Friday, September 28, 2012

Run the Florence Marathon!

Here is yet another great reason to visit Florence and Tuscany in the “off season”. The autumn months are full of events and activities to satisfy a wide range of interests and ensure a very enjoyable and worthwhile vacation. 
One of these exciting events is the 29th Annual Florence Marathon on November 25th. There are already over 6000 people (1000+ are women) signed up to run the just over 42 kilometers that will take you through one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It is truly a unique experience to be surrounded by the art and culture of Florence and the amazing views of its countryside. No wonder that every year thousands of visitors come from all over the world to participate. The course is entirely asphalted and ramp-free, making it a fast circuit that many runners enjoy. Its great popularity has made the Florence Marathon one of the 20 most important in the world.
There’s still time to join – more than 10,000 participants are expected this year. Why not give it a try?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Abandoned Treasure

Not far from Florence, near Reggello, there is a very unique and beautiful palace: the Castello di Sammezzano that sits abandoned waiting to be saved from its progressive decay and ruin. Built in 1605 and subsequently renovated in the late 19th century, this extraordinary estate was inspired by the Moresque style. The castle’s architectural features and exquisitely decorated rooms on the noble floor are clearly reminiscent of the Taj Mahal and Granada’s Alhambra.

The grounds are among the largest in Tuscany, about 450 acres, and were originally filled with an incredible number of exotic plants, especially trees – representing  the vast majority of the world’s species. However, here too, the lack of care over the years has resulted in a drastic reduction of plant life and the deterioration of the ornamental decorations throughout the park. One positive note is that there still remain over 50 giant Sequoias that are over 35 meters, the tallest in Italy.

It seems hard to believe that despite its exquisite beauty and inestimable artistic value, the Castello di Sammezzano cannot be visited (except on a rare occasion about once a year, which serves primarily to underscore the deteriorating condition of the property).  Sadly, even though the estate was purchased at an auction in 1999 with the intention of creating a luxury resort, it remains to this day in a state of total abandonment. One can't help but worry that sometimes by having such a wealth of historic sites in Italy, some of its patrimony simply goes to waste - and that is an incredible shame.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Porcini Time

Those who have had the pleasure of eating porcini mushrooms will understand what all the fuss is about. From a culinary standpoint, mushrooms are the equivalent of grapes in enology. Here in Italy everyone talks about “when the mushrooms will arrive”. Clearly, the two most noble varieties are porcini and truffles.
Well, it’s time! This season the northern regions are running ahead of schedule (about 2 weeks or so) – thanks to the change in weather during the month of September. The race is on to find the best and biggest. Expert mushroom “hunters” and their faithful dogs scour the woods to bring home this coveted prize. The rest of us just wait, until we here the buzz, “sono arrivati!” (they’ve arrived) – and then we know it’s time to either start cooking, or go to our favorite restaurant!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Many Arts of Italy

This one is for the guys! (and maybe not only...)
When it comes to art, in Italy there is sure to be something for everyone. The concept of beauty has always been at the center of Italian culture. The Romans were driven by aesthetics and this legacy has clearly been passed down through the centuries. Yet, extraordinary architecture and the renowned masterpieces that fill museums, churches and palazzi are not the only works of art you will find during your visit to Italy. Fortunately, the artisan spirit is still thriving, and the creative vein that has always characterized the Italian people finds its expression in the exceptionally crafted products that bear the mark Made in Italy. Despite the shift to mass production and industrialized uniformity worldwide, in Italy there remain objects that are unique and incomparable: modern forms of art.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hats Off to Wine Town 2012!

What a great evening at Wine Town! This was so much more than just a wine tasting event, it was a cultural experience, and Florence was an amazing setting. The chance to visit the extraordinary (and often hidden) courtyards and cloisters of some of Florence’s most majestic palazzi was in and of itself a wonderful treat. Once inside, the fabulous wines on offer and the talented musicians filling the air with live jazz made the atmosphere magical.The turnout was abundant, but since  the event was organized in locations throughout the city center it was possible to access the wine stands with only a minimal wait. This also gave people the opportunity to stroll the streets and enjoy the city while going from one venue to another. Even for the locals it was a unique occasion which allowed them to enter some of the grand arched doorways that are normally closed to the public and discover the incredible beauty inside. Brava Firenze

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bravo to Our Tuscan Chefs!

What a great time we all had during this cooking experience at an organic farm in Chianti! The hilltop setting was picturesque, with stunning views of vineyards, olive groves and the Tuscan hills. I was lucky enough to spend the day with my wonderful group of clients as they learned the ropes about making homemade pasta, Tuscan focaccia bread, tiramis├╣ and many other local delicacies. The laughter and wine were plentiful, making all the hard work a lot of fun. We were also treated to a tour of the farm and its wine and balsamic vinegar cellars - with a tasting of all the estate’s outstanding products. Everyone participated with enthusiasm and the result was a truly delicious meal and a very memorable day. 

Florence Becomes Wine Town

On September 21st and 22nd the city opens its doors (and its grand historic buildings and cloisters) to host an exclusive Wine Event which will include some of Italy’s most prestigious winemakers. The elegance of the world’s Renaissance center makes a magnificent setting for this high class wine tasting and cultural happening. Many opulent private residences (including those of the most famous Tuscan winemakers) will be opened exclusively for the occasion, with music and cultural performances to enhance the ambiance. The event will take place in three areas of the city, where major streets will be closed to traffic. There will be an interesting way to move from one to another: rickshaws, which can be hired in advance or hailed like taxis if they are free. Visitors can purchase a prepaid Wine Card for 15 Euros that entitles the holder to taste a maximum of 5 wines (based on the selection). Credit can also be added to the card during the event. Parking in the “Firenze Parcheggi” city lots is free with the Wine Card during the 2 days of the event.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in Florence

Roberto Cavalli's exclusive bag.
Florence rose to the occasion for the first addition of this major fashion event – previously only held in Rome and Milan. The city was buzzing last night and I enjoyed seeing the vibrant “modern” side of the Renaissance capital. Locals and tourists alike crammed the streets and stores, where cocktail parties, celebrities and music played by some of Italy’s most famous DJs created the right “scene”.  Even for a non-fashion victim like myself, it was fun. Another positive note was the effort to raise funds for a good cause: the earthquake victims in the region of Emilia Romagna, who are still struggling to rebuild their lives after all the devastation they experienced a few months ago. All the stores had a unique, limited addition article for sale whose proceeds would go entirely to the relief fund. Fortunately, there were many people toting shopping bags – myself included!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Special Night in Florence

I am looking forward to spending a unique evening in Florence tonight for the first annual Vogue Fashion’s Night Out. After several years of success in Milano and Rome, this year even Florence will have a chance to enjoy this multifaceted event. The streets will be buzzing with activity, including art exhibits, performances, fashion shows and much more. Some of the city’s magnificent historic buildings will serve as the backdrop for these initiatives. Stores will remain open until 11:30 pm, many with special limited addition merchandise on sale exclusively for the event. The good news is that proceeds go to help the earthquake victims in Emilia Romagna.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Your Tuscan Chef

Everyone had such a great time with Gianni learning the secrets of Tuscan cooking! There's nothing like having a chef come over to your villa to prepare dinner - and if he lets you participate it's even more fun. The group really enjoyed this hands-on experience, which included making a tasty shrimp and asparagus appetizer, zucchini lasagna, two main courses (seafood and meat) and of course a wonderful dessert. To make the evening complete, the meal was accompanied by some delicious local wines selected by the chef.

The delicious dinner was even more special thanks to the beautiful setting of the panoramic patio with its incredible views of the Tuscan hills and amazing sunsets.  As we were told by our wonderful group of clients, this culinary experience contributed to make their vacation one they will always remember... and that makes us VERY happy!  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Delectable Fig

Today as I stopped to pick a bowl of luscious September figs from the tree in my garden I remembered that this commonplace treat was all but unknown to me before I moved to Tuscany. As a child, I knew Fig Newtons and the dried figs my parents put on the table at holiday time (which to be honest I didn’t particularly care for), but I ignored the existence of the incredible fresh fruit that today has me checking my tree regularly to see if there are some ripe ones ready to be picked.

For those who haven’t tried a fig straight from the tree – you are missing something special! And unlike so many things that taste really good but… Figs ARE really good for you!

They're rich in potassium (helping to maintain healthy blood pressure). They have a lot of fiber and calcium. They contain tryptophan, which helps to induce good sleep and prevent insomnia. Even their leaves have healing properties. And from the time of the Romans, who considered the fruit a gift from the fertility god “Bacchus”, figs have been known to promote overall well-being and to serve as aphrodisiacs…

So, with all that going for them, what are you waiting for? Have some figs!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Tuscan Experience joins Blogger

New Tuscan Experience is excited to join the blogger community. We have so much   to share with those who are interested in Tuscany. Our goal is to show you all the beautiful things that this extraordinary region has to offer. We'll try to keep you updated about the local events and seasonal activities. Obviously, we'll keep you posted about the things we are doing (and the fun that our clients are having). Follow us to discover all the hidden gems in this lovely corner of the world...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It’s not too late to visit Tuscany in 2012!

The 2012 vacation season is winding down, but it’s still not too late to book your last minute vacation. The exciting news is that there are some fantastic offers being made by villa owners looking to secure bookings for their remaining available weeks. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get a luxury property at an incredible price! We have gorgeous villas for all budgets and group sizes. Visit our website to take a look at our photo gallery and contact us to find out more!