Tuscany Day Trips- easy from Florence (and Siena too!)
It is customary when staying in Florence to explore Tuscany by taking a few day trips. Seeing the sights in the numerous Renaissance and Medieval cities, wine tasting in the countryside, and dipping your toes in the Mediterranean are all worthy pursuits, but those of us with curious appetites are usually looking for something a little more tasty. These cities are more than just day trips - they are pilgrimages for foodies!
Just Southeast of Florence, Panzano is in the heart of the Chianti Classico wine zone. Wine tasting opportunities abound, but serious meat-eating Foodies come here for the local butcher…
Foodie Pilgrimage: Dario Cecchini Dario Cecchini was born in Panzano, and his family have been proud butchers for eight generations. Dario’s passion and and skill have put Panzano on the map for Foodies looking for traditional, quality cuts of meat at his “Macelleria” (butcher shop) that he recreated on the site of his family’s original shop. Just across the road is “Solociccia” (only meat), Dario Cecchini’s restaurant, where you can try his specialties. It’s an exclusive affair open three days a week, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. You can chose from two sittings at either 7pm or 9pm, and should definitely make reservations! p.s. Request to visit Dario's meat laboratory on a culinary wine adventure with us in Chianti Classico!
San Gimignano is a walled Medieval town that surveys the Tuscan countryside from its hilltop perch. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known as “The Town of Fine Towers” for its Medieval tower houses. In most Tuscan cities these tower houses didn’t last, destroyed or lobbed off at the top during periods of war or urban renewal, but San Gimignano has over a dozen towers still standing tall against the skyline today.
Foodie Pilgrimage: Saffron & Vernaccia wine. Saffron: Saffron is one of the world’s most expensive foods because of its intensive harvest process, which takes place at dawn when the flowers are closed. Here it is still harvested using natural methods without any chemicals, and is sold in whole threads. Saffron season is in the fall, from late October to early November. A little Saffron goes a long way, and it is perfect in risotto, as well as in recipes with fish, veggies, and white meats. Vernaccia: Vernaccia is a white wine made in the surrounding hills of San Gimignano. It has been considered one of Italy’s finest wines since the Renaissance, and was the first Italian Wine to be awarded the “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” (Designation of Origin) in 1966. It is planted in sandstone-based vineyards, and is best when dry with a crisp acidity and slightly bitter finish. It is the perfect refreshing wine for a Summer aperitivo in the Tuscan countryside!
Pienza has been called the “Ideal City of the Renaissance.” It lies in the beautiful Val d’Orcia, and not only is it a world heritage site, but the entire valley is as well. If you’ve seen photos of beautiful rolling Tuscan hills, chances are they were photos of the Val d’Orcia!
Foodie Pilgrimage: Pecorino Cheese. Pecorino is one of the world’s oldest cheeses. It is made from 100% ewe’s milk, hence the name pecorino - the Italian word for sheep is Pecora! Pecorino from Pienza is milder, softer, and sweeter than southern varieties, and is best enjoyed with some local honey, pear and fava beans.
San Miniato is halfway between Pisa and Florence, situated in the lower Arno valley. It has been populated since ancient times, and was an important Medieval city because of it’s strategic position on top of three hills at the point where the Arno and Elsa rivers meet. The convent of San Francesco is said to have been founded by Saint Francis of Assisi himself, and Duomo, Palazzo dei Vicari, and Diocesan Museum are all incredible sights to see. Foodies, however, will most likely be distracted by the enticing aroma of truffle in the air…
Foodie Pilgrimage: White Truffles. Highly-prized and highly-priced white truffles are harvested in the area surrounding San Miniato. The collection of these truffles is highly-regulated by local laws on how to gather and market them, ensuring that they are always gathered in moderation during their brief Season from October to December. During the last three weekend of November San Miniato hosts a white truffle fair, an internationally-recognised event selling fresh truffles as well as a variety of other traditional Tuscan products.
Northwest of Florence is the Medieval city of Pistoia. One theory holds that pistols get their name from Pistoia, which were initially manufactured here in the 16th Century. The surrounding province is known for its plant and flower cultivation, thermal baths such as those in Montecatini, and the winter ski resorts of Abetone and Val di Luce. Most importantly to us, Pistoia is in the “Tuscan Chocolate Valley,” stretching from Pisa all the way to Prato, where you’ll find some of the best artisan chocolate makers in Italy.
Foodie Pilgrimage: Slitti Chocolate and Coffee. In Monsummano Terme, in the province of Pistoia, is the home of Slitti Chocolate and Coffee. The Slitti family was already well known for quality coffee in 1988 when Andrea Slitti started producing chocolate, and today Slitti chocolate is world-renowned for its quality and flavor. Andrea Slitti is believer in “pure chocolate,” using only natural vanilla in his recipes.
Take a look at our Curious Appetite Travel Experiences and join fellow food-lovers for Gourmet Tasting Tours, Cooking Lessons, and Culinary Wine Adventures in Florence and throughout Tuscany! Don't see what you're looking for? You can also contact us to formulate an experience just for you!