How to Have a ‘Sideways’ Visit in Tuscany

The wine that got Sideways’s Maya into wine is grown in a single vineyard in southern Tuscany.

The Iconic Landscape of Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the hills, valleys, and trees of the Val d’Orcia “exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscapes.”

The Best Ever In-Depth Video of Siena’s Palio

Inspiration always seems to find me when I’m not looking and that is exactly what happened as I settled in to watch a few minutes of television last night. Lucky for me, I clicked over to Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports, a show on ESPN that puts sports into a cultural context.

One of the segments was on the Palio, the famous, twice-yearly horse race in Siena. Mayne gained insider access to the Leocorno (Unicorn) contrada to cover the race from mane (ahem) to tail.

We learn about Leocorno’s rivalry with the Civetta (Owl) contrada, the pre-race ritual of having the horse blessed in the district church, and the strategies and intrigue that go into competing in one of Italy’s oldest sports traditions.

Both the footage and the commentary in this segment were compelling, so I wanted to share the video with you.

Travel Secrets: 3 of My Favorite “Secret” Places in Italy

Coming up with three of my best travel secrets for Italy is no easy task. Alas, I’ve been tagged by Robin Locker at My Mélange to come up with my list, just as she has over at her blog. In fact, since I had difficulty paring down my favorites, I’ve come up with my non-Italy … Read more

The Real Pinocchio

Last November, the New York Review of Books released Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio under its NYRB Classics imprint. The tale, as reviewed by Tim Parks in the latest issue, is much darker than the Disneyfied version.

After the jump is Parks’ full review. As always, I urge you to subscribe to NYRB; they often review books on Italy and even have an Italian version, La Rivista dei Libri.

By the way, if you’re visiting Tuscany with kids, you may be interested in venturing to the Parco di Pinocchio in the author’s hometown of Collodi (Carlo Lorenzini adopted the town’s name for his nom de plume).

Read more

Keeping Up With the Antinori

Antinori Staircase Photo by Ivan Franco Bottoni

Italian wine enthusiasts (that includes most of us, right?) may find this past weekend’s 60 Minutes story on Italy’s Antinori family intriguing. Considered one of Italy’s premier winemaking clans, the Antinori have been in the wine business for more than 500 years. Today, even the Antinori daughters are in on the act. To learn more … Read more

Kid-Friendly Tours of Florence

Florence may feel like a fairy tale city for adults, but kids aren’t always impressed. That’s mostly because they’ve yet to study or appreciate the art, architecture, and history that have made the Tuscan town one of the world’s most favored destinations for generations. Enter Context Travel. The walking tour company, which I have mentioned in … Read more

Tuscan Wine Picks From Epicurious

Tuscany vineyard Photo by Mircea X.

One of the pleasures of visiting Tuscany is having the chance to drive the fertile hills of wine country, sampling reds and whites along the way. Most travelers really only think of Chianti, a mini-region within Tuscany, when thinking about Tuscan wine. But another vino hotspot is Montalcino. Montalcino is the home of Brunello di … Read more

Bringing Home the Best from Italy

  It’s one thing to go to Italy and bring back photos, cheap souvenirs, and designer clothing that you could have bought at just about any department store or outlet. It’s quite another to bring back items that Italy is known for – quality leather, handmade paper, artisan chocolate, etc. That’s why I really like … Read more

Saving Money — and Time — with Combined Tickets

A lot of touristy, and even not-so-touristy, cities in Italy offer combined tickets. These tickets include admission to several related attractions at a price lower than each individual ticket combined. Rome and Vatican City For instance, Rome has the Roma Pass. This combined ticket gives users free entry to one or two museums, reduced entry … Read more