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Tuscany

Tuscany.

The mere mention of the place conjures up intense melange of images of rolling hills in the Italian countryside, making the notion of farm living seductive than ever before.  There is not a person I know I would mention the word to that wouldn't emit a wistful sigh for a second.  Gold sunshine, cackling chickens, olive groves, and yes, a mirage of Tuscany will not be complete without fantastic wine. 

 

Tuscany is a bubble in everyone’s heads, it seems like.  Especially if you’re a gastro junkie, Tuscany must be on your bucket list.  The reality is, Tuscany is very accessible from any of these capitals by train or car.  While it is dreamy, it is not completely out of reach.  A word of warning though: the region of Tuscany is vast and its topography is very diverse – hills, valleys, mountains, rivers, coast, great cities (rival cities Siena and Florence are both in Tuscany).  The most difficult part is narrowing down which Tuscan experience wins your favor. 

 

I am the proud architect of our itinerary in Tuscany and to orchestrate this trip, I started with the most basic of tools in any traveler's kit: a map.  For me, this is the perfect canvas because by staring at cartography, you actually get a very objective sense of what really is out there (as opposed to taking someone else’s word for it).  And then I married that map up with the things we love to experience (in Tuscany or outside of it) and the amount of time we would spend there. 

 

The outcome was ridiculously good.  If I would rank the best trips of my lifetime, this (and the rest of this entire Italian road trip) would be up there.  What made our experience of Tuscany incredible was just that – it was ours.  It catered to our passions and our quirks, our desires and madness to excavate the hidden gems of a place not yet written about in a guide book.  It satisfied our stubborn insistence to experience a place like locals as much as possible, integrating with the indigenous culture, experiencing daily life separate from our own.  We are fanatics about the outdoors so it was thrilling to not be in a museum and be outside.  We are also insane about slow, authentic food, and we have found just that and more in Tuscany.  The rumors were true about Tuscany after all.   

  

Favorite Tuscan Revelation | Tuscany has beautiful beaches.

Favorite Tuscan Memory | Our agriturismo stay at Monteriggioni where organic breakfast and dinner are made from scratch everyday.  One afternoon, I watched as Emiliano, our Italian host, make tagliatelle from scratch.  

Favorite Tuscan Food Discoveries | Burro e salvia (butter & sage pasta).  Bavarese alla fragola (a sort of cream mousse with strawberries).  Fried sage.  

Favorite Tuscan Outdoor Adventure |  Tuscany has hills and mountains and mountain biking in Tuscany reveals a different dimension than the most-talked about wines.

Wine Tasting Advice | We scheduled a wine tasting at Capezzana in Carmignano ahead of time by contacting the proprietors via their website.  There are so many wineries to try, but I picked Capezzana based on an experience of actually trying their wine here in the US.  Whatever you do, make sure the winery you're visiting (also applies to ordering or shopping for Italian wine outside of the US) is DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).  This means they comply with the strict standards of authentic Italian winemaking and is a guarantee of the grapes' origin.  Another way to go is to go to a Enoteca Regionale.  Each wine-producing city should have one.  What it is a wine bar of sorts featuring the best handpicked wines of that specific region,  They offer tastings and recommendations, and they also sell wine. 

Stay in an Agriturismo.

Mountain bike the forests of Punta Ala

Catch the Tuscan Sun at the beach.

Taste the wines at Capezzana in Carmignano.

Go to a thermal cave and then enjoy the thermal pool at Grotta Giusti.

(Photo credit: Grotta Giusti)

May 21, 2015

When I was in Tuscany about this time last year, I tried a bowl filled with red gooey stuff which the people at the winery in Carmignano said I should absolutely try.  It's Pappa al Pomodoro, a traditional Tuscan dish that loosely translates to "tomato mush".  

 

It...

May 25, 2014

 

 

Tuscany.

 

The mere mention of the place conjures up intense images of verdant rolling hills in the Italian countryside, making the notion of farm living seductive than ever before.  There is not a person I know I would mention the word to that wouldn't emit a wistful...

November 23, 2013

You know you're in a rainforest when not even a minute after you've stepped off the car and it starts pelting big, plump, fast raindrops the size of tennis balls.  "I think we made it to the rainforest!" The Dutch yelled as we dashed to the tower for cover.  

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