In The Heart of Tuscany By Alycia Oliver

The heart of Tuscany is a great place to get a break from the busy and crowded streets of Florence. The scenery you will immerse yourself in is surreal; the contrast of the vast rolling yellow and green hills against the clear blue sky is breathtaking.IMG_1128 The hills of Tuscany are the home of many sunflower fields. Especially in the summer months, prepare to see rows on rows of sunflowers (more then you could ever imagine!). Several movies have been filmed in the beautiful tuscan towns, such as Gladiator, Under The Tuscan Sun, Heaven, a Mid-Summer Nights Dream, and The English Patient.

In addition to all the above, Tuscany produces some of the best wines in the world! As wine is something all cultures enjoy, this is a favoured place to visit. If you are a wine lover, you absolutely MUST take a day trip to the heart of Tuscany and take part in one or two wine tastings. IMG_1122You can either rent a car or vespa and ride through the hills, or you can take a bus with a tour guide that will take you to towns and vineyards. I personally did the second option and will further explain my experience in the chance you want to take notes and do it on your own!

I got an early start and left Florence, around 8 am to ensure myself a full and eventful day. I arrived in the first town of Montepulciano an hour and a half later excited and eager to explore. We headed to the Nooble Di Montepulciano Cantina Crociani for our first wine tasting of the day (yes, at 11am). I tasted three different red wines, each of different quality, price and body. There was a unique atmosphere with being surrounded by several oversized wine barrels in an underground cellar.  Satisfied and tipsy we left to venture the Piazza Grande. For any twilight fan this was a very exciting moment to step in the exact doorway Edward Cullen was standing in. The size of the piazza itself was surprising as it seemed so much smaller then it had in the movie!IMG_1151

Our second stop was a Cheese farm in Siena hidden in between two sunflower fields. Not only did they have the best cheese, it was also the home of many animals such as puppies, goats, turkeys, guinea pigs, pigs, kittens and last but not least puppies! I cannot deny the fact that I offered the owner money to take one home. The owners did a demonstration of how cheese was made, and after they generously fed us a fresh four cheese pasta and an unlimited amount of wine. In total we tried five different types of cheese until our bellies ached! IMG_1224Although we were all quite tired we went to our third stop in a small town called Pienza. Here we attempted to walk off the wine, bread, cheese and pasta while looking in the small boutiques and shops. The highlight of this town was the amazing view overlooking the hills, vineyards and sunflower fields- it really was picture perfect!

Finally, we made it to the Brunello Winery in Chianti. Since Brunello is one of the most famous wines in the world it was rightfully so the most delicious wine I have tasted. This winery was extra generous and in total we tired three types of brunello all ranging in the year it was made, a grappa wine, and a desert wine. I left with 3 bottles to bring home, and let me say this I was not the only one! All in all Tuscany was a relaxing and tranquil experience. It is lovely to see places in the world filled with such beauty and serenity!IMG_1314

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That’s Amore! Love Florence, Love Food?Eat Italian for less by Alexandra Delf

Florence Cheap Eats

Florence is expensive at the best of times and if you are on a budget, eating out can be tricky so if you are looking for incredible traditional Italian food on a shoestring, here are some suggestions.

Traditional

Osteria il Buongustai
Via dei Cerchi, 15r, Florence, Italy ( close to piazza signoria)
055 291 304
Pastas from 5-6 Euros situated near Piazza Signoria, so great for when you are out and about in the centre and are looking for a fresh traditional meal.
Acasamia ( a casa mia ) , santa ambrogio area of Florence
ristorante, pizzeria, braceria | Via Pisana 165/r, Florence, Italy
+39 0557390449 | www.pizzaecarboneacasamia.it
Pizzas from 4 Euros, what more could you ask for? They also have a great array of pasta, grilled meats and home cooking at great budget prices in a central location!

Trattoria La Casalinga

Via dè Michelozzi, 9-red, 50125 Florence

055 218624 www.trattorialacasalinga.it

A favourite of the local Fiorentines, this restaurant has been going for many years.  I would recommend popping in at lunchtime as dinnertimes get hectic, especially on a weekend night, expect queues out of the door.

Aperitivo Anyone?

Aperitivo is a great time to grab a Mediterranean buffet style meal for the (only slightly inflated) price of a glass of wine, Spritz or whatever takes your fancy… Usually available through the late afternoon evening you can take advantage every evening! It also gives you the opportunity to try the ambience of some of the upmarket bars and restaurants in Florence at a seriously discounted rate.

Aperitivo at Kome

This great sushi restaurant is usually pretty pricey, however head here for aperitivo between 7-9 on Wednesday evenings and you can grab 2 glasses of wine with a plate of special sushi and Asian buffet for only €10!! Having personally given this a try last week, I would definitely recommend it, although you only receive a small plate of sushi, the buffet is abundant!

Kome -Via de’ Benci, 41/r Firenze  055 2008009

Aperitivo at Kitsch

Viale Gramsci 1r Firenze 055 234 3890

Describes itself as one of the most packed and vibrant aperitivo destinations in Florence! Check it out for yourself. Spend just 8 Euros between Aperitvo hours of 19.00-22.00 afterwards drink prices vary from 4-8 Euros.

Aperitivo at Pop Cafè Santo Spirito

Pop Cafè is situated in the ideal location of Santo Spirito where you can soak up the bustling evening atmosphere whilst enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine.  Aperitivo is available from 19.00-22.00 and often includes a live d-j set.  The food on offer ranges from currys and dahl to pizza and chips! Great place to watch life go by!

Fancy a quick snack, give these a try….

Apparently the best sandwiches in town…

Salumeria Verdi also known as Pinos
36/R, Via Verdi
055 244517

A favourite in the office, fresh fast and affordable with an amazing array of fresh meats, veg and cheese to choose from. You will not be disappointed!!

L’Antico Noè                      
6/R, Volta di San Piero
055 2340838

Amazing traditional hot paninis, grilled to perfection!