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Iconic Tuscany

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Tuscany is a necessary part of any cultural education, as it has been for centuries.

By Eva Stelzer

tuscan landscapeTuscany long ago earned its reputation for capturing the very essence of Italy – picturesque rolling hillsides with vineyards and charming medieval towns. The geography varies dramatically: coastal cities teeter along the Tyrrhenian Sea, while lush mountains, quaint hill towns and river plains stretch far inland. Add to this beauty seeing some of the world’s famous art in person. One of many reasons we are drawn to Italy and other European destinations is that touring “the Continent” always has been part of the ultimate educational experience.

When in Italy, Eat Like the Italians!

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When in Italy, Eat Like the Italians!

Posted by guest blogger: Krista Haynes

Eating in Italy is like entering a culinary landscape far removed from what Americans have become accustomed to, where time remains still, and recipes have been passed down for generations. I have visions of a rustic kitchen with a ray of sunlight beaming though the window, a puff of cloud from freshly kneaded pasta dough primed to be hand rolled and cut into various shapes and sizes, or wrapped around humanely raised meats or unprocessed cheese. The noodles would soon be graced with a naturally sweet tomato sauce so delicious it may be mistaken for candy.

Food of this caliber makes a girl following a “restricted-vegan-diet” question whether it’s necessary to stick to her “rules”. How does one experience the finest of Italian cuisine when traditional fare is centered on Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, salami, crema, and white flour? I think to myself, “When in Rome”…well, in my case, “When in Firenze”. I decide to let loose and allow a few slight modifications. What I left with was a truly scrumptious experience worth writing home about.

Cooking class in Florence

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Cooking class in Florence

Each year I spend some time at Costanza’s renaissance villa in Florence. Sometimes I bring group of people to gather together for a cooking class, and walk in the olive orchards or enjoy an outdoor feast of pizza freshly baked in the stone pizza oven. In one of her cooking classes in Florence, Costanza had a group of chefs from Norway who were being taught to make an authentic Tuscan meal. I personally loved the Faraona del Paradisino – roasted Guinea fowl. Back in my native Canada I replaced the Guinea fowl with grain fed, antibiotic free chicken. My guests were so delighted with this dish that I was embarrassed to tell them it’s a one pot meal. Try this out on your family or friends and let me know what they think.

Cook this amazing dish. Faraona del Paradisino – Roasted Guinea Fowl

Florence specialty coffee shop for lunch, or afternoon drink

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Amongst Florence restaurants, this newish coffee-lover spot is in with the young adult crowd. Located on Via dei Neri, it’s a great spot for lunch, light snacks, coffee, or drinks. Owner and master coffee barista Francesco Sanapo is the genius behind this new place.

What is so special about a barista and what is a barista anyway? Like a sommelier who knows wines, or a chef who expertly mixes ingredients knows, a barista understands how to select and blend coffee beans to create a diversity of flavour.

Things to do in Florence Italy

THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE ITALY

Half Day Florence Itinerary
When in Florence, the Duomo  is a must-visit things to do on any list. Centrally located, you can easily walk around its pDSC00918erimeter on the way to or from any other. If time is limited, walk around the duomo’s exterior and skip the long line to get inside. Take the time to admire intricate façade and appreciate Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome and Giotto’s Bell Tower from various angles. Look closely at the incredible marble work, a masterpiece for any era. The marble has been cleaned recently exposing the incredible greens, browns, blacks, and terracotta colors. Pictured below is some of the outstanding detail.

Conveniently adjacent is the Baptistery. In a half day you won’t have time to check out its interior but do take the time to  stop in front of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s doors. The biblical stories told in the worked bronze of these extraordinary doors are awesome.

Food Markets Italy’s Cities

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Food markets in Italy can be found in every city, town and village. In the larger cities the food markets are generally in permanent locations and even within permanent structures. In the smaller towns these markets may appear once or twice a week, pack up, and move on to the next town. When visiting smaller towns it’s best to check ahead and find out what day of the week the market will be there. Here are a few permanent food markets in the larger cities.

Bolognia

Bolognia has been called Italy’s heart of food. My pick in this city is Mercato Centrale, Bologna. The main produce market overflows from via Francesco Rizzoli to il Quadrilatero. The surrounding region of Emilia-Romagna is home to some of Italy’s greatest gastronomic gifts (prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, and more), and you can find them all here, along with fish vendors, meat stalls, fruits and vegetables, and a great housewares store, Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, which carries every kind of pasta cutter imaginable. For me, the highlight of the market is A.F. Tamburini, a 78-year old pasta and provisions store where you can buy excellent ravioli, tagliatelle, and tortelli, either fresh or, in the adjoining cafe, cooked and served with a rich ragù bolognese. (9 via Francesco Rizzoli, Bologna.)

SAN LORENZO MARKET

In mid April of this year, 2014, the San Lorenzo market opened its newly renovated space. Better than “Eataly,” this is Eat IN Italy. Wine tasting, pasta tasting, cheese tasting, pizza tasting, and mama mia! This experience will make both “foodies” and “give me the food” people very happy.

After filling your belly with some local specialties, walk outside around on the streets that form a perimeter. Change your gears from food to clothing and souvenirs. Wander through the leather stalls. Besides being the largest market in Florence, you will also find some of the best bargains for shoes and purses. If interested, you’ll also find cheap and tacky souvenirs at good prices – from T-shirts to key chains, from wine bottle openers to bookmarks. Though this market is not known for bartering, the prices and variety still make it a treat. Avoid buying the knock offs sold on the streets.DSC_0895

The San Lorenzo Market is open daily and caters to locals as well as tourists. Mornings are the best time to visit while casalingue A.K.A. housewives are doing their regular food shopping. It is still common practice to buy food daily and eat it fresh.

 

MY TOP 5 FLORENCE RESTAURANTS

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The culinary experience in Florence is unlike any other, filled with plenty of spots that any foodie will enjoy. But with so many choices it can get overwhelming. That’s why we’re offering our Top 5 Florence Restaurants that you must visit. For many foodies, eating in Florence is a must experience. We sample some of these restaurants on our Walking tours in Italy.

ABSOLUTE MUSTS

Cestello

For the foodie and food savvy there’s an amazing new restaurant slash club in Florence. Across the river Arno, on the Pitti Palace side, and in an unsuspecting, rather dreary location, is an upscale new destination for fish loving, fun loving locals. A few tourists are finding their way to this trendy spot but only because some upscale connoisseur concierges are referring their clients.

Top 10 Attractions in Florence

1. Galleria degli Uffizi. Filled with paintings by the most noted Italian artists visitors marvel at the mastery of Botticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael to mention a few. Purchase advance tickets.photo

2. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Brunelleshi’s dome and Giotto’s Tower dominate the Fiorentine skyline. Visitor’s never tire of these two most visited highlights of Italian architecture

3. The National Museum of the Bargello. Located near the Piazza della Signoria is a museum that houses sculptures of leading artists of the Renaissance era.

COOKING AND CULTURE – FLORENCE AND TUSCAN HILL TOWNS

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Capture the essence and flavors of Tuscany on our iconic cooking and culture trip. Visit Florence and the Tuscan Hills. Feast your eyes on picturesque rolling hills, charming renaissance gardens, medieval towns, and hill-hugging vineyards. Whether it’s your first time, or if you’ve been there before, let the magic of Tuscany memorize you.

Highlights

  • Florence Cooking and Cooking will awaken your senses.
  • Tuscan wine tour and tasting.
  • Heritage architectureal  walking tour of Florence.
  • Tour of Siena including Piazza del Campo and Palazzo Pubblico.
  • Sleep in the noble house of a Renaissance Villa, surrounded by heritage protected vineyards.
  • Cooking with our Master Chef, making authentic regional foods using updated versions of centuries-old Tuscan family recipes.
  • Go deep into the heart of the Tuscan countryside.
  • Sip wine fat our carefully selected vineyards.
  • Meander the cobbled streets in Medieval Siena a and Renaissance Florence with our expert local guide.
  • Visit authentic food markets and learn about local produce.
  • Eat, drink, walk and be immersed in Tuscan culture. Enjoy!

LET’S TALK

FLORENCE GUIDED TOUR

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Florence Guided Tour – 3 hrs

 Year round upon request

Trip Length 3 hours
Where Florence
Walk Rating Moderate
Included Full time tour guide, licensed
Meeting spot To be arranged.
Price upon request

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