Tastes of Tuscany

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Sadly my twelve day tour of Tuscany is over. And I may need to buy new clothes after all of the fantastic food and wine I enjoyed while I was there! When I think of Tuscany I picture rolling hills, medieval towns and endless grapes vines and olive trees. The scenery is reason enough to come to Tuscany but the other main reason is the fabulous food and wine. I cannot think of a bad meal I had while I was there. From a simple caprese salad or pasta to multi-course meals (a special thanks to Alessandro of Casale del Cotone in San Gimignano for the amazing meal!), the food is fantastic.

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Italy is known for its wines and for good reason. Wine is produced all over Italy and throughout the Tuscan region. I went to two of these regions, Chianti and Montalcino where Brunello wines are produced. In Chianti I went on a wine tour which included two wineries and a visit to two medieval towns. I tasted many fabulous wines, including Chianti Classico and some reserved wines, plus the olive oil, truffle oil and balsamic vinegar produced at each respective winery.

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In Montalcino, I sampled various kinds of Brunello wines at the wine shop in the fortress. All of them were amazing! Brunello is becoming increasingly popular and winning awards. They can be more expensive than Chianti and started at about twenty euros a bottle at the fortress shop with many options to choose from.

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But you can also spend a lot more!

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The great thing about Tuscany is that you can find great food and wine at reasonable prices. Pasta at a small cafe can be inexpensive and delicious. Wine can be purchased in the grocery store for under a euro, and I have tried it and it wasn’t terrible, but not great either so I do recommend spending a bit more than that. Decent house wine can be found for six euros a litre, and a good bottle for nine or ten euros in many restaurants. Whatever your budget you can find a place to sample the wonderful food and wine of this region. Plus, the views cannot be beat!

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Rome – Truly the Eternal City

I decided to include Tuscany as part of my next trip to Europe. As I was having a glass of wine and looking through pictures of previous trips to Italy to gain some inspiration, I came across pictures of my trips to Rome. I absolutely love Rome.  Walking around the city past some of the most iconic ruins in the world never gets old. There is something about standing beside the Colosseum or wandering through the Roman Forum, sitting on the Spanish steps eating gelato or standing in St. Peter’s that just cannot be beat.

Roman Colloseum

Aside from the main monuments, every corner you turn in Rome could lead to another ruin as there are constant discoveries around the city.

Roman Ruins

Rome is also a great place to go as a single traveler. There is a lot to see, many other travelers to meet along the way as it is a popular spot on the tourist trail and lots of hostels or inexpensive hotels if you are on a budget. Plus most people in the touristy areas, main sites and restaurants speak English.  Rome is very walkable and easy to get around. Most of the main sites can be seen in one day (Colloseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Victorio Emanuele II monument, Piazza del Popolo and Trevi Fountain) and then another half day for Vatican City if you are in a hurry.  A more leisurely pace would still allow you to see everything in 2-3 full days. For single female travelers, the rumours about Italian men are generally true, they are flirtatious and persistent. However, if you aren’t interested I found a strong “no thanks” or simply walk away and although they may call out to you, they won’t follow you. As long as I was in the tourist areas I felt completely safe, even at night, and during the daytime I felt safe everywhere I went. As always, simply pay attention to your surroundings and you will be fine.

Pantheon

Pantheon

Forum

Roman Forum

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Of course another one of the great things to do in Rome is to enjoy the food and wine. The restaurants around Piazza Navona are quite good and sitting outside offers a great view of the piazza to take in the view and people watch.  However, my best meals in Rome have been when I’ve found a smaller restaurant along one of the winding streets or when I’ve ventured away from the main tourist areas.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a fantastic meal which makes it easy to enjoy the Italian cuisine on any budget. Grabbing some gelato is a must and so far I have not found a bad gelato place (although it is possible they exist, but I doubt it). You can find every flavour imaginable and the sizes range from small to gigantic. My personal favourite on a hot day is lemon or stracciatella.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

There are some great day trips from Rome. My favourites are Ostia Antica and Tivoli. Both are a short trip on public transit from Rome. To get to Ostia Antica take Metro Line B to Piramide or Magliana and then take the Ostia Lido train. To get to Tivoli take a local bus from Rome and then once in Tivoli there is a bus to Hadrian’s Villa.  Ostia Antica is the ruins of an ancient Roman port, similar to the ruins found at Pompeii but not covered in lava and with fewer people. You can walk through the ruins and take your time as there are no crowds.

Ostia Antica

Tivoli is a charming sixteenth century town where you can visit the Villa d’Este which contains beautiful gardens and fountains. From Tivoli you can take a short bus to Hadrian’s Villa built in the second century by Emperor Hadrian. It is an excellent representation of Roman architecture with plenty of ruins to explore and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tivoli Villa D'Este

Tivoli – Villa D’Este

Fountains - Villa D'Este

Fountains – Villa D’Este

Hadrian's Villa

Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian's Villa 2

Hadrian’s Villa

Whether you are a foodie, love history or simply want to say you have visited Rome, you won’t be disappointed.

Vatican at Night

View over the Tiber River of the Vatican at Night