Buona Pizza

The authors of "La Buona Pizza" at Dievole... we hope to see them at Dievole again next Summer!

The authors of “La Buona Pizza” at Dievole… we hope to see them at Dievole again next Summer!

On a sun-kissed July afternoon, Dievole took yet another a stand in support of Italy’s rich gastronomic history by hosting a special book presentation of “La Buona Pizza” by Luciana Squadrilli, Tania Mauri and Alessandra Farinelli. After a extremely informative roundtable involving the authors and our Oil expert Marco Scanu, smoking hot pizza was served directly from our 19th-century pizza oven had been fired up early in the morning by Davide Fiorentini and Matteo Tambini of O Fiore Mio gourmet pizzeria in Faenza. Guests and press were able to taste both Dievole’s products and the ingredients that the two pizzaioli use to prepare their larger-than-life pizza pies – generously drizzled with Dievole olive oil naturally! The Summer was in full bloom at Dievole and as the sun set on our vineyards and the moon popped over the Chianti Classico hills, we enjoyed a convivial dinner in our Giardino del Tasso. Definitely one of our personal highlights!

Student Wine Tasting

One of the students "Nosing" the wine

One of the students “Nosing” the wine

We just love introducing young people to the nuanced and fascinating world of wine. In July we hosted a class of American college students travelling across Italy and guided them in a riveting wine tasting, helping them pinpoint flavours, hints and scents in our wines. The group tasting took place in our ancient cellar – a special place filled with history and atmosphere. The students really enjoyed this experience – hopefully we’ll do it again next Summer!

#DievoleExperience Blog Tour

Italian Food Bloggers at Dievole

Italian Food Bloggers at Dievole

In September, Dievole welcomed 12 bloggers from Rome, a ray of light on a grey weekend. The group enjoyed an extensive tour of our estate, from our Progetto Fidelio to the cellar, as well as numerous guided tastings of both our wines and olive oil. At the table, they were pampered by Chef Monika Filipinska’s impeccable food&wine pairing, while discovering the relaxing atmosphere of our rooms. We just love making people discover the manifold wonders of our estate!

L’Eroica

Aren't they amazing?

Aren’t they amazing?

Every year, Dievole sets up a pitstop for the participants of L’Eroica, a vintage bike race that takes place in Chianti Classico and is also sponsored by Dievole. This year was particularly amazing because of the many people who stopped by to enjoy a convivial moment at Dievole, regaining strength with a glass of our finest wine and exchanging smiles under the menacing grey October 2nd sky. Fruit, cantuccini and other refreshments were served as the race unwinded throughout the day. We just love Eroica!

Il Chiostro at Dievole

A glass of rosé and watercolor painting... a perfect pairing indeed!

A glass of rosé and watercolor painting… a perfect pairing indeed!

For 18 years now, Il Chiostro has been organising workshops at Dievole for people who are interested in strengthening their skills in photography, cooking, painting. We love to think of our estate as a source of inspiration, a home away from home, a place ofr personal development for creatives and artists from all over the world. Founders Linda Mironti and Michael Mele decided to call their activity “Il Chiostro” to evoke a silent, secluded ambience designed for contemplation far from the outside world.  “Il Chiostro aims to show you an authentic Italy, not just dazzle you with highlights” says their website. Surrounded by nature and imbued in history, Dievole is the perfect destination for those who want an unfiltered experience of Tuscany. We’ll be seeing them again next Summer as well!

French writer and poet Albert Camus once said “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” and no better expression could describe the colours of Chianti Classico in Fall.

The colors of Chianti Classico envelop our reception building.

The colors of Chianti Classico envelop our reception building.

These months are particularly dear to us as all our hard work comes to fruit during the grape harvest in September and the olive harvest in November. In Chianti Classico, Fall smells of must, raked leaves and a soft undertone of earthy spices cuts through the air, caressing the nose and lingering on like a sweet memory.

These enchanting red leaves remind us of wine! What do you think?

These enchanting red leaves remind us of wine! What do you think?

As the sun rises over the Tuscan hills, the ground is damp with dew and nocturnal showers have restored the land after the dry Tuscan summer. At the beginning of Fall, green is still very alive in the vines, heavy with the purpled fruits that will go on to be picked and transported into our cellars to become wine. As the season strengthens its grasp over the calendar, October takes on the hues of a decadent rainbow – swirling from light yellow to deep crimson, that are the colors of Chianti Classico in Fall. November colors in Chianti Classico radiates a lush palette: dark olive, eggplant, chocolate, rust and the rich, velvety red that reminds us so much of our Sangiovese grapes resting in our cellars. Crisp with the smell of bonfires and fresh olive oil, it’s during this month that our land’s charm reaches its peak. Resting, silent yet absorbingly beautiful. Don’t resist the temptation to grab your camera and take it for a spin amongst the iridescent hills of Chianti Classico.

Our vineyards looks so good dressed in Fall colors!

Our vineyards looks so good dressed in Fall colors!

The golden tips of our vines caress the sky, light and delicately forelorn after the harvest reaping of grapes. The sprightly breeze bows down onto fields of sullen green and brown as the temperatures take a dip on the cold side of the barometer– a great excuse sit back, light a fire and nurse yourself back to warmth with a nice glass of Vintage Chianti Classico red.