Tuscany. It’s history is long and rich, influenced by many ethnic groups and incredible landscapes, which in turn inspired a brilliant culinary art form.
Firenze, Sienna and Pisa are the perfect examples of tastefully mixing a gastronomic treasure box. Nowhere on earth can you find a region so exploding with flavor.
Light & Delightful
The crux of Tuscan cooking, is keeping it light and simple with fresh high quality ingredients.
The characteristic ingredients are handmade pastas, Parmesan cheese, bread, game, mushrooms and a large variety of vegetables and aromatic herbs. The portions are typically small, leaving room for the unforgettable deserts, cheeses and gelato’s.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Credit: Sam Wolff
Lunch or Dinner
For Italians, it’s all about dinner. Lunch is typically a quick and simple bite at the bar, especially during summer when temperatures can be unbearable. Dinner, on the other hand, is an event which will test the bursting point of even the most resilient stomach.
A communal affair, expect it to be long-lasting with plate after plate being placed on the table.
If you are lucky, you will be invited into someone’s home to experience the passion that goes into preparing and enjoying the meal.
Credit: To Tuscany
Ordering in a Tuscan restaurant runs a typical course. Appetizers (antipastis) can be a simple mixture of cold cuts such as prosciutto, salami and ham along with marinated vegetables beautifully organized and served with home-made brushetta.
Next is the primi piatti, (first plate) which is usually a soup, such as the local specialty Tuscan Bread Soup. After that, the main meal is served (secondi piatti), which will have meat, fish and if you are really fortunate, truffles.
Secondi piatti doesn’t end until the cheese plate is served and devoured, at which time you are free to unbutton the top of your pants. Especially because the delicious Dolci (deserts) is on the way. Instead of going for the universal Tiramisu, try panna cotta or one of numerous tortas.
Finally the coffee arrives, though the crown of any meal is a ten-year matured Vin Santo (desert wine) which, as most things in life, is best slowly savored.
Beg for Breakfast
Breakfast, is not the meal of champions in Italy, as it’s generally neglected even in exclusive hotels. After dinner, it’s no wonder why. Bread, a little butter and cappuccino are often all that is available, though you can find some bakeries and bars who serve more.
In Tuscany, even the simple table wines command respect.
Wine production here is justly world-famous. With a perfect climate and fertile lands, it produces many distinguished vintages. One of the most celebrated regions is just south of Firenze, known as the Gardens of Chiantis.
Brunello, from the Montalcino region, is one of Italy’s best known and most expensive bottles.
Walk it off…
If you can’t move any more, take a walk and get lost.
If you chose to stay in Firenze there is a week’s worth of architecture, museums and churches to see. One of those walks may lead to a cooking school where you can learn the tricks and tips of a real Tuscan Chef. You wont regret it, and neither will your friends and family.
Italy, my Italy! Queen Mary’s saying serves for me – When fortune’s malice Lost her Calais – Open my heart and you will see Graved inside of it, Italy. - Robert Browning
When To Go
Tuscany is best visited between April until late November.
From April to June and from September to October the weather is usually good, prices lower and there are “fewer” tourists.
The warmest months are generally July and August when the temperatures average 86°F (30°C), while June and September offer nice weather without being too hot.
In April and October the weather is mild with 72°F (22C) maximum temperature.
Getting There & Around
Fly to any European international airport (London, Paris, Madrid, Rome etc.) and get a connection to Florence Amerigo Vespucci Airport. It is located 30 minutes from the city center and shuttle buses go every half hour.
- Mid-range accommodations: $60-100
- Meals: $10-20
- Beer: $3
- Try the local artichoke in season (May and June).
- Taste the famous truffles. It’s a once in a lifetime chance.
- Buy the museum tickets online to have save time and get extra offers.
- Drive a car in the city. Parking is very expensive and hard to find.
- Arrive on time. Italy is always fashionably late. Always show up 1 hour or more after the stated time.
- Sit down if you want just a coffee. The prices are much higher at the table then if you stand.
- The average Italian consumes half a pound of bread a day and 26 gallons of wine a year.
- Italy has more hotel rooms than any other nation in Europe.
- “Ars longa, vita brevis” is a common saying in Italy. It means “art is long, life is short” and reflects the Italian love of leisure.
Feature Image Credit: star5112