This is a wonderful article by John Brunton from The Guardian Travel from July. It is well worth subscribing to The Guardian and to The Observer Food Monthly, not just for Tuscany but for all travel. I love it. The text and the photo are all by John Brunton.



Tuscany's chianti classico wine route: top 10 guide
Between Florence and Siena, the Chianti region is Tuscany's wine-making powerhouse. Touring the area provides a chance to visit wine-makers for free tastings, stay at gorgeous agriturismi and dine at authentic trattorias
What is a chianti? This emblematic wine is made all over the Tuscan countryside, but the historic heart lies in a region between Florence and Siena. In 1716, Cosimo de' Medici III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, decreed that this region could produce what today is known as chianti classico – easily recognisable by the gallo nero, its distinctive Black Rooster label. The key to the unique qualities of chianti classico is the local sangiovese grape, and right now there is a strong movement to return to the ancient traditions of winemaking along with an eco-responsible trend towards organic cultivation.

WINEMAKERS TO VISIT  
 Val delle Corti
The perfect first step to understanding the complex world of chianti classico is to make an appointment for a tasting at Roberto Bianchi's six-hectare organic vineyard. Roberto is a feisty artisan viticoltore, explaining how for years winemakers were too influenced by guidebooks and gurus, who argued that the austere sangiovese grape needed to be offset by a small addition of "international grapes", such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon, to sell to a global market.
"At that time," says Roberto, "our authentic wines were totally out of favour but the fashion has turned, and people are beginning to understand that what is interesting here is that each village – Radda to Panzano, Greve to Gaiole – has its own characteristics and personality." Roberto only produces three wines, a great vino di tavola for €6, perfect with a plate of salami, an elegant chianti classico that is almost 100% sangiovese, and an intense riserva in the years he feels the harvest is outstanding.
Localita La Croce, Radda in Chianti,  +39 0577 738215 , valdellecorti.it

Villa Pomona
Visiting Monica Raspi you quickly get caught up in her enthusiasm for making chianti classicos. Villa Pomona is a typical Tuscan estate, the perfect mix of biodiversity, with four hectares of vineyards, olive groves and woodland, a sprawling farm that includes an old olive mill converted into holiday apartments and her tiny, cluttered cantina crammed with wooden barrels and stainless-steel vats. Monica was born at Villa Pomona, but grew up in Florence and trained as a vet.
However, as soon as she heard he mother was going to sell the vineyards, she abandoned her career, did a crash course in oenology, and has been producing her own wines since 2007. The vines are in the process of obtaining official organic certification. She follows the traditionalist approach, adding the local colorino grape to 95% sangiovese for her €10 chianti classico, while the riserva is aged for 20 months in barrels plus another six months in the bottle before going on sale.
Localita Pomona, Castellina in Chianti,  +39 055 7774 0930 , fattoriapomona.it

Fontodi
Rows of vineyards at Fontodi vineyard, Chianti Photograph: John Brunton
Fontodi is the exception to the rule that says big wineries charge for tastings, with owner Giovanni Manetti insisting that this is just part of Tuscan hospitality, saying that "even if people stay two hours they don't have to feel they must buy a bottle". And he has certainly created something special here, nestled in the suntrap of the Conca d'Oro beneath the village of Panzano. The whole farm is organic: the 80 hectares of vines and 30 hectares of olive trees. Between lines of vines he plants barley, to help the cultivation of the grape and to feed his herd of 33 Chianina cattle, the iconic local race that is fast disappearing. He follows biodynamic principles in making his wine, and is currently trying an experiment going back to Greco-Roman times, using terracotta vats rather than wooden barrels.
• Panzano in Chianti,  +39 055 852005 , fontodi.com

Le Boncie 
 Giovanna Morganti at the hidden away Le Boncie vineyard, Chianti. Photograph: John Brunton
Giovanna Morganti is something of an outsider in the cosy world of chianti classico. Her five-hectare estate has no sign outside, there is nothing on her website, and you definitely need to call first to taste the wines of what some critics hail as the future – and others criticise for being unstable and unpredictable. Along with cult French winemaker, Nicolas Joly, she was one of the founders of the Vini Veri group, that developed into the influential "natural wine" movement across Europe.
Giovanna makes just a chianti classico, adding small amounts of the little-known local grapes mammolo, colorino and foglia tonda to the sangiovese. It is expensive at €19, but understandable when you see the work she puts in, both in the cantina – where the wine ferments in open-topped wooden tanks – and tending the vineyard, which she planted in the ancient alberelo method, with vines growing free, resembling small bonsai trees surrounded by a jungle of wild plants and weeds.
Localita San Felice, Castelnuova Berardenga,  +39 0577 359383 , leboncie.it


OSTERIE AND RESTAURANTS

A Casa Mia
Hidden away in a tiny hillside hamlet, A Casa Mia is a brilliant discovery, a genuine old-fashioned osteria with just a dozen tables, hearty portions of Tuscan cucina casalinga (home cooking) at reasonable prices, and run by two lively hosts, Cosimo and Maurizio Simoncini who share the cooking and serving. The place is packed each night, so always call for a reservation, and although there is a printed menu, let Maurizio reel off the dishes of the day and get caught up in his enthusiasm.
The huge antipasti dish is a meal in itself, with panzanella, grilled vegetables, a delicious warm tripe salad, bruschette with plump chopped tomatoes and white beans drizzled with olive oil. Follow it with penne con coniglio (rabbit pasta) or asparagus risotto, alongside a €10 straw-covered flask of chianti.
Via Santa Maria a Macerata, Montefiridolfi,  +39 055 824 4392 , acasamia.eu. Pastas €12, mains €12-15

Fattoria di Corsignano
While Tuscany has plenty of chic, gourmet restaurants, it can be surprisingly difficult to track down a reasonably-priced trattoria serving authentic cooking. So when a new restaurant like the Fattoria di Corsignano opens up, it is good news for locals and tourists alike. Elena Gallo serves a creative interpretation of rustic cucina contadino. For wine-lovers, the good news is that the estate's excellent wines are sold at the same price as if you were taking away, while for €35 there is a four-course wine-paired tasting menu.
Even the €10 antipasto is almost a meal in itself, with panzanella salad, smoked ham, bruschettas of grilled zucchini and ricotta with red pepper, a crunchy barley cake and fried bacon with prunes. The Fattoria has elegant B&B rooms available from €90, and Elena's husband, Mario, has planted a small seven-hectare organic vineyard, producing not just a potent chianti classico riserva, made from 100% sangiovese grapes, but a light Vino da Tavola at only €6, which he describes as "old-style Chianti like my babbo (dad) used to make".
Localita Consignano, Castelnuovo Berardenga,  +39 0577 322545 , fattoriadicorsignano.it

VINEYARD AGRITURISMI

Rignana
 The B&B at Rignana, a romantic estate in Chianti.
It is a dusty, bumpy four kilometres off the main road to get to Rignana, the romantic estate of Cosimo Gericke, situated between Panzano and Greve. His agriturismo comprises a medieval chapel, villa, farmhouse and cantina. An olive mill has been converted into a trattoria and there is an infinity pool – a perfect spot for sipping a chilled glass of the winery's crisp, fresh rosato. Cosimo is a charming host, half-German, half-Italian, resembling an eccentric Victorian aristocrat. But he is serious about his wines, having replanted his 13-hectare vineyard when he took over in 1999. Most B&B rooms are in the farmhouse, which has a communal kitchen, but it can be worth splashing out a little extra to stay in the villa, which is decorated with 18th-century frescoes.
Localita Rignana, Via di Rignana, 15, Greve in Chianti,  +39 055 852065 , rignana.it. Doubles €100 (in the farm), €130 in the villa (both B&B)

Fattoria La Loggia
It is impossible to miss the Loggia, as high above this agriturismo is an incredible suspended garden of giant floating terracotta vases. This fattoria produces wine and olive oil, but the real passion of the owner, Giulio Baruffaldi, is contemporary art. He was one of the pioneers of welcoming tourists to wineries in Chianti – opening the agriturismo in 1986 – and has always had a programme to invite artists and run art courses. Over the years he has amassed a fantastic collection that decorate guests bedrooms, communal salons and are installed all over the gardens of the farmhouse.
The rooms here are spacious and luxurious for the price, there is a pool, and barbecue, and the friendly director, Ivana Natali, who has been here for 25 years, is a mine of information when it comes to recommending winemakers to visit. The winery produce a surprising bianco toscano at only €3, while the 2003 chianti classico is a steal at €7.
Via Collina 24, San Casciano in Val di Pesa,  +39 055 824 4288 , fattorialaloggia.com. Doubles from €100 B&B

Fattoria di Lamole
Paolo Socci is one of the most passionate viticoltore in chianti classico, and this extends not just to exceptional traditionalist wines, but his restoration of a medieval hamlet into a rustic agriturismo – and a commitment to rebuild stone terraces for his vineyard, a system dating back centuries but that has all but disappeared. Guests staying the night are made to feel like part of a big family, and have the use of a pool, large communal areas, and comfy rooms with wooden-timbered ceilings, plus a hearty breakfast. The cantina and agriturismo are situated in Lamole, one of the most beautiful villages in Chianti. Book a time for a proper wine tasting with Paolo and he may well take you off in his jeep to see some of the seven kilometres of terrazze he has painstakingly built.
Lamole, Greve in Chianti,  +39 055 854 7065 , fattoriadilamole.it. Doubles €90 B&B



REGIONAL SPECIALITIES

Antica Macelleria Cecchini
The 'singing butcher' Dario Cecchini at Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano, Tuscany. 
Dario Cecchini runs his venerable butcher's shop like a theatre, bursting into song or looming behind a whole roast suckling pig ready to wield a fearful-looking knife. The most famous dish in Tuscan cuisine is the Costata alla Fiorentina, a huge T-bone steak, and foodies from around the world come here on a pilgrimmage to place their orders. But this is also perfect to stock up for a picnic with his wonderfully aromatic finocchiona (fennel salami), terrines and even chianti sushi, his take on steak tartare.
For a €20 deposit, Dario will provide a hamper (you pay for whatever food you fill it with), and even show you the perfect picnic spot five minutes' drive away. The Macelleria is always crowded because Cecchini believes in local hospitality, so laid out on a long wooden table are salami, cheeses and his trademark creamy lard infused with rosemary, along with chunks of crusty bread and a giant carafe of red wine – all free for whoever comes in. He also runs Dario Doc, a cheap-and-cheerful burger diner at the back with set menus from only €10.
Via XX Luglio 11, Panzano in Chianti,  +39 055 852020 , dariocecchini.com
Car hire was provided by carrentals.co.uk. Easyjet (0843 104 5000, easyjet.com) flies to Pisa from Luton, Gatwick and Bristol, and Ryanair (0871 246 0000, ryanair.com) flies to Pisa from East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Bournemouth, Liverpool and Stansted. For more information on the Chianti wine region visit chianticlassico.com (it produces an excellent road map - The Black Rooster Roads, for €3)

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THE CASENTINO.  One of Tuscany's best kept secrets. In fact, one of Italy's best kept secrets.
Valleys and forests and castles and mills and centuries and mysteries. Here's your chance to spend a week in this magical area of Eastern Tuscany in the company of interesting people, with great food & wine and company, whilst taking a giant step forward in your writing.
See Lisa Clifford's article below. This year's course was full. Don't miss out for 2014.

My dream for years was to organise a retreat for writers in my adopted home, Tuscany. I had already published three books, had a fourth on the way and a movie in the pipeline. It was definitely time to give something back. Firstly, to others who dream of becoming published writers and secondly to the mountains of Tuscany, the place that helped make all my dreams come true.
The idea was to design a programme that I personally would love to do, something that offered a special kind of withdrawal into a creative space. Lots of lectures from published writers and fabulous teachers, professionals who are particularly good at evaluating what you've written. A writers retreat that offered time to learn, time to create and exceptional private time to chat with authors who’ve made their mistakes and subsequently wanted to share how to avoid the common and not-so-common problems of working with the written word.
Several writers, along with a British Creative Writing teacher that I have worked with in the past, agreed to join me for five days of lectures. We learn in the morning, write in the afternoons and have guest speakers at night. As time goes on, more writers and creative writing teachers have joined my team.
The Art of Writing runs always in the second week of June and the second week of September. We book out an entire Tuscan agriturismo (Italian run family farms that by law have to provide 50% of local produce on their tables) with ten apartments, for ten writers. The Art of Writing groups are small and intimate, ideal for nurturing and encouraging each other.
Here is a short video of the 2013 Art of Writing. I hope it helps you think about your dream and how you too can make it come true.




Piazza Signoria & the entance to via dei Cerchi.



Below is the current newsletter from the wonderful British Institute of Florence. Housed in one of Harold Acton's homes, the British Institute is a fundamental part of the Florentine cultural scene and one of my favourite places in Florence.


 

British Institute of Florence
Newsletter

 
Please find below details of May's events at the British Institute of Florence.

Thank you to everyone who has made donations towards recent Cultural Programme events. We really appreciate your generosity. The Institute is a UK registered charity and does not receive any state support, so your ongoing support is vital. If you would like to support upcoming events, we would be delighted to hear from you.
CULTURAL PROGRAMME
Tracing Our Roots: the Making of ‘Springtime of the Renaissance’

Wednesday 8 May at 18.00
Lecture about the new exhibition by the director of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, James Bradburne. read more »
TALKING PICTURES
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Wednesday 8 May at 20.00
Herrmann collaborates with Hitchcock with his score for the remake of this 1934 thriller. read more »
BRITISH INSTITUTE EVENTS
Festival d’Europa

Monday 6 May to Saturday 11 May
Discover what’s on at the British Institute for the Festival d’Europa 2013 read more »
CULTURAL PROGRAMME
Dino Borgioli: a Florentine Tenor in London.
Wednesday 15 May at 18.00
The architect and musicologist Filippo Bozzi speaks about Florentine tenor Dino Borgioli (1891-1960). read more »
TALKING PICTURES
Vertigo

Wednesday 15 May at 20.00
‘Vertigo is Alfred Hitchcock’s most uncompromising film, and Bernard Herrmann’s fullest realization of his favourite dramatic themes'. read more »
BRITISH INSTITUTE EVENTS
Reading Exchange

Thursday 16 May at 16.00
A decade of the Reading Exchange. This meeting celebrates ten years of meetings read more »
CULTURAL PROGRAMME
The Jews of Renaissance Italy
Wednesday 22 May at 18.00
An overview by Dr Andrew Berns of the role of the Jews in Renaissance Italy. read more »
TALKING PICTURES
North by Northwest

Wednesday 22 May at 20.00
In Hitchcock’s brilliant blend of humour and suspense, Herrmann provided yet another near-perfect musical accompaniment. read more »
BRITISH INSTITUTE EVENTS
Conference: Stibbert e Horne, Due Musei per Firenze
Thursday 23 May at 9.30
Event in Italian: Una giornata di studio su due collezionisti che hanno lasciato le loro raccolte e le loro residenze elettive alla città di Firenze: Frederick Stibbert (1838-1906) e Herbert Percy Horne (1864-1916).read more »
CULTURAL PROGRAMME
Art in Shakespeare: Giulio Romano and Giovan Paolo Lomazzo
Wednesday 29 May at 18.00
Professor Rita Severi explores art in Shakespeare. read more »
TALKING PICTURES
Psycho
Wednesday 29 May at 20.00
Hitchcock and Herrmann’s collaborative 1960 masterpiece. read more »

BRITISH INSTITUTE EVENTS
Afternoon Tea

Every Thursday from 16.30 to 18.00
You are invited to our afternoon tea in the library. read more »
HISTORY OF ART COURSE
The Sculptor's Trade

June 9 - June 14 2013
Following on the success of our studio-based courses on Renaissance techniques of drawing and painting we are now offering a unique 6-day course which fully explores the art historical and practical aspects of Renaissance sculpture. read more »
BRITISH INSTITUTE EVENTS
Shakespeare in Italy
May 13 - May 17 2013
You are invited to spend a week with Shakespeare in Florence, exploring his work, his engagement with Italy and the Renaissance contexts of his work. Organised by Dr Victoria Bladen. read more »




 

Florence Christmas


Christmas events in Florence and Tuscany 2012
The days are getting shorter, the weather chillier, Christmas lights are starting to appear in the streets and Florence and Tuscany are hosting many events to celebrate the festive season. The festivities really get going on December 8, a national holiday to celebrate the Immaculate Conception.

Christmas fairs, markets and festivals
German Market: Warm up with an apple strudel and a steaming mug of mulled wine, and buy some handmade gifts from all over Europe. November 28-December 16, piazza Santa Croce, Florence, www.vetrina-toscana.it. AILO: The annual Christmas Bazaar held by the American International League of Florence, supporting charities across the city. December 8, 10am-5pm, Le Pagliere, viale Machiavelli 24, Florence, www.ailoflorence.org. FILE: Gourmet products and gift ideas, with proceeds going toward FILE's palliative care support. December 8, 10am-7pm, Palazzo Corsini, lungarno Corsini 8, Florence, www.leniterapia.it. Christmas at the Palazzo: A trade show of Christmas gifts in Empoli with free admission. December 14 - 16, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Empoli, Tel. 057/122466 or 339/2908430. Festival of Fusigno: Welcome in Christmas Day by eating sausages and drinking local wine round a huge bonfire in the centre of Londa. Evening of December 24, www.comune.londa.fi.it

For Kids
 Palazzo Strozzi: An afternoon for the family in the courtyard (free) and buildings (ticketed) of Palazzo Strozzi, piazza Strozzi, Florence, December 8, 3-6pm, www.palazzostrozzi.org. Santa by boat: On December 22 and 24 Father Christmas will arrive in Florence by boat (on the Arno, between Ponte Vecchio and Ponte alla Grazie) to give Christmas greetings to the Florentines, www.comune.fi.it. Santa's Village: Children will meet faries, elves and even Father Christmas himself in the centre of Camaiore, December 8 - January 6, www.comune.camaiore.lu.it. Winter Park: Ice skating on a large rink (800 square metres) next to the Obihall with a real snow track for skiing and snowboarding. There will also be a bar, restaurant, exhibition stands and entertainment for children. December 1 - January 27, Obihall, Lungarno Aldo Moro, Florence, www.firenzewinterpark.it. Fiabesque: The whole town of Peccioli transforms into a magical world of fairy tales with street games, performers, dance and workshops and, on January 5, Cartoon Night, dedicated to animated cartoons. Centre of Peccioli, December 26, 29, 30 and January 5-6, www.fiabesque.org.

Christmas concerts
Orchestra della Toscana: Together with the choir of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, a Christmas concert with music by Weber and Mendelssohn at Teatro Verdi in Florence on December 23 (5pm, via Ghibellina 101), and in Pisa, Piombino, Livorno, Figline Valdarno and Poggibonsi on December 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 respectively. See www.orchestradellatoscana.it. Xmas in Jazz: Including Gershwin's An American in Paris and Eric Whitacre's October among others. December 23, 9pm, Teatro della Pergola, via della Pergola 18, Florence, www.filarmonicarossini.it. Gospel choir: The forty-strong choir ‘The Pilgrims' will fuse voice and music with spiritual and gospel pieces. Proceeds will be donated to the Oncology Operative Unit of Pescia. Teatro Pacini, Pescia (PT), December 22, 9pm, Tel. 339/7787677, info@associazionelucignolo.it.

Nativity Scenes
Christmas in the World: A collection of over a thousand nativity scenes from all over the world, displayed in San Giovanni Valdarno's Basilica di Maria Santissima delle Grazie (piazza Masaccio). December 8-January 6, 2013, www.natalenelmondo.it. Other towns known for their nativity scenes displayed in their historic centres are Palazzuolo sul Senio, Cerreto Guidi, San Godenzo, Calenzano and Cigoli (most of them remain at least until January 6).

Nativity re-enactments
Several towns put on re-enactments of the Christmas story, involving hundreds of residents and animals, and large parts of the historic centres, and bringing to life the angels, shepherds, oxen, Wise Men and, of course, the magical manger scene. Towns hosting these so-called ‘living nativity scenes' include Casole d'Elsa (December 26, 29 and 30, www.casole.it), Rosignano Maritime (December 24, www.comune.rosignano.livorno.it), Lari (December 26, www.prolocolari.it), Barga (December 23, www.comune.barga.lu.it), Ceretto Guidi (December 23, www.comune.cerreto-guidi.fi.it) and Castiglion Fiorentino (December 23, www.prolococastiglionfiorentino.it).

This article is from the marvelous English paper The Florentine
By Rose Mackworth-Young (issue no. 173/2012 / November 22, 2012)


A House in Umbria For all those who just can't bear to leave. Why not include a trip to Umbria in your itinerary. Quieter than Tuscany & utterly charming, Umbria is a jewel which can be explored from the elegant comfort of Casa Verri in the Umbrian town of Citta` della Pieve near the Tuscan border.


More places to say 'I do' People often ask me about getting married or renewing their vows in Florence, so here is an article on the subject from the wonderful English-language newspaper, The Florentine, on the subject. It you love all things Florentine you can subscribe to receive The Florentine online. Starting in June, it will be possible to tie the knot among the flowers and statues of Florence's Rose Garden, in the majestic Salone dei Cinquecento or Sala di Lorenzo in Palazzo Vecchio, or surrounded by art old and new in Villa Bardini. With the City of Florence introducing these new venues for civil wedding ceremonies, prospective spouses interested in saying their vows in these locations will, however, have to pay a higher fee than marriage ceremonies held until now in the Sala Rossa in Palazzo Vecchio and in Villa Vogel. City officials say they added these new locations not only to meet the numerous requests from both local and foreign prospective spouses, but also to enhance and further promote the city's historic landmarks. The fees differ depending on the city of residence of the couple. If at least one of the two prospective spouses resides in Florence, there is still no charge for a civil ceremony in Palazzo Vecchio's Sala Rossa during normal office hours. There is a fee of 250 euro if one of the engaged is a resident of the province of Florence. The charge is 750 euro if neither bride nor groom reside in the municipality or the province of Florence. (The fees become 500, 750 or 1,500 euro for ceremonies outside normal office hours.) Civil ceremonies during normal office hours in the Sala di Lorenzo, Villa Vogel and the Villa Bardini will cost 500 euro if at least one person is a resident in the city; 750 euro if at least one person is a resident in the province of Florence; and 1,250 euro for non-residents. (The fees become 1,000, 1,250 and 2,000 euro for ceremonies outside normal office hours.) To get married in the Rose Garden during normal office hours, brides and grooms will have to pay 1,500 euro if one is a resident in Florence; 1,750 if one is a resident in the Florence province; and 2,250 euro for non-residents. (The fee becomes 2,000, 2,250 and 3,000 euro for ceremonies outside normal office hours.) At 5,000 euro, the most expensive place to get married in Florence, is the Salone dei Cinquecento. Also, the fee will remain unchanged regardless of residence status or the time at which the civil ceremony is held. Civil marriage ceremonies will be scheduled Tuesday through Sunday. The weddings will take place on Tuesday mornings at Villa Vogel (once a month, except in July and August) and the Rose Garden (twice a month from May to September, except in August); on Wednesday and Thursday mornings in the Sala Rossa; Wednesday afternoons at Villa Bardini (twice a month, except in August); Thursday afternoons in the Sala di Lorenzo (2 times a month, except in August) and the Salone dei Cinquecento (two times a month except in August). Those who want to tie the knot on the weekends can choose from the Sala Rossa on Saturday mornings and afternoons (once a month, except in August); Villa Vogel on Saturday afternoon (once a month, except in August) and in the Sala Rossa on Sunday morning (once a month, except in August). For more information on civil ceremonies in Florence, see http://en.comune.fi.it.

Villa La Pietra


VISIT VILLA LA PIETRA A visit to Villa La Pietra is a very special event & one few people know about. Villa La Pietra, former home of the Acton family, is open to the public on special days. Guided tours of the Villa, the Collection, and Garden are offered Friday afternoons. Advance reservations are required as spaces are limited. Bookings may be made by e-mail, phone or fax. The cost of the tour is € 20,00 per person, payable at the time of the tour. Guided tours of the Gardens only are offered Tuesday mornings. Again, advance reservations are required as spaces are limited. The cost of the tour is € 12,00 per person. Tours are not available in August or during the winter holiday break (mid-December to mid-January).