Pisa is yet another beautiful city located within central Italy’s Tuscany region, and no tour of Italy would be complete without a visit there. Situated on the river Arno just before it enters the Ligurian Sea, Pisa is perhaps best known for the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, one of the most recognizable landmarks throughout the world. Built over the course of 200 years through the 12th to 14th centuries and standing tall at 183 feet from top to bottom, the tower is a wonderful attraction. Be ready to climb up a 300 step spiraling staircase in order to take in spectacular views at the top; if you’d prefer to admire the tower from the ground, though, there’s endless opportunities to take photos giving the illusion that you’re holding the tower up with one hand, which is almost a requirement for an Italian vacation. But beyond having a bit of silly fun, there’s much more that cements Pisa as a must-see Italian holiday destination.
Pisa is home to countless churches, many of which date from the Renaissance Period or earlier. Some of them include Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, which houses a bust made by Donatello; San Fredriano, which was built in 1061 and features a basilica interior along with a crucifix dating from the 12th century, among other things; and St. Sixtus, which was built in 1133 and is regarded as one of the most well-preserved Romanesque structures in town. If you harbor a deep appreciation of architecture and history, Pisa surely will not disappoint. And even if your interests generally track elsewhere, it’s difficult to not be blown away by the living history of the place.
Pisa’s rich collection of historic buildings and artifacts extends to its museums as well. For instance, there’s Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, where you’ll find original sculptures crafted by the influential sculptors Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano. Another terrific museum to visit is Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti per il Calcolo, which exhibits numerous historical pieces of science equipment, including a compass that likely belonged to Galileo Galilei.
Once you’ve taken in the rich history of Pisa and the plethora of incredible historical artifacts you’ll find there, you may take advantage of Pisa’s food and shopping offerings. Dwell among the locals and take a stroll through Piazza delle Vettovaglie, a 16th century town square where you’ll find numerous cafes, butchers, wine shops, and bakeries. When the hunger you’ll inevitably develop from all your walking and sightseeing becomes your number one priority, stop by Il Crudo Panineria for a delicious panini, then finish it off with a cup of gelato at La Botegga del Gelato, located right in the center of the city. Or, if a slightly more upscale meal is in order, stop by Da Bruno for traditional Pisan cuisine in a trattoria setting.
Not to be overlooked and worth every moment spent there, Pisa is a fantastic conglomeration of Italian culture, heritage, and history. Come for the allure of its most famous landmarks, but stay for the wonderful treasures you’ll discover within its borders. With A Toast to Travel’s Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience, a visit to Pisa is included for all the aforementioned reasons. You’ll be taken on a guided tour with the locals, so no must-see attractions will be overlooked. Join us for a visit to Pisa, one of the many stops on our unforgettable, all-inclusive Italian vacation package!
When you ask someone what their favorite dessert is, you can usually expect something along the lines of cake or ice cream! Ice cream is so popular in the United States that we even have that popular saying everyone shouts as a kid “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” It’s a sweet treat that cools us down in the summer, and fulfills our late night sweet tooth. However, if you asked asked an Italian what their favorite dessert was, ice cream probably wouldn’t be the response you’d get. Gelato is ice cream made the Italian way, and like pasta and pizza, it’s one of the foods Italy is famous for.
It’s said that the first forms of gelato date back to ancient Rome and Egypt, there are even examples of different forms of frozen treats being enjoyed in biblical times. These were by no means the creamy treat we’ve come know and love today. The first forms of modern gelato were created by a Florentine artist named Bernardo Buontalenti who served the first cold cream of made from milk, honey, and egg yolk to the Medici court in 1559. But it was spread from Italy to Europe by a Sicilian fisherman named Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli (say that name ten times fast). He was the first individual who sold gelato to the public, opening a cafe in Paris in 1686 named “Cafe Procope.”
But what’s the difference between the ice cream and gelato? They’re both cold, delicious, and easily scoopable. So what makes gelato so much more popular than ice cream? One of the main differentiating factors between the two is that gelato contains a lower amount of fat content than ice cream. By Italian law, gelato must contain at least 3.5% of butterfat. Gelato’s fat content is not legally regulated in the United States, but ice cream is. In the US, ice cream must contain at least 10% butterfat. In order to have a lower percentage of fat, gelato uses more milk and less egg yolk, whereas ice cream uses more cream and yolk. This makes gelato a generally healthier alternative to ice cream!
Compared to ice cream, gelato is creamier, smoother, and denser. Unlike ice cream, which is churned hard and fast, causing it to be fluffier and lighter, gelato is churned much slower which erases air bubbles. This lack of air bubbles is what causes the creaminess and density, which is why gelato often ends up looking like a like an elastic putty in a tray before its touched or scooped for an eager customer.
Since it’s been over 330 years since Francesco opened his shop, gelato has spread all around the world, which is something worth celebrating. Entering its ninth year, the Gelato Festival is a European competition that “recognizes the best Italian and foreign gelato artisans and the flavours they create for the tour.” The festival, which starts in April and lasts through September, travels all over Italy and then spreads to other competitors in Europe.
If you’re interested in seeing authentic, Italian gelato first-hand, then our Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience is the perfect choice because it will take you on a visit to one of the oldest gelaterias in Italy. These Tuscany holidays allow our guests to live like locals and show you where to go in Italy. Authentic gelato will definitely be a delectable treat you can indulge in during an experience with A Toast to Travel.
This year A Toast to Travel is starting a new search, for the most authentic Italian experiences in the Chicagoland culinary world!
Part 3- Vinci
Vinci is the perfect place to stop for an evening meal. Located on the north side of Chicago the establishment is very inviting. The décor favors the color yellow with golden tones. The aesthetic brings you the feel of the Tuscan countryside without ever leaving the American Midwest. In fact, there is an effort being made to refurbish the interior with a more rustic design. The original tables are being replaced by all wood furniture. My eyes were drawn to the light fixtures, which have been designed to look like twigs that have been twisted into an ornate novelty. The walls are decorated with beautiful murals. As an artist, I was quite drawn to the line drawings of hands near the entrance. It appears to be drawn by charcoal, paying expert attention to line and form, and is quite beautiful. I was greeted by Mr. Richard Russo, the general manager at Vinci, this gentleman has been with the establishment for almost ten years. He states the familiar quality of staff; most stay longer than five years. That says something about the quality this company holds itself to, that even its employees keep coming back for more. In fact, most of Vinci’s business is found in their regular return clients. Vinci has a significant fan base and local following.
We were treated to a full menu experience. Richard was most happy to answer any questions and make recommendations for the evening. We began with the Antipasti Vinci, which is a sample platter of salame, stewed calamari, zucchini scapece, pecorino cheese, and giardiniera. Richard explained the delicious food on our sample platter as the dish was presented, while we drank delicious pinot grigio. The stewed calamari was excellently prepared, easy to chew, and slightly salty. It was an experience I will never forget.
We enjoyed the dining atmosphere. There was a group that sat next to us, regulars at Vinci, who had nothing but praise to share about the restaurant. They were also leaving for their Italy vacations the next day. Vinci, like A Toast to Travel’s wine and culinary experiences in Italy, offers guests a chance to live like a local and enjoy authentic Italian food and wine.A Toast to Travel’s all-inclusive experiences includes the opportunity of cooking in Tuscany as well as exploring the Tuscan countryside. A restaurant like Vinci is designed after our own heart offering their guests a vacation in Italy without going too far from home.
The main course, however, was its own trip. We ordered our Secondi, the Chicken Saltimbocca and the Grilled Hen. The Secondi were paired with a deep, full bodied red, Brunello di Montalcino. Perfectly seasoned, the juicy, grilled hen was better than I could have imagined. I am a lover of chicken entrees, and as a picky eater, it can be hard for me to find a dish so mouthwatering. Vinci succeeded. Not to neglect the Chicago Saltimbocca. “Saltimbocca” means to jump in your mouth in Italian and with the generous, delicious prosciutto wrapped all around the chicken, it sure did.
We finished dinner with a slice of Tiramisu. The coffee taste was sweet and complementary. The perfect Tiramisu to end the perfect evening.
Our evening with Vinci was excellent. Thank you to Richard Russo for his service and hospitality. Take a tour of Vinci which will feel like Italy tours! There is no doubt in my mind that Vinci is an Authentic Italian Experience in Chicago. When you visit, make sure you take #atoasttothegoodlife.
Lucca is one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany and is famous for many things including the retention of its Renaissance era walls. The walls around the old city were kept intact even as the city became modern and expanded. The walls are historic as they served to preserve and protect the city and its inhabitants. Even though the walls have lost their strategic military importance, today they serve as a beautiful promenade–it’s a beautiful walk or bike ride for you to enjoy with all the greenery and trees.
Lucca has delicious foods and many unique artisan shops. For food, you can enjoy a delicious meal in Lucca and some of the must try foods include: Farro Soup, made with borlotti beans and seasonal vegetables, Tordelli Lucchese which is pasta stuffed with beef, or Necci, a delicious crepe stuffed with ricotta. All are typical Lucchese dishes for you to enjoy. For dessert, try the Buccellato, a ring shaped cake stuffed with raisins and aniseed which is traditionally eaten on Sundays. It’s delicious with your morning coffee or a glass ofred wine. Remember, you’re still in Tuscany and Tuscany is famous for its red wines.
Lucca also has many artisan shops. Purchases of interest can include jewelry, art and ceramics. For fashion, head to via Fillungo, which is the main shopping street in Lucca and enjoy window shopping.
In addition to the delicious food, artisan shops and beautiful, famed walls, there are many other must see sights in Lucca. Lucca’s San Martino Cathedral is surrounded by medieval buildings in the Piazza San Martino. With an intricately decorated marble façade, its style is more Roman on the exterior and Gothic on the interior. There’s also the San Michele church in the large square. The square is a great place to sit and enjoy an afternoon. There are many cafes to choose from. If sitting is not how you want to pass the afternoon, you can climb to the top of the Guinigi Tower, a 14th century tower with spectacular views of Lucca. There are 130 steps to climb and you will be greatly rewarded with the spectacular views!
Lucca is not only famous for its walls. It was also the birthplace of the famous opera composer, Giacomo Puccini. His home is now a museum filled with memorabilia, including his piano and musical scores.
These are just a few reasons A Toast to Travel’sHighlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience includes a visit to Lucca–one of the most beautiful and unique cities in Tuscany! Join us for an unforgettable experience where you will live like a local.
This year A Toast to Travel is starting a new search, for the most authentic Italian experiences in the Chicagoland culinary world!
Part 2- Pelago Ristorante
Chef Mauro Mafrici is a tall man, with broad shoulders. He is jovial and chooses his words with the same care he’s put into the establishment of Pelago Ristorante. This exclusive gem is tucked away behind the world famous John Hancock Tower, and that’s the way Chef Mauro likes it. In fact, he prefers catering to his guests in this intimate setting.
Chef Mauro has been cooking since he was 14, originally from Italy; his 40 years of experiences have taken him a great number of places. It was actually in New York City that he met his lovely wife, Kimberly. She’s the architect in charge of Pelago’s design. There on a sky blue barstool, I sat taking a moment to appreciate the space she’d envisioned. The entire room is a cozy rectangle, accessed through a blue glass bubble entry way. The bar is on the west side and is the first sight one has upon entering. The same blue glass is used to divide the room’s upper and lower levels. The chairs at each table are also blue, and they are accompanied by bright blue purse stools. The stools are a custom adopted from the old wives tale that putting one’s purse on the ground is unlucky financially. The choice in color can be correlated to the Chef’s focus on seafood cuisine. Large windows let a lot of light into the space, and the blue glass partition keeps the room open. This design makes the smaller space feel large and airy.
We were treated to a Chef’s tasting. The beginning appetizers were brought, and we sipped Prosecco in pairing. The Burrata is made fresh and is absolutely delicious–the fresh Italian buffalo milk cheese’s delicious flavor seems to explode in one’s mouth, the fresh herbs complimenting it perfectly. It’s one of the best we’ve had outside of Rome and Italy vacations. The Risotto tasting followed. We were tempted with three variations saffron, vegetable and tomato basil. The Saffron was al dente, and tasted fresh from the streets of Italy herself. The Ruffino Chianti red wine paired with the final plater. Chianti, Italy is where we, at A Toast to Travel, take our guests for all-inclusive culinary and wine experiences and Italy tours and vacation packages.
The afternoon was passed in pleasant conversation, we took our time tasting each dish, and appreciating the ambiance of the restaurant. The room was impeccable. Behind me, on the wall, hung a magnificent oil painting which when looked at straight on may trick you. The optical illusion of depth is created by a black negative space that contrasts the extremely fine attention to detail in the positive foreground. It appears that if one wished, they could simply reach in and pluck the lobster from the display in the painting.
The dessert sampling finished our meal leaving us with a very sweet impression of Pelago Ristorante. The service was impeccable and faithfully attentive, which served to create an intimate experience between guest and server, leaving one feeling happy and well cared for. Ultimately, Chef Mauro creates an authentic Italian experience in the heart of Chicago.
Many different reviews of so many different restaurants have been written about one of the best cities in the world—Florence! With so much to see in and do in this beautiful city during your Italy tours, it’s amazing one finds time to eat but eventually, we all do. Travelling to and living inFlorence for many years, we’ve seen restaurants come and go but there are some that we will never forget. We always recommend living like a local and eating where the locals eat. Unfortunately, Florence has many tourist traps where the food is subpar and the prices are high. Here are a few of our restaurant recommendations where you can eat like a local and enjoy la dolce vita!
Centrally located but on a side, quiet street, here you’ll find great food and great service. The restaurant is divided into two different rooms with the open kitchen in the middle. As a matter of fact, when you walk in, you can greet the cooks! The pasta is wonderfully fresh and the bistecca alla Fiorentina one of the best. The wine selection is really good too—try a Brunello di Montalcino with your steak.
Near the central market, this is by far one of my favorite restaurants in Florence. You’re greeted by one of the great staff (many of whom have worked there for a very long time) as family. Most of the time, you’re also greeted with a complimentary glass of Prosecco to begin your experience. The pasta selection is all fresh and delicious—try the pasta with the wild boar sauce. As for your entrée, Le Fonticine is one of the few remaining restaurants in Florence with the wood burning oven as it was grandfathered in when the law changed. This oven further perfects the taste and texture of the bistecca alla Fiorentina. When dining at Le Fonticine, you must order the bistecca or share with others you are dining with. There are many fresh desserts to choose from or try some grappa.
Near the center, Alessi is a hidden gem. Although Alessi is a wine bar and retail shop, the food is so good and fresh that it definitely is on our list. You can order a variety of fresh cold cuts, meats, and cheeses to go with your chosen wine or wine flight. You can also order off menu. I usually order a delicious fresh made salad with tuna, olives, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and more. Equally delicious is the freshly made varieties of bruschetta to get you started. All fresh and fantastic!
In old Florence on the other side of the river, 4 Leoni is very well known and I highly recommend reservations. The ambiance is warm and the service is good. The restaurant can become quite loud during peak times but all is worth it once you try the food! They have an array of delicious pastas and starters (try the Bresaola or Artichokes), mains and desserts. Desserts are a must here including chocolate, pear and apple desserts. Or simply enjoy cantuccini di Prato to dip into your vin santo.
In the historic center not far from the San Lorenzo market, you’ll find Cipolla Rossa. The pasta is very good, fresh and made in house. I highly recommend the gnocchi. There’s plenty of space in the restaurant if you need it for your group. I find the staff friendly and the house Chianti delicious. Buon Appetito!
This year A Toast to Travel is starting a new search, for the most authentic Italian experiences in the Chicagoland culinary world!
Part 1- Piccolo Sogno
Our first stop is Piccolo Sogno, this little dream of Tony Priolo and Ciro Longbardo, greets you at the door with a first impression you won’t soon forget. I was treated to a first class seat at one of the most tasteful restaurants in Chicago. And don’t just take my word for it, take Italy’s! A placard from Ospitalità Italiana hangs on the left hand side of the main entryway, proudly displayed next to the front desk.
I was greeted by a deep blue wall, and I welcomed its immersive calming embrace. Contrasted beautifully by choice of art, the room greets you and so too do the smiling faces of the staff. Abel the manager, was quick to greet me, he had us check our coats with a sweet smiling attendant, from there leading me through the establishment and to the table. After showing me the table, he asked me if I’d like a tour of the rest, including the kitchen. I, of course, was excited to accept; I left my companion for the evening at the table and followed Abel through the main room camera at the ready. I was here for only the best food, so of course I wanted the best photos.
All pasta served and gelato consumed by guests at Piccolo Sogno is made in house. The Antipasti can be found delightfully displayed when you first enter the kitchen; a large red meat slicer sits to the right hand side. All Prosciutto consumed in house is sliced on this machine. Fresh and salty, the Prosciutto is chewy and easy to pull apart, and an excellent way to start your meal if you like ham. Another excellent choice is the Caprese salad, tomatoes and mozzarella served to enchant the taste buds and the meal has only just begun.
Another prime feature of the kitchen is its wood burning oven, its gapping maw, fire licking away on the inside tugs on my ancestral heartstrings, the Italian in me appreciates such attention to detail. At the table, I am greeted once more but this time by Italia’s very own bottled stars. The N.V Prosecco, Alexa is bubbly, and gives me that cherished oh so tingly sensation, and yet somehow there is heaviness here among the stars. It’s a full body that can be appreciated and considered very, very smooth. Grissini and Focaccia and Filone are given as choices of bread before dinner at the table, I appreciated the light and airy Filone the best, but my companion liked the Focaccia best. I found it to be a strong flavor, I wasn’t quite prepared for.
There are excellent guest relations here; Abel is frequently seen throughout the evening interacting with guests, especially as it gets busier around 6:30 when the restaurant hits the evening rush, a charismatic smile never leaving his lips. I believe this joviality is made possible by the excellent staff relations that exist here as well. Abel has been here 8 to 9 years, to him, “it feels like a family.”
Alberto our servers checks on us often, and takes our dinner order of Tagliolini con Funghi Misti e Tartufo Nero and Ravioli “Piccolo Sogno”. I was promised the perfect pairing of wine with my meal, and Alberto our server for the night has the perfect suggestion. The evening is meant to be enjoyed and I found myself observing the rest of the room. I noticed a few birthdays being celebrated, the birthday candle is lit discretely for the table’s enjoyment. It is personal and private. My ideal birthday treat. The entire setting’s aesthetic can be expressed as intimate. This effect is particularly created by the lighting. It is dark, the room is outlined in a cool white glow but the main source of light is each occupied table’s single white candle.
The red wine, a 2011 Chianti Classico, Casaloste, paired perfectly with the Tagliolini! I found myself quite enthralled by the savory flavor of the mushroom and pasta pairing. I can be quite picky, but the flavor of those al dente noodles made even this palate jovial. My companion and I shared meals, and agreed that it surpassed the Ravioli. Now, this Ravioli has won against Bobby Flay, so this is high praise for the Tagliolini!
Upon Alberto’s insistence we finished dinner with the Tortino di Gianduja. The first bite of this chocolate delight will send your eyes back into your head. Warm chocolate syrup encased in a light chocolate cake shell sprinkled with powdered sugar. This is accompanied by a single scoop of hazelnut gelato. The pairing is well chosen. We take coffee with dessert.
I’d like to thank Piccolo Sogno for an excellent evening. The service is friendly, and the food is tasteful, the experience is authentic.
This massive Gothic cathedral simply known as the Duomo, serves the role of not only being Florence’s religious center but is also one of the most recognizable entities in the city. If the viewer is not already enticed from a far by the building’s stunning architecture, once inside the guest will be drawn into a narrative packed with history and culture.
Located along the banks of the Arno River in the Historic Centre of Florence lies Europe’s first modern museum. This is one of Florence’s most popular attractions so a long wait can be expected, but if you have the time endure the wait you would be rewarded with the best collection of Italian paintings in the world. When you join A Toast to Travel’s Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience, we work with locals who help minimize our wait with advance reservations. Whether you are observing the work of Giorgio Vasari or admiring the life-sized paintings of Botticelli, the Uffizi Gallery is sure to possess a masterpiece that catches your eye.
3- Galleria dell’Accademia
While this museum holds many works of art that deserve your undivided attention such as St. Matthew or Cassone Adimari, the main reason why this location is one of the most desirable areas to visit by guests can be summed up with one word: David. Michelangelo’s most famous work is housed here in the Galleria and will continue to attract visitors from all over the world for years to come.
4- Ponte Vecchio
Once a location run by butchers and bakers, a flood washed away the old bridge and, in its place, rose the Ponte Vecchio, one of the oldest bridges in all of Italy. If you are looking for a historically significant area, look no further than the bridge that has survived it all from natural disasters to attacks during World War II. The bridge is known to be the heart of the city’s gold and jewel trade, so expect to find some fancy trinkets as you venture through the markets. During the city walk on the Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience, you’ll have a chance to personally experience all the energy of the Ponte Vecchio.
5- Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli)
If you are looking for a change of pace from the up-beat tempo of Florence’s city center, try taking a casual stroll through the Boboli Gardens. This beautifully landscaped area provides a quiet setting where you can take in all of what Florence has to offer without being bothered by all the noise and commotion of city activities. While perusing through the garden try finding some of the statues that have been strategically placed on the path and take advantage of the picturesque views provided by the Boboli family’s garden.
6- Piazzale Michelangelo
Perched high above the city in the Oltrano district lies the Piazzale Michelangelo, arguably the best viewpoint in all of the city. This view comes with a cost, as many of its visitors recall the towering staircase that needs to be climbed in order to reach the square, however, if you are into panoramic views that are sure to garner tons of likes on your Instagram, then it is well worth the workout. During A Toast to Travel’s Highlights of Florence and Tuscany, the brave can join us on the adventure to Piazzale Michelangelo!
7 – Baptistry (Battistero)
Most known for its massive doors whose work was once praised by the great Michelangelo, Baptistry also has the distinction of being the oldest building in all of Florence, dating back to the 5th century. Interesting enough, this octagonal masterpiece was thought to be a temple dedicated to the Roman God of war, Mars, but it is yet to be proven.
8- Campanile di Giotto
Known also as Giotto’s Bell Tower, the 277-foot tower serves as another vista to capture those scenic views of the city you have been yearning for. The tower actually had three architects influence its construction, so it is very intriguing to see how those powerful minds clashed to create this visual work of art.
9- Palazzo Pitti
What were once residential homes for citizens during the Renaissance, is now the location of some of Florence’s most intricate museums after the area was bought by the Medici family in 1549. The Palazzo Pitti is the largest museum complex in Florence, spanning about 32,000 square meters and previous guests suggest blocking out several hours of your day so that you may see all of what it has to offer.
10- Piazza della Signoria
This free, outdoor museum area is regarded as the perfect place for the weary traveler to rest as well as viewing some marvelous sculptures, such as the gigantic statue of David replica. This area is great to catch your breath while also not feeling as though you are wasting precious exploration time while you complete your experience in Italy!
Florence, Italy is by far one of the most magical and beautiful cities in the world and millions and millions of visitors agree. It’s the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to unforgettable landmarks, museums, monuments, art, culture and food!
If you have never visited Florence or have been many times, the Christmas season is not to be missed. The streets are festively decorated and shopkeepers take pride in their window dressings. Christmas markets are abound full of unique and precious gifts to buy for you or loved ones and chestnuts are roasting on an open fire but this time—they are everywhere!
Living like a local in Florence means experiencing all that it has to offer this time of the year. There are fewer tourists (although there are always people visiting Florence), the weather is milder and there are many cultural activities to take part in. The festivities start in early December.
If you are looking for furnishings, food and wine, the festivities for you start at the Christmas markets all around Florence. The largest one is located in Piazza Santa Croce. There’s a combination of vendors and somewhat of a German theme—you know that means–warm wine! Of course, you can always find the leather goods Florence is famous for—bags, gloves, book binders, notebooks, etc. You can also negotiate your prices with better success given the fact that Florence has fewer tourists this time of the year.
If you are interested in visiting museums, the Uffizi Gallery is open throughout the Christmas season except on Christmas and New Year’s day.
If instead you are looking for a spiritual experience, Christmas Eve Mass is held by the Cardinal of Florence at midnight in the Duomo of Florence, while the vigil prayers start earlier, around 11 pm.
For New Year’s Eve, you can celebrate in the main squares of the city and attend one of the concerts. In the Piazza della Signoria, for example, there’s usually a classical music concert while in the Piazzale Michelangelo, a pop concert on New Year’s Eve.
Living like a local, there’s plenty to see and do during the holidays in Florence. Some wineries are open and other well-known cities such as Siena and Arezzo also have festive decorations and holiday markets. These make for very enjoyable day trips.
We look forward to hosting you during one of our experiences where you will learn to live like a local all seasons! Happy holidays from A Toast to Travel!
So, what are Truffles? They are rare, edible mushrooms with an intense aroma and flavor. They grow underground and can be difficult to find. They only grow in certain parts of the world. Certain experts in the past (and some still do) used pigs and hogs to find them—today, in Italy, dogs are used as they don’t eat them as soon as they find them! That was a big problem–the hogs would eat the truffles as soon as they found them before they could be stopped. The dogs, on the other hand, can be trained not to eat them so they end up being a much better choice for the hunt.
October and November in Italy are great times to hunt and eat truffles. There’s also the Fiera del Tartufo or truffle market which takes places during this time. Prices vary per pound each year. The rarest truffles are the most expensive food in the world. Did you know that the record price paid for a single white truffle was $330,000. It was unearthed near Pisa, Italy and weighed 3.3 pounds!
Imagine learning to make hand-made pasta only to drizzle your own creation with a special sauce created by you from the truffles you hunted in the morning! During our Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun Experience, we hunt truffle with truffle hunting experts and their dog. We walk the hills and with the help of the dogs, seek and find the most delectable truffles we can to use later in the kitchen during our hands-on cooking class. Heading over to the kitchen, we learn to make Tagliatelle con Tartufo or Tagliatelle with Truffle sauce. It’s only the start of the week with many authentic recipes to come so pace yourself, pack yourself!
Of course with any Tagliatelle con Tartufo wine is a good complement. We usually enjoy a Chianti Riserva with this dish as it brings out the best of each. In Tuscany, there’s always enough Chianti to go around and you certainly can spend your time focusing on wine tasting during The Ultimate Tuscan Wine Experience where we indulge in stunning wineries in Tuscany during tours, wine tastings and exclusive tasting and dinner menus. It’s all part of living like a local with A Toast to Travel.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Italy or if you’ve already been and have always wanted to go back, now’s the time to pack your bags. All you need to do is get there and we’ll handle the rest!