Travel Bulletin - - ITALY -

Italy is time­less: a coun­try steeped in his­tory, with strik­ing scenery and some of the best food on earth. Italy is also a land of con­trasts, made up of 20 dif­fer­ent re­gions, each with its own dis­tinc­tive cul­ture, his­tory and culi­nary de­lights. Nathalie Craig shares some of her favourite ex­pe­ri­ences from the boot-shaped coun­try.

On en­ter­ing the Tus­cany re­gion in Cen­tral Italy I want noth­ing more than to soak up La Dolce Vita. Our home base is the restored Agri­t­ur­ismo B&B, Tenuta Scac­ciavolpe, in the rolling hills of Livorno. Like a scene from Un­der the Tus­can Sun, the eigh­teenth-cen­tury farm­house is set on 180 hectares of fer­tile land where or­ganic grapes are grown for San­giovese and Treb­biano wines along with olives for ex­tra vir­gin olive oil. Each morn­ing we en­joy a feast of freshly brewed cof­fee, ar­ti­san breads, pas­tries and freshly-laid eggs from the farm. Some days we lounge by the pool with an­tipasto and lo­cal wine, while oth­ers we ven­ture to the sur­round­ing towns and vil­lages. In the me­dieval hill town of San Gimignano we spend the day climb­ing the famous stone tow­ers, built as sym­bols of wealth and power by the pa­tri­cian fam­i­lies who once con­trolled the town. In Lucca we hire bikes and take a leisurely cy­cle around the city’s well-pre­served Re­nais­sance walls. One sleepy af­ter­noon we seek out a late lunch in the nearby town of Vi­carello. In a back­street restau­rant, we’re wel­comed by a small, spir­ited Ital­ian wo­man of­fer­ing us warm, salty fo­cac­cia pulled straight from a wood fired oven. The menu has no English trans­la­tion. We speak al­most no Ital­ian, the wo­man al­most no English. In an ef­fort to help us un­der­stand the menu, she brings out dried pasta shapes, hold­ing them up and match­ing them to each menu item as we bond over the uni­ver­sal lan­guage of food. In the evenings we re­turn to the farm­house for an or­ganic, home­made meal. The vin­tage ta­bles are set out­side, with a pris­tine view of the sun set­ting over the bales of hay and vine cov­ered hill­sides.


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