Thursday, 29 December 2016

Is it possible to visit a privately-owned Tuscan Renaissance villa?

While some of the most famous Tuscan villas, especially the Medicean villas of Tuscany, are now publicly owned, there are large numbers of Tuscan villas, some with spectacular gardens, that are still in private hands. Not surprisingly, readers ask me whether it is possible to visit a privately-owned Tuscan Renaissance villa. The answer is that a number of them are accessible and I'll be providing details here and in later posts.

Villa Poggio Torselli


Villa Poggion Torselli in Tuascany, Italy
Villa Poggio Torselli in Tuscany, Italy

Villa Poggio Torselli is a magnificent Tuscan villa located near San Casciano in Val di Pesa just a few km from Florence, and the location of one of the finest italianate gardens in Tuscany, if not the whole of Italy. This villa belonged to the Machiavelli family and later to a long line of Tuscan aristocrats. They also owned the nearby Castello di Bibbione. Niccolò Machiavelli, Renaissance historian, politician, diplomat and writer, and the most famous member of his family, did not live in this villa. When not in disgrace, he lived in Florence except when abroad (meaning away from Florentine territory) on diplomatic missions. When banished from Florence, he lived in his country retreat, Albergaccio Machiavelli, which is to be found at Sant'Andrea in Percussina, not far away from Villa Poggio Torselli.

Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Villa Poggio Torselli is particularly famous for its gardens. These gardens probably date from the late 17 C, and consists of an italianate garden divided into two terraces to the south and an English park area in to the north. In the upper terrace on the south side, the original arrangement with flower beds has been preserved along with a very ingenious irrigation system, one of the best preserved of Tuscany. It was designed with stone basins positioned to favour the flow of water from the highest point to the lowest. The parterre was transformed in mid 19 C according to the English style, but was restored first around 1925 when the box hedging was renewed and then by the present owners, who uncovered one of the original flowerbeds with its irrigation basins.

The conservative restoration called for a renewal of the planting typical of late 18 C gardens. Dwarf fruit trees, old-fashioned roses, aromatic herbs and flowers were planted and act as a frame for the baroque chapel and the architecture of the three-storey villa. When the weather is warm, the potted citrus trees are carried out from the splendid limonaia into the open air.

In addition, the beautiful landscape offers sweeping views of lush greenery extending over about 42 hectares, 25 of which are given over to vineyards and 13 to olive groves.

The giardino all'italiana of Villa Poggio Torselli
The giardino all'italiana of Villa Poggio Torselli
The Poggio Torselli villa itself is one of the largest, most prestigious and elegant villas found in the hills of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. It was once known as the “queen of the villas”. The villa was built on the site of an earlier structure between the late 1600s and early 1700s by Lorenzo Merlini, an architect who was very popular with the Florentine nobility of the day.

The villa consists of a central block and two L-shaped wings which house apartments and offices, a chapel and winter garden. To the south, the wings enclose the giardino all'italiana. The interiors are characterised by colour, tromp l’oeil and allegorical paintings, created at the end of the 17 C by Pier Dandini, Matteo Bonechi and their students. Don't miss the ceilings of the two rooms adjacent to the main hall on the ground floor. You can reach the luxurious rooms and parlours on the upper levels via an astoundingly beautiful staircase.

The salotto of Villa Poggio Torselli
The salotto of Villa Poggio Torselli

  
Villa Poggio Torselli is a private villa that can be visited exclusively as part of a wine tour offered by Angela Saltafuori. More about the wine tour of the Machiavelli family's Chianti villa.

Information on visiting the gardens of Villa Gamberaia in Settignano near Florence are given in my post on Villa Gamberaia.

More about the villas of Tuscany

More about Tuscan villa gardens

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini


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Friday, 4 November 2016

Wine tasting of wines aged in terracotta amphorae taking place in Impruneta, Tuscany 19 - 20 November 2016

Terracotta and wine Impruneta, Tuscany 19 - 20 November 2016

In 2014, I provided details of an event hosted by Terracotta Artenova in Impruneta - a conference on making wine in terracotta containers.

wine-making in terracotta jars from Terracotta Artenova
Wine-making in terracotta jars from Terracotta Artenova
Leonardo Parigi of Terracotta Artenova and his family pioneered the manufacture in Tuscany of large terracotta giare for wine-making and the conference that they organised in 2014 was a huge success. So much so, indeed, that this month they have organised a follow-up conference that includes massive wine tasting sessions of wines that have since been produced and/or aged in terracotta vessels.

Wine tasting of wines aged in terracotta amphorae taking place in Impruneta, Tuscany 19 - 20 November 2016

This wine tasting of wines aged in terracotta amphorae will take place in Impruneta, Tuscany, on the 19th and 20th of November 2016.
Entry costs 15 euros, including your wine glass and holder.

It is not mandatory to pre-register for this terracotta wine tasting event,
but pre-registered attendees will have a fast line at the entrance.

Programme 2016

This was a great event!

Here's a picture of the wonderful concluding dinner prepared by Filippo Saporito
followed by Champagne from Henri Giraud.

Watch for the next conference, probably in two years from now.



The 2nd International Convention "Terracotta and wine 2016" will be held in the atmospheric ambiance of the 18 C terracotta workshop, Fornace Agresti, in Impruneta. The town is just a few km from Florence, with good bus connections. The event is all about winemaking in amphora and, as last time, it is open to the general public and offers the unique opportunity to taste and compare these unusual and extraordinary wines from all over the world. The number of exhibitors has grown from 29 in 2014 to 40 this year, as more and more wine producers are making some of their wine in terracotta containers - champagne and beer too! An Enoteca (wine shop) will be available for those who wish to buy the wines on show. There will be talks and debates on a technical level, where wine makers specialised in the production of amphora wine will share their experiences. There will be several guided wine tasting sessions, as well as various musical performances and tours of the Artenova terracotta workshop.

Wine tasting at the 2014 event in Impruneta
Wine tasting at the 2014 event in Impruneta

Terracotta Artenova.

Wine making in terracotta jars.

Terracotta jars used in wine-making.


Tuscany Toscana
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Author: Anna Maria Baldini


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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Castello di Montegufoni and the Sitwell family

Of all the castles in Tuscany, the one to which I am most attracted is the Castello di Montegufoni which is situated near Montespertoli, 20 km south of Florence.

Castello di Montegufoni
Castello di Montegufoni

This attraction is evoked both by the castle itself, as it was when owned by the Sitwells, and its literary associations, the first of which is Sir George Sitwell himself. Sir George was an English aristocratic eccentric on the grand scale who bought Montegufoni in 1909 and spent the rest of his life - he died in 1943 - restoring and decorating it. He, like I, was a garden nut whose finest book was On the Making of Gardens, a product of his extensive knowledge of gardens, and of Italian gardens in particular. Its style is lush and over-romantic, even by Victorian standards, but I don't find that to be especially a problem. His reflections are valuable and the book can still be read for both pleasure and profit.

The Sitwell family
The Sitwell family

Sir George's wife, Lady Ida, was beautiful, charming (in a vapid, prattling sort of way) and monumentally extravagant. Alas, she was also a stupid woman, "slightly mentally retarded" according to Harold Acton, and she was neither able nor willing to accompany her husband on his intellectual adventures. Her main claim to fame was to fall into debt and into the hands of a blackmailer, with a consequent sentence of three months in prison for fraud in 1915 - not easily accomplished by a member of the aristocracy of that period.

Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell
Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell at the height of their fame as a "team"

The second literary association is with Sir George's children, Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell who dominated literary London between the wars, during the period of roughly 1916 to 1930. It was during WW I that the Sitwell siblings began to operate as a team: to be precise, at a poetry reading in the drawing room of Lady Colefax (known by her rivals - and some of her guests - as Coalbox) in December, 1917. The cultivation of a group identity turned out to be a brilliant ploy. Each Sitwell in his own way was striking, but together they made an indelible impression. For many at the time (and later), they were more entertaining and influential than the Bloomsberries and their hangers-on. Their lecture tours and performances in America after WW II were hugely successful.

All three collectively and individually ridiculed their father for his eccentricities while inexplicably sparing their mother - well, Edith disliked her mother intensely and with good reason. In fact, Sir George was clever and alarmingly energetic. Both his Derbyshire home at Renishaw and his Tuscan palace at Montegufoni were rendered immeasurably more beautiful by his activities. His only significant error was to turn down an arrangement made by Sacheverell for Picasso to paint the frescoes at Montegufoni. Sir George chose Severini instead and the work was carried out in that annus mirabilis of Modernism, 1922. The results are not too bad!

Severini fresco at Montegufoni
A Severini fresco at Montegufoni

Edith, the eldest of Sir George's offspring, has been the most celebrated with her many volumes of poetry and the perennial success of Façade, an entertainment in verse with music by William Walton. However, as memories of her public readings fade, so too does her claim to fame outside the diminishing world of poetry aficionados.

Osbert was a homosexual of a masculine, repressed type. In youth, as an eligible bachelor, he had had a "nasty fright" when he was briefly pursued by the predominantly lesbian Violet Keppel, later Violet Trefusis: "By Jove, I wish he'd accepted her!" her husband, Denis Trefusis, remarked when told of this incident many years later. In 1924, Mrs Keppel, Violet's mother, bought Villa L'Ombrellino, a large and beautiful villa overlooking Florence and where Galileo once lived. After her parents' death in 1947, Violet Trefusis lived in Villa L'Ombrellino until the end of her life in 1972. Osbert reigned over Montegufoni from his father's death in 1943 until his own death in 1969.

Osbert's literary output has, in my opinion, become rather neglected since his death, and been poorly rated by members of the chattering classes who haven't actually read much or any of it. I've read most of his non-poetry books with great enjoyment, especially his five volume autobiography and the collection of essays published under the very appropriate name of "Winters of Content". I recommend them.

Sacheverell, the youngest of the three, single-handedly rescued baroque art and architecture from undeserved oblivion, most notably with his 1924 book, Southern Baroque Art: a Study of Painting, Architecture and Music in Italy and Spain of the 17th & 18th Centuries. He turned out over 100 books during his life.

Formal garden at Castello di Montefugoni
A formal garden at Castello di Montefugoni

The History of Castello di Montegufoni

Originally, Montegufoni belonged to the Ormanni, a family mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy. In 1135, the Florentines attacked the castle and it was left in ruins until the 13 C, when it became the property of Gugliarello Acciaioli. His descendants enriched themselves enormously thanks to their bank and extensive landholdings, and towards the end of the 13 C, Montegufoni had become a complex composed of the main building and seven smaller buildings, surrounded by walls.

In 1310, Niccolò Acciaiuoli was born there, in a room that was later converted into a chapel. He later became the Grand Seneschal of the Kingdom of Naples and a close friend of Boccaccio and Petrarch. In 1348, the King of Naples, Luigi Taranto, away from his kingdom following the conflict with the King of Hungary, took refuge in Montegufoni with his prime minister. He made a habit of feasting with Bishop Angelo Acciaiuoli in the Banquet hall (now the room called the "Theatre").

In 1386 by Donato Acciaioli, possessor of the titles of Duke of Athens, Roman Senator and Gonfaloniere of the Republic of Florence, built the tower that still dominates the castle. In 1396, Donato was banished from Florence, but his assets (including Montegufoni) were saved from confiscation by the cardinal's brother. The three sons of Donato resided to the Court of Athens until one of them, Agnolo di Jacopo, returned to Montegufoni with his son (Duke Francesco) and a cousin. It was at that time that Montegufoni acquired the nickname "the court of dukes ".

the tower of Montegufoni castle
The tower of Montegufoni castle

In 1546 another Donato restored the tower of Montegufoni in the style of the Arnolfo tower of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and built the armory (the hall known today as the "Gallery") and during this period Montegufoni became the meeting place of many Florentine artists. In 1612, Cosimo II de 'Medici was invited to Montegufoni. Around 1650 Donato, with his wife, Anna Maria Altoviti, restored the castle, giving it the appearance it still retains today, by connecting the seven hitherto distinct buildings together. The castle continued to be one of the most famous gathering places for high Florentine society throughout the 17 C and during the 18 C, until the economic decline of the Acciaioli family caused it to be sold to the Baracchi family.

As we have seen, in 1909 Sir George Sitwell fell in love with the beautiful castle and bought it.

During World War II, more than two hundred very important works of art from the Uffizi were hidden in the cellars of Montegufoni to save then from damage and theft. Among them were Ghirlandaio's Adoration of the Magi, Botticello's Primavera and the Madonna of Ogni Santo by Giotto.These were stumbled upon by Eric Linklater while the castle was still occupied the Mahratta Light Infantry, the roar of battle only a mile away. It was Major Linklater who shortly afterwards drove a youthful Lieutenant Frederick Hartt in his jeep to check the paintings as soon as the Germans were out of the way.

The Sitwells made the castle an important cultural centre by inviting artists, especially Americans and British, to work there. In 1946, Sir Osbert settled at the castle. He developed Parkinson's disease and died there in 1969. In 1972, Sacheverell's son, Reresby Sitwell, pressed for estate taxes in the UK, sold the castle for a song to the current owner, Sergio Posarelli, who converted it into luxury vacation accommodation.

More about the castles of Tuscany.

Gardens of Tuscany.

Villas of Tuscany.


Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit my Tuscany
Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide

vacation accommodations in Tuscany


Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Italian Web Site Promotion 2016. All rights reserved.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Should I rent a car or hire a driver to explore Tuscany?

How to get around Tuscany is a bit of a vexed question. Between the larger towns, there is an excellent rail service with frequent trains all day. Smaller towns can be reached by bus, but the bus service is scheduled more for commuters than tourists. To explore the countryside, a car is by far the best way to go and, of course, many visitors to Tuscany rent a car for the duration of their stay. There is, however, an alternative strategy. "Should I rent a car or hire a driver to explore Tuscany?" Suppose you are here for two weeks but only five of those days are trips that require a car? Money-wise and for the reasons outlined, this might be the optimal alternative:

Don't rent a car in Tuscany: hire a driver.

For those of you who want to explore Tuscany efficiently, rather than renting your own car, consider hiring a private driver - a chauffeur, in other words - with his own vehicle. Yes, it will cost a bit more than a rental car but the advantages are numerous:
  • Instead of focussing on the narrow, twisting roads of Tuscany, you will be able to admire the views and identify the sights while you let your driver take care of the driving.
  • Planning your routes together with your driver - before you arrive, if possible - will allow you to visit more of your destinations in a shorter time - no time wasted on the wrong roads, slow speeds and closed sights. Plus, your driver will help you choose the most scenic routes where there are more than one.
  • Once you arrive at one of your destinations, your private driver will drop you off at the sight and then he'll take care of finding a parking place - often a problem with popular small Tuscan villages.
  • No more worries about bus lanes and limited traffic zones. A driver with an NCC license is allowed to drive into limited traffic zones where private drivers are prohibited. That means he can pick you up at your accommodations and drop you off again, as well as access sights with limited traffic zones.
  • Doing a wine-tasting tour is a popular activity among visitors to Tuscany. "Taste and spit" can be tiresome on day-long wine tasting tour. With your own driver, that issue disappears and you can enjoy yourselves freely.
  • Last but not least, your driver knows places that the guide books don't. Tell him or her your interests and ask for suggestions.
A minibus carries up to 7 or 8 passengers, will probably be air conditioned and provide WiFi access to the internet.

My recommended drivers are:

Tuscany Toscana
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Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide

vacation accommodations in Tuscany


Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Italian Web Site Promotion 2016. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Going to the beach in Italy - Castiglione della Pescaia

I wrote a post on going to the beach in Italy - more specifically, on going to the beach in Tuscany - back in June 2012. Today I want to describe one particular Tuscan beach resort in more detail to provide visitors to Tuscany with some further practical aspects, many of which apply equally well to other beach resorts on the coast of Tuscany.

Castiglione della Pescaia is located on the Tuscan coast south of Follonica and fairly close to Grosseto and Monte Argentario. This is an area of Tuscany off the beaten track to most foreign visitors to Italy but it is extremely popular with Italians taking their annual vacation. Castiglione della Pescaia has a quite charming old town, high up and with mostly very steep streets (and no car or bus access!), with panoramic views along the coast to the north and south, and out over the boat harbour in the silted up river mouth below. There are a great many launches of various shapes and sizes which are advertised for rent "without license". The idea seems to be that you motor out the entrance to the harbour and anchor offshore to sunbathe and otherwise relax. Many of the little fishing boats have signs on them indicating where their fish is served, cooked on the day it was caught.

Castiglione della Pescaia and theTyrrhenian Sea.
The old part of Castiglione della Pescaia and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Quiet lane in Castiglione della Pescaia old town
Quiet lane in Castiglione della Pescaia old town

Castiglione della Pescaia boats heading out to sea
Castiglione della Pescaia boats heading out to sea

The modern part of Castiglione della Pescaia cannot really be described as an architectural gem - concrete features prominently. Immediately to the north of the river and harbour, below the old town, there are some pleasing streets given over to tourism, plus a 19th century fountain. The modern town, especially to the south of the river, consists very largely of blocks of vacation apartments along the sea front and on the streets leading to it. The most popular private and public parts of the seashore are located in this area and also to the north of the old town.


Castiglione della Pescaia 19th century fountain
Castiglione della Pescaia 19th century fountain

Free versus private beaches in Tuscany


In Castiglione della Pescaia, the public, "free" parts of the beach are interspersed with the private areas. Both types of beach area provide toilet facilities and fresh water showers, as well as life guards. In the public areas, you can plant your own umbrella in any unoccupied space and sunbathe or swim as the spirit moves you. The private areas are set up with umbrellas and deckchairs more or less in rows with walkways between them leading down to the sea. Many holidaymakers rent their space for the entire summer. That's why you might go to the office of a private beach and be told that they're full even though there are many currently unoccupied spots visible. The price for and umbrella and two deckchairs ranges from 10 to 20 euros per day, with discounts for longer periods. The price is usually reflected in the quality of the facilities. At Forte dei Marmi, near Viareggio and Lucca, there are some very classy private beaches and naturally they cost a bit more. By the way, during August, the sand at Castiglione della Pescaia was too hot for me to stand on with bare feet! Bring some beach footwear.

private beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia
A fairly typical private beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia

public beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia
An equally typical public beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia

Beach restaurants in Castiglione della Pescaia


Most of the private beach areas have their own restaurant. These are all open to the public, not just to those with a ticket to the beach. Some offer one or two fresh fish dishes but by far the bulk of the seafood is frozen. This is not a problem - how it's cooked is what matters as far as the taste goes. Some have waiter service, some are self service. Dress is casual in the extreme although for ladies a bikini top might be a good idea. There are always a few good looking girls and a larger number of good looking guys around, and then there are the rest of us. No one cares - this is where Italians come for total "relax".

My top recommendation is Bagno Bruna which is one of the first private beach areas that you come to on the waterfront walkway to the south of the river (Via Isola Clodia). This place serves large quantities of excellent seafood at remarkably reasonable prices. The self-service restaurant is open every day at lunchtime and the serviced restaurant is open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday. At lunchtime, expect to line up but the line moves quickly. You take away your salad, wine and other ready prepared items, pay and leave your name with your seafood order. That will soon be ready and will find its way to you. I tried a swordfish steak that was so good I thought it was fresh. It was frozen but as the chef told me: it all depends on how you cook it. The fritto misto was also delicious. Cold, open slightly frizzante white wine is available by the half and full litre carafe.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough for a delicious seafood lunch.

Bagno Bruna private beach area and restaurant at Castiglione della Pescaia
Bagno Bruna private beach area and restaurant at Castiglione della Pescaia.

More about Castiglione della Pescaia.



Tuscany Toscana
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Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide




vacation accommodations in Tuscany

Author: Anna Maria Baldini


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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Open day of the villas and gardens in Florence 22 May 2016

Those of you who are enthusiasts for the villas and gardens of Tuscany have a great opportunity on Sunday 22 May 2016 to visit a great many of the villas and gardens that are usually closed to the public. Entrance is free. I can't emphasise enough what a wonderful opportunity this is to see some splendid architecture and historical gardens.

Palazzo Corsini and its garden in Florence
Palazzo Corsini and its garden in Florence

Open gardens in the Florence historical centre – opening hours 10 am to 1 pm – 3 pm to 7 pm.


Garden San Francesco di Paola (piazza San Francesco di Paola, 3)
Garden Torrigiani (via dei Serragli, 146)
Garden Corsi Annalena (via Romana, 38)
Palazzo Guicciardini (via Guicciardini, 15)
Palazzo Frescobaldi (via Santo Spirito,13)
Palazzo Antinori di Brindisi (via dei Serragli, 9)
Giardino di Palazzo Rospigliosi Pallavicini (piazza del Carmine, 21)
Giardino di Palazzo Wagnière-Fontana Elliott (lungarno Soderini, 9)
Giardino Corsini sul Prato (via il Prato, 58)
Palazzo Ricasoli (piazza Goldoni, 2)
Palazzo Corsini (lungarno Corsini, 10)
Palazzo Rucellai (via della Vigna Nuova, 18)
Palazzo Antinori (piazza Antinori, 3)
Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni (piazza Santa Trinità, 1)
Palazzo and garden Rosselli Del Turco (borgo Santi Apostoli, 19)
Palazzo Gondi (piazza San Firenze, 1)
Giardino Malenchini (via dei Benci, 1)
Giardino Vegni (via San Niccolò, 93)
Giardino degli Antellesi (piazza Santa Croce, 21)
Palazzo Pepi (via dei Pepi, 7)
Palazzo Pucci (via de’ Pucci, 4): the organic vegetable gardens on the terraces may be visited by small groups.
Palazzo dei Cartelloni (via Sant’Antonino, 11): exhibition of contemporary art.
Palazzo Ginori (via Ginori, 11): The courtyard can be visited by small groups.
Palazzo Gerini (via Ricasoli, 42)
Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai (piazza SS. Annunziata, 1):Open from 10 am to 3 pm.
Palazzo Ximenes Panciatichi (borgo Pinti, 68)
Palazzo Zuccari Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (via Gino Capponi, 22)
Palazzo Pandolfini (via San Gallo, 74)
Palazzo dei Pittori (viale Giovanni Milton, 49)

Read my post on the Florence open day gardens I visited in 2015. 

Palazzo Antinori in Florence
Palazzo Antinori in Florence


Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit my Tuscany
Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide


vacation accommodations in Tuscany

Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Infotech website promotion 2016. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Italian cured meats can now be imported into the USA - USDA lifts ban

Are you among the legions of American visitors to Italy who wanted to take home a whole prosciutto (or at least a good selection of salumi) but were disappointed to discover that the import of most Italian cured meats into the States has long been prohibited? Good news! It seems - note, seems - that from 28 May 2013, Italian cured meats can now be imported into the USA.

Italian cured meats can now be imported in to the USA
Italian cured meats - a new addition to what you can take home from Tuscany?

The USDA lifted its absolute ban on Italian raw, cured meat products in 1989, when prosciutto from Parma and San Daniele was allowed back into the USA after a 22-year absence. Now, according to ANSA, the Italian wire service, the USDA ban on the import of Italian cured meats from factories too small to support a full-time USDA inspector will be lifted starting on 28 May this year.

This is great news for visitors to Tuscany who now have the chance to extend their Tuscan experience by carrying back a good supply of their favorite Tuscan cold cuts. This also expands the options for convenient gifts for the folks back home - some salamini alla cacciatora here, a block of lardo toscano there. What could be a better way to share the experience? (And to "win friends and influence people" - it's not just the Napoleonic army that marches on its stomach!)

There is a huge array of Tuscan cured meats, many of them produced by small, artisanal outlets, that has never been available in the States. With a bit of luck, this will now change as importers move to fill what I believe is a true market void. In addition, there are good suppliers in Tuscany whose offerings can be ordered via the internet.

My favorite exporter of Tuscan culinary specialities is Vivere la Toscana, directed by the talented and beautiful Elisa Micheli who hand-picks the products she offers from among the best producers in Tuscany.

Buying Tuscan food, olive oil and wines online
Vivere la Toscana offers one of the best high quality Tuscan product lines on the internet. Not only do they offer the best of hard-to-get Tuscany culinary specialities, but they offer a selection of Tuscan fashion accessories and handicrafts. Try Vivere la Toscana


HOWEVER, dear readers, the exact rules are still fuzzy and TUSCANY is NOT on the most recent list of Regions of Italy free of swine vesicular disease. Check back here - I will be updating as the USDA clarifies the new rules.

More about Tuscan culinary specialities.

Tuscan porcini mushroom - how to recognise, collect and cook them.

Bistecca all fiorentina - select and cook it properly.


Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Web Site Promotion 2013 - 2016. All rights reserved.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Florence bus tickets - tickets for the ATAF buses in Firenze

There are a few simple but important things to know about using the city buses in Florence, Italy.


ATAF bus ticket
ATAF 90 minute bus ticket

ATAF bus tickets are best bought BEFORE you board the bus. They are available from any kiosk (news stand) and from many cafés (bars), and at tobacconists. There are also two ATAF offices very near the SMN railway station where you can buy tickets. The most useful ATAF office is the one at via Alamanni 20r. You can get to it from inside the station by going down the steps leaving the station on the right (when facing away from the platforms), turn right again at the bottom of the steps, go past the very useful Conad supermarket, a florist shop and a post office. The ATAF office is the next place and is open Monday through Saturday 7.15am to 7pm.

In extremity, you can buy a ticket from the driver. Note that he's not obliged to provide change and sales are suspended if an inspector is on board.

how to buy an ATAF bus ticket in Florence
Etiquette indicating that ATAF tickets are sold inside.
Sign indicating a tobacconist - they usually also sell bus tickets
Sign indicating a tobacconist - they usually also sell bus tickets

IMPORTANT Florence ATAF bus tickets must be validated as you enter the bus. You do this by inserting the ticket into the franking machine located beside or just behind the driver, and another near the rear entrance to the bus. Insert the pink strip uppermost and first into the machine. Check your ticket to make sure it was stamped with the date and time. Inspectors have no mercy on those without a ticket or with an unvalidated ticket or with an expired ticket - the fine is on-the-spot and painful (50 euros). If one machine is not working, try the other one. You only escape a fine if both machines are inoperative.

There is a good range of tickets available. Most commonly used is the 90 minute ticket. Using this you can get on and off as many buses as you like in any direction for the 90 minutes from when you validated the ticket.

Other tickets are good for four 90 minute rides. These tickets can be shared as long as they are validated the requisite number of times. For example, two people taking the number 7 bus to Fiesole could frank such a ticket twice to go and again twice to come back later in the day. These tickets have four strips for validation. Be sure not to overwrite your validation.

There are also 24 hours tickets and tickets for several days. Since these tickets are not meant to be passed from one person to another, YOU MUST WRITE YOUR NAME ON LONG DURATION ATAF TICKETS, such as 24 hour and three day tickets.

ATAF tickets are good for the small, electric buses that follow routes mainly through otherwise traffic-free lanes, and also for the trams. They are NOT valid for the bus that runs to and from SMN railway station and the airport. You can buy those tickets on the bus. Note that a taxi from the airport costs a fixed price of 20 euros plus baggage and late hours fees.

Last but not least, there are pickpockets on the buses in Florence, especially when they are crowded and on routes favoured by tourists. Please read this article on pickpockets in Italy to understand what you can do to protect your valuables from these thieves. It's not as bad as in Rome, but they are here in Florence for sure.


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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Friday, 1 April 2016

Upcoming Chianti wine festivals

On 4 and 5 June 2016, there is a wine tasting event taking place in the attractive village of Radda in Chianti - Radda nel Bichiere. And at almost the same time, in June 2016 (dates to be determined), there is another one in Lamole in Chianti, I Profumi di Lamole. And the Chianti wine festival takes place in Montespertoli from 28 May until 4 June 2016. To take in some or all of these wine tasting occasions, you could find a place to stay on the Greve in Chianti website.and for the Montespertoli Chianti wine festival on the Montespertoli website.

Radda nel Bichiere
At Radda nel Bichiere

For September, there are two upcoming Chianti wine festivals to note in your agenda.

Chronologically, the first is the Chianti Classico wine fair taking place in Greve in Chianti, 45-60 minutes south of Florence and reachable by bus from Florence. The official name is the XLVI Rassegna del Chianti Classico (46th Expo of Chianti Classico wines). In 2016, this wine festival takes place from the 8th to the 11th September 2016 in Piazza Matteotti, the main piazza of Greve in Chianti. Note that you might have to park some distance from the venue due to heavy traffic - this fair is very popular. If you also plan to drink some wine, that's just one more reason to take the bus.

Rassegna del Chianti Classico
The Terre di Melazzano booth at the Rassegna del Chianti Classico
The way it works is that you buy a wine glass from the Cassa and Informazioni booth and this allows you to try a certain number of the wines displayed. You can both buy and order wine and olive oil at the booths. In addition to the wine tasting, a variety of events is offered during the four days, but I wouldn't over estimate their intrinsic interest. Click here for the 2016 programme. The Greve Chianti wine fair has a good number of Tuscan wineries represented, each offering all of the wines that they produce - mainly Chianti Classico, of course. My only objection to this fair is that when the weather is hot, few of the exhibitors take any steps to keep their wines cool. Some of them are left in direct sunlight and are distinctly warm when you taste them.

The second wine tasting event is Vino al Vino, taking place one week later in Panzano in Chianti, 10 minutes drive in the direction of Sienna from Greve and also accessible by bus from Florence. Vino al Vino takes place from the 15th to the 18th of September 2016. To some extent, I prefer Vino al Vino over the Chianti Classico Expo if only because it is smaller, with about 21 wineries presenting their wines and olive oil, and has a more intimate atmosphere. I also find the food on sale better than in Greve. There's live Jazz on Saturday & Sunday from 6 until 8 pm.

Vino al Vino Panzano Chianti wine festival
Vino al Vino Panzano Chianti wine festival

For accommodation nearby the venues:

Greve in Chianti accommodation.

Panzano in Chianti accommodation.

Villa hotels.

Chianti wine festivals on Facebook.

Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit my Tuscany
Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide

Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Italian Web Site Promotion 2013 - 2016. All rights reserved.