Off for our annual holiday to Tuscany in a few weeks, so I felt inspired to share some of my favourite places.
This is the iconic view from the kitchen window of the villa where we stay near Radicofani. Chianti classico, tomatoes and rolling countryside – you can’t get more typical of Tuscany! Click here if you’re interested in finding out more about Podere Pietreta (site link is in english).
One of the joys of Italy is the sense of community – whether it’s in the small villages, towns or cities. It provides images which are quintessentially Italian. Younger people “passeggiata” around the squares of an evening and old people sit together and just watch. The most appealing aspect is the almost total lack of public drunkenness. I understand that it is quite a taboo (“brutta figura” in Italian – or bad look, which is taken very seriously), and there’s considerable community pressure that discourages it. Bravo, I say!
Apart from the art (which I’ll explore in a later blog some day) the landscapes are the most memorable aspects of a visit to Tuscany. Each season offers its own character.
Spring has cool temperatures, occasional rain, and fog in the valleys.
Later in the season towards May you might also come across fields of poppies. A nuisance (no doubt) for farmers, but a blessing for tourists!
Leading up to Corpus Domini (around late May) villages like Castiglione d’Orcia (photo right) begin preparing displays (called “infiorata”) made from thousands of petals from the local wildflowers (such as broom and poppies). They’re stuck to the ground by wetting the pavement first – I’m not sure how effective it is during windy weather, but I guess weather forecasts play an important role.
As summer commences showers turn into the occasional storm…
Followed by a sparkling morning washed clean by the previous evening’s rain.
Sometimes red flowering clover carpets the fields…
…and great, billowing clouds dominate the skyline.
The villages have a charm all themselves, both for their dramatic location…
…as well as their intimate corners.
Iconic images present themselves at almost every turn…
…and evenings are spectacular!
I can’t write about Tuscany without talking about its wines – which are amongst my favourite in the world.
Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino are very well known, but less is known of Vino di Montepulciano. One of the reasons for this is that it is usually confused with wine made from the montepulciano grape – a reasonable assumption. Montepulciano wine is typically a rather rough and ready “drink-a-day” wine from the Abruzzo area, whilst the wine from around the town of Montepulciano is made from a relative of sangiovese (sangiovese grosso). Long-lived (although not quite as age-worthy as Brunello) it’s a high quality but inexpensive wine that deserves to be more popular.
Medieval Tuscany is well served by plenty of monuments as well. Siena is a gem, but most villages have interesting remnants and the tiny monastery of Sant’Antimo is charmingly nestled in a picturesque valley near Montalcino. Visitors can attend services where a handful of monks sing plainchant – often accompanied by a tractor outside and the persistent coughing of one of the brothers! Click here if you want to visit the website.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little snapshot of Tuscany. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to get any further information about the places mentioned above. Watch out for my next post the same time next week.