Flavours of Tuscany

Of the boot shaped peninsula’s twenty regions, you hear of foodie pilgrimages to Emilia Romagna and to Puglia, but lesser so to Tuscany, a region whose inhabitants are still routinely – and unjustly- referred to as ‘mangiafagioli’ (bean eaters).

But Tuscany is good at food, excellent in fact.

It is a region where cucina povera reigns supreme, where the phrase ‘fresh and seasonal produce’ is roaringly true; a land of spicy salamis, crumbly pecorino cheeses, plump Jerusalem artichokes, olive oil, truffles, almond biscuits, and of deep, rich chianti wine.

If you’re off to Tuscany, here’s a list of delicious foods to sample. Read it and don’t tell anyone – it’s best kept a secret.

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The perfect romantic weekend in Florence

Lovers have scampered to Florence for centuries. Verona may have Romeo, and Venice may have singing gondoliers, but Florence has glorious hulking bistecca alla fiorentina steaks washed down with great carafes of rich chianti winesecluded walks in sprawling renaissance gardens, hill-top sunsets, and art, architecture and aperitivi aplomb. 

Florence is a city which doesn’t need too much of an itinerary, but if you’re planning a long weekend with your beloved, you’ll want to know how to make the most of it.

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FIVE TIPS: HOW TO TAKE A TRAIN IN ITALY

Travelling by train is one of the best ways to get around Italy. It doesn't involve sitting on an orange plastic seat, or waiting next to 'fermata' sign with no shelter for twenty minutes. It doesn't require a stomach of steel and a hefty insurance fee. It's a relative inexpensive, relatively regular service, which usually passes through some rather beautiful towns, villages and countryside. 

That doesn't mean it's easy though.  For the unsuspecting tourist, it can prove a rather traumatic experience. Following my haphazard introduction to the Italian train network,  I've written some top tips for all you novices out there. 

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A Budget Guide to Portofino

Portofino is the jewel of the Italian Riviera. The town has long since abandoned all pretences of being a fishing village and affluent tourists have flocked to its picture perfect shores since the mid 1800s. Synonymous with style and infinite glamour, it’s where Richard Burton first proposed to Elizabeth Taylor. Today, it’s a hot spot for the wealthy and glamorous; the town is dominated by luxury boutiques, high-end hotels and well heeled yachtsman. 

Whilst it might reek of refined luxury, it is still possible for those on even a shoe-string budget to enjoy the sights. Here’s my guide on how: 

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Things you need to see and do in Chiavari

You might not have heard of this Medieval Ligurian City. Perched between the promontory of Portofino and Mongelia, in the heart of the Gulf of Tigullio, this busy town is regularly skipped from guide books and hasn't really made a dent on Instagram.

It’s not as pretty as neighboring fishing villages like Camogli, it doesn't have enough galleries and museums to warrant a day trip for most tour groups and, (to date) it is one of the least aesthetically pleasing beaches I have ever seen. Great swathes of grey gravel in front of a busy road does not a dream seaside resort make. 

Yet, there’s something very charming and quintessentially Italian about this underrated town. 

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Camogli: the prettiest place on the Italian Riviera

Camogli is astonishingly charming. It is almost as if the entire town was constructed under the watchful eye of a small Italian woman roaring ‘paint all the houses in varying shades of pastel, make sure every building has a sea view and dear god make sure it has a robust culinary culture!’ Glorious grey pebble beaches, sea-front osteria and pizzeria, artisan shops and sunset aperativos - it’s the perfect Italian seaside destination and the best place to base yourself for a trip to the Italian Riviera.

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An Insider's Guide to Bologna: Terracotta Towers and Tortellini

- COLLABORATION WITH RYANAIR- 

Tortellini. Lasagne. Mortadella. Bologna is a city which has earned its accolades as a gastronomic paradise by giving the world some of Italy’s best loved dishes, including that glorious rich meaty ragù we’ve all come to know and love as ‘bolognese’. There is a reason one of the city’s many nicknames is ‘la grassa’ (the fat one); it is where diets come to die. Here’s your insider’s guide.

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Sagra del Pesce & Festa di San Fortunato

Every year, on the second weekend of May, thousands of visitors flock to the small fishing village of Camogli in Liguria, for the annual two day celebration of ‘Sagra del Pesce’ and 'Festa di San Fortunato'. 

It’s one of Camogli’s busiest weekends; incorporating spectacular fireworks, two huge bonfires, the racing of a life-size Saint up the steps of the Basilica, and culminating in the distribution of thousands of plates of fried fish from the world’s largest frying pan on the Sunday. It's bonkers. 

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Visit Genoa: What to see and what to do

So you’ve booked a break to the Italian Riviera. Perhaps you’re en-route to a picturesque fishing village like Portofino or Camogli, or in for a hike across the Cinque Terre. You’re due to land in Genoa, a place you haven't heard all that much about, and you’re unsure whether to stick around for a day or two. 

Do. 

There’s no doubt about it, Genoa is a working city. It’s grubbier than Venice and Florence, but its a city with a pulse - lively, incoherent and messy. It’s crammed full of narrow carrugi, old markets, small museums and huge palaces, with a plethora of art, antiquities and delicious food. 

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Notes on Napoli

I’ll be frank. I’d assumed my trip to Naples would entail a semi-joyless few days of inhaling tomato infused stodge, running around Roman ruins and artfully dodging both Italian gangs on the look-out for unfastened handbags and disappointed tourists in large hats regretting their decisions to venture out of well-trodden Sorento.

I was wrong. 

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The Fashion Lover’s Guide to Milan

We all know that they’re good at fashion in Milan. Home to Versace, Gucci and Prada, it’s one of the four fashion capitals of the world. But you won’t just spot style on the runway. Style leaks into every crevice of Milan – the city lives and breathes it. With Milan Fashion Week just around the corner, we’ve put together a quick guide to the most stylish places to shop, eat and drink in the city.

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Alessandra D'AlmoLombardy, Milan
You really need to visit Basilicata

Basilicata. Heard of it? Perhaps not. It is, after all, as The Telegraph described it, ‘the forgotten corner of Italy’.

Basilicata makes up the instep of Italy, flanked by Calabria in the toe and Puglia in the heel. Whilst the terrain is largely mountainous, the region is equally famous for its great swathes of white sand, turquoise waters and grandiose archaeological parks.

 

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