tuscany Tag

tuscan cooking, italian cooking school, tuscany, luxury villa
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Over a Tuscan stove

Tuscan cooking I try first with one hand and then with two. Either way, I can’t seem to roll the dough into the smooth even cylinders I’m aiming for. The more I try, the worse it gets. “Too much pressure”, I’m told by the Italian cook. Tell me about it! I feel like everyone is watching me as I literally make a mess of this meal. Although the ‘pressure’ he’s referring to is coming from my hands. I ease up a bit and the dough starts to resemble something a bit closer to the expected. It’s gnocchi that I’m trying to make. After mashing potatoes, mixing them with flour and kneading the combination into a big lump, I’m now at the crucial stage of turning the mass into small pieces to be cooked. Luckily there’s an expert at hand to give me some instruction (and probably fix my mistakes if all goes too...

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30 September
cheap tuscany, tuscany accommodation, tuscan food, cheap, affordable, budget (5)
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How to visit Tuscany cheaply

Cheap Tuscany, Italy It’s no surprise that one of the most popular regions of Italy is also one of the most expensive. Between accommodation, food and sites, you can really burn through the euros on a trip to Tuscany. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way - it is possible to travel Tuscany on the cheap. By accident, I discovered a way to keep the cost of visiting Tuscany right down. And the bonus? Well, it might actually be better suited to your style of travel as well. Introducing… dramatic drumroll… the hostel in the countryside! Cheap Tuscany accommodation In the quiet little village of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, the hostel is one of the largest buildings. That’s not to say it’s large, more that everything else is appropriately proportioned for a village. It’s called the ‘Ostello del Chianti’ and a bed in a dorm will cost only 16...

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08 July
San Gimignano, towers, Tuscany, UNESCO, towers of San Gimignano (5)
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The towers of San Gimignano

San Gimignano, Italy San Gimignano is a city of towers. Fourteen in total these days (although at one point there were as many as 72!). Built during the fourteenth century, they were status symbols of the various families. Phallic like, it was all about size. The Italian city of San Gimignano was once one of the richest in the region. Knowing that means the towers make more sense. What better way to show off your wealth than with enormous structures like these. You first see the towers from afar - they're high up on a hill and, with the city walls around them, look like an intimidating fortress. You can just imagine envoys of horsemen travelling there from around the region, no need for a map because they can see their destination so well, no need for awe because that will strike them itself. The city is full of tourists these days. In some ways...

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01 June
Il Palio, Siena horse race, siena, tuscany, italy, unesco (5)
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The horse race that stops Siena

Palio di Siena horse race, Italy Standing here, you can imagine the thundering of hooves and the roaring of the spectators. The energy must be incredible, thousands of people crammed together in the centre of the square as the horses race around them. Encircled and squashed, there would be nothing to do but shout with the crowd. Twice a year, here in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, one of the world’s most famous horses races takes over the city. The Palio di Siena is no ordinary race… but more on that shortly. Today, things are much more sedate. It’s a warm and sunny spring afternoon and the piazza is full of people sitting on the ground, catching some rays, eating a snack or talking with their friends. The shadow of the tower from the imposing Palazzo Pubblico casts a shadow over the ground and moves like a sundial. The people who end up in...

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29 May
leaning tower of pisa, unesco, why does pisa tower lean, can you climb pisa tower, italy (9)
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History’s biggest scam?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy Perhaps it's all a marketing scam, this leaning tower thing. Perhaps it was meant to be built like that! There's a school of thought that says the slant of the tower in Pisa was no accident. These 'experts' claim it may have been because of Pisa's rivalry with Florence at the time that the city wanted something to distinguish itself. What better way to make your city renowned through all the lands than with an iconic building that has no equal in the world? Well, maybe, but...

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28 May
things to see in Florence, Italy, Duomo, sightseeing, city tour, UNESCO (5)
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Florence and the museums

The thing about Florence Daydreaming as I walk the streets about Florence, I'm suddenly jolted from my daze by a man crashing into me. The church I'd been looking at is lost from my view as I quickly swing around. Recoiling, I move into a doorway just in time to avoid a second collision with another man and, as it turns out, even more. A group of about ten men run pass, knocking into pedestrians as they crush through the crowds. Dark-skinned, probably African in origin, they have no concern for who and what they hit on the way through. They are clearly fleeing from something, although it's not fear you sense from them...

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20 April
uffizi, venus de' medicic, florence, art, most popular artwork in florence, italy (5)
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The most beautiful woman in Florence

Venus de' Medici Once upon a time there was a woman who was the most beautiful in all of Florence. Men and women from all across the lands would travel to the city to see her. Of all the attractions in Florence, she was the one people most wanted to see. Venus de' Medici was her name. And for centuries she would stand, unmoving and serene, as crowds gathered around to admire her every feature. But over the years, she lost her lustre. Age did not weary her, nothing in her face changed and her pose remained unmoved. It was the views of the populous which altered and in their eyes she was no longer the most beautiful in the land. The crowds stopped coming to see Venus de' Medici - or, at least, they no longer came specifically to see her. And today she is to many tourists unknown, a faded star...

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19 April
ponte vecchio florence, history, hitler, italy, famous bridges (5)
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Rumour has it…

Hitler and the Ponte Vecchio Historical rumours are fast becoming one of my new favourite things. They are unlike the everyday rumours that gossipmongers whisper to each other with satisfyingly cheeky smirks on their faces. Oh no - those rumours can be stopped when the tales have been circulated so far they've done a full rotation and ended up being shared with the subject of the gossip. Historical rumours are the complete opposite because the more they are spread, the longer the passage of time, and less the likelihood anyone will actually know the truth. You hear them all the time as a tourist. There's always a historical figure or a landmark event, no matter how obtuse, that somehow relates to the place you're visiting. Perpetuated by guidebooks, tour operators, and even blogs, a tall tale becomes a fable and then morphs into truth. The latest one I've been told concerns the Ponte...

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19 April
gucci museum, florence, itlaly, luxury luggage (1)
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Excessive Baggage

Gucci Museum Florence If you're anything like me, you've got some pretty tatty luggage. Perhaps a backpack as dirty and bruised as you've at times felt after carrying it? Maybe a roller case with worn-down wheels from all the times the terrain was a little rough but you couldn't be bothered to pick it up? Or possibly a faithful old duffel bag that's had a few minor surgeries over the years after injuries suffered from excess weight? Whether we go only an annual holidays, short business trips, or indefinite world exploration, we've probably chosen our bags based on convenience and other such boring practicalities. But this wasn't always the way. There was a time when travel was more exclusive than today, when the jetsetters of the world were making a statement not just by doing it but how they did it. And for them, their luggage was all about style - it...

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17 April