Casali di Casole Blog

A Quick Study in Wine & Food: How to Pair, Where to Start

From a perfectly seared New York Strip steak to a fruit-and-spice cradled spear of Caribbean shrimp, Owners and guests of Timbers Resorts know that one exquisite meal elevates the day. What we eat can lift our spirits, energize our evenings and afternoons, as well as open our senses to new experiences. Shouldn't our glass of wine stand to do the same?

One scenario that the luxury residence surroundings of the Timbers Resort properties properly attend to is just this: it is the case that the wine cellar on site is as crucial as the chef. That being said, you don't need to be a sommelier to know some basics about wine-and-food pairings. Have a look at the following starter's guide, and then begin your own journey into the cork-and-cuisine possibilities of dining at Timbers Resorts.

Wine and Food: Basics for Any Fine Pairing

  • Contrast Complex and Simple: Say you order the sumac-rubbed bluefin tuna at Cocina Del Mar, located at Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Sumac can be a big flavor, simple but sparkling with lemony citrus. A good way to approach forward flavors like that is by selecting subtle and complex wines to accompany. Think oaky Chardonnay blends, anything mellow, buttery and layered. On the other hand, if you went for a complex dish full of heat and rich tastes -- say a tropical choice from the The Preserve at Botany Bay -- then something crisp and simple like a sauvignon would make a refreshing complement (or you can join fruit with fruit and rarely go wrong ... so think riesling, viognier, and the like).
  • Respect Your Sugars and Salts: Here's a sommelier's secret: salty food generally does a number on wine. So, for example, if you're digging into anything that crackles with bacon, like the Squab en Croute at FARM -- the restaurant at The Carneros Inn -- then lean toward soft, jammy merlots and riojas. The sweet and the salty meet in the middle, and you'll enjoy both as they work together.
  • Match a Treat with a Treat: If it's an evening for that fine steak at Truffle Pig at One Steamboat Place, don't skimp. Match a great cut of beef with a great pour of vinum. Go up to a worthy, top of the line pinot noir or cabernet. On the other hand, that kind of wine might be less well matched if you're enjoying a wood-fired pizza at Pazzia Pizzeria in Tuscany, one of the specialties of the options offered at Casali di Casole. In that case, it's perfectly alright to look for a more modest and less developed red. These are the perfect opportunities to play around and search for that surprising lower-end bottle, something that you can claim as your find of the month!

Finally, remember that wine is supposed to be fun, something pleasurable. Don't feel like you have to obey any given rule(s). Knowing some of the above basics should help you navigate, but never get caught in that "no merlot!" trap they set for audiences in the movie Sideways. Wine is in the palette of the imbiber. Go your own way, and enjoy!

To discover more about Timbers Resorts and the dining options at each of our properties, contact us via email at [email protected] or by phone, 888.366.6641.

Casali di Casole’s Cinematic Connection (Who was Luchino Visconti?)

Luchino Visconti may have died in 1976 but his presence still looms large at Casali di Casole. And that’s not just because the estate’s Bar Visconti bears his name.

Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo and son of the Duke di Modrone was born in 1906 into one of Northern Italy’s wealthiest families. He started his film career in 1935 as an assistant to French filmmaker Jean Renoir and it didn’t take long for Visconti to make his impact on cinema.

In 1943, his film Ossessione (Obsession) became the first movie in the Italian neorealism movement, and he is sometimes nicknamed the “father of neorealism." This genre of Italian film and literature worked to realistically portray the economic and social hardships associated with World War II, particularly among the lower classes.

Visconti put out a string of critically acclaimed films in the 1940s and 1950s. However, not one to be satisfied with conquering a single medium, he also earning a stellar reputation as a theater director while working with the Rina Morelli-Paolo Stoppa Company and produced a number of highly respected opera productions starring the world-renowned soprano Maria Callas.

Visconti fully turned his attention to filmmaking in the 60s and earned an Academy Award nomination in screenwriting for 1969’s The Damned, following it up with 1971’s Death in Venice, arguably his most famous film.

The 1960s were notable for far more than Visconti’s Academy Award nod. During this era one of his six siblings, Earl Edoardo Visconti, purchased Casali di Casole. Edoardo loved hosting a glamorous Hollywood crowd on the property, and Luchino fit right in, even living in the castle with his brother.

Casali di Casole embraces all that is traditionally Tuscan but it’s that touch of cinematic glamour that sets it apart. The Bar Visconti was designed with Edoardo and Luchino’s glamorous parties in mind, right down to the atmospheric light that ensures you’ll always be ready for your close-up.

Learn more about this treasured estate by visiting the website or via email, [email protected] or by inquiring via email at [email protected].

Wine Tasting Techniques

Whether you're at a winery in Napa or Tuscany, you'll likely find yourself surrounded by oenophiles sniffing, swirling and tilting -- a ritual that looks truly bizarre to wine-tasting beginners. Don’t get found out as a newbie in the tasting room though. During your stay at The Orchard at The Carneros Inn in Northern California Wine Country or at Casali di Casole in the heart of Tuscany, follow these easy steps to taste vino like a pro!

Cleanse the Palate -- The food you’ve eaten prior to tasting wine has a big influence over how you perceive the flavor. Don’t be tempted by meats and cheeses that may be circulating. Most tasting rooms will offer water and white bread or crackers. These will give you a neutral reference point to base the flavor of each wine on.

Look -- Wine tasting begins with the eyes. No, this won’t tell you anything about the taste but it will help you determine a number of the wine’s qualities. You’re looking at the hue, intensity of color and opacity of color.  For example a young pinot grigio will be light and nearly clear while an older one will be more golden. Hold the glass to the light for a better look. It takes lots of experience to
know the meaning of what you’re seeing but just observe and absorb the information. It’s a learning process.

Swirl -- There are two techniques. One is to swirl mid-air using the wrist. The easier way is to grab the bottom of the glass on a flat table and swirl for 10 to 12 seconds. This isn’t just a move to make you look cool. Swirling increases the surface area exposed to air and vaporizes some of the alcohol releasing more of the wine’s aroma.

Smell -- What we taste is heavily influence by our sense of smell. Dip your nose into the glass (yes, into the glass) and inhale deeply. What do you smell? Feel free to cheat using the wine’s description. Give the glass another quick swirl and smell again to see if you can discern the scents in the description. Again, this takes practice but give it a shot.

Taste -- There are three elements to look for here. The attack phrase is the initial impression, the evolution phase is how the wine actually tastes on your tongue and the finish is the taste in your mouth after you’ve swallowed. Pay attention to each one. Try at least two sips. If you’re tasting for fun then definitely swallow and enjoy. If you’re working hard to learn about wine then you might want to use the designated containers for spitting so that your buzz doesn’t influence your tasting.

Record -- You’ll taste so many wines on a trip to Tuscany that the only way to keep them straight is to take notes. There are plenty of tasting apps or else go old school with a leather-bound journal.

 To learn more about Timbers Resorts, please contact us at 800.941.4579 (toll free) or 970.963.4626 (direct) or via email at [email protected].

Tuscany’s Top Vineyards

Beginning as early as the 1960s, a small group of vineyards broke with the Italian laws governing Chianti production, particularly the blending of non-traditional grapes. The result was a superior class of wines from the Bolgheri and Chianti Classico regions we now call Super Tuscans, including (arguably) the four most prestigious wines in Italy. Any oenophile's vacation in Tuscany would be incomplete without an outing to one if not all of these sites.

 

 

Sassicaia, first sold commercially in 1968, fathered the Super Tuscan category of wines. Very much in the French tradition, Sassicaias slanted heavily toward Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc as the secondary grape. To taste them on site, head to the producer Tenuta San Guido's prime Italian real estate in Bolgheri. All visits and tastings are hosted by Consorzio La Strada del Vino Costa degli Etruschi. Contact them at 0565 749705 or [email protected] to make an appointment. As an aside, Casali di Casole shares a connection to Sassicaia and its creator and proprietor, Mario Incisa Della Rochetta, through his grandson Piero Incisa della Rocchetta. A third-generation winemaker, Piero oversaw the production of Casali di Casole's prized vintage, Dodici, meaning "Twelve" in Italian. Piero’s participation at Casali began when he created a test production of wine to determine if the terroir - the various components on an estate such as soil, climate, and conditions that contribute to its unique character - could produce wines of consequence. His first experiment yielded 12 barrels, or barriques, as they are called in French. As anticipated, these 12 barriques yielded a surprisingly elegant yet complex wine, combining the quintessential Tuscan characteristics.

 

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, the producer of Ornellaia can also be found in Bolgheri and although the vineyard is much newer, opening in 1981, its reputation is equally excellent. The flagship wine is roughly half Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and just a touch of Petit Verdot rounding out the blend. To arrange a tasting, tour the estate and even have dinner on site, request a reservation on the vineyard's website. Be sure to taste Ornellaia's spectacular Merlot Masseto while you're there.

To check out Solaia, dating back to 1978, and Tignanello, dating back to 1971, head from Bolgheri to the Chianti Classico region between the little villages of Monteridolfi and Santa Maria, where the two are close together. Both are produced by Antinori at Tenuta Tignanello, although the wines are quite opposite.

Tignanello is roughly 80% local Sangiovese grapes rounded out with Cabernet Sauvignon, while Solaia is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon finished off with Sangiovese (both are rounded off with a touch of Cabernet Franc). Visits are normally reserved for experts and professionals but private tours are not unheard of. Chat with the concierge at Casali di Casole about wrangling a tour guide with the right connections.

Of course, you don't have to go far to taste Italy's best Super Tuscans. Casali di Casole's Ristorante Tosca is home to hundreds of vintages from leading wineries in Tuscany, and in this case the guide, (i.e. Casali di Casole's immensely knowledgeable sommeliers), come right to you.

A Holiday Recipe from Tuscany

This holiday season, treat your family and friends to a Tuscan dish from the kitchen of
Casali di Casole
's Executive Chef Daniele Sera. As this is from his Italian collection of recipes, all ingredients are listed in metric terms. For those who prefer U.S. and British kitchen systems, we recommend using this easy conversion site.


Tomato-Filled Homemade Tortellini with Mozzarella Cheese Sauce & Anchovy Olive Oil
Daniele Sera, Executive Chef Casali di Casole

Fresh egg pasta dough:
800 grams white flower
200 grams semolina flower
20 egg-yolks
3 full eggs
Extra virgin olive oil
Water, salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a blender with hook, and let to rest for 3 hours.

Pasta filling:
1 kilogram ripe red tomatoes without skin (blanched)
200 grams spring onions (chopped)
2 bunches of fresh basil
500 grams dry country bread
Salt, pepper, sugar
Grated Parmesan cheese - just enough
Tomato paste and garlic

Sweat the spring onions with basil and a clove of garlic. Add chopped tomatoes and adjust salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Add the dry bread and bring to boil until thick.

Remove from fire, let cool and add grated Parmesan.

Anchovy olive oil:
300 grams canned anchovies
150 grams extra virgin olive oil

In a pan, bring the ingredients to 80 degrees ca. and blend in a food processor. Store in a squeeze bottle.

Candied tomatoes:
300 grams blanched, skinned, halved cherry tomatoes
Orange peel, lemon peel, thyme
Salt pepper, sugar
Extra virgin olive oil

Place the tomatoes on a oven tray (covered in backing sheet) with the citrus peel and herbs. Top with olive oil and bake in the oven for 3 hours ca. at 100 degrees.

Mozzarella sauce:
(extraction of mozzarella flavour)

500 grams high quality fresh Buffalo mozzarella cheese with its own package water
500 grams fine quality butter
2 dl single cream
2 tablespoon corn starch
Salt and pepper

In a pan simmer the mozzarella with the butter for 5 minutes until the cheese release its flavor and water. Remove from fire and drain in a separate pot. Place the mozzarella on fire again adding its own package water, simmer for 10 minutes circa until the cheese released completely all juicy contents. Drain again into the same pot and mix with previous liquid. Set on a hot stove and thicken with the corn starch previously diluted in water. Pass through a sieve and store aside.

Assembling the dish:

Roll the pasta and fold it over the tomato filling. Brush the ravioli edge with beaten egg to seal it properly. Cook in boiling water and sauté in a pan with its own cooking water, basil and olive oil.

On a plate, lay the hot mozzarella sauce, the ravioli on top, some candied tomatoes and fresh basil. Finally stain with drops of anchovy olive oil.

Matching white wine: Braide Alte, Livon, Friuli

Obtained from Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Picolit and Moscato Giallo. Colour: straw yellow with elegant and bright golden reflex; extremely refined on the nose, resembling ripe yellow fruits, pastry cream, hazelnut and vanilla. Rich taste, complex, rounded and velvety with a perfect harmony of aromas and sensations, it has great class and personality. Obtained with cold-maceration in horizontal press for eight hours and fermentation at 14°C in Allier barriques, where the wine was aged for 8 months.

Hotel Casali di Casole will open in the spring of 2012, introducing an array of dining options at Pazzia Pizzeria, Ristorante Tosca and Bar Visconti, as well as offering in-residence dining. Learn more at www.casalidicasole.com.

Fabrics, Interiors & Design at Castello di Casole

For Joni Vanderslice, principal designer of J. Banks Design Group, Inc. in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, taking on the role as Head of Interiors for Castello di Casole was something she simply could not pass up when the opportunity presented itself. While designing and furnishing the four-bedroom Luxury Villas at Esperanza Resort, Joni was invited to visit Castello di Casole by Timbers Resorts Director of Interiors Sandy Burden.

“I thought Joni would bring a lot to the table with her creativity and experience,” said Sandy, who oversees all interiors for Timbers Resorts. In the fall of 2005, Joni took her first trip to the property and “knew right away what an amazing estate this was,” she explained. “The original Casali farmhouses were outstanding, with incredible bathrooms and tile details. The thick walls and the quality of construction were also stunning.”

Having studied European art and architecture and traveled through Italy over the years, she was familiar with the look and feel she wanted to achieve, but began delving in deeper, leafing through design books and returning frequently to the estate. “The collaborative process with all of the designers from J. Banks and Timbers Resorts truly is a team effort,” added Adrienne Wood, a project designer with J. Banks. “There is the common goal to create interiors that people will enjoy during their time at Castello and hopefully remember once they return home.”

The houses are unique in terms of architecture that following the objective of keeping each Casale individual in its design and aesthetic has not been a marked challenge. They choose color schemes that embrace classic Tuscan hues inspired by the beautiful landscape. Mixing in as many antiques as possible also helps them create a custom look because each of the pieces is special and distinct. Visiting furniture markets in Paris, Parma, and Verona, and working with designers near Florence, the design team has developed close relationships with vendors who produce hand-made furniture, ornate light fixtures and myriad styles of tile. These local craftsmen have also created custom pieces to their specifications for various case goods including beds, armoires, and dining tables. Building relationships has been a gradual process as each vendor is very careful to spend time with their clientele before conducting business. “Italians want to get to know you first,” Joni explained. “There are no quick decisions — they want you to really think things through and they take such pride in what they do. Through perseverance and letting the relationships happen, each person leads us to another and we get a little further along.”

Just as it has taken time to get to know the Italian designers, it has also been an studied process to understand the foreign buyers’ tastes and preferences. The modern conveniences such as central air conditioning or plush mattresses with down bedding were different from what they were used to experiencing. “While it is often times a challenge to install an American king size mattress (referred to as “Texan mattresses” by some of the locals) in a restored farmhouse with small doorways and tight corners, I think anyone who has slept on them agrees it is well worth it,” added Adrienne. An interesting story of design collaboration comes from a partnership forged between Timbers Resorts and Rubelli, a luxury fabric designer based in Venice. Since the early 19th century, Rubelli has created beautiful fabrics both for the palaces of nobility and the homes of those seeking the best quality in their interior furnishings. When the Timbers Resorts design team was unable to find high-end upholstery to fit their specifications, they approached the designers at Rubelli and offered input on what they were seeking. Rubelli took their suggestions and created a line based on their requests, which debuted in Casale San Regolo and has gone on to achieve great success in the European market.

As restoration work is underway on the Castello, which will emerge a 41-suite, five-star hotel in the April 2011, the design team created a model room in the Castello, offering a preview of what’s to come. Joni notes that the Castello will be more formal than the farmhouses, yet will still retain a sense of casual living. Walls will be bathed in warm hues, bedrooms will be fitted with four-poster beds and custom pieces, there will be Duke of Tuscany nailheads above doorways and smatterings of trompe l’oeil. All offering a sense of Tuscany - Past, Present, Perfect.

Tuscany’s Most Enchanting Piscinas

Guest post from Neal McLennon, Food & Travel Editor at Western Living Magazine, who visited Casali di Casole this spring and, as captured through his photos and musings, was immediately smitten by its intriguing infinity pools.

A few years back, my wife and daughters ganged up on me and strong-armed me into buying a house with a swimming pool in the backyard. We live in Vancouver, which means there are approximately 6 days a year when it gets hot enough to need a pool. The rest of the time it’s a massively expensive reflecting pool/leaf catcher. All of which is a roundabout way of saying when I look upon swimming pools these days I no longer have the wonderment of a child, but the jaded calculations of a bill payer.

In a way I was similarly jaded about Tuscany. By most accounts its popularity had turned it into a heavily touristed destination, the sort of place I avoid in a knee jerk way in an effort to find something more unique. So imagine my wonder last May when in short order I regenerated my childish awe of swimming pools and fell hard for a castle in the rolling hills just west of Siena—all in the span of 20 minutes.

I had arrived at Casali di Casole with the barest of information. It was a villa in Tuscany, it had been restored and that was about it. So rolling and rolling and rolling up the “driveway” —actually the fairly extensive interconnected road system of the estate—was my first sign that this was not going to be a run of the mill destination. Finding out that its 4,200 acres—which is a big spread in Montana—once belonged to the great Italian film director Luchino Visconti reinforced the idea that something was up. But I wasn’t in full swoon until I walked behind Vemignano, the gorgeous resorted villa I was staying at, and saw it. The pool. The infinity pool. The infinity pool overlooking the 4,200 acres that were for all intents and purposes mine for the next few days. I swam in the pool; I took pictures of the pool. In between swims I spent an amazing few days touring Siena, Chianti and Florence. I cooked hand-tossed pizza in my private wood-fired oven like a true pizzaiolo and drank Super Tuscans from the barrel with the winemaker. But it was that first moment at the villa that I realized swimming pools are pretty great, but the ones located on massive estates in Tuscany in the shadow of painstakingly restored villas, they’re the best.

Tuscany: I Could Get Used To This

This guest post is by Sarah Elbert, Executive Editor of Delta Sky. Sarah writes on her recent visit to Castello di Casole in Tuscany. Before coming to Sky, Sarah was editorial director of magazines including Northwest WorldTraveler and Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Postcards. She has been a newspaper editor, a freelance writer and an Associated Press reporter, riding with the White House travel pool (back in the Clinton days) and covering everything from natural disasters to a cat kidney transplant. Sarah has written for The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun—but not the NY Daily News.

A few weeks ago, after a long day of travel and not much sleep, I found myself looking out over the Tuscan hills on a beautiful afternoon, a glass of pinot grigio in hand and a plate of flatbread, melon and prosciutto before me. I felt like rubbing my eyes with my fists as a cartoon sound effect played in the background. It wasn't just the fact that I was in Italy on a rather last-minute jaunt, or the sun and warm air settling into my tired body, or the delicious but simple food, or the almost laughably postcard view from our table perched on the edge of a hill, on the patio of a luxuriously restored farmhouse where I was staying. It was all of it.

The 4,800-square-foot farmhouse, Pulcinello, is one of 14 that Timbers Resorts has so far lovingly restored and sold as fractional ownership vacation homes—i.e. for 465,000 euros, you can buy a one-twelfth fraction of one of the homes and you get it for a guaranteed three weeks, plus additional weeks if there are any not being used. Pulcinello and the other casali (farmhouses) sit on an estate anchored by the Castello di Casole, a circa 1680 castle being renovated as a 41-suite boutique hotel (along with several hotel villas) scheduled to open in April 2012. The castle was the hub of an estate originally owned by the Bargagli family, with sharecroppers growing sunflowers, olives, grapes and wheat on its 5,500 acres.

Now, with 4,200 of those acres owned by Timbers Resorts, it’s one of the largest private landholdings in Italy. You can stay in one farmhouse and not even see another, sort of a luxury nonresort, soon to include all the amenities of a more traditional resort just a short drive, walk or bike ride away (with a spa, restaurants and bar under construction at the hotel). The estate even grows its own grapes and olives and a local onsite winery, Le Macchie, bottles its own Sangiovese blend and olive oil for guests and owners. The resort will also deliver mountain bikes to your door, arrange for private Italian or pottery lessons and do your grocery shopping before you arrive. Um, can you tell I was a happy camper? (I’m looking forward to opening my mailbox to find the jar I painted with a pastoral scene of hills and cypress trees—it needed to be glazed before being sent to me in the States).

The farmhouses, of which there will be 28—most of them restored and a few built from scratch using local reclaimed materials—honor their Tuscan past while integrating many modern amenities: a soaking tub set into the floor before a giant picture window, infinity-edge pools, pizza ovens, luxe furnishings and, of course, Wi-Fi. No surprise then, that all of the finished casali have been snapped up by owners, though they are building more and there are a few you can buy outright, in addition to ownership opportunities at the hotel. However, owners do occasionally rent out the properties, and soon the hotel will be open for business—though the beautiful suites will also run on the pricey side.

We used Pulcinello as a home base to explore Tuscany, from an evening in the medieval town of Siena, about a half-hour away, to a wine tasting and tour in Chianti at Winery Principe Corsini, to a day spent exploring the Uffizi and high-end stores of Florence with a personal shopper. I had been to Florence about a decade before, but hadn’t yet made it to the Tuscan countryside, and I can tell you its reputation is certainly deserved. The people, the food, the scenery, the shopping, the art ... it simply doesn’t get much better. And whether you stay in the luxe surroundings of Castello di Casole or a more rustic locale, you’ll leave wondering when you can come back—and possibly planning a carb-free diet for the next month or so.

Cross posted over at Delta Sky Magazine on Delta.com and see Sarah's slideshow of her trip.

 

Castello di Casole Owner Profile

Rick and Nancy Richardson, Owners at Castello di Casole, have long loved all things Italian – from the culture to the countryside to its warm people and historic traditions. The happy couple first met as students at Duke University and have since enjoyed a life dedicated to continued education, stimulating careers and hearty adventures. Nancy’s work has spanned several fields such as human services, where she was the executive director of two non-profits; in the gourmet food world, where she spent a year as a chef; and in the legal realm as a Trust & Estates lawyer for 20 years. After serving as a Naval officer on a nuclear submarine, Rick joined PricewaterhouseCoopers for 35 years in international banking and financial services.

Sharing a passion for travel, they’ve always had a special connection to Italy in particular. They fell in love with Tuscany several years ago, when they, along with several other couples, began voyaging throughout the region the old-fashioned way, by embarking on hikes that lasted from eight to eleven days each.

“One of the more scenic walks was our most recent, when we spent a week at Castello di Casole and then hiked from Siena to Florence. We already loved Tuscany having honeymooned in Florence and Siena and subsequent trips, but the hike made us realize it was an area where we wanted to put down more permanent roots,” Rick says. “We initially thought we wanted to buy a property, but Castello di Casole turned out to be the perfect solution.”

The Richardsons are Owners in the charming farmhouse, Casale Pulcinello. Among their favorite aspects of ownership at Castello di Casole are the people who work there and the nearby towns to discover.

“During our visits, we’ve enjoyed getting to know the locals,” Rick says. “A friend has introduced us to several shop owners, including the butcher in Gracciano, the baker at Forno di Gracciano and the wine merchant in Colle Alta.”

Though they don’t have children of their own, the Richardsons are very close to their extended family, including their “nieces, nephews and godchildren whom we hope will visit us at Castello di Casole.”

A Tuscan Bucket List

Whatever your vacation planning style happens to be -- highly structured, free form, or a mixture of the two, we have created a "bucket list" of must-do items on your next trip to Tuscany.

  1. Lunch or dinner at Osteria a Passignano in Tavernelle, one of the only places in Italy where you can taste extraordinary Antinori wines like Solaia, Tignanello and Ornelia by the glass and the food is just as delicious.
  2. A half-day in Volterra, the most important Etruscan outpost in Tuscany dating back to 800BC. Highlights-a partially restored Roman ampitheatre and  a museum with one of the best private collection of Etruscan artifacts in all of Italy.
  3. The abbeys of Sant’ Antimo (try to hit it at Vespers when the Dominican monks chant) and Monte Oliveto Maggiore (famous for its wondrous cycle of frescoes by Renaissance master Luca Signorelli). Both are near Montalcino so you can visit a few wineries as well.
  4. The Piccolomini Library inside Siena’s Duomo- the walls and ceilings are adorned with some of the best preserved frescoes in all of Italy. The colors are so vibrant they will bring tears to your eyes.
  5. A visit to the antique market in Arezzo on a Sunday with a stroll around town and a visit to the church of San Francesco with its treasured wooden 12th century crucifix by Cimabue and Renaissance frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca.
  6. A drive through Chianti with lunch or dinner at MacDario’s in Panzano for a burger made by the most famous butcher in Italy- Dario Cecchini.
  7. A day at the beach anywhere on the Tuscan coast- Castiglion della Pescaia is great for families. Forte di Marmi is Tuscany’s “St. Tropez”, and Parco dell’Uccellina, its polar opposite,  is a nature preserve with miles of untouched beach.
  8. A summer concert at the roofless Abbey of San Galgano just 30 minutes from Castello di Casole where San Galgano plunged his sword into a stone in the 1300s and split it like butter. Some argue that this was the origins of the Knights of the Round Table. You can see the sword in the stone for yourself in the chapel up the hill.
  9. A drive through the Casentino, a mountainous region between Florence and Arezzo right out of a fairytale dotted with castles and prison towers you can actually enter. Stop in picturesque Poppi for lunch at and a tour through the most famous castle in the Casentino.
  10. An “off the beaten path” walking tour of Florence with visits to the monks’ cells in the church of San Marco featuring  a painting by Fra Angelico in each cell, the Brancacci Chapel on the Church of Carmine where Massacio launched the Renaissance with his ground-breaking frescoes, and lunch in the piazza at Santo Spirito.  For an extra workout head up to Piazzale Michelanglo for one of the best (and most romantic) views in all of Italy and a spin through the church of San Miniato. Finish with dinner at Da Sostanza,  the best trattoria in the city.

 

Try a few of these on for size on your next trip to Tuscany. We guarantee you won't be disappointed.