Agritourism has become a big business in Tuscany from cooking schools to farm rentals. Alessandra Federici (far right) took a non-traditional route to building her agritourism business. She opened a cooking school in her own home. This deeply authentic and intimate class not only opened my eyes to how Italians cook, but how they approach and share food with others.
My husband and I visited Italy in May, and one of our favorite stops was the charming Tuscan town of Lucca. After wandering through the town for a few hours we decided to climb this tower, which offered a perfect view of Lucca from above. It's well worth the many steep stairs it takes to get to the top. One of the best things about Lucca is how colorful it is - most of the rustic bulidings are painted in traditional Tuscan shades of orange, red, yellow, and orange. Lucca is a must-see town on any trip through Tuscany.
A half-day visit to Tarquinia, close to the coast and 92 km north of Rome, offers a unique opportunity to escape the crowds of tourists and view exceptional ancient murals and artifacts. Tarquinia was one of the 12 cities of ancient Etruria, the first known civilization in the regions of Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria. A portion of the tombs at the Tarquinia Necropolis contain detailed murals painted onto the stone walls and ceilings. About 15 of these tombs are open to the public for viewing.
The murals depict the deceased enjoying grand celebrations, socializing, dancing to music, fishing and hunting. Bright colors are used artfully to depict all manner of creatures and objects from musical instruments and olive trees to dancing men and women, diving dolphins, flying birds, fierce lions and and more. The quality of the imagery is amazing - particularly considering that the murals date...
In May my husband and I visited Italy for the first time. One of our favorite stops on our 12-day trip was the charming Tuscan town of Lucca. There were so many things we loved about Lucca: the friendly people, the colorful buildings. One of the best things, though, was the town's delicious wine and food, like the huge selection of meats in this traditional "macelleria," or butcher shop. From salty, cured salami and prosciutto to fresh veal and lamb, Lucca's meats were some of the best we tasted in Italy. On any trip through Tuscany rustic Lucca is not a town to be missed, especially if you enjoy great food and wine.
My husband and I visited Italy in May, and the Tuscan town of Lucca was one of our favorite towns that we visited. We liked everything about Lucca, from the friendly people to the delicious food and wine. One of the things I loved most, though, was the bold, warm colors on the rustic buildings throughout the town. The classic Tuscan oranges, yellows, and reds practically glowed when lit by the late-afternoon sun. I also loved how the balconies doubled as a perfect place to dry laundry. Lucca is a wonderful town to visit on any trip through Tuscany.
The town of Pienza in beautiful Tuscany is a must-see on any trip to the region. The drive to Pienza winds you through the famed Val d'Orcia, whose postcard-perfect views most people associate with Tuscany: rolling green hills, stately cypresses, rambling estates.
Pienza, one of the most charming of the Val d'Orcia's centuries-old towns, is best known for its delicious pecorino cheeses. The best of the pecorinos arguably is Pienza's "sotto cenere," or "under ashes," variety, produced between October and July and seasoned for up to two months to fully develop its distinctive flavor. Pienza is filled with quaint shops like this one, offering endless varieties of rich pecorino cheeses as well as hearty meats and bold red wines - a culinary feast for the senses!
While in Italy in May, my husband and I especially enjoyed our drives through Tuscany and Umbria. The hill towns throughout the region are wonderful to explore, and the views along the winding cypress-lined roads are picture perfect, like these rustic houses nestled in the hills just outside Cortona. On any trip to Tuscany a visit to charming Cortona, the setting for Frances Mayes' novel "Under the Tuscan Sun," is a must do.
When visiting beautiful Tuscany in May, a highlight for us was the charming, centuries-old town of Pienza. Surrounded by the rolling hills, tall cypresses and rambling estates of the Val d'Orcia, with views that people typically associate with Tuscany, Pienza is a great place to spend a few hours. Best known for its delicious pecorino cheeses, purported to be the best in all of Italy, Pienza also has a lot of talented artisans, like this leatherworker who created high-quality leather goods. Pienza is definitely worth a stop on any trip through Tuscany, and bring a hearty appetite - its huge selection of rich cheeses and meats is delicious.
During our May trip through beautiful Tuscany, my husband and I especially enjoyed a visit to the charming hill town of Pienza. Surrounded by the Val d'Orcia, which most people think of when they picture Tuscany - rolling hills, stately cypresses, rustic estates - Pienza is best known as the home of Italy's most delicious pecorino cheeses.
One of the best things about Pienza, other than its sumptuous food and wine, is the town's centuries-old cathedral, or duomo. The duomo stands in the center of Pienza's main piazza; its facade is decorated in one of the earliest examples of the Renaissance style. Inside the duomo, the decor was unlike most others we saw in Tuscany, opting for a simpler, more subdued aesthetic rather than the gilded, heavily-ornamented decor of a lot of other Tuscan cathedrals. When in Pienza, make sure to stop by its beautiful cathedral.
November begins the olive harvest season in southern Italy. I traveled to a village near Ostuni, Apulia where I volunteered on an organic olive farm. I arranged my gig through WWOOF—Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Olives have been a passion of mine for years—this WWOOF stop would be an education.
The farm was amazing. Many of the trees were five centuries old, varieties unknown to modern commercial growers. My host Giancarlo was a burly blonde-haired blue-eyed Sicilian. He delighted in showing me the old trees, introducing me to the folks at the local cooperative mill that operates 24x7 through the end of the year.
It was a magical month. The Apulian countryside doesn't have Tuscany’s charm or cachet. Nights were chilly, the days short. But I loved spending hours every day embraced in olive branches, my hair and...
Castiliogn Fiorentino is a medieval walled village in the heart of Tuscany. Approachable by train less than an hour south of Florence. It was a rainy Sunday. Almost deserted of tourists but full of lovely and welcoming locals.
We hiked to the Fortezza. Lunched on Cinghiale (Wild Boar and Lulu's favorite). And had a "caffe correcto con grappa" to stave off the cold. Okay, only I drank that, Lulu did not.
A wonderful day.
For two weeks, I volunteered as a WWOOFer at Podere Il Casale where after a day in the gardens, milking goats, or serving cheese tastings to tourists, we all gathered for a staff meal. We ate simple, delicious food like chestnut linguini with fresh ricotta or a farro salad with olives, capers and sundried tomatos.
The farm is located between Pienza and Montepulciano in the Val D'orca subregion of Tuscany. The owners are a big-hearted Swiss couple who are passionate about farm-to-table living and want to share their lifestyle with others. Visitors can visit the goats and sheep, then tour the "caseficio" where they make the cheese, and lastly - and most importantly - they can taste a sampling of cheeses like a an aged pecorino or a soft goat cheese. You can pitch a tent or rent a room for an extended "agroturismo" experience or stay for a few hours, lingering over lunch under the grape...
One of our favorite parts of Italy was the gorgeous Tuscan region, filled with the endless rolling hills, stately cypress trees and rustic estates most people associate with Tuscany. The area around Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino, known as the Val d'Orcia, is the best place to find these postcard views. We spent several days leisurely exploring Tuscany and loved everything about it, from the breathtaking scenery to the centuries-old towns to the delicious food and wine. When considering a trip to Italy, definitely consider taking a few days to explore the towns scattered through the Val d'Orcia, you won't be disappointed!
Abandoned in the 1960s for fear its cliffs were crumbling, Calcata, Italy was discovered by hippies and artists soon after and today, the "paese dei fricchettone," is still made up of the same "freaks." I lived in Calcata, wedged between Tuscany and Rome, for a year. An exciting experience, for sure. But some times difficult: there are dozens of art galleries and shops selling hippie clothes, but to get things like, say, groceries, you have to walk to the next village.
In addition to the artists who live there (some of whom are well known), Calcata's renown extends back to the 16th century. That's when a curious relic turned up: the foreskin of Jesus. The Holy Prepuce remained in the village church until it disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the 1980s.
One of the most delicious towns in Tuscany - and most beautiful - is the charming Pienza. Situated between Montepulciano and Montalcino in the scenic Val d'Orcia, centuries-old Pienza is best known for its rich pecorino cheeses. Many feel that the best of Pienza's pecorinos is its "sotto cenere," or "under ashes," variety, produced between October and July and seasoned for up to two months to develop its distinctive flavor.
Pienza is filled with great little shops like this one, offering not only the world-famous pecorino cheeses but also rich meats, mild olive oils and bold red wines. For a perfect picnic lunch, grab some salami, cheese, fresh-baked bread and a bottle of wine and head to one of the town's many scenic vistas overlooking the Val d'Orcia valley below. Not a lunch you'll soon forget!