CONTENTS
TOP 5 REASONS FOR VISITING TUSCANY
PHOTOCOMPETITION FINAL STAGES
Buongiorno Newsletter reader,

As Winter creeps up on us, we start turning our attention to next Summer when we can enjoy the long, warm and sunny days.

There are so many highlights of our beautiful country that many of you are keen to share with us so we have come up with our own Top 5 reasons for visiting Tuscany below. Dont forget that all of the agents working for To Tuscany have been to the area many times and between us, all of the Villas offered on our website have been personally visited by a member of staff.

Its that time of year when our photocompetition finalists are online and you all get to vote and choose the winner, details of how to vote (and the rules) are below.

We are delighted to now have 3000+ visitors on the To Tuscany Facebook website and just over 700 followers on Twitter (@ToTuscany). If you havent already joined us on these social media websites, do visit our pages and join us to get tips and current information on the region.

As always, please feel free to let me know any suggestions for items you would like us to cover in our newsletters.

Dympna

dympna@to-tuscany.com

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OUR TOP FIVE REASONS FOR VISITING TUSCANY

1. HISTORY
There are not many places in the world to have 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites as Italy does; in Tuscany 5 beautiful Cities are on this list: Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Pienza.
Florence needs little introduction with its world famous Duomo, Museums, Galleries and Bridges. You may have been there before but there is so much to see that each visit will bring you a new experience.
Pisa, well what can we say, it is so much more than just the City of the Leaning Tower!

Siena has a claim to James Bond 007 having appeared in the opening credits to the Quantum of Solace film. Its famous Campo hosts a thrilling Palio horse race twice a year (July & August) and its walled areas are full of shops, restaurants and treasures.

San GimignanoSan Gimignano is the medieval city famous for its tall towers which gives it the nickname "The Italian Manhattan". Some of the best ice-creams in the world can be tasted here and younger readers of this newsletter will be familiar with its streets from the "Assassins Creed" series of games.

Pienza may be one name not as familiar to visitors to Tuscany. It is a beautiful Renaissance city, exactly what its famous son Pope Pius II intended when he commissioned a restructuring of the town in the 15th Century.

2. WINE
With Tuscany recently being voted the Best Wine Destination in the "World and European TripAdvisor Travellers Choice awards", the wines need little introduction. From its start as the cheap red wine with the straw wrapping (il Fiasco), Chianti is now a recognised quality brand worldwide. Hot on the heels of Chianti are the new "Super Tuscan" wines which blend established grape varieties with French grape varieties. These Super Tuscans are gaining great credibility.
Drinking the wine is of course only one of the pleasures, the picturesque vineyards spring to life through the summer and the harvest time from September is one of the busiest for the area. Wine Festivals abound in the small villages and tourists are welcome to join in the annual festivities and, of course, buy some of the wine.
For detailed information on the Chianti grape varieties & the names of the best wines of the region, we have two pages of information to help you with the Tuscan Wines and the Chianti Wine Trail
3. OLIVE OIL
There is nothing better than a crispy salad on a summers day drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and the oil from Italy is the best in the world - well, we are biased! There are millions of olive trees in Tuscany and Umbria and many of the small farms throughout Tuscany still harvest their olives by hand and are always happy to have extra people to help out if you wish to volunteer! The work is hard and the only pay is some lunch, oil, a glass of wine and an experience to treasure. The main olive harvest is from October and it can go on through to January.
When buying Olive oil, remember our A,B,C's of buying:
A. Accept that good extra-virgin olive oil is never going to be cheap!
B. Bottles must be green glass. The green glass protects the oil from sunlight and helps to maintain its flavour for longer (never buy extra virgin olive oil in clear glass or plastic containers).
C. Cold-Pressed needs to be on the label if you want to be sure you have the very best oil. (No heat has been applied to it during the crushing process which might affect the natural flavour of the olives).

For more information on olive oil, please see our Tuscan Specialities page on the History of Olive Oil in Tuscany.
4. PAGEANTS, PARADES AND PALIOS!
Tuscany and Umbria are blessed with year round Festivals and Events, so, no matter which month you travel, there will be something happening that you can view, visit or take part in. The Italians take the celebrations of their heritage very seriously and all turn out to take part in or support the colourful costumed parades, flag-bearers & musicians.

The Palios are some of the most exciting events that take place with the Siena Palio on horseback (July and August) being one of Tuscanys most famous events but, palios take place right across the region and they dont always involve horses! Other palios that you can enjoy are Donkey Palios (Prato, Casole d'Elsa & Maremma); Boat Palios (Monte Argentario, Giglio Island & Orbetello); Barrel Palios (Suvereto & Montepulciano); our particular favourite though is the Palio of the Frog (Palio della Granocchia) which takes place at the beginning of September in Paganico. Representatives of the 4 quarters of the town race through the streets with 3 frogs in a wheelbarrow, the winner is the one who crosses the finish line with all 3 frogs still in his barrel.
5. CHOICE
Its not just a wealth of different types of accommodation from cottages to castles, that are on offer to you; its also the 'extras' that you can take part in to enhance your holiday experience.
Why not spend a day at a Cookery School or in an Italian class or, hire a bike and cycle some of the vineyard tracks to discover new views of the countryside. You could spend the day with the children in the Pinocchio Park or the Waterpark at Cecina or Follonica or even take them to learn how to make ice-cream. If you are happy to get up early in the morning on holiday, how about a balloon ride?
There are so many things you could do in Tuscany, Umbria and Puglia: click here for some more details

PHOTOCOMPETITION FINAL STAGES


Its that time of year where we open the voting for the 2012 Photocompetition finalists. The photos have been sent by guests who travelled with us over 2012 and one photo from each entrant has been selected to go forward to the finalists stage.
From Saturday 24th November - Monday 3rd December the voting buttons will go 'live' on our website and it is then up to the public to vote for their favourite.
Something important to remember:
ONLY ONE VOTE WILL COUNT!
Only one vote is counted per IP address. This means that even if you vote every day or vote from 3 different computers or from a computer and an iPad/tablet within the same house, it will only count once. Therefore please make sure you have looked at all the photos before casting your vote so that the photo you really like is the one who gets your vote.
You can view a slideshow of all the finalists photos here:
Photocompetition finalists 2012
Photocompetition finalists 2012
On our website we can only show the photos in a certain size, to see the originals, please go to our Flickr account where all of the entries can be viewed in a larger size and in their original format.

The prizes for the winners are fabulous compact digital cameras. The 2013 To Tuscany photocompetition will open again from 1st January, our only entry criteria is that you have travel with us in 2013.

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We hope that you have enjoyed reading our newsletter and we look forward to the 2013 season with you.