A Taste of Tuscany by Marika Martinez

Tuscany is one of the world's most fascinating travel destinations, attracting lovers of art, nature, food, wine and walkers. In the heart of the region you will find the sacred mountain of the Etruscans, Monte Amiata, surrounded by the beautiful valley 'Val D'Orcia" which UNESCO declared a world heritage area in 2004. Monte Amiata is a huge open air museum, where nature, art and culture meet and happily merge. Here you will be totally immersed in the natural and cultural experience of the true Tuscan country life.

South Tuscany is a region of excellence in the area of food and wine. Its lands produce highly appreciated wines, such as Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano that are known worldwide. The region produces many lesser known wines such as Morellino di Scansano and Rosso di Montecucco.

Just as important is the region's production of Tuscan olive oil, local cheeses (Pecorino di Pienza) and cold cuts (such as salumi di cinta senese). Tuscan cuisine distinguishes itself for its tasty dishes made with genuine, natural ingredients which make even the simplest dishes true delicacies to savour and enjoy (cinghiale, zuppa di funghi, ribollita, pici).

The Amiata region offers a vast range of genuine products, undergrowth fruits and quality gastronomic artisan products. The aim of Amiata restaurants is to rediscover traditional recipes using local products, such as chestnuts, mushrooms, and olive oil.

Many restaurants and producers of the region belong to the slow food organisation. Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organisation that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

During summer and autumn the region offers many gastronomic "sagre" where the convivial and festive moment is combined with the possibility of tasting many dishes. Sagre are dedicated to the different products of the area and traditional dishes: mushrooms, chestnuts, pici, olive oil and, of course, wine. 

Short History of Tuscany

The Etruscans were the first major civilization in this region of Italy. They lay down a transport infrastructure, implemented agriculture and mining, and produced vivid art. The people who formed the civilization lived in the area (called Etruria) well into prehistory.

The medieval age, with pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena between Rome and France brought wealth and development. The food and shelter needed by these travellers fueled the growth of new communities around churches and taverns.

Tuscany is considered the birthplace of the renaissance movement, and its artistic heritage includes architecture, paintings and sculptures collected in dozens of museums in towns and cities across the region. The best known are the Uffizi and Bargello in Florence. Tuscany was the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Dante Alighieri ("the father of the Italian language").

Monte Amiata & Val D'orcia

Monte Amiata is the highest mountain in Tuscany reaching a height of 1732 metres. It rises between the rivers Orcia, Fiora and Paglia's valleys. The lower slopes are covered by chestnut and beech trees and the higher slopes are grown over with old dark forests. The assorted and wonderful colours make this sight truly amazing.

The mountain is a volcanic cone and its last eruption came about 180,000 years ago. It stimulates many thermal springs around its base which are feeding well known thermal hot water bathing towns located in its environment like Bagno Vignoni, Bagni di San Filippo, Saturnia & San Casciano. Thirteen small, enchanting medieval villages surround the mountain.

Val D'Orcia and Monte Amiata continue being a fresh and unspoilt area, where the agricultural economy is based on innovative land managements systems and the natural materials originated in the area are constantly protecting the relationship between man and the environment. This agricultural area developed when it was included in the city-state Siena's territory during the 14th and 15th centuries, in order to be a sign of an ideal representation of good governance producing an aesthetically agreeable natural picture.

All the structures which were built-up along this area, once traversed by the ancient roads of Rome -The Francigena - like abbeys, inns, temples and bridges created a landscape which was particularly celebrated by the great Renaissance Sienese's painters, as well as by the romantic writers who were coming from England, France and Germany. Today it continues to fascinate artists, writers, intellectuals and tourists.

Discover  Tuscany with Women's Own Adventure!
For more details visit www.womensownadventure.com.au  or phone 1300 883475.


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