Local traditions and culture in Tuscany

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Tuscany

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    Via Francigena

    by croisbeauty Written Jul 6, 2012

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    Perhaps you have noticed marks or indications of "Via Francigena", especially when visiting San Gimignano or in its surroundings. Via Francigena or the Frankish Route is a branch of the pilgrimage trail that goes between Canterbury in UK and Rome, coming into full use starting around th 11th century. Bishop Sigeric of Canterbury first made the journey to Rome in 990, to recive honours from the pope. He kept details of his travels in a book with pictures and maps of the route, which became the pilgrimage route of today.
    The route in Italy goes like this: Aosta-Ivrea-Vercelli-Pavia-Piacenza-Pontremoli-Luni-Massa-San Gimignano-Siena-Viterbo-Rome.

    Via Francigena

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    Pecorino di Pienza

    by magor65 Written Aug 22, 2011

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    When you come to Pienza, buy a round of pecorino cheese. Pecorino di Pienza is said to be the best in the province of Siena.
    Pecorino is made from sheep milk - not any sheep though, but some selected breed. The sheep are raised out in the open and thanks to some herbs 'in their diet', pecorino from Pienza has special flavour.
    In the shops in Pienza you can see many different rounds of this cheese - some have light rind, some dark, others red. It depends on how they are aged. There are many ways: they may be aged in walnuts, tomatoes, truffles or under the ash. Pecorino is sold fresh, medium aged or mature. Fresh is soft with lighter rind. When it ages it becomes darker and saltier.
    Ask a seller to let you taste a bit of this or that before you decide which one to buy.

    Pecorino di Pienza more pecorino a shop with pecorino
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    Festival in Montepulciano - Bravio Della Botti

    by rubbersoul75 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    We just happened upon this once a year festival. It is supposed to be the last Sunday in August (in 2005 it rained so was delayed one week when we stopped by).

    The deal is, the Contrade (districts) of the town compete by rolling casks of wine up the streets to the main square in traditional medieval fashion and flare. In preparation, each district has an open "block party" in a different area of the town with food, barbeque, and of course wine. We gladly joined in for lunch. In further preparation to the race there is a procession with each districts best Flag Throwers showing off their skills on a parade through the town. Our girls loved the flying flags.

    This is a tamer, more accessible version of Siena's Palio.

    If you've seen "Under the Tuscan Sun", A scene of this festival was filmed in the Main square of Montepulciano... the flag lands on the teenage boys head...

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    Stop and Smell the Roses

    by deecat Updated Apr 19, 2007

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    Why do Allan and I continue to return to Italy people always ask. If you once set foot on Italian soil, you will know the answer: the people, the landscape, the climate, the art, the food, and the wine.

    Most of all, we enjoy the pace: slow. Even though the people talk fast, the cars are driven fast, and the children play "football" at a fast speed, the country itself moves at a slow pace.

    Meals last at the very least for two hours. No person ever rushes you; the early evening walks are never rushed; the afternoon siesta lingers; the old men on the benches take their time; the people in the stores take plenty of time to help you; and, yes, you slow down in the process. It's simply marvelous.

    I have beautiful gardens at home filled with roses, and Allan never takes the time to smell those roses. But, here in Italy, he's a different kind of person...more attentive, more generous, more romantic. Isn't that reason enough to revisit Italy again and again?

    Allan Smelling the Rose in Lucca
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    Cemetery in Cortona

    by deecat Updated Apr 19, 2007

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    While in Cortona, we visited a small church that had a cemetery beside it. Since I am fond of visiting cemeteries to learn more about the culture, we took about an hour to explore.

    This was not the first time that I noticed that in Italian cemeteries, the graves have PHOTOGRAPHS on the tomb. The photographs are encased and are weatherproof. Also, there are LIGHTS of some kind, usually a candle or oil lamp or lately, a battery-operated lamp.

    The photograph shows a tombstone with a relief of Christ and then there are two photographs. This was a husband and wife. In this case, these photographs were quite old because the people had died more than thirty years ago.

    This grave had an small oil lamp attached that was burning, a symbol of "eternal life after death".

    If you want to know more about a culture, be sure to visit at least one cemetery while in Tuscany.

    Typical Grave in Cortona Cemetery Church With small graveyard right below Cortona
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    Be Aware of Holidays and Local Festivals

    by deecat Updated Apr 19, 2007

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    While traveling, you should always be aware of the National and Public Holidays as well as the Local Festivals. It is important because many times everything is closed at those times. Also, the local crowds are immense at these festivities.

    While we were in San Gimignano on bApril 25 (Liberation Day), we were amazed at the number of people out in the streets.

    They were NOT tourist; instead, they were Italians celebrating their National Holiday.

    Fortunately for us, during this holiday, the stores were open as were the restaurants. But, the parking and the crowds were incredible.

    Here is a small listing of some of the dates to keep in mind while visiting Tuscany besides April 25:

    Second Week of September:
    Chianti, Tuscany, is a local wine celebration

    Last Sunday of October
    Sagra del Tordo in Montalcino, Tuscany is the Celebration of the thrush with costumed archery contests

    January 22-February 7
    Carnevale in Viareggio, Tuscany, there is a carnival with floats and grand celebrations.

    May 1
    Labor Day all over Italy

    Liberation Day in San Gimignano
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    Wonderful Food in Tuscany

    by deecat Updated Apr 19, 2007

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    While in Tuscany, we certainly ate well. The food is simple but filling. It has lots of flavor and is based on"peasant cooking that relies heavily on olive oil, tomatoes, beans, hams, and salamis."

    We both loved the cured meats and hams, especially prosciutto and Parma Ham. I was especially fond of the Tortelloni stuffed with cheese and served in olive oil and garlic. Allan adored the Bistecca alla Fiorentina (steak seasoned with oil and herbs and garnished with lemon).

    Both of us love cheese and enjoyed both the Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. A real treat was any dish with fresh, wild mushroom and/or truffles. The third time that we were in Italy in the Autumn is when we got to taste most of the locally-grown ones.

    As for desserts, we enjoyed the Torta di Riso, a simple rice cake that is served in a fruit sauce and fresh fruit. Now, if that is too healthy for you, as it was for me most of the time, try the Panforte which is a dense, dark cake that is spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Yum.

    I also enjoyed the Ricciarelli that is made from ground almonds, orange peel, and honey..

    You cannot eat a meal in Tuscany without Wine. Allan really loved the Brunello di Montalcino so much that we had several bottles shipped back home.

    Food we saw in Montalcino Food Emporium in Florence
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    Midieval festivals of Tuscany

    by rubbersoul75 Updated Apr 17, 2006

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    Many of the towns in Tuscany host traditional festivals yearly; sometimes more than once a year (as is the case with the most famous, Siena's Palio, as well as Arezzo's festival).

    The traditions and activities vary, but they all usually include medieval garb as the entire town celebrates and competes.

    Some of the larger festivals include:
    The Palio of Siena - World famous bareback horse race
    Calcio Storico Fiorentino in Florence - A wild game of no holds barred soccer/rugby for the prize of a calf.
    Giostra Del Saracion in Arezzo - Jousting, See my separate tip on this
    Giostra dell' Orso in Pistoia - great blues music and jousting, a perfect match?
    Bravio delle Botti in Montepulciano - a rolling barrel race and flag throwing... see my seperate tip on this

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    Midieval festivals - Arezzo

    by rubbersoul75 Updated Apr 17, 2006

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    Arezzo hosts the Giostra Del Saracino, or Joust of the Saracens. The tradition is for the neighborhoods of the city to compete for accuracy in jousting on horseback. This tradition was born in the 14th century when the knights would prepare for the religous wars.

    The town celibrates the tournament 2 times per year, the first being on the 3rd saturday in June and the 2nd time it is held on the 2nd Sunday in September. We did not know about the festival before our visit to Arezzo on the first Saturday in September; so we were pleasantly surprised to see the dress rehearsal and activities in preperation for Sunday's finale. Our young girls were entertained with parades, music, and knights on horses.

    Midieval festival of Arezzo
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    Palio di Siena

    by croisbeauty Written Dec 17, 2005

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    Palio is not the game only, it is a lifestyle of Sienese people. They wake up in the morning and lie in the bad with it. There exist strong division in between the contradas and each and every one have its territory which is marked by the flags. Even the street lamps are coloured in the typical colours of each contrada.
    The annual winner is celebrated whole year, chalenging and mocking to all other contradas. The ladies, dressed in black with huge bag-pipe around their nack, are walking around the town expressing "sorrow" to those who lost the game.
    TO BE CONTINUED

    Winning Contrada for 2005 Ladies in black mocking to the loosers The terrotory of Contrada is clearly marked Street lamp marks the Contrada territory This is very explicite mark of the territory

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    enjoy local gourmet food

    by hivaoa1 Written Aug 4, 2005

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    when you come to Tuscany, the best way to savour our cuisine is having a local friend who would cook for us or take us to very un-touristy places to eat, something what we call "circolini" or "trattorie", otherwise what you can do is buy some gourmet products and try to cook the repices yourself at home..
    something which has " tuscany" on the label doesn't necessarily mean it's 100% from Tuscany. Be carefull and see if the product is made and produced with 100% Tuscan ingredients.. I'M PRETTY MUCH INTO THESE THINGS IHIHIH

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    PISA - the entrance of the Duomo

    by globetrott Updated Jun 9, 2004

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    The door is made of solid Bronce and was a masterpiece not only for the ornaments but also regarding the technical possibilities of that time.

    When you get there in the afternoon, the sun will shine on the door and the silhouettes will look perfect on your pics !

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    SIENA - symbols on the housewalls

    by globetrott Written May 20, 2004

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    One more of the stange signs in oder to see its variety.
    This one is a sheep and it seems to be a symbol for one of the 17 "Contrades" ( districts ) of Siena.
    6 of them are not any more allowed to participate in the Palio since a big fight in 1675.

    For the rest of the of 11 contrades it is an absolutely strict command to win the Palio by all means. lots of horses die each year, but it is also a big attraction for tourists.

    Contrades - sign in Siena
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    SIENA - symbols at most buildings

    by globetrott Written May 20, 2004

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    It is strange and beautiful at the same time to see most of the big buildings of the centre of Siena decorated with such "ornaments" fixed on the walls.
    Most of them have a ring -maybe in order to fix decorations for the festivities like the PALIO, a traditional horse-race dating back to 1147, and still taking place each year on july 2nd and august 16th.

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    When in SIENA , do as the Doves do...

    by globetrott Updated May 20, 2004

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    Water of most of the public fountains in Italy is drinkable, otherwise it is stated with a small sign.

    It was big fun to watch the doves lining up in order to drink directely from "Fonte Gaia" on the "Campo in Siena"

    And of course Fonte Gaia is one of the most beautiful and best preserved fountains in Italy.

    dinking in Fonte Gaia in Siena
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Tuscany Local Customs

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