Tuesday 20 December 2011

Public swimming pool in Tuscany

If your accommodations in Tuscany don't offer a pool, you might well feel like cooling off and/or relaxing at a public swimming pool in Tuscany. The municipal pools in Greve in Chianti are highly recommended. The two outdoor pools, one for small children, are spotlessly clean and sun umbrellas and comfortable plastic chairs are available. The two indoor pools are reserved for swimming classes, clubs etc. The Greve pools are located a 15 minute walk (flat, not hilly!) from the main piazza of Greve. That's one hour by bus or 45 minutes by car from Florence.

Greve in Chianti public swimming pool in Tuscany
Greve in Chianti public swimming pool in Tuscany

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Wednesday 7 December 2011

The village of Calcata near Rome, Italy

Calcata Italy
The village of Calcata near Rome, Italy

The fortified village of Calcata, Italy is not in Tuscany, but rather it is near Rome. Nevertheless, we mention it here because of our interest in castles and fortified villages. Calata in on the outshirts of the Valle del Treja Natural Park which is an easy 40 km drive from Rome. The village is a large castle that stands high up on a tuffa volcanic plug. The fortifications, especially the gate passage, are extremely well-preserved and the entire village is worth exploring. The population consists largely of "fricchettoni" meaning roughly "freaks", artists, bohemians, aging hippies and New Age types, with their associated galleries and cafes. These latter might or might not appear to you, but Calcata is definitely worth a visit if you are in the region of Lake Bracciano.

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Tuscan events and festivals

Visitors planning their trips to Tuscany will probably be keen to attend any Tuscan festivals and events coinciding with their vacation dates and location. Some of these festivals are spectacularly good and even the smallest of village festas are fun and provide an insight into life in Tuscany.

Tuscany events and festivals
Flag throwing at a Tuscan festival

Here's a link to an example of a local mediaeval festival known as “A cena da Messer Boccaccio”, a mediaeval dinner taking place in Certaldo. And I have reported on the great mediaeval costume festival at Monteriggioni here.

The major festivals are described at: Annual Festivals and Events in Tuscany.

As comprehensive a list as is possible of events in Tuscany (there are literarily thousands of festivals every year in Tuscany) is give at: Events in Tuscany.

Another way to enter into Tuscan life a bit is to buy your supplies at the nearest weekly open air market - or at least go there and have a look around. Markets are very informative about life in the community you're visiting! A list of the days of the week when these open air markets are held is give at: Market Days in Tuscany.

For those of you interested in Renaissance art, perhaps read my review of the 2013 Palazzo Strozzi exhibition, "The Springtime of the Renaissance".

Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit Elena Spolaor's
Travel Guide!

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

Chianti Travel Guide

Tuscany tourist information - tourist information

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Sunday 4 December 2011

Brolio Castle

Castello di Brolio in Chianti or Brolio Castle, as it is known in English, is one of the most famous inhabited castles in Chianti, indeed, in all of Tuscany. This is quite strange in a sense because although a manor house or castle has been documented on the site since before the year 1000, the current structure is in large part a mid 19th century product of the Gothic Revival. Even the gardens are 19th century, despite one part being in 16th century italianate style. Brolio Castle has been the property of the Ricasoli family more or less continuously since 1141. The most famous member of this family was Baron Ricasoli, an important politician in the early days of the newly united Italy and also an agronomist who systematised a grape blend that remained the definition of Chianti wine for more than 150 years.

Brolio Castle depicted on the map of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa, 1595
Brolio Castle depicted on the map of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa, 1595
The gardens and ramparts of the Castello di Brolio can be visited for free and the views are definitely spectacular. The chapel and museum of Brolio Castle require a ticket, and there is also a wine tour. Whether either of these tours are worth the money draws mixed reviews.


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Thursday 1 December 2011

Tuscan culinary specialities

There's an excellent page devoted to Tuscan culinary specialities on the Greve in Chianti web site that's worth a look. It provides a brief introduction to the following topics with links to more comprehensive information.

Tuscan olive oil - some good advice on making sure that your olive oil is the real thing. There seems to be a certain amount of low grade oil, some of it not originating from olives, on the market labelled as extra virgin olive oil.

Tuscan bread - unsalted and misunderstood.

Schiacciata con l'uva - a delicious sweet version of focacci, a kind of flatbread, prepared during the grape harvest in September.

Porcini mushrooms - delicious in endless dishes as well as fried in olive oil with some nipitella.

Tuscan truffles - when fresh and the real thing, they add a wonderful aroma to pasta or poultry (e.g. under the skin of a roasted pheasant).

Tuscan saffron - like truffles, very expensibe but needed in only small quantities to provide a unique flavour. Buy from the grower to be sure you're getting unadulterated saffron.

Bistecca alla fiorentina - Florentine grilled steak - learn how to cook it and how to order it in a Tuscan restaurant.

Tuscan prosciutto crudo - cured ham slice off the bone and accompanied by Tuscan bread.

Tuscan pecorino - ewes' milk cheese.

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