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News from Tuscany


FLORENCE IN A DAY? Here are the 5 not-to-miss sites

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Just passing through Florence? It can happen, so what to do? Don’t get discouraged at the idea of a brief stopover in this, one of the most famous cities of art on the planet. Equip yourself with a good pair of comfortable shoes and a map of the historic town centre, and follow our suggestions to make sure you return home with memories of the Cradle of the Renaissance, memories that are perhaps in miniature, yet well concentrated. Here are the 5 not-to-miss Florentine sites: start at Piazza del Duomo with the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the ancient Baptistery, where in 1266 Dante Alighieri, poet of the Divine Comedy, was baptised. Then head towards Piazza della Signoria, overlooked by Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of Florence’s Town Hall and once a Medici residence, with the copy of Michelangelo’s gigantic David in front (considering your limited time, perhaps you won’t be able to admire the real David, housed inside the Accademia Gallery). 

Make a stop in front of the 14th-century Loggia dei Lanzi, under which copies of beautiful sculptures take shelter, including Cellini’s Perseus. Then observe the Uffizi Gallery outer structure, home to extraordinary works of art such as The Birth of Venus and Primavera by Botticelli, The Venus of Urbino by Titian, and The Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci. Next on to the Ponte Vecchio, a few dozen metres farther, to enjoy the obligatory stroll through artisan bottegas. Then head towards the not-far Church of Santa Croce, and to say farewell properly to the city and admire it in its entirety, take the city bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Or from Ponte Vecchio head instead to Piazza Santa Maria Novella, overlooked by the famous church of the same name, mentioned in Boccaccio’s Decameron. But be sure to take a quick side-visit down Via de’ Tornabuoni, Florence’s world-famous street of luxury shopping. 

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Porcini Mushrooms of the Pistoiese Mountain and Montalbano Olive Oil

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Porcini mushrooms are considered the princes of the Pistoiese Apennine mountains. The climate, the type of underbrush, and the ground form of this region all contribute to making this highly-prized mushroom particularly aromatic and flavourful—so much so that it is considered one of the best in Europe. The harvest happens during the period between the end of August and the month of November, according to the year’s conditions. And this year, 2014, given an exceptionally rainy summer, promises a truly exceptional porcini harvest! 

The precious mushroom is sold in nearly every town and village throughout the Pistoiese mountains; yet the true heart is considered Abetone, a town that in winter becomes a lovely ski resort (30 kilometres from Grotta Giusti, at around 1,500 metres above sea level, with an historic centre famous as well for the harvesting and distribution of wild blueberries and raspberries). What is the best way to cook with porcini? Brown them in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil from Montalbano (the beautiful hills found to the northeast of the Nievole Valley), with a bit of garlic and a small handful of fresh parsley. 

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PISTOIA. Day & Night

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Lying peacefully at the foot of the Apennines, Pistoia (from Grotta Giusti 20 mins by car, 10 mins by train) deserves much more attention than what it usually gets from tourists. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings (from 8 am to 1 pm), Piazza del Duomo and nearby streets are filled with  market stalls of all kinds, where you can make real bargains and find designer pieces and cashmere knits at giveaway prices. The fruit and vegetable market is held in Piazza della Sala, to the west of the Cathedral, not far from the tourist bureau. Every year, on July 25, Piazza del Duomo hosts the Bear Joust (a medieval horse tournament to celebrate St. James, the city’s patron saint).



Art treasures: the Pisan Romanesque-style façade of St. Zeno’s Cathedral (the Duomo) and the sixteenth-century octagonal-shaped Baptistery; and the Church of St. Andrew, which houses the marble pulpit by Giovanni Pisano dating back to the late 1200s

Worth visiting: the Marino Marini Museum devoted to the famous artist from Pistoia. 

Eating and drinking: aperitivo time and the rest of the night out are traditionally spent in Piazza della Sala, the gathering place of all local youngsters, filled with bars, trattorias and restaurants, most of which have outdoor seating. Dining options for all tastes: from traditional to the more internationally-oriented cuisine.

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ITINERARIES. A stroll through villages 

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Many are the lovely villages scattered around Grotta Giusti thermal resort, which are definitely worth a special journey. Montevettolini: an ancient village of the Valdinievole area and home to a beautiful Medicean villa. Every second Saturday of September, the village travels back in time, amid jesters and fire-eaters, with its medieval festival.  

Montecatini Alto: are you in the mood for aperitivo with a view? This is the right place. The main square of this picturesque village, set at 300 meters above sea level, makes a perfect gathering place in the open. 

Collodi: the birthplace of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio, a cluster of houses and narrow streets running down from the hills to the wonderful eighteenth-century villa and the Pinocchio Park. Massa e Cozzile: in summertime, enjoy a walk through the ancient walls and small squares. Do not miss A spasso nel medioevo, the village fair held in late July including medieval dancing, games with musicians and flag-wavers and demonstrations of ancient trades. 

Buggiano: nestled in the hills between Montecatini and Pescia, this village is steeped in legends and age-old traditions, besides offering delicious local cooking.  

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WINE and FOOD: 5 not to be missed products of the territory

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Chocolate. In Monsummano Terme, the chocolate by chocolatier Andrea Slitti is among the most famous and appreciated in the world. His chocolates are small, precious handcrafted products: decorated, flavored, truffled or filled chocolates. A very rich chocolate collection, five-star delicacies to buy and give as a gift.



Cialde di Montecatini. Sweet, thin egg-made wafers with minced almonds and sugar and a light crispy texture. Best served with a cup of hot chocolate. The Sorana bean (I.G.P). A high quality product, small and irregular shaped with a thin, smooth and tender skin. Raw Milk Pecorino Cheese from the Pistoia mountains. A kind of cheese that is really special among Tuscan dairy products obtained with only Massese sheep full fat milk. 

DOC Wines. Wines produced in the province of Pistoia are the DOCG Chianti Montalbano (Montalbano is also a Chianti sub-zone), the white DOC Bianco di Valdinievole and the DOC Val di Nievole Vin Santo.

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