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.
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 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
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
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.
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!
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).
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
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