Traveling to Tuscany and looking for travel tips?
You’ve come to the right place! This article covers all the essential information you need to know before visiting Tuscany, especially if you are traveling with us.
Brief history of Italy
The history of modern Italy starts with the Roman Republic, founded in Rome in the 8th century BC and evolving into an empire in the 6th century BC. It was this empire which dominated most of Italy as well as southern Europe and North Africa for well over a millennia.
The Roman Empire thrived and expanded across the Mediterranean until the 5th century AD, with the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, when it disintegrated into several separate states.
Some of these such as the Venetian and Genovese States, continued to rise through trade, shipping and commerce, while other parts of Italy, especially the south, fell under the influence of other crowns.
Even during the 16th century Renaissance period, which originated in Florence and spread across Europe, Italy was still fragmented and made up of several states and republics.
During the 18th century, what we today know as Italy was heavily divided and subject to the results of the many wars of succession in Europe, with the northern territories belonging to the Austrian Empire and the southern part unified into the Spanish Crown.
Wars were so common that the various regions of Italy changed hands multiple times.
It was when Napoleon conquered most of the country during the French Revolution that the country was first called the Kingdom of Italy and mostly unified.
But it was not until later on, in 1861, after the war of independence led by national hero Garibaldi, that the whole of Italy was finally unified under one country.
Notwithstanding, the country did not become what we know it today to be until WWII when fascist Mussolini, a WWI veteran, rose to power and joined Nazi Germany.
At the end of the war, the civil war that ensued, and the death of Mussolini, Italy reinstated democracy and developed financially to become one of the founding members of the
Quick facts about Italy, Tuscany and Florence
Italy is one of the most beloved countries in Europe. The birthplace of Renaissance, home of great food and incredibly diverse and beautiful landscapes.
Familiarize yourself with the country and the region of Tuscany to better prepare for your trip.
Fun and interesting facts about Italy
To understand Florence and Tuscany, one must first have an insight into Italy through some of its fun and interesting facts.
- In Italy, like in Spain, many businesses will close at lunch time for a break. They usually close the store, go home, cook lunch and maybe sneak in a quick nap. That means that shopping, especially in smaller towns, needs to wait until shops reopen again at 4pm. It is also common for shops to be closed on Sundays.
- Did you know there are two countries completely landlocked by Italy? That’s right, The Vatican, which you probably knew about, and San Marino on the eastern coast.
- Italy has the most UNESCO world heritage sites in the world closely followed by Spain and China. Entire towns such as Siena or Pienza are listed, as are landscapes and other historic sites.
- Shakespeare loved Italy and in fact 13 of his plays are set there, although we can’t be sure he ever went.
- Italy is home to many active volcanoes, most notably Mount Etna and Stromboli, both of which are pretty active, and Mount Vesuvius which famously preserved Pompeii under layers of lava and ash.
- In normal times, Italy receives more than 60 million visitors a year making it the 5th most visited country in the world.
- Italians are born investors and we can thank them for having come up with corrective eye glasses, the first bank, ice cream cones, the jacuzzi, cologne batteries and thermometers.
- Italy is one of the top-10 largest economies in the world. Member of the G7, G20 and founding member of NATO and the European Union.
- More than half of Italian men live with their mothers and this has been considered by the Church as one of the biggest risks to marriage in Italy, perhaps also the reason why the country has the lowest birthrate in Europe.
- Italians don’t fear number 13 but number 17 which in Roman numerals is XVII and can be rearranged to spell I have lived, or death.
- Did you know that the regular Italian alphabet does not contain letters J, K, W, X or Y?
- There are more than 140 kinds of pasta and each shape is not just chosen for fun but because it best matches the sauce or condiment. Therefore, don’t change the type of pasta when ordering something off the menu, there is a reason why the two are paired together.
- Pasta is a very old dish eaten since the 14th century at least.
Fun and interesting facts about Tuscany
Tuscany is one of the most culturally developed regions of Italy and was an independent Kingdom for many centuries before reunification, thus it developed its own traditions and heritage.
- Tuscany is about the size of Israel and has fewer than 4 million inhabitants.
- There are lots of thermal baths in the Tuscany region believed to have curative powers. Some of the thermal spas are extremely beautiful and set in majestic and elegant environments.
- The Italian language as we know it today originated in Tuscany in the 14th century through the writings of Dante Alligheri.
- There are 8 UNESCO sites in Tuscany and we visit almost all of them during our tour: Florence, Pisa, Sienna, San Gimignano, Pienza, the landscape of Val d’Orcia and the 12 Medici villas and pleasure gardens. The UNESCO site of Montecatini Terme is also part of a UNESCO listing of great spa towns in Europe.
- Tuscany is the birthplace of many famous artists and scientists: Dante Alligheri, Michelangelo, Fibonacci, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Machiavelli, Puccini, Botticelli and Vespucci.
- Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, in Tuscany.
- Many of the medieval villages and towns in Tuscany maintain their walls intact or largely intact. For example, you can see them in Pienza, Lucca and Monteggiori.
- Pope Pius II designed Pienza to be the perfect city.
- Excalibur, or the Sword in the Stone, can be found in an Abbey near Siena and it is at least one of the many swords that were thrust into a rock by soldiers turned monks never to be pulled out. You can visit it but whether it is the original or not is another story.
Fun and interesting facts about Florence
The city of Florence is fascinating and at the centre of so much of what makes Italy such a wonderful country to visit, so here are some fun and interesting facts about it.
- Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance movement. Here is where you can find the most famous pieces such as the Statue of David at The Accademia Gallery. The historic centre of the city has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.
- The first paved roads in Europe can be found in Florence dating back to the 14th century.
- Just after unification, Florence was made the capital of Italy before it was moved to Rome.
- Florence is so beautiful that it may cause Stendhal Syndrome, also known as Florence Syndrome. Defined by Stendhal when he visited the basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, it defines a condition by which someone feels so much beauty that it causes him or her anxiety, palpitations, rapid heartbeat and even hallucinations.
- Florence is home to the third largest church in the world, the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore. Only The Vatican and St. Paul’s in London are larger.
- Ice cream was invented in Florence by architect Bernardo Buontalenti and you can still enjoy the original recipe at Gelateria Badiani.
- The death penalty as first abolished in Florence at the end of the 18th century.
- Ponte Vecchio, the city’s famous colorful bridge over the River Arno, was once home to grocers and butchers who would throw their leftovers in the river. These were replaced by goldsmiths when the smell of rotting food became excessive. There is a secret passage on the bridge called the Vasari corridor which can be visited.
Tuscany travel tips
In this section we want to share general Tuscany travel tips to help you plan your trip.
When to visit
Tuscany enjoys generally mild weather but winters can get pretty cold and see snow in some parts. It’s important to remember that the region stretches all the way from the sea to the interior and hence the milder coastal towns may enjoy warmer weather while the continental parts see greyer winters.
The peak months for travel to Tuscany are August and September.
August sees Italians flocking to the coastal regions because almost all businesses will close for the entire month forcing staff to take time off. September is the busiest month for visitors, especially from the US, because the weather is very nice and it’s the time for the wine harvest. You can expect prices to be higher while places book out ahead of time.
Especially during the second half of July and first half of August, temperatures in Tuscany can be sticky and unpleasant which is why we always avoid this period.
June is a beautiful month as days are the longest and summer solstice celebrations mean music and dance are never too far.
Autumn is a great time to visit Tuscany for olive oil, truffle hunting and wine making. Winter in Tuscany can be dark and cold but gets cozied up thanks to Christmas markets and decorations that will carry until 6th of January like in Spain.
Passport and visa requirements for Italy
Get your passport and travel documents in check before your trip to avoid any delays at the border.
- Visa. Italy is part of the Schengen zone so you should check if you need a visa in advance with the official resource here. A Schengen visa will allow you to travel for 90 days within a 180 day period in the Schengen zone but typically, your visa application needs to be for the first country you will be landing at. While the general process is similar for all countries within the zone, the requirements do change and can take weeks to process so allow enough time for this. If you are unsure about the visa application process you can use a service such as iVisa to do it for you.
- Validity. We strongly recommend that you make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after departure and has 2 empty pages.
Health and safety
Italy’s universal healthcare system is great and most towns will have a local clinic for small emergencies while bigger hospitals are available in larger cities.
- Bring all the medication you’ll need. While during your trip to Tuscany you will never be too far from an urban center, a doctor, a hospital and a pharmacy, it is strongly recommended to bring any prescription medication you may need and enough of it to last you the entire trip.
Your specific medication may not exist in Italy, or it may require a prescription you need to see a doctor for, save time and hassle by bringing everything you may need with you. Review what you should bring in your first aid kit here.
IMPORTANT: Make sure any prescription medication comes in its original pharmacy packaging, and with the corresponding doctor note and prescription to avoid issues at the border. It is your responsibility to check that whatever medication you bring can indeed be taken into Italy. What may be legal in your country, or even sold over the counter, could be a controlled substance elsewhere. Check the legal requirements to bring controlled substances into Italy here and take note of the documentation needed.
- Get that coverage. We never leave the house without purchasing extensive medical and travel insurance coverage and this is why we make it mandatory to join our tours. While in Italy you will be helped in case of a medical emergency whether you can afford it or not thanks to a universal healthcare system, you should make sure that you have adequate medical insurance to cover any unforeseen medical expenses.
Unexpected accidents do happen, and if you needed to be evacuated back home with an injury, the medical bill could bankrupt you. It is also unfair to expect Italians to pay for your medical treatment with their taxes. The best travel insurance will differ for each traveler, depending on the nature, style, and length of your trip, so we recommend using an aggregator and comparison tool such as Travel Insurance Masters to find the right one for you depending on what coverage you want, age, location, trip, etc.
- Tap water. Generally, tap water should be safe for drinking but you should always double check, especially in farm houses. Bring a water bottle with you to top up at the public fountains.
- Staying safe. Italy is a generally very safe country to travel to. However, in popular tourist areas or attractions, pickpockets operate and have become quite smart and elaborate in their scams and theft operations. Always keep your valuables safe and your bag in the front and zipped. Slash and theft proof cross-body bags are a great idea, and in crowded areas, keep your arm on your bag’s zipper for extra protection.
If something is to happen to you, you will most likely not even notice, but look out for situations in which anyone is trying to distract you by trying to sell you something, talking to you or drawing your attention to anything while a partner steals your wallet or phone. And don’t fall for the photo ops with gladiators and other characters, unless you are fine with giving them a tip. Read our full article on safety tips here.
- Passport copies. All hotels are required by law to take a picture of your passport so don’t be alarmed if they do.
Basic Italian words
In tourist places in Italy, you will always find someone who can speak at least basic English, and menus in popular towns and cities will be available in English, though if a restaurant offers the menu outside and in English with pictures, you know who eats there.
The Italian language was formed in Tuscany in the Middle Ages thanks to the work of writers such as Dante Aligheri (from the Divine Comedy), and while Italy has lots of regional dialects, all Italians speak Italian.
Learn some local phrases with language apps, which will help you out and show locals you made an effort. Below are the most useful ones.
- “Ciao” is hello and goodbye but is rather informal.
- When you enter a shop, you could say ciao but it would be more polite to say “buon giorno” for good day or “buona sera” for good evening.
- “Arrivederci” is goodbye.
- “A presto” for see you soon.
- “Per favore” is please.
- “Grazie” is thank you.
- “Prego” is a useful word used to mean “you are welcome”, or as a response when someone says thank you.
- “Non capisco” means I don’t understand.
- “Scuzi” is sorry.
- “Quanto costa” to ask for the price of something.
- “Acqua liscia / gassata” for still or sparkling water.
- “Come stai?” is how are you.
- Italians say “Salute” when clicking glasses.
- “Il conto” when asking for the bill.
And remember, if you see Italians shouting it does not mean they are having an argument, they could well be having a passionate conversation or talking about football.
Italy is a very regional country with huge differences from province to province in terms of food, gastronomy and traditions. While a lot of the tips below are applicable to all of Italy there are some Tuscany-specific travel considerations too.
- Getting to and around Italy. There are many major airports in Italy to land at (Rome, Milan, Naples and Florence for example) but a great way to travel across the country is by taking the high-speed trains which are clean, on time, affordable and offer free WiFi. We prefer to take them to go from our trip destinations, from Amalfi to Venice and Tuscany.
You can find the timetable and get tickets on TrenItalia in advance. Remember to always validate your ticket on the machines before boarding the train to avoid a fine. Having a ticket is not enough. Uber or other international hailing apps do not exist in Italy. The closest to that is MyTaxi. Check out more useful travel apps to get around here.
- Public holidays. Italy has several public holidays and during these days, most businesses will be closed, this means attractions such as museums may not be open. Plan around the most important ones such as Christmas Day (25th December), Boxing Day (26th December), New Year’s Day (1st January), Epiphany (6th January) and Easter Friday and Monday (changing every year), St. Mary (15th August) and All Saints Day (1st November).
- Air conditioning. It can be really hot in the summer months in Tuscany yet many places don’t have AC. All the hotels and villas we stay at have air conditioning units but it is always worth checking in advance.
- Have an ID with you. It is a legal requirement in Italy to carry an ID with you at all times though we recommend leaving the passport at home while carrying a local ID or driving license with you instead.
- Staying connected. Public free WiFi hotspots are not really a thing so explore roaming options with your home mobile provider or get a local SIM card at the airport or in town at tabaccheria stores to stay connected. Make sure your phone is unlocked so that a foreign SIM card will work, and get the store staff to help you set up the new SIM card before leaving the shop so they can help you with any settings that need changing.
- Public toilets. Not really a thing in Italy but all bars and restaurants are required to let you use their facilities for free. We recommend a small purchase out of appreciation.
- Dual voltage. Many small and older appliances that you may use back home may not work in Italy (or other European countries). This is because the voltage is not the same. If you have an old appliance, consider leaving it home, most hotels have hair dryers.
Money and currency
In Italy, only Euros are accepted and no other currency. Bring both cash and cards because while cards are widely accepted, they will not be everywhere or for smaller purchases. Minimum amounts may be required to pay by card.
Carry small notes for small purchases. If you try to pay for a gelato with a 50 Euro note, the staff will not be happy. Tips are almost always given in cash.
Local culture and customs
Italians are affectionate, passionate and loud. These are not stereotypes but rather cultural traits that will help you understand culture better.
- Loud talk is not an argument. Two people yelling in the street at each other may not be having an argument but rather talking emphatically about their day.
- Dress appropriately. Even when the weather is hot, shoulders and knees should be covered inside churches and religious buildings so a shawl or scarf can come in handy. And remember that you will be walking on lots of cobblestone streets and that good walking shoes are a must. Really flat sandals with no support may become quite uncomfortable after a while and closed shoes that are non-slip are probably best. Click here to read our Tuscany packing list.
- Hand gestures. A bit like Spanish and some Latin American cultures, Italian culture uses face expressions and hand gestures to express an idea. When talking to an Italian don’t be surprised if they use their hands and gesture a lot.
Tipping in Italy is more common than in Spain or Iceland but far less than in the US, and it should be a sign of appreciation for great service not a standard action.
You should generally tip at food establishments and not doing so would make the staff think they did a bad job. However, if the service was not good, you should not tip.
As tipping is generally done in cash, mostly in coins, it’s important to carry enough 50 cent, 1 and 2 EUR coins with you. You should leave the tip with the bill or tell the staff to keep the change (e.g. if you give a 50 EUR note for a 47 EUR bill). At a bar, you would leave it on the bar. Credit card machines don’t usually have a way to add a tip.
- At a restaurant: Round up to the nearest EUR (e.g. if the bill is 22 EUR give 25 EUR) or 10% at finer restaurants. You can tell the waiter to keep the change or leave the change on the table.
- At a bar: Leave a coin (e.g. if the bill is 1,5 EUR leave the smallest coin you got as change).
- Light meal / Aperitivo: 1-2 EUR per person.
- Guides: You may tip 5 EUR per person for a full day tour.
- Hotel staff who help you with your luggage: 1 EUR per bag.
- Housekeeping: Not common.
- Free tours: Yes, whatever you feel is fair for the tour. You can also see the price of regular tours for a benchmark.
You should not tip if the bill mentions “Servizio”, this means the tip has already been added. This rarely happens and you are only going to find it in high end restaurants. If you’re still confused on how tipping works, there are travel apps like GlobeTips that can help you calculate how much you should tip in each destination.
Food and gastronomy are essential to any trip to Italy, so let us tell you more about eating habits and customs, as well as the best dishes to try in Tuscany.
Eating in Tuscany – What to expect
Italians eat later than other countries but not as late as Spaniards. Lunch is usually at 1pm and dinner from 7:30pm.
There is a huge coffee culture in Italy, but not in the way that Australians may interpret that. Italians call a bar what you may think of as a cafe, a place that is open during the day and serves snacks, maybe even a light meal and drinks such as coffee, not a place with music, alcohol and party, though alcohol is served.
Worth noting that “bars” are places for a quick break, that is, you don’t go there to lounge and sit down but to enjoy a drink or quick snack often at the bar.
If you sit down to enjoy your time, especially if you choose a terrace or outdoor space, expect a table service charge to be added which can often be more than the price of an espresso.
Besides the table service charge, there is also a “coperto” or cover charge which is usually a fee for cutlery and bread charged per person.
This is a historical charge also often found in Spain, that is hard to understand today other than for the bread that you get. You can’t get away from paying it as it is a default charge, but it is usually mentioned on the menu.
In terms of picking where to eat in Tuscany, best to avoid places that look like they were designed for tourists (picture menus, English translations, waiters waving you in in your native language, etc.), it is also highly recommended to avoid sitting at the main square if you are on a budget. Trattorias and osterias are good local options to enjoy an authentic meal by yourself.
We love to watch people and that is what makes Italian squares amazing, but you should expect the show to come at the price of a high coperto and table service charge plus most likely inflated prices. Be aware to avoid disappointment.
Best Tuscan foods to try
When talking about food in Italy, it is also worth remembering that a lot of the dishes you may be used to seeing in Italian menus abroad are not in fact Italian.
Dishes like pasta Alfredo, spaghetti bolognese, pizza with pineapple on pizza pepperoni are an American invention and if it’s on a menu in Italy you know who the restaurant is for. Oh and latte is milk, so if you want a coffee with milk be sure to order a cappuccino or a latte macchiato; just latte will get you a glass of milk.
The vast regional wealth of Italian cuisine means that some dishes are only found in one place. For example, pizza and pasta are everywhere but the toppings or sauce changes dramatically, and famous foods such as cannoli are from Sicily and not really found anywhere else.
Pro tip: Italians don’t eat pasta with a spoon, they simply twirl the spaghetti around the fork.
Here are some of the best dishes, though beware that many may not be in season when you visit:
- Florentine steak: Perhaps the most famous meat dish from Tuscany is a regional specialty t-bone steak that can come in sizes as big as 1kg and cooked for sharing. The meat is cooked on an open fire or grill and will be served rare and with fries.
- Chicken liver pâté crostini: Said to be the inspiration for French foie gras, chicken liver pate served on top of a thin slice of toast is a popular way to start a meal in Tuscany.
- Ribollita: Bean stew that is often eaten the next day (hence the name, reboiled).
- Pecorino cheese: During our tour of Tuscany, we will be spending time at a cheese farm that specializes in this amazing sheep’s cheese.
- Ricciarelli: Almond cookies originally from Siena that are typical of Christmas but can be bought throughout the year.
- Salumi: Like in Spain, Italians eat a lot of cured meats of all kinds and this is the name used to refer to all. In Tuscany there are a lot of cured meat options as meat is fantastic. Local pigs are of the cinta sinese breed and dark skinned.
- Cantucci: Dry, crunchy, half moon almond cookies that are even sold in Starbucks and called biscotti are a specialty of Tuscany and wonderful with vin santo, a desert, late harvest wine from the region.
- Pappardelle al cinghiale: Pappardelle is a very common pasta type in Tuscany and with the delicious wild meat available in the region, this dish should come as no surprise. Essentially made with a wild boar ragu, pappardelle al cinghiale is a rich and yummy dish that has pretty much everything that makes Tuscany unique.
- Schiacciata: A sort of thinner, crunchier version of focaccia that is as delicious.
- Panzanella: A fresh salad with chopped tomatoes, onions and stale bread that is commonly available during the summer months and was invented at a time of economic hardship.
- Gelato: Ice cream in Italy is creamy and soft and served everywhere in the summer but not all gelato stores are the same, we can only recommend you try a few and learn the difference for yourself.
Best Tuscan drinks
Tuscan food is also best paired with an Italian drink.
Across Italy, you will always find Vino della casa (house wine). Wine is pervasive and fantastic in Italy and in casual eateries, it is common to offer house wine with meals. This is bought wholesale and served in a jar (250ml, half a litre or a litre) for a very modest price. If it’s not on the menu, ask about it.
Aperitivo is enjoyed before dinner and consists of a drink (does not have to be alcoholic) and some snacks which could include bruschetta, cheese, cold cuts, olives, tomato, etc. along with great conversation.
If you like coffee, you’re in for a treat in Italy. Just know that Italians drink espresso-based coffee, 14 million a year, and that the amount of coffee is small and intense.
Large cups of watery coffee are just not a thing in Italy. When you order a coffee, it will be an espresso by default, you don’t need to specify (un caffè -> an espresso).
Tuscany is very famous for its incredible wines, in particular, for the highest quality Appellation of Origins, Chianti Classico wines and Brunello di Montalcino wines.
Chianti Classico wines have been made since the 13th century, and the tradition of winemaking in the region dates back to the Etruscan times.
The wines are made with at least 75% Sangiovese grapes in order to qualify for certification, and are unique in their ruby red color, full-body experience and personality.
Chianti Classico wines are easily picked from the rest because of the black rooster seal on their bottles that is a unique sign of authenticity. The long roots and incomparable heritage of Tuscany are forever embedded in the wines of Chianti Classico in a way that evokes romance, literature and Renaissance art.
The black rooster seal originates in a Medieval legend. The legend talks about a territorial dispute between the villages of Siena and Florence over the Chianti region. To solve it, both villages agreed to a horse race.
Two knights were to leave their villages at the crack of dawn, as soon as the rooster would sing, and meet their contender at the border point. Wherever that line was would be the future border between Siena and Florence.
While the rooster from Florence was kept in a cage and hungry for a few days before the race, the Siena one was not.
On the day, the Florence rooster, angry and hungry, was released and sang much earlier than sunrise and so the knight left earlier and managed to ride farther than the Siena knight, defining the new border between the two villages much closer to Siena’s walls.
Also produced from Sangiovese, the Brunello di Montalcino wines are made from a clone of Sangiovese called Brunello, hence the name combining the town the grape is grown in with the type of grape.
The Brunello grapes have a thicker skin than the regular Sangiovese and that gives them higher acidity and tannins, something which makes them highly age-worthy and gives them their unique DNA.
What makes Brunello di Montalcino an even more exclusive and premium wine is the regulations to which it has to adhere.
Brunello di Montalcino wines cannot be released into the market until they have completed 5 years of aging. That means that there are no young wines available because the appellation has strict rules on their aging.
Younger Brunello wines from Montalcino are classified as Rosso di Montalcino and can be released within just a year of aging.
So when you are drinking a Brunello di Montalcino you know you are enjoying some of the most premium and oldest wines, even at the entry level.
Below the DOCG level is DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata and then there is another set of wines that do not meet the strict requirements of either and are classified as IGT, the Indicazione Geografica Tipica.
This classification gives a wider range of choices in terms of wine production, ageing and grape varietals to be used by the winemakers so the final product can differ significantly from winemaker to winemaker. There is also a lower denomination for the lowest quality wines called Vino di tavola or table wine (mentioned above). These classifications are the same across all wine regions in the world.
In the 1970s, when the IGT had yet to be defined and the DOCG did not exist, winemakers in the Chianti region wanted to update the old definitions of the DOC which stated that Chianti Classico wines had to be made with Sangiovese in conjunction with white grapes.
This gave the resulting bottle a fruity character that did not age well and positioned Italian wines below the French equivalent in international markets.
Some revolutionary winemakers at the time decided to forgo the DOC denomination and produce wines which paired Sangiovese with other international grape varietals like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. The term Super Tuscan was born like that, as an expression of the winemaker’s rebellion against Italian bureaucracy and their willingness to play in the international markets.
The choice of an English word was not a coincidence as the US market was booming at the time and the producers wanted to appeal to that consumer. Because of the international varieties used, Super Tuscans were priced much higher than the DOC bottles and have always been positioned as premium wines in the US.
Fast forward to today and Super Tuscan wines can still be defined by a wider range of grape varietals, from 100% Sangiovese to 100% Merlot.
Some of the originally created Super Tuscan wines today qualify as DOCG now that the stricter rules have been amended and up to 25% of the grapes used for a Chianti Classico can be foreign varietals like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, but many established brands proudly eschew adhering to an official appellation.
A lot of winemakers think that Super Tuscans are losing importance as a concept because the existing DOCG rules allow for fantastic wines to be produced, as proved by my four previous wines.
However, some winemakers still prefer to call their wines Super Tuscan rather than Chianti Classico, especially in the international market like in the US.
Identifying a Super Tuscan in a wine store is not easy because they sometimes fall under the IGT classification, sometimes as Chianti Classico, sometimes as Chianti.
However, there are specific wines that have become famous Super Tuscans and which the public identifies with this concept directly. Some of them became more powerful than any DOC, DOCG or region of origin and are bought and drank by wine connoisseurs regardless.
A sommelier may suggest a Super Tuscan at a restaurant, or a wine pairing dinner may use that label and now you know where it comes from.
Books about or set in Tuscany
Tuscany’s stardom is partly thanks to the many books and movies set in the region which captivated audiences across the world. To better understand the region, have a look at a few of the below books:
- Under the Tuscan sun: After divorce, the main character decides to visit Italy and subsequently falls in love with a house, with a man and with life in Italy. You can also read her follow up novels, In Tuscany and Every day in Tuscany.
- Eat, Pray, Love: The most famous of all the books set in Tuscany follows the author’s journey through rebuilding her life in Tuscany, India and Bali and showcases the everyday of the region through her eyes.
- Much ado about nothing: Another of Shakespeare’s stories set in Tuscany, in particular in Greve in Chianti and Pienza.
- The agony and the ecstasy: Biographical story of Michelangelo, Italy’s most celebrated painter, by Irving Stone.
- A room with a view: A 1908 novel that tells life in Tuscany as it was, and for the most part, may still be today.
- Welcome to the Tuscan dream: With all the love letters and positive accounts of Tuscany, this book shows a less romanticized version of it with doses of day to day realism.
- Behind the Medici men: The ladies: Have you ever wondered about the female side of Florence’s most famous family? This book tells you all about the Medici mothers, wives and sisters.
Movies and shows about or set in Tuscany
You can thank the movie industry for most of the images we all have about Tuscany in our heads. Eat, Pray, Love and Under the Tuscan Sun portrayed this relaxed and laid-back part of Italy as the place to enjoy the quiet and bucolic life.
If you want to immerse yourself in the vibe of the region, here are some of the movies you should watch.
- Life is beautiful: Beningni’s masterpiece where he directed and starred, won Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Dramatic Score. The movie tells the story of a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp during WWII along with his family and his incredible creativity to make his children believe they are somewhere else.
- Obsession: Brian de Palma’s love story takes place in Florence.
- The English patient: A love story set at the end of WWII recounts the relationship between an English soldier and a nurse caring for him. This movie was widely awarded at the Oscars.
- Stealing beauty: A story of a teenager who becomes a woman in the hills of Siena where she visits with family friends after her mother’s death.
- Quantum of solace: James Bond 22nd movie has several scenes shot in Tuscany, especially Siena and Talamone.
- Inferno: It seems we have a penchant for Dan Brown’s stories with our tours. One of Dr. Robert Langdon’s stories happens in Florence and the other in Barcelona.
- Lost in Florence: A romantic drama set in Florence where a football player stays after heartbreak.
- Medici, masters of Florence: This show follows the story of Florence’s most famous family, patrons of the arts Medici.
- I Medici: Another great show on the famous family produced by Italian national TV Rai 1 and now available on Prime.
- Luna Nera: A fantasy Netflix show that has a trio of female main characters.
Many of the books set in Tuscany have been made into movies.