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.
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.
In this challenging time doing some sports are good. Running outside is what I do daily. I want to stay fit. Physically and mentally.
While running face masks are not required, fortunately. It is safe to run outside in Montepulciano. Fresh air benefits in many ways!
Running in Montepulciano
Montepulciano is a hill town. It is located at an altitude of 600 m above sea level. I know that running on hills builds muscle strength. In this period I do nothing else than running uphill and downhill.
Running here is amazing. But I don’t always enjoy training through the vineyards. Hill running is tough. Honestly I hate hills.
I usually train on a flat surface in Valiano. Valiano is a small town in the Comune of Montepulciano. To get there I need to take my car. Obviously the way we live now it isn’t allowed. We may only leave our home for work, necessity and health reasons.
The situation leave me no choice but hill running.
Vineyards in Montepulciano
The days are getting shorter and the average temperature drops. It is autumn. Biking conditions are still excellent in Tuscany, but not for me. I think my bike will be stock until 2021. Not for being lazy, I just prefer to bike in warmer weather conditions.
Time flies. Everybody goes through difficult times. Almost a year has passed. Soon we will celebrate Christmas again.
Christmas in Montepulciano
Clearly the holidays will be different this year. The Christmas markets are cancelled in Italy. I don’t know if Montepulciano will have a Christmas tree for us to see.
Pici pasta are thick homemade spaghetti. In Italy it is a first course. The pasta is also known as Pici Senesi. They are originally from southern Tuscany around Siena. Hence the name Pici Senesi.
In Montalcino they are called “i pinci”. Montalcino is a hill town and comune in the province of Siena.
It is not difficult to make fresh pasta i pici. Still me, as a foreigner in Italy, I am not used working with flour and water. I don’t have the technique of pasta making, unfortunately. I prepare more easy, healthy and quick meals.
The ingredients of the pasta dough for i pici are simple: flour, water and olive oil.
Homemade pasta i pici
With your hands flat you roll the pasta from the center outwards.
Pici is a fat and rough pasta. There are many varieties to choose among i pici:
Pici all’aglione –tomato and garlic sauce- Pici ragù –meat sauce- Pici al ragù d’anatra –duck sauce-
In supermarkets you can buy fresh pici. The pici from the supermarkets are delicious as well. I eat them often with “ai frutti di mare” (fish) or with fresh made Pesto Genovese.
Of course fresh pasta tastes better, but with a little creativity and flexibility you can make the best pasta dishes at home!
Restaurant La Solita Zuppa
The owners of restaurant La Solita Zuppa are Andrea with his wife Lorella Casagni. Andrea is a top chef and sommelier. La Solita Zuppa is a Slow Food restaurant in Chiusi città, the old town.
La Solita Zuppa offers traditional dishes. On the menu you can choose from many pasta dishes with typical and local ingredients.
Every morning they make their own fresh pasta. When I visited La Solita Zuppa Andrea had prepared the pasta dough for me to roll out.
It was a nice thing to do! For a moment I felt like an Italian “mamma” with many pasta making experience.
Having dinner at restaurant La Solita Zuppa is perfect for an evening of typical Tuscan plates. The atmosphere is cosy. The service is friendly and professional.
I pici al tartufo bianco
The dishes they offer are delicious and based on its long history and location. And if you love wine you should check out their wine list. Most of the wines are local and match excellent with the food they serve.
After weeks of lockdown they have opened their restaurant since May 27. It is recommended to make a reservation in advance. La Solita Zuppa is closed on Tuesdays.
La Solita Zuppa is famous for their Lampredotto sandwich. Lampredotto is a local Tuscan street food specialty. It is the fourth stomach of the cow. Tuscany has a tradition of eating internal organs. They use these organs to create delicious dishes with a strong and spicy flavor.
Personally I don’t like Lampredotto. It has a rich fatty texture.
But the tradition of food is important for the locals. It is a way of life and history. Most of the people in Tuscany love eating Lampredotto.
Chiusi – Siena
Chiusi is near Montepulciano. In a relaxing countryside sits the ancient city of Chiusi. It is situated on a hill overlooking the Val di Chiana valley and the Umbrian hills.
Chiusi città is the old town and Chiusi Scalò is the modern area.
The story of the Tuscan town Chiusi is closely linked to the Etruscans. In every corner you can breathe in the Etruscan presence and there are many details that refer to king Porsenna.
The burial place of the legendary Etruscan king Porsenna would have been beneath the town of Chiusi. As we know now, the underground routs, the labyrinths, were part of a water supply system dug by the Etruscans.
Chiusi is an appreciated city by visitors. In the ancient town you find a number of historical and archeological sites. One of the most interesting museums to visit is the “National Archeological Museum”: Museo Nazionale Etrusco. The museum reconstructs the history of Chiusi and its territory through numerous finds from the Iron Age to the Lombard age.
It is one of the most important museums in Italy for its knowledge of Etruscan art.
How do I reach Chiusi
There are different ways to get to Chiusi. By car and by train. Chiusi Scalò is an important train station. Operated by Trenitalia, from Rome and Florence are several train services.
It is very easy to find a taxi in Chiusi Scalò. There are also busses that take you from the station to the centre of Chiusi.
One of my favorite gelateria in Chiusi Scalo is Green Bar in Via Cassia Aureli I, 107. This gelateria is at walking distance from the train station.
Lago di Chiusi
Chiusi’s Lake is only 5 minutes drive from the centre of Chiusi città. You can bike and hike in this wonderful nature area. For food lovers I recommend restaurant Pesce d’Orco. They offer traditional fish “pesce di lago brustico” from the Etruscan civilization. Yummy!
Il brustico “pesce del lago”
Every year in September is a run and walk around the lake: Giro Lago di Chiusi. It is a 18k run. A nice run experience! And if you don’t run you might participate to the organized walk.
The Covid-19 measures in Italy are somewhat eased since early May. Restrictions on travel within the same region will be dropped on May 18.
Shops, restaurants, hairdressers and bars are being allowed to reopen. Two weeks earlier than planned.
Movement in your own region is permitted. Without any “autocertificazione”. Finally we will be able to visit friends as long as they live in the same region.
Fiat 500 in Montepulciano
Both regional and international borders will open from June 3. The Italian government wants to allow travel between the regions and the Schengen countries. People will be permitted to enter Italy without any restrictions. Tourists can travel to Italy again. Awesome!
I am excited that things are getting back to normal. That gives me hope. As in the lockdown period it seemed impossible. But just the idea of having a fresh pizza with a huge beer in a trattoria makes me feel very happy.
Bars have already reopened for take-away service. I love an Italian coffee after lunch. Recently I got a take-away coffee at the Piazza Grande. The coffee was good and it was nice talking to the locals again. Nonetheless… nothing beats an Italian coffee ” al banco”.
Gatherings of large groups are still banned. Unfortunately some important summer events have been cancelled. For example Umbria Jazz in Perugia. The festival will return in 2021.
Over de last few weeks I have been busy with setting up my wine business. I am working on a new online wine webshop. It is something that I have created together with a little help of my friends.
It will be a project with my own “Italian” identity. It is a personal investment in local wine. I find it a bit scary to invest in this period. We live in a difficult economic situation. But I must do something. And this is what I like too! I don’t know if I’ll have success but I keep up the good spirit.
Vineyards in Montepulciano
Besides this new project I have published a new virtual wine tasting experience page on my website. I organize from mid June free online wine tastings in Montepulciano.
I will use the Zoom application for the virtual wine tastings. More information about this will be followed.
I had a long period of knee problems. My right knee is doing much better. I go often by bike and I do my exercises to strengthen the muscles that support my knee. I am ready for a new running schedule.
My trainer has sent me a new program for the upcoming two months. The priority is to restart. The runs are short and I have no idea how the results will be. But I am happy to start running again.
Last Saturday I had my first online Zoom wine tasting experience with a group of American people. I have a friend in NYC who organizes online meetings with friends. This time I was invited as a guest speaker.
Through the virtual wine tasting experience I showed two video’s of Montepulciano. I told the story of the winery Gattavecchi and the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I enjoyed!
The meeting took about 1 hour. Talking to people on the other side of the world was great. A feeling of not being alone for a moment. I did this online wine tasting from my home in Montepulciano. Next time I do the virtual tour in the wine cellar.