Tuscan Culture

Experience tuscan culture

As a traveller of this centuries old region, the Tuscan getaway is everything you could imagine. There are but few places on Earth where such rich history, geography, gastronomy and culture intersect in the same way they do in Tuscany. There’s just something about Tuscany that feels… warm. Shuffle through the tabs below to learn about all there is to experience during a getaway to Tuscany.

tuscany-2Travellers to Italy are often imagining the hustle and bustle of major metropolitan centres like Rome and Milan. Tuscany is the part of Italy that is quite honestly – completely opposite of that. While there is a shade of seductive sophistication that cascades over fashion, food, and lifestyle, Tuscan people take a much more languid and relaxed approach to life. While not what many travellers expect, it is this that they come to enjoy more and more as they learn and experience more of the area. Tuscan life is what most would simply define as the good life. There is beauty in absolute abundance, good food, fantastic wine, and most of all, great company.  Very often Tuscany becomes the home to successful expatriates from around the world. It is a place where one tired of the grind can hideout and find beauty in an uncomplicated life, filled with quiet peace and simple pleasures.  The region is world renowned for it’s cuisine, and is a top of the bucket list destination for anyone with an affinity for wine. With world-class growing regions like Chianti and Brunello, and the stunning ancient hilltop town of Montepulciano providing the region with wine, it is easy for a wine aficionado to return to the region time and again. tuscany-1

But it doesn’t stop with just gastronomic pleasure. Tuscany is home to some of the world’s best museums and artistic culture. Virtually every town in Tuscany has a museum. The most high profile museums are the Uffizi Gallery, which posesses one of the most significant collections of paintings in the world, and the Accademia Gallery, which houses Michelangelo’s “David.” The Pitti Palace, once home to the King of Italy, is now the center of five significant museums and includes the famous and lovely Boboli Gardens. The Santa Maria della Scala is a museum complex in the beautiful city of Siena also worth a visit. And Pisa, of course, is home to the famous Leaning Tower. Art is very much part of high culture in Tuscany. Aside from the big museums, there is a wealth of boutique style museums, castles and piazza’s that make Tuscany and incredibly inviting place for the traveller interested in art, history & literature.

tuscany-3A less explored area of Tuscany is the Garfagnana valley which runs northward from Lucca between the mountains of the Appenines (the “spine” of Italy) and the Apuane (the mountains where the famous Carrara marble is quarried). The town of Pietrasanta on the coast is a centre for marble and bronze sculpture. The valley follows the River Serchio as it flows southward from its source past the historic towns of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Barga and the walled city of Lucca, before joining the River Arno at Pisa. The valley is particularly famous for its agricultural produce, Pecorino cheese and farro, an ancient type of Spelt wheat. The scenery is spectacular with tiny hilltop towns dotting the slopes of the Appenines and Apuane mountains. Good centres for exploring the valley include Lucca and Barga. In Barga the Duomo, a Romanesque basilica, is worth visiting and there are excellent Della Robbia figures in both Santa Elisabetta and San Francesco churches.

 
tuscan-food-1“Tuscan” just might be the most abused word in the world of food. There are countless North American restaurants associating themselves with “tuscan-style” cuisine, however these menus tend to only hold one or two true Tuscan dishes, and rarely are they executed with the same level of love an affection a real Tuscan recipe needs. Don’t be fooled into thinking Tuscan food is something that can be defined in a single menu line – just like everything else in Europe, there are very certain regional distinctions to be made between different dishes, and nothing is set in stone.

Despite these regional distinctions, there are certainly some raw ingredients, dishes and executions that are used across the region. The geography of Tuscany has long lent itself to cattle production, and as a result beef is a important part of Tuscan cuisine. You may have heard of the legendary Steak Florentine, a renowned thick cut of prime beef that comes as a product of a working class Florentine population. It’s dishes like this, ones that have come as a byproduct of good growing conditions, way-of-life and more often than not, a need to eat inexpensively, that characterize the cuisine of the region. There is no revolutionary cooking, no modernist cuisine and very few exciting new chefs.

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In addition to beef one will see extensive use of tomatoes, hearty herbs like rosemary, sage and basil, and a variety of different beans. Tuscan cooking can often rely on a combination of herbs, celery, garlic, onion and peppers, called a soffritto as a basis for sauces and soups, much like the french rely on a mirepoix as a basis for many of their dishes and components.

The bread. Some love it, some can’t live without it. Tuscan bread is renowned for being thick, dense and void of salt. During salt shortages in earlier centuries, many Tuscan people began to bake bread without salt. When the shortages stopped and the salt returned, the people had become so used to eating bread without salt that they decided to continue baking it without salt. Typically a few slices are all it takes to get on the ‘can’t live without it’ side.

Often served early in the meal, one dining in Tuscany can also expect pâté’s of chicken liver, melt in your mouth ham’s that the region has become so famous for, and strong, pungent olive oils. Throughout the meal, expect nothing less than the would’s best pecorino.

Untitled-6If you’ve never been, you haven’t seen it. You haven’t had the chance to experience it. Tuscany is comfortably situated in Northwestern Italy, and is defined by more than 20k square kilometers of rolling vineyards, history, culture and artistic legacy. Bordered by Emilia-Romagna to the North and East, Liguria to the Northwest, and Umbria and Lazio to the southeast,

Tuscany is surrounded and crossed by major mountain chains, and is dominated by hilly, fertile landscapes used primarily for agriculture. In addition to small plains regions, Tuscany also home to The Tuscan Archipelago, a collection of small islands in the Mediterranean, the largest of which is named Elba.

As a very early ancient centre for arts, food, wine, and culture, major Tuscan towns have primarily been built along the arterial waterway of the River Arno. The mouth of the Arno is at Pisa on the Mediterranean Coast, where it then then stretches Eastward through Pontedera and Empoli and eventually through the heart of Florence and out of Tuscany. In climate, Tuscany can sometimes be rainy and windy on the interior, and can have vast fluctuations in temperature between the summer and winter.

Tuscany does benefit from a warm Mediterranean climate, but can often behave out of character and In the summer – the rains fade, the clouds part and Tuscany becomes a place of sun, heat and a welcome escape from relatively harsh Tuscan winters. The soil of the region benefits from this freezing and thawing cycle, a large part of the reason it is so renowned for top-quality wine production. 

rich-in-artAs the birthplace of Italian Renaissance, Tuscany certainly has had it’s fair share of impact on the global arts movement. With Florence as the one of the world’s most important water-colour centers, and a belief that it also holds more Renaissance Art and Architecture than any other place in the world, Florence is a very important destination in the world of Art.

The area has played home at one time or another to the likes of Cimabue, Giotto, Pisano, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Masaccio and more. The world-renowned Uffizi, Accademia, Pitti Palace and Bargello are all in Tuscany, and perhaps most notable of all is the great volume of famous sculptures, paintings and other works of Art that decorate the churches and cathedrals of the region. A car gives you the opportunity to See the Florence Cathedral, Siena Cathedral, Pisa Cathedral and the Collegiata di San Gimignano all within just a few hours drive.

A large part of the attraction to the area for artistic types has historically been the renowned Florentine, Sienese, Pisan and Lucchese Schools. In the medieval period these schools competed fiercely against each other for supremacy, and became known as some of the most prestigious in the world.

When it comes to music, the history is equally as rich. One of the largest influencers of modern music hails from Arezzo, one of Tuscany’s several musical centers. The legendary Guido d’Arezzo is the 11th-century monk that invented modern musical notation and the do-re-mi scale. In addition, Lucca is the birthplace of Italian Romanticism composer Giacomo Puccini, who’s opera’s are among the most frequently performed of the standard repertoire.

 

 

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Fashion and textiles are the cornerstones of the Tuscan economy, and a defining characteristic of Tuscan Culture. Florentine people in particular are masters with wool and silk and are the go-to suppliers of some of greatest clothing designers in all of Europe. The textile industry in Italy is one of the strongest in all of Europe, and accounts for up to 25% of all European production. The industries turnover is in the tens of billions of Euros, and Italy is the third largest supplier of clothing in the world.