Visiting Tuscany for the first time is exciting. Indeed, you have many reasons to feel thrilled for spending some time in this blessed Italian region with the beautiful countryside and the history-drenched medieval cities and Renaissance architecture. Want to be one step ahead of things? Ensure you read this guide to help prepare for your trip and know what to expect and how to make the most out of it!
Tuscany Food Essentials
Remember what you know about Italian food? Cross it all off! Every region in Italy has its own specialty. This means that you won’t find dishes like cannoli all across Tuscany as it is primarily made in Sicily. So, ensure you check the regional foods when you sit at a Tuscany restaurant. You will find, though, homemade pizza and fresh pasta everywhere! Just choose the type of crust you want (high or low).
Also, some words most people link with Italian food are nothing like the meanings given to them. For example, when you order pizza with pepperoni back home, you don’t get served sliced bell peppers (either picked or roasted), which is what pepperoni actually is in Italy!
When it comes to salads, Tuscanians (and Italians, in general) don’t fancy dressings. Instead, their salads are sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
2. Local dishes
Other than that, Tuscany staples you definitely need to try are the locally produced cheeses (i.e., sheep milk-made pecorino cheese that can be found aged, semi-aged, and fresh). The bruschettas with fresh veggies and olive oil, creamy carbonara spaghetti with meat sauce (bolognese sauce or pasta al ragu) and pancetta, and, of course, the local wines definitely impress.
3. Local wines
Speaking of wines, besides Chianti Classico, there are plenty of other options. This is because many Tuscany regions produce their own wine. So, do consider tasting San Gimignano’s Vernaccia, Maremma’s Morellino di Scansano, Montalcino’s Brunello, and the delicious Montepulciano Wino Nobile, to name a few!
Not all gelato in Tuscany is great gelato. To get the most-palate pleasing one, avoid gelaterias that serve hundreds of visitors every day. You will identify them from the mountaintop of gelato on display. These shops tend to focus on quantity rather than quality. Prefer Gelato Artigianale il Gelato Artigiano shops (it means they make the gelato they sell themselves using only fresh ingredients), and be prepared for a real treat!
Italians do not spend much time eating long breakfasts. They just grab a small pastry or brioche with coffee, and off they go. If you want to follow this type of lifestyle, make sure you check whether the coffee bar charges extra if you sit down and have your breakfast. By the way, coffee shops are labeled as BARS, so don’t think you can walk into a “bar” and order alcohol!
You can order an espresso or cappuccino anywhere around Tuscany, and they are usually quite cheap, too! Prices go up if you add flavourings, though. Those who love latte coffees should ask for a latte using this phrase “un caffe con latte” (a latte coffee). Simply throwing the word latte will get you nothing but a glass of milk!
Another point of consideration is that you generally can’t get a coffee and sit at a coffee shop for hours with your laptop and work. Italians use coffee shops to sip a small cup of coffee and leave. You CAN sit and chat with a friend (meaning, socialise), though. Just not work. For that reason, Wi-Fi coverage is quite lousy (if offered at all), especially in small shops/towns.
7. Lunches and dinners
A restaurant kitchen closes at around 3 pm, so lunch is served around 1 pm. If you miss that hour, you will have to search for a coffee shop to get a panini (ready-made delicacy). Or you can wait until 7 pm – 8 pm when dinner is ready. There is much more flexibility in regards to the hours you can have dinner as many restaurants open until midnight.
Note that some shops close for a “lunch break” (called pausa pranzo and riposo), especially in smaller towns, during midday (usually between 1 pm – 4 pm). This includes not only coffee shops but also hair salons, stores, clothes boutiques, and shops. What is more, most shops in Tuscany do not open on Sundays and Monday mornings.
The summer months in Tuscany are hot. So take this into account if you are planning to get around a lot. Ensure you bring lots of water with you and avoid spending the hottest hours sightseeing. Instead, you can visit a beautiful church or magnificent art museum during those hours.
Choosing a luxury Tuscany farmhouse or cottage will save you lots of the heat you will need to endure in the summertime. They are usually perched on top of hills and provide much-needed coolness. The only thing to ask is whether they are air-conditioned since some properties are not.
Have a lovely Tuscany experience!