GRAZIE, BELLA TUS­CANY

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - WHEN TO BOOK - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

If you’ve ever dreamt of spend­ing time un­der the Tus­can sun – in the birth­place of the Italian Re­nais­sance, the slow food move­ment and land of Chi­anti Clas­sico – chances are you haven’t en­vi­sioned rush­ing it. The beloved Italian re­gion is best ab­sorbed through lan­guid days spent hik­ing be­tween for­ti­fied hill­top vil­lages, en­joy­ing long lunches in bio­dy­namic vine­yards, cy­cling along­side golden wheat fields and sim­ply sit­ting in your pri­vate villa and liv­ing la dolce vita like a lo­cal.

G Ad­ven­tures Europe & Mid­dle East Prod­uct Man­ager, Sofia Mon­tezo, says, “Tus­cany was where the Italian lan­guage was born and ev­ery­one here is very proud of this.

“It also has some amaz­ing nat­u­ral hot springs, which most wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily as­so­ciate with the re­gion, but lo­cals will let you know where the good spots are.”

WHY VISIT

Tus­cany is the Sophia Loren of Italy – un­de­ni­ably beau­ti­ful, full-bod­ied and time­less. But be­sides its lyri­cal land­scapes and slow-liv­ing spirit, for many peo­ple it’s all about the food.

“Nearly ev­ery­one vis­it­ing Tus­cany walks away want­ing to learn to make duck pap­pardelle or picci pasta and how to make the de­li­cious crusty Tus­can bread,” Mon­tezo says. “We of­fer a hands-on bread mak­ing class on our Lo­cal Liv­ing Garfag­nana trip and our Lo­cal Liv­ing San Gimignano also in­cludes a Tus­can cook­ing class with picci and wild boar al­most al­ways guar­an­teed to be on the menu.”

Of course, with all the in­evitable in­dul­gence Tus­cany piles onto your plate, be­ing able to bal­ance food and wine with ex­plor­ing on foot is also ap­peal­ing.

“The Alpi Apuane re­gion in North­ern Tus­cany is a hid­den gem for walk­ing,” Mon­tezo says. “(There are) marked paths ev­ery­where, and you can ex­plore small vil­lages along the way as you make your way through beech forests and wild­flow­ers.

“Tus­cany’s rolling hills also make for fan­tas­tic and chal­leng­ing cy­cling. Hill towns like Pienza and Mon­tepul­ciano are re­warded with breath­tak­ing view­points.”

WHEN TO VISIT

You’ll avoid the crowds and en­joy pleas­ant tem­per­a­tures dur­ing spring (April, May, June) and au­tumn (Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber).

If you’re dead­set on sum­mer, it pays to be aware of the events hap­pen­ing through­out those months. The pa­tri­ar­chal Palio horse races take place in Siena in July and Au­gust – where 10 rid­ers rep­re­sent 10 of the 17 con­trade (city wards) and space for spec­ta­tors comes at a pre­mium – and there are sev­eral wine fes­ti­vals in late Septem­ber/early Oc­to­ber dur­ing the wine har­vest.

“I would rec­om­mend go­ing in the Fall (Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber) as this will co­in­cide with wine har­vests and you can roll up your sleeves and take part in the ‘vendem­mia’ (grape har­vest) and help lo­cals col­lect their grapes,” Mon­tezo says.

WHEN TO BOOK

“Any­where be­tween 3-6 months is ideal to en­sure you get the dates you want, es­pe­cially if you’re plan­ning on trav­el­ling in the peak months of July and Au­gust,” Mon­tezo says.

“The best deals for book­ing can often be found within 30 days of travel, but that is a very high risk to take as space can be lim­ited then. Jan­uary tends to be the most favourable time to book for those look­ing to travel in the sum­mer months (July/Au­gust).”

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