Autumn in Tuscany is the season of grapevines turned golden within the solar. It’s a time to cherish the fruits of the earth and the vine. Eating places put up handwritten indicators touting recent porcini mushrooms, and small cities maintain sagras, festivals celebrating native meals and historical past.
Residing in Florence over the previous few years, I’ve relished taking quick native practice excursions throughout the area of Tuscany, which is subdivided into 10 provinces, every with a capital metropolis, and every with a special character, presiding saints, people traditions and culinary specialties.
Listed below are three day journeys on regional trains that may take you to a few provinces. All of the trains go away from the large central Florence practice station, Santa Maria Novella, proper within the heart of the town. Purchase your tickets prematurely — I take advantage of Trainline, or you should buy tickets from machines within the station, which supply English directions. The trains themselves transfer comparatively slowly, stopping at small stations that the AV, or Alta Velocità (high-speed), trains whiz proper previous. Some could also be trendy three-car commuter trains; others will remind you of European trains you might have taken years in the past, with no assigned seat numbers and home windows that may be opened.
On Sundays in October the Tuscan city of Marradi holds its chestnut competition, with meals stalls, music and the pervasive scent of chestnuts roasting. However visiting any day of the week will immerse you in chestnut season.
About 28 miles northeast of Florence, Marradi is in a broad inexperienced valley known as the Mugello, which claims connections to each Giotto and Dante. On the practice journey there (see beneath for info), you’ll move olive groves, cypress bushes and hill cities.
Take the five-minute stroll from the practice station, pausing, maybe, to eat a chestnut fritter. Earlier than you cross the river into city, you’ll move the neoclassical, 18th-century church of San Lorenzo, the place you’ll discover work by the Maestro di Marradi, or Grasp of Marradi, an nameless painter working on the finish of the Fifteenth century and the start of the Sixteenth. The Maestro was most likely a pupil of Domenico Ghirlandaio, and he initially painted these work for the Abbey of Marradi, which was devoted to Santa Reparata, a younger virgin — in some tales, solely 11 years previous — who was tortured and martyred for her religion within the third century. Up by the Center Ages, she was the patron saint of Florence (the Duomo changed a church devoted to Santa Reparata). Within the apse of San Lorenzo in Marradi, you’ll discover her on the Madonna’s proper hand.
On the chestnut exposition, which is within the piazza the place you’ll discover your self after crossing the river, you’ll discover details about the chestnut bushes; plenty of chestnuts on show; posters demonstrating how chestnuts can be utilized, from antipasto to dessert; merchandise, from liqueurs to marrons glacés; and sculptures, together with a Nativity scene, set within the hollowed trunk of a chestnut tree. You’ll even be proper close to the charming little Teatro degli Animosi, and will step inside if it’s open; it was in-built 1792, in a mode described as Doric-Tuscan.
Throughout from the exposition, there’s the Palazzo Torriani, a villa that has belonged to the Torriani household for hundreds of years, and is now a lodge. Excursions led by a member of the family could be organized (name prematurely), and the general public rooms embody some lovely painted ceilings from the early twentieth century.
Then climb a flight of steps to the gracious central Piazza delle Scalelle, usually used as a market sq. on competition days, and wander as much as the highest of the city, the place you’ll discover sweeping views of the roofs and towers of Marradi and the encircling hills. You may as well descend and stroll alongside the river, the place there’ll most likely be a chestnut-roasting operation on competition days.
You would possibly need to reserve a desk for lunch on the restaurant you handed as you walked from the practice station: Ristorante Il Camino, which has tables alongside the road and overlooking the river. Order the incredible housemade pasta with sausage and porcini, or ravioli with black truffles; strive the grilled lamb chops with cherry tomatoes or the meat filet topped with a big porcini mushroom cap. A plate of pasta will price underneath 20 euros, a lavish multicourse lunch may cost 40 to 50 euros (or about $40 to $50), and there are wonderful native desserts — however save room for these chestnut treats.
Marradi additionally presents loads of shops promoting chestnut merchandise to take house. I not too long ago got here again with cookies made with chestnut flour, a bottle of terrific grappa (brandy) made with chestnut honey, and a giant jar of the honey itself.
Practice: From Santa Maria Novella in Florence, purchase a ticket to Marradi-Palazzuolo sul Senio. The practice’s vacation spot might be Faenza. The journey takes about an hour and quarter-hour (ticket will price 7.30 euros, every manner).
Don’t confuse the city of San Miniato, which is about 31 miles to the west of Florence, within the province of Pisa, with the church of San Miniato al Monte, which is in Florence. The church is unquestionably price a go to, however the city, named for a similar saint, is price a day journey, particularly in case you are thinking about truffles. San Miniato, like Santa Reparata, was a martyr saint who was tortured and finally beheaded by the Romans in Florence. He’s stated to to have picked up his head and traveled throughout the Arno River to the location of his church.
You possibly can attain San Miniato in 40 minutes on one of many regional trains heading west from Florence towards Pisa or the coast. Come throughout the white truffle competition, which takes place over the past three weekends in November. Shuttles will meet the practice and take you up the hill to the historic heart; in any other case take a bus or taxi, both of which can deliver you to the Piazza del Popolo.
The hills round San Miniato yield the extremely prized white truffles, in addition to black truffles, and you may watch them fastidiously weighed and offered on the town even when there’s not a competition. However the white truffle harvest is a serious occasion. The city’s identification as a truffle vacation spot can be celebrated in a statue of a truffle hunter, Arturo Gallerini, along with his canine, Parigi, and the world’s largest truffle, which they discovered close by in 1954.
There’s a vacationer info workplace in Piazza del Popolo. From there, stroll uphill for 5 to 10 minutes into city, and also you’ll quickly end up within the Piazza della Repubblica, admiring the gorgeous frescoed facade of the seminary, in-built 1650, which surrounds many of the piazza.
A staircase will take you as much as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Genesio, which dates to the Twelfth century; the facade is exceptional for inset ceramic plates from North Africa used as ornamental components (the originals are within the cathedral museum). There’s a lovely bell tower, the Torre di Matilde, named for a robust Tuscan countess from the Center Ages, who, based on legend, was born close by. There’s additionally tragedy. Throughout World Struggle II, on July 22, 1944, the Germans gathered native individuals into the church, which was then hit by an artillery shell from the U.S. Military bombardment, killing 55 individuals. This incident was used within the 1982 film, “The Night time of the Taking pictures Stars,” by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.
Within the close by Palazzo Communale, or city corridor, near the cathedral, is the Loretino Oratory, a small chapel devoted to the Madonna of Loreto, which initially contained a much-venerated crucifix from the start of the Fifteenth century. The Sixteenth-century wood altar within the oratory consists of the scene of San Miniato’s martyrdom, and there are fantastic early Renaissance frescoes on the partitions, with scenes from the lifetime of Jesus; on the ceiling, David friends down, holding Goliath’s head, accompanied by one of many classical sybils and the 4 Evangelists.
When you head uphill from the cathedral, you’ll shortly (if breathlessly) end up on the Rocca di Federico II, or Frederick’s Tower. It is a rebuilt construction — the unique, constructed for the Holy Roman Emperor round 1220, was destroyed throughout World Struggle II. You possibly can pay to climb the tower for a fantastic view of cultivated fields, cypress bushes and hill cities.
All this could provide help to work up an urge for food. Throughout truffle competition time, you’ll discover stalls and delicacies all over the place, however the city can be filled with eating places serving native delicacies, a few of which reap the benefits of the identical hilltop vistas you noticed from the tower. The butcher store on the primary avenue, Sergio Falaschi, presents housemade salami to purchase and take house; a restaurant in again has a spectacular open terrace searching on the hills. Essenza additionally has some tables on a terrace, and presents wine and snacks all day and a full menu.
Practice: Purchase a ticket to San Miniato-Fucecchio. Chances are you’ll be provided a route with a change at Empoli, which won’t be troublesome, however there are additionally many direct trains headed for Pisa, La Spezia or Livorno. Tickets price 6 euros every manner. In case you are touring through the truffle competition, shuttles to city might be obtainable; in case you are there on a nonfestival day, you possibly can take the No. 320 bus, which leaves exterior the station each half-hour.
After chestnuts and truffles, you go to Prato, about 16 miles to the northwest of Florence, for dessert. Prato is the capital of its personal Tuscan province; it’s an industrial metropolis, vital for textiles because the Twelfth century, and it has a textile museum. However you’ll additionally get the prospect to see world-class Renaissance masterpieces, and style the well-known Prato cantucci cookies (those you dip in candy vin santo on the finish of a meal). Prato can be a middle for Italy’s Chinese language inhabitants and there are many eating places providing Chinese language meals.
Take one of many frequent trains from Florence to Prato Porta al Serraglio, and stroll the quick distance to the Twelfth-century Romanesque Cathedral of Santo Stefano. The striped, green-marble facade was added within the Fifteenth century, together with the monumental pulpit on the skin facade of the church, constructed and adorned by Michelozzo and Donatello, beginning in 1428. From the pulpit, the priest might present the general public Prato’s biggest treasure: the Holy Belt, or Girdle, of the Virgin Mary. Mary is alleged to have given the Belt to St. Thomas on the time of her assumption to heaven, and its illustrious journey to Prato is informed in beautiful shade in work by Bernardo Daddi, which could be seen within the Palazzo Pretorio Museum, together with a multimedia set up on the historical past of the Belt.
However first, purchase a ticket for 8 euros to the cathedral museum, the place you’ll discover a room with the unique carved Donatello panels from the out of doors pulpit (the panels exterior are reproductions). Listed below are Donatello’s joyously dancing kids, with glittering mosaic backgrounds.
The identical ticket will take you into the chapel contained in the cathedral the place Filippo Lippi painted his well-known Fifteenth-century fresco cycle on the lives of St. Stephen and St. John the Baptist. The work characteristic unforgettable scenes: the saints of their youth, in addition to scenes of martyrdom and loss of life. For St. John, the artist created a exceptional scene of Herod’s banquet and the gorgeous dancing Salome in her diaphanous robe — off to the facet, you see her together with her reward, the pinnacle of the saint on a platter.
The attractive chapel proper subsequent to it was painted by Paolo Uccello from 1430 to 1450 with scenes from the lifetime of the Virgin and Saint Stephen.
There’s a lot extra to see and do in Prato, all in simple strolling distance. There are additionally eating places serving native dishes — Prato makes its personal model of mortadella, for instance, a pork salami flavored with liqueur, and there are fantastic native wines. Restaurant Le Barrique, as an illustration, is a terrific wine bar, open repeatedly from midday to round midnight.
And as you stroll down the primary avenue away from the cathedral, cease within the biscotti retailer, Antonio Mattei, the place the cantucci cookies (additionally known as biscotti di Prato) have been made since 1858. You should buy the unique cookies, made with almonds, and likewise variants like hazelnut or chocolate. The cantucci will go away you with a candy style of the range and complexity to be discovered on this fascinating area, so wealthy in historical past, panorama, artwork and meals.
Practice: Purchase a ticket to Prato Porta al Serraglio (one cease past the central station in Prato, so make sure you await Porta al Serraglio); it can price 2.70 euros every manner and take between 20 and half-hour with no adjustments. There are a number of trains each hour.