Category Archives: Food tours

Tuscan Towns

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Most tourists heading for Tuscany visit Florence, Siena, or Pisa. But Tuscany has more to offer than the great cities; smaller and less well known towns show a different side of Tuscan life and have their own, individual characters.

Lucca, a tiny cathedral city in the plains of the Arno valley, is still surrounded by its high defensive walls. It is a treasurehouse of Romanesque art; the cathedral contains the Volto Santo, an ancient crucifix that drew pilgrims from all over Italy, while San Frediano has a massive carved font showing the story of Moses. Winding streets of old houses in pale orange and pink end in towering white marble church facades, and the massive brick Tower of the Guinigi family dominates the east of the city.

Barga is a short bus ride away from Lucca, but a more different town can’t be imagined; it’s high up in the foothills of the Apuan Alps, which in the middle ages were full of wolves and bandits. Steep streets and narrow alleys run upwards to the gleaming white church. Barga’s food comes from the mountains ñ chestnuts, wild boar, and forest mushrooms ñ and even when the sun shines, it’s cooler than the cities of the plain below.

Another city with rough edges is Volterra, sited dramatically on a rocky ridge, overlooking untamed, arid country; it feels a little like Tuscany’s Wild West. Here the Etruscans operated mines, and the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum contains many examples of their metalwork, as well as a large collection of funerary urns, many with uncannily vivid portraits of the deceased.

In keeping with Volterra’s rough exterior, its fine Renaissance fortress has become a state prison, but it springs one surprise on the visitor. It now contains a highly rated restaurant where the cooks and waiters are all prisoners. Bookings need to be made well in advance ñ and there are strict security checks on the way to the table.

Chiusi is another hill town with Etruscan roots, and is surrounded by Etruscan tombs, many exhibits from which are now in the town’s museum. Its most interesting exhibit, though, is a set of tunnels under the city, known as the ‘labyrinth’, but in fact dug by the Etruscans for drainage.

Some of Tuscany’s towns take you back to the Middle Ages. Monteriggioni, not far from Siena, is perhaps the most perfect example of the Tuscan walled hill town, its majestic walls and towers dominating the valley below. Inside, though, it’s nowadays little more than a village, with attractive gardens and elegant Renaissance houses.

But if it’s towers you want, visit San Gimignano. Its medieval noble families feuded perpetually, and each family built its own fortress; fourteen of the towers still survive. The town’s main church has Renaissance frescoes, and there’s a good gallery of Renaissance paintings. Wine lovers will want to track down the local vernaccia wine, crisp and dry.

Further south, in an area little known by tourists, Pitigliano and Sovana are two ancient towns linked by an Etruscan chariot route which can still be followed across the plateau. Pitigliano, a town built in creamy stone on a ridge above the valley of the Fiora, is known as Tuscany’s Jerusalem, since it provided a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in the Papal States; the synagogue is open to visitors, though few Jews now live in the town. Many houses in Pitigliano have wine cellars that were dug by the Etruscans, while Sovana has well preserved Etruscan tombs.

An unusually complete Renaissance town is Pienza, named after its founder, Pope Pius II. It is a logical planned town, centred on its main square with the cathedral, the palace of the pope’s family, town hall and bishop’s palace, each taking one side of the square. The architecture is pure and delicate in style, and the whole town seems to be a perfect miniature ñ it was hardly more than a village when Pius decided to rebuild it.

Cortona shows a different side of the Renaissance with paintings by Fra Angelico, and two elegant small Renaissance churches. The town, though, is medieval with its steep narrow streets and tall houses perched on a steep hillside, and medieval customs still survive ñ there’s an annual archery contest in June, and processions in medieval costume in May.

Florence may be a honey pot for culture vultures, but Tuscany’s smaller towns can offer just as many interesting cultural experiences, in a more relaxed and less crowded atmosphere.

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Visit the enchanting Amalfi Coast

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amalfi coast

The Amalfi Coast is a situated on the west coast of Italy, south of Naples.  The Amalfi Coast road winds it’s way from Sorrento to the village of Amalfi via a 50 kilometer stretch of road which curves and weaves it’s way along the coast hugging the cliff face.  Passing through quaint seaside villages with breathtaking views. It is Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline.

The best time to visit is in Spring or Fall in order to enjoy the warm but not too hot weather and fewer crowds who flock here during July and August.

The Amalfi Coast hosts a vast number of hotels ranging from Five Star Luxury to Romantic Boutique hotels.

What to do on the Amalfi Coast?

Tour the Amalfi Coast with a private driver for a Gourmet Food Tour and indulge your tastebuds in all the best Italian foods the Amalfi Coast has to offer. Mozzarella, limoncello, gelato, pizza, olive oil!

Start your day in the countryside above Sorrento and have a wonderful tour of an extra-virgin olive oil factory overlooking the Amalfi Coast.  Experience breathtaking views over Sorrento as you stroll through olive groves, and citrus trees. After a brief explanation of the delicious olive oil produced locally in Sorrento and the history of limoncello-making, it’s then time to taste the delicious oil over freshly baked bread.

Your next visit on the Amalfi Coast Gourmet Tour will be to a cheese farm specializing for over 50 years in making exceptional mozzarella and other cheeses typical of the Amalfi Coast.

No Italian food gourmet day in the Neopolitan area would be complete without an authentic, pizza-making experience.  In a charming pizzeria on the Amalfi Coast

you will create your own pizza, using only the freshest ingredients. Enjoy a fantastic lunch of your personalized pizza.  After lunch taste the famous limoncello liquor which is made from large, bright local Sorrentine lemons.

Your Amalfi Coast Gourmet Tour couldn’t be complete without dessert, and no better dolce exists on the planet than fresh Italian gelato.  Visit a local gelateria where you will learn the secrets of how this age-old delicacy is made and enjoy a gelato tasting to finish off you Amalfi Gourmet Tour.

What better way to enjoy a day on the Amalfi Coast than to treat all of your senses with the unforgettable flavours and fragrances while taking in the breathtaking, spectacular views of this unforgettable coastline.

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Florence Market & Gourmet Food Tour

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Florence may not be the capital city or the business hub, but it is the pulsing heart of Tuscany and central Italy.

Recently being mentioned the New York Times ‘Where to go in Florence’ gives the reader insight into the revamped area of San Lorenzo sharing a list of new restaurants, caffès and gelati parlours that are stylish and geared to locals and tourists alike.

Since the opening of the new  of the top floor of the Central Market ‘Mercato Centrale’ in 2014 – the San Lorenzo neighbourhood has had a considerable make over. Gone are a lot of the market stalls making it easy to access the Mercato Centrale without too many distractions.

A great way to explore this area is to do a Florence Market & Gourmet Food Tour for a morning in the San Lorenzo area.

Prepare yourself to have all of your senses heightened and ignited on the Florence Market & Gourmet Food Tour.  Your guide will give you a detailed history into the central market where you will start off with a tour of the new first floor of the market for a coffee or cappucino and some time to browse the various shops working up an appetite.

The real Italian food market experience awaits you downstairs where the shops upstairs, local restaurants and Florentines come to buy only the freshest ingredients brought in before dawn from local producers.  Enjoy the vibrant, lively market experience with tastings of speciality products such as wild boar prosciutto, pecorino sheep cheese and fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables.

After the market tour you will visit a more refined gourmet food shop and learn about what staple produce is used for traditional Tuscan recipes.  You will have time to purchase unique gourmet gifts to take back home.  At the end of your Florence Market & Gourmet Food Tour you will be accompanied to a local trattoria where you can dine on the traditional Tuscan dishes you have encountered during the morning.

What better way to explore the traditional Italian market with a local food expert getting to know local vendors and shop owners who take pride in guaranteeing only the very best, local fresh produce.

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3 great reasons to visit The Langhe region of Piedmont.

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The Langhe Hills are only a short drive south-east from Turin, and are easy to reach for a long weekend break or indulgent weeks vacation.  The area is surrounded by the Alps mountain range and the Po valley which is renowned for it’s rice growing plains.

The rolling hills are dotted with villages, hamlets and castles that date back to medieval times and conjure up images of nobility and splendour.

1. The Wine

The hills of the Langhe are the lands of noble vineyards producing wines of great quality and diversity.  The Nebbiolo grape being the protagonist in Barolo and Barberesco wines.  Alongside Barbera and Dolcetto d’Alba, Le Langhe boasts a vast number of wineries which are for the most part vineyards that have been family run for many generations.  The winemakers of this region take great pride in their land and the yields that are harvested each year.

2. Truffles

As the summer temperatures start to cool and the leaves start turning all shades of yellow, burnt orange and brown you can be sure that autumn is here and the highly awaited Alba International White Truffle fair is drawing near.  October through mid – November is white truffle season. When truffle hunters gather with their dogs on the hunt for the costly tuber that will be sold at a price that is determined daily at the International Truffle Fair.  Taste this lavish delight at a local trattoria or restaurant where it is served in thin shavings over pasta, eggs or risotto.

3. Food

Truffles aside, Le Langhe is foodie heaven, with a culture of cuisine this region boasts a number of luxury Michelin rated restaurants as well as family run trattorias that pride themselves in traditional seasonal recipes using local produce such as cow and goats cheese, beef braised in wine and a variety desserts made with it’s prestigious hazelnuts.

There is no better place to go for a bit of relaxation accompanied by excellent food and wine than Le Langhe.

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