During the Easter holidays the whole of Italy was classified “red” from 3 – 5 April. In a red zone it is prohibited to leave your hometown except for work and health reasons.
Over the Easter period we were allowed to visit friends and families in their homes with a maximum of two visitors at a time.
Tuscany will remain under the heaviest restrictions until April 20, as I read in a newspaper. The infections are not declining.
Last Saturday I went for a bike ride and pizza dinner with my friends. It’s been weeks since we met. We’re not seeing each other often these days because we do not live in the same municipality. I live in Montepulciano. My friends have a house in Montallese and in Chiusi. Two towns in Tuscany.
Pizza is a social food. A food for family and friends. I never make a frozen pizza at home. For me a pizza is to be eaten at a pizzeria. It must be eaten immediately after it comes out of pizza oven and must be made by an expert!
Our friend in Montallese has recently installed a wood fired pizza oven in his garage. He prepared for us a variety of pizzas. Gianfranco is an Italian pizza chef!
I had a great dinner and I really enjoyed the pizzas. It has been a long time since I have had a so good pizza. Too long…
Pizza with spinach
Pizza with truffle
Pizza with anchovies
Pizza with wurstel
The nationwide curfew from 10 PM till 5 AM is still active. In Italy we usually eat late, around 8 – 9 PM. With the current rules we eat a little earlier.
Online wine tasting
I have celebrated Easter at my home in Montepulciano.
I’ve had a fabulous evening with American people. Together we’ve tasted -virtually- some nice Tuscan wines from the winery Gattavecchi.
For those who cannot travel to Tuscany I have decided to organize a new perfect stay-at-home activity: a virtual Brunello di Montalcino wine tasting!
The focus of this online tasting is on learning and having fun. I have hosted several virtual wine tastings but I can say that tasting Montalcino wines -virtually- with other tasters was a different and unforgettable experience.
“Everyone enjoyed it. We had a good chat and the time with Bruno was wonderful.”
Virtual wine tasting Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
You do not need to be an expert to enjoy the wine Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Just trust your taste and senses … and relax!
During the online tasting I will provide a presentation, show a video and introduce you to the winemaker.
Vasco Rosso Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Pian delle Ginestre is a small winery run by the Natalini family. They love their land and their wines. Bruno Natalini’s wines are special. His wines tell you the story of its territory.
In addition to the Brunello, the winemaker produces other wines like Toscano IGT and Rosso di Montalcino.
To join the tasting you need two bottles of wine: Rosso di Montalcino DOC and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG from the line of wines Vascorosso named after the famous Italian singer Vasco Rossi.
Vasco Rosso Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
After the wine tasting you’ll have wine leftovers. This is brilliant! Because following the virtual event, you can continue to practice tasting the wines for a few days.
Interested? I’d love to hear from you!
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Today Brunello di Montalcino is one of the most known and expensive wines. Brunello is not just a drink. It is an elegant and prestigious Tuscan wine with the ability to age well for years. It is one of those wines you should have tried at least once in your life!
Consortium Brunello di Montalcino
The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. No other grapes are allowed in a Brunello wine. Brunello di Montalcino is a high tannin wine. This is one of the unique characteristics of this important wine. This wine gets better with age.
Before drinking the wine needs aeration, let it “breathe” at least 2 hours. A perfect match with this wine is steak (protein), seasoned cheeses and cured meats.
I always enjoy drinking a glass of Brunello, especially when I can share my love and passion for this wine with friends.
At present there are 250 wine producers in Montalcino. The total area is 24,000 ha of which 4,600 ha are used for viticulture. Each year around 11 million bottles of wine are produced.
Montalcino is a hilltop village surrounded by Crete Senesi and Val d’Orcia area. It is a town worth visiting. Not only for the wine but also for its unique beauty!
Spending one day in Florence may not be enough to discover the city. Florence is a place you have to see once in your lifetime. It is the city of cities for tourists.
Every year millions of people visit Florence.
At the moment, due to the impact of the coronavirus, many visitors stay away… unfortunately.
Fantastic and fun things to do
The city has many great things to offer, such as museums, Renaissance art, churches, wine bars, restaurants and some other well known highlights.
If you only have one day, make sure not to miss the Piazza della Signoria and Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’Academia. The greatest masterpiece of the Renaissance.
Visit the Galleria degli Uffizi. Admire the goddess of beauty and love “Venus”. The Birth of Venus is painted by Botticelli.
Definitely a food lover’s paradise in the centre of Florence is The Mercato Centrale. An unmissable destination for fantastic food and a glass of wine.
Walk over the bridge Ponte Vecchio!
View of Florence and the Arno
Piazzale Michelangelo sits on a hill. Enjoy the panoramic view.
For special exhibitions* go to The Palazzo Strozzi. *In 2017 I have visited the exhibition dedicated to the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
And not to forget The Palazzo Pitti. The Pitti Palace is Medici’s residence and it houses important collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures.
Just to mention a few things what to do in Florence…
David of Michelangelo
The capital city of Tuscany
Florence or Firenze is the capital city of the region Tuscany. For me it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
As I am interested in Renaissance art, Florence is a city where I could return to again and again without ever getting bored.
Piazza del Duomo
Florence has incredible restaurants, gelaterias, cafes and osteria’s. Caffè Gilli is the oldest café in Florence. It is a cocktail bar with sofas and chairs in a nice chill-out “space”.
From here you have a beautiful view on the square Piazza della Republica, the largest piazza in Florence.
Visiting Florence during Covid-19
This February I have visited Florence. Tuscany was low risk “zona gialla”.
The Italian Dpcm rules related to the yellow zones: all shops and museums are open. Bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open from 5 AM until 6 PM.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Italy is still increasing. Tuscany has been classified as a red, orange and yellow zone.
The anti-Covid regulations are stricter for the red and orange zones. Museums are closed. Hairdressers are closed. Horeca can offer food delivery and takeaway. Traveling is prohibited unless absolutely necessary.
At present Tuscany is a orange zone.
On my way to Piazzale Michelangelo
Museum Le Gallerie degli Uffizi
In 2008 I have visited the Galleria degli Uffizi when I backpacked through Italy. I stayed at Camping Michelangelo for a few nights. I remember waiting there outside for hours to get in the museum.
Despite having few tourists at the moment, there was a queue to enter the Uffizi. These people were mostly Italian and school children.
Book your ticket online
Through the website of the Galleria degli Uffizi you can book your visit on a date and time of your choice. The price for the online entrance ticket is Euro 16,00 per person. With this ticket you avoid long lines.
Upon booking you will receive a confirmation email. You show your e-ticket to the ticket office where it will be exchanged for an entrance ticket.
Galleria degli Uffizi
To learn more about the museum’s most popular objects an audio guide provides interesting information on the things you see.
The audio guide is available in 4 languages (Italian, English, Spanish and German) and can be rented at the service desk, but only with your own valid ID card.
“La primavera” Sandro Botticelli
Important art works at the Uffizi Galleries
The works in the gallery are shown in the chronological order in which they were painted.
Many art collections belonged to the Medici family. The Gallery’s collection includes masterpieces of Filippo Lippi (Madonna col Bambino e due Angeli), Botticelli (Spring and The Birth of Venus), Michelangelo, Raffaelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Filippo Lippi “Madonna col Bambino e due angeli”
“Nascita di Vendere” Sandro Botticelli
The Galleria degli Uffizi houses art works from Dutch, German and Flemish painters as well.
My favourite restaurant in Florence
Trattoria la Casalinga is situated only a stone’s throw away from the Palazzo Pitti. The location is a bit off the tourist path. This trattoria offers the best Tuscan meals!
Trattoria la Casalinga
I had lunch with Thomas, a friend of mine who works in the same businesses. He organizes wine tours and tastings in Tuscany.
We discussed various topics. Hopefully we can start a wine project together in the nearby future. Who knows! We feel the absence of (American) tourists. Wine tours and tastings are completely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thomas enjoys wine and he knows a lot about it. He’s an expert. For our lunch he choose the wine Carmignano DOCG from the winery il Sassolo. This wine is made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a full bodied red wine, good pairing with local Tuscan food.
Our lunch menu
We started with chicken liver paté served on crostini and Lardo di Colonnato. As a main course we ordered the Fegato alla Toscana (pork liver). A deeply flavored piece of meat. Liver tastes really good. I like it.
Many people don’t eat organ meats. I can imagine that. Some people don’t even want to think of eating it. Luckily I eat almost anything. Liver is healthy, but you shouldn’t eat it too often.
Fegato alla toscana
Our lunch was top notch! Good food, excellent wine and nice ambiance. Great and fast service in Trattoria la Casalinga.
Shopping in Florence
Besides being the cradle of the Renaissance period, Florence is also the ultimate shopping destination in Italy. It is one of the “Made in Italy” fashion capitals, together with Milano. I enjoy shopping in Florence.
February is the period of sales. You find the best sales and discount on fashion clothing.
In the centre’s shopping areas people need to wear face masks. Also in shops face coverings are mandatory.
Before you go into a shop you must clean your hands with hand sanitizer gel.
My shopping addresses
In Florence I have my favourite shopping addresses. I am a regular customer at Intimissimi. I have a card for extra benefits. The service at Intimissimi is good and friendly.
At this moment my preferred clothing store is GUESS. GUESS is an American clothing brand. You’ll find a variety of styles. GUESS is fashionable for men and women. Hip and stylish!
Address: Via degli Speziali 9R, Firenze
Desigual is on one side of the Ponte Vecchio. Another clothing shop in Florence where I often check the latest trends.
Getting to Florence by public transport
There are several ways to get to Florence.
I always go to Florence by train from Chiusi-Chianciano Terme. From here it takes 1h 45 m on average to Firenze S.M.N.
You can buy your train ticket through the website Trenitalia or at the train station. A one way train ticket Chiusi – Firenze costs Euro 14,00 (regional train).
The top sights in the historical centre are easily to explore by foot. In Florence trams and busses are widely used.
From Florence you can make day trips by train. Cities such as Siena, Pisa and Arezzo are within easy reach.
Getting to Florence by car
Along the A1 highway is the Villa Costanza Car Park (Scandicci). You can access it both coming from the North or the South. Villa Costanza is the first Drive and Tramway car park in Italy.
Villa Costanza is an ideal alternative to avoid traffic jams in the centre of Florence. The T1 line brings you to the centre.
A single way costs Euro 1,50 and is valid for 90 minutes. Every tram stop has a ticket machine. You’re not able to buy tickets on board.
Running in Florence
Florence is a city where I have left literally many footprints. I ran the Firenze Marathon in 2016.
Firenze marathon 2016
And before that, I’ve participated in many smaller runs. This was the period in which we headed off to Florence almost every week. Even just for a training with Fulvio Massini.
We miss our races in Italy!
Notturna di San Giovanni 10 km run
Florence in a day.. enjoy this YouTube video!
I’ve made this video this February to let you experience Florence from a distance.
The wine estate Dievole is located in the Chianti Classico area, one of the most popular wine region of Tuscany between Siena and Florence.
Dievole overlooks the wonderful vineyards and olive groves. It covers an area of 400 hectares within the Chianti Classico territory in Vagliagli.
Chianti vineyards Dievole
Chianti vineyards Dievole
Dievole is an old winery founded in the 11th century. This Italian winery has a thousand year history.
Today Dievole is owned by an oil tycoon from Argentina “Alejandro Bulgheroni” and is part of a network of wineries in Tuscany: Chianti Classico, Bolgheri and Montalcino.
Dievole Tuscan wines
The winery Dievole produces elegant wines such as Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Vin Santo and IGT white wine. But they make also other Italian great wines: Bolgheri DOC and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.
Dievole Tuscan wines
Wine tour and tasting
During the wine tour we discovered the history and the taste of Dievole wines. We were with a small group of 9 persons (it is necessary to pre-arrange this wine experience).
Our guide waited for us at the wine shop. She started with a brief introduction to the wines and the history of Dievole. After a small talk we walked through the vineyards, the historic wine cellars and tasting rooms.
Wine cellar Dievole
Wine cellar Dievole
Wine production Dievole
Wine production Dievole
After the tour we started with individual tastings of the quality wines including good cheeses and local meats.
If you are a wine lover be sure not to miss out the beautiful Val d’Orcia wine region in Tuscany. The land of Sangiovese.
Winery Poggio Grande lies in Castiglione d’Orcia. Castiglione d’Orcia is a small town immersed in the nature of Val d’Orcia. The property is located nearby the ancient medieval “Castello di Ripa d’Orcia” and the village of Bagno Vignoni.
Poggio Grande is a family-run farm that produces wine and olive oil in Castiglione d’Orcia. A visit to their vineyards, tasting room and wine cellar is a unique experience!
The winery is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. The total surface of their vineyard is about 6 hectares. The care and cultivation work is done manually. The grapes are also harvested by hand each year.
The Zamperini family is the owner of Azienda Poggio Grande. They have been living in this idyllic Tuscan countryside since 1907. Farming is their way of life for generations.
Through years of experience, passion and knowledge, the Zamperini family produces wines with great body and high quality. In addition to wines based on the Sangiovese grape other international varieties are used in the production of fine wines.
Quality olive oil is also made (D.O.P. Terre di Siena certificate).
Wine and olive oil tasting
The wine experience takes place in a tasting room, set in the middle of vineyards and rolling hills. The unique panoramic views of the Tuscan landscape will amaze you!
Poggio Grande is the best place to enjoy local wines. A wine tasting at Poggio Grande consists of one white wine, three (or more) red wines and two different types of olive oils. The wines are served with a selection of local meats and pecorino cheeses.
The wine production has increased over the last years. Winemaker Luca Zamperini and his daughter Giulitta Zamperini produce seven different types of wine.
All their labels on the wine bottles tell a story. One red wine is named after a horse of the famous Palio di Siena: “Scorbutico”. This wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. A wonderful, elegant red wine. Good to pair with local pasta and meat dishes.
A visit to Poggio Grande in the Orcia territory is highly recommended. You’ll find friendly owners, good wines and lovely views.
The Orcia DOC denomination is young, born on February 14, 2000. The grapes used for the Orcia wines are cultivated in the Val d’Orcia area.
The Val d’Orcia has a long history of producing wine. The wine production area is nestled between Montepulciano and Montalcino.
The main production areas are within the communes of Castiglione d’Orcia, Pienza, Radicofani, San Giovanni d’Asso, San Quirico d’Orcia, Buonconvento, Trequanda as well as parts of the municipalities of Abbadia San Salvatore, Chianciano Terme, Montalcino, San Casciano dei Bagni, Sarteano and Torrita di Siena in the province of Siena.
San Quirico d’Orcia
San Quirico d’Orcia
Pienza is my favorite place and I am spoiled for the choice with delicious food and wine…
Orcia wines come in different key styles:
Orcia DOC (Sangiovese based wine)
Orcia Sangiovese DOC Riserva (Sangiovese based wine)
Orcia DOC white (Trebbiano – Malvasia)
Vin santo DOC (sweet wine).
Each year the Novello wine is available in the Val d’Orcia territory. Novello is a wine made from the first grape harvest.
The Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes are the most important white grape varieties in the Orcia region. The white vin santo is blended from Trebbiano Toscano (50%) and other white authorized grape varieties.
Wines labelled “Orcia” must have 60% Sangiovese with at least a year of bottle aging, while wines labeled “Orcia Sangiovese” (Riserva) must consist of 90% Sangiovese with at least two years of barrel aging.
The Orcia Sangiovese wine is not a wine to drink when young. This wine will improve with age.
The blending grapes in the Orcia territory can be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or native varieties like Foglia Tonda, Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, and more.
Val d’Orcia is a Unesco World Heritage Site. With its curvy roads and rolling hills and cypress trees Val d’Orcia has become the iconic image of Tuscany.
The Val d’Orcia landscape is covered with vineyards, olive groves and the zigzagging cypresses. Alternated with wonderful country houses, abbeys and villas.
Abbey of Sant’Antimo
The region is also popular among hikers. The historical trail “Via Francigena” crosses the villages San Quirico d’Orcia, Radicofani and Bagno Vignoni. All small charming towns worth a visit.
Bagno Vignoni is a unique town with thermal water in the centre. It is a tiny village with typical stone houses.
Bagni di San Filippo
Bagni di San Filippo is one of the most beautiful free SPA resorts in Tuscany, immersed in the hills of Val d’Orcia.
Nowadays this region is famous for its enogastronomic production such as pasta i pici (wheat pasta), honey, pecorino cheese, olive oil, wild boar and wine. It is home to some of Italy’s best wines and food!
Val d’Orcia is also very much appreciated by artists, writers, poets, photographers and cinematographers. Famous movies such as The Gladiator and The English Patient have been shot here.
Capella della Madonna di Vitaleta
Val d’Orcia is one of the magic places to explore whilst on vacation in Tuscany. This is one of the most beautiful scenic landscapes. Val d’Orcia is a region you absolutely have to see!