The food incredible, the art outstanding, the history rich, the scenery stunning, and things to do and see practically endless: this is Tuscany. After a three days of working and exploring in Bologna , my mom joined me, and we set off on eight days of discovering the Italian region of Tuscany.
Here are just a few of the highlights I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in the area.
Eat: Zeb Gastronomia in Florence
Off the beaten path in the Michelangelo district of Tuscany is Zeb Gastronomia: A restaurant with about 15 seats wrapped around a bar where you select culinary treats such as caramelized fennel, braised chicken, beef or lamb, six different pastas (homemade that day, of course), vegetables such as eggplant and brussel sprouts, prosciutto, figs, and it goes on from there into delicious infinity!
I chose the linguini with shaved black truffles and olive oil. It was so rich that it almost literally knocked my socks off. (My mom was very pleased with her pumpkin stuffed ravioli.)
All who work at Zeb Gastronomia speak great English, which is likely one of the reasons it tends to be an American hangout.. Adding to the charm, the menu is verbal and changes daily.
See: Chianti Sculpture Park in Chianti
In travel, I’ve discovered some of the best finds are those you stumble upon. My mom and I serendipitously found the Chianti Sculpture Park. It ‘s comprised of a one-kilometer loop of 21st century sculptures commissioned by the land owner from 26 different artists for site-specific installations.
Shop: Sandro Ferrone in Pietrasanta
The combined design, quality and affordability of this designer’s clothing blew me away. They have another location in Rome.
Sleep: Castello Delle Serre near Siena
Castello Delle Serre is a castle perched atop the village of Serre, near Siena. The Roman owner previously ran multiple restaurants in California. When he decided to move back to Italy, he purchased this property from a family who had owned it for 600 years.
Lucky for us, we were the only guests staying the night. Our room was in the turret of the castle.
The property has a gorgeous pool and sweeping views of Tuscany and will open another 20 rooms shortly.
Imbibe: Fattoria Le Capezzine outside Montalpulciano towards Cortona
The region of Tuscany is not short on wine. We chose to sample wine and olive oil with the lovely and very friendly people at Fattoria Le Capezzine. Although, we did not have time to participate in them, they also offer a formal 2 hour with lunch tour, cooking classes, and lunch.
Learn: Cooking Class near Montalcino
Leslie, a British woman who lives in Tuscany, teaches a delightful ½ day cooking class. We made traditional Tuscan dishes, such as homemade pasta with chick pea sauce, Ribollita, and tarts with vegetables, ricotta cheese and carmelized fennel. She also taught us to make the best tiramisu I ate in Tuscany (and believe me, we sampled a lot of Tiramisu on our wanderings).
The cooking classes are held in Leslie’s home where she employs an Italian cook who taught us to make everything from scratch and Leslie kindly translated. She happily customized the dishes to be made vegetarian for me and will also accommodate other dietary needs .
Listen: Gregorian Chanting monks, Abazzia de Sant’Antimo near Montalcino
Seven times daily the Gregorian monks at Abazzia de Sant’Antimo chant for anywhere from ten to 45 minutes. My mom and I arrived at sunset (a breathtaking time to visit) for the 7 pm service. Six monks chanted in a call-and-response method. It was pure auditory and visual beauty.
Wander: Eremo Le Celle just outside Cortona
Straight out of Hansel and Gretel, or so it appears, is Eremo Le Celle, a Franciscan Hamlet located just outside of Cortona. The moment you arrive, you feel as though you have stepped back to the 1600s. The roads are cobblestone; little pathways lead you to the monastery’s sweet corners and gardens, a waterfall, and a river. The monastery here was built directly into the rock and has tiny entrances – where even I, at 5’ 2”, had to duck to enter.
Suffice it to say, Tuscany is a wonderland of breathtaking vistas, incredible art, vast history, friendly people, and some of the most delicious food and wine in the country. It should be on everyone’s bucket list!
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