TuscanHolidays

Tuscany

Tuscany is a region of outstanding beauty and a treasure trove of history and culture. The landscape is magnificent with its vineyards, olive groves and mediaeval hilltop villages. Visits to the ancient cities of Pisa, Lucca, Siena and of course, Florence, are an essential part of any holiday to this part of Italy. Once you have sampled its wonders, the warmth of its people and the excellence of its wines and cuisine, the magic of Tuscany will touch you and we're sure you will want to return time and again.

Summer is the most popular time for visiting Tuscany - but Spring has cooler blossom-filled days when you can walk amid the delightful scenery or eat out of doors. Autumn brings the grape harvest with village wine festivals and balmy days still warm enough for swimming.

If you are visiting Tuscany for the first time you will quickly realise that this is no ordinary holiday area but a total escape into a timeless way of life where you can relax in peace amid the rolling hills. The mellow colours are those which inspired the great artists of the Renaissance - the soft browns of the ancient stone farmhouses have changed little in hundreds of years and the myriad of greens, of olives and vines that criss-cross the hillside make a delicately painted patchwork. There are splashes of colour too - fields of golden sunflowers, beautiful butterflies and the most vibrant blue sky...a feast for the eyes indeed! Tuscany will refresh and recharge your senses, weaving its spell around you.

Food & Wine

Self-catering couldn't be easier!!!
There is such a choice of excellent quality fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese etc. in the supermarkets that you really will be spoiled for choice. Eating out under the stars on balmy evenings is truly delightful and easy too..as most of our properties have barbecues and some have pizza ovens. If you happen to hear the song of a nightingale or glimpse the sparkling little 'lucciole' (fireflies) as they flit beneath the olive trees, that really is an added bonus.

Looking for the best of both worlds?
Some of our properties offer the services of a cook who will come in by arrangement and prepare and serve an evening meal for your party at a very reasonable charge - this is usually mentioned within the property description but do feel free to ask us if this is also possible at other properties where it is not mentioned.

At some properties the owners are often available to prepare a typical Tuscan meal for you on one or two evenings a week - we really do recommend that you take this opportunity to enjoy some hospitality and to sample some real Tuscan home cooking - the Italians take great pride in their culinary skills and are delighted to share this with you. The cost of the meal will be very reasonable and will often include estate wine.

Local restaurants abound in most areas.
Italians eat out frequently and enjoy their wonderful cuisine. Children are made welcome almost everywhere and any visit to a restaurant can be very much a family occasion.

Restaurants/Trattorias normally open around 8.00pm and stay open late in the evening. At some popular restaurants it is advisable to reserve a table especially on Saturday evenings. Most restaurants close on one evening a week - often Monday or Tuesday.

Some restaurants have menus printed in English but many have a menu written only in Italian. Some smaller restaurants have no written menu at all and the owner will expect to serve you his specialities of the day or a selection of local dishes. Do not be put off by a restaurant that does not have a menu, as this could be the place where you will get the best meal and at a more reasonable price.

Italians love their wines and rightly so. You will be surrounded by an innumerable choice of vineyards in this world-famous region of Chianti. Whites, reds and rosé's are all plentifully available.

Most of the holidays we offer are on working vineyards where you will be able to purchase the owners' own produce at very low prices.

Look out also for 'vendita diretta' signs at the entrance to vineyards as you tour the countryside. Here you will be able to buy direct from the vineyards and possibly enjoy a sample or two before you buy.

Most local restaurants serve either their own, or a neighbouring vineyard's wine, by the litre or half litre and it is usually very drinkable and prices are always very reasonable. The house wine may come to you unlabelled, in a carafe or large bottle, and in some rural restaurants you may only be charged for what you drink instead of by the bottle.

Things to Do

Tuscany has something for everyone - stunning scenery with glorious colours, culture, delicious food and wine, great shopping and beaches - it really is the perfect holiday destination.

All our self catering villas and apartments are in, or on the fringes of, that most beautiful area of Tuscany - Chianti - and a good number of these are actually in working vineyards where the owners will welcome you with warm hospitality. There can be few things to compare with the pleasure of watching the sun set drinking wine which has been lovingly made from the grapes you see in the fields around!

Days can be filled with soaking up some of the world's most dazzling works of art by Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli, by taking a tour to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa or visiting the magnificent Duomo in Florence, the enormous domed church that dominates the skyline. A trip to the many-towered town of San Gimignano is a must for its majestic towers and panoramic views, as is the stunning spectacle of the Palio in Siena - a daring bareback horse race held in July and August.

Whilst there are many treasures to experience in the region's impressive collection of museums and galleries, it is also easy to get off the beaten track into the Tuscan countryside to indulge in some of the excellent local food and wine.

Treasures can also be found in the numerous boutiques and specialist shops. There is nothing like carrying home a pair of shoes made the way only the Italians know how! A must-do is The Mall, a discount designer shopping centre south of Florence where those well-known labels abound!

Shops

Useful shops for your self-catering holiday...

Supermercato - Supermarket - as in UK with a wide range of goods - some imported items are available such as Nescafé, Weetabix and cornflakes but most products will be produced in Italy. There are not many cereals to be found as Italians don't eat cereals much. If buying bread in the supermarket make sure it is fresh as Italian bread dries up very quickly and soon becomes hard and dry.

Alimentari - smaller type of local grocery store carrying 'basics' and a small selection of delicatessen goods.

Paneficio - A bread shop where baking is done on the premises. Will also sell pasta in packets.

Pasteficio - Pasta shop making fresh pasta.

Farmacia - Chemist

Tabacchi - A tobacco shop - also sells salt (look out for SALE written over the door) and stamps.

Macelleria - Butchers

Pescheria - Fishmongers

Vineyards/Olive oil - look out for the sign 'vendita diretta' at the entrance to a vineyard - this indicates that wine is available on direct sale - there will be a winery where you can sample the wines and then buy by the bottle. Some vineyards will dispense wine straight into your own containers directly form the barrel and this can be amazingly cheap. Extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent purchase - usually sold by the litre or half litre.

Shop opening hours - Most of the larger supermarkets stay open from 8.00am to 8.00pm including Saturdays. Some now have Sunday opening. Small supermarkets close from 1.00pm to 4.00 or 5.00pm.

Alimentari are usually open from 8.00am to 1.00pm and from 5.00pm to 8.00pm including Saturdays. In July and August many small alimentari are closed on Saturday afternoons.

Other shops selling clothes etc. - everything except food - will be open 9.00am to 1.00pm and 4.00pm to 8.00pm including Saturdays, also during the summer months.

At the coast and in larger cities shops also open on Sunday mornings during the season.

Events

The Scoppio del Carro - Florence
Easter Sunday
Translates as 'explosion of the cart'. Easter morning sees the cart and symbolic holy fire arrive in the cathedral square, a dove descends on a wire attached to the high altar and ignites a whole mass of fireworks inside. Very popular and very busy (not a real dove!).

Chianti Wine Festival - Montespertoli
May
Yearly event where the Tuscan village of Montespertoli is visited by people coming to taste the year's vintage at the Chianti Wine Festival. The festival has wine tasting in the village's main square with food stands and music.

Pinocchio's Birthday - Collodi
May
The town of Pescia celebrates the birthday of Pinocchio between the end of May and the beginning of June every year. The epicentre of the celebrations is the Parco di Pinocchio in Collodi, an entertainment park and complex entirely devoted to the adventures of the little wooden humanoid and his array of friends.

Cantine Aperte
All over Tuscany, last Sunday in May
Cantine Aperte is an initiative that has gone from strength to strength with every year. Across Tuscany/Italy wineries open their doors and cellars to all comers, with free tasting, tours, offers and local delicacies to try.

Gioco del Ponte (Battle of the Bridge) - Pisa
Last Sunday in June
Medieval parade and contest.

San Gimignano Medieval Festival
June
This colourful three-day festival (Ferie delle Messi) brings jugglers, acrobats and jousting knights onto the streets of San Gimignano. The event is staged both for the entertainment of tourists and for the townspeople themselves, who take pride in their rich historical traditions.

Jousting of the Saracens - Arezzo
Various dates in June
The Giostra del Saracino sees contestants from the respective quarteri of Arezzo assembling in the historic Piazza San Francesco for the annual jousting tournament, to compete for the coveted prize of the Golden Lance. The streets of this beautiful town are filled with gallant knights on battle horses, flag-bearers, trumpeters and people in medieval costume.

The Palio of Siena
July and August
The Palio is a bareback horserace and is Tuscany's most celebrated festival. The jockeys represent 17 districts, the horses are chosen by the drawing of straws and then blessed at the local (contrada) churches. For the Siennese, the Palio around the Piazza del Campo is a matter of life and death. Daring, bravado, lunacy, bribery, poisoning and death-threats have all played their part in the event since it started in 1310. The races are preceded by heavy betting and pageantry. The winner is awarded the Palio (banner).

Lucca Summer Festival
June - July
Series of open air concerts, mainly taking place in the Piazza Napoleone (Aka Piazza Verde) throughout June/July. The event has grown in popularity in a very short time and now attracts some big names on the European summer tour circuit.

Puccini Festival of Torre del Lago
July - August
The Puccini Opera Festival welcomes around 40,000 spectators every year to Torre del Lago's open air theatre, just a stone's throw from the Villa Puccini where Giacomo Puccini lived, worked and is buried.

Assumption Day
15th August
A national holiday in Italy. On this day do everything you can to avoid driving - it is the busiest day of the year for the Italian road system!

Il Baccanale - Montepulciano
Last Saturday in August
Feast of wine, food and song to celebrate the local vino.

Chianti Grape Harvest Festival - Impruneta
Last Sunday in September
Grapes, grapes and more grapes! This annual Festa del Uva in Impruneta has been celebrated by wine connoisseurs since 1926. Visitors can savour the local Chianti and wander around, swallowing tasters from various stalls and enjoying the gastronomic offerings from this scenic Italian region.

Christmas Festivities - Fiesole (near Florence)
December
Wonderful Christmas markets, street performers and other festivities.


Monthly Markets/Fairs

Lucca- has a large antiques market (centred around Piazza San Giusto and Piazza Antelminelli) on the third Sunday of every month. There is also a craft fair, again in and around San Giusto, on the last Sunday of every month.

Arezzo- has an enormous antiques market on the first Sunday of every month, centred around Piazza Grande and Piazza Vasari.

Florence- has its antique market on the last Sunday of every month in Piazza del Ciompi.


Public Holidays...

Shops and offices are generally closed on Sundays and public holidays in Italy, although in some of the larger towns especially during high season, some shops are open on a Sunday.

National Statutory Holidays
1st January New Year's Day
6th January Epiphany
23rd March Easter Sunday
24th March Easter Monday
25th April Liberation Day
1st May Labour Day
15th August Assumption Day
1st November All Saints Day
8th December Day of Immaculate Conception
25th December Christmas Day
26th December Boxing Day (Santo Stefano)
Copyright Tuscan Holidays

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