Truffles in Tuscany, Italy.
Don’t think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian winter vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, and sometimes skiing and other winter sports. Italian winter holidays have several advantages: You won’t fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find, and every region has its own winter festivals. When we say winter, we mean November to February; spring comes early in Italy. Don’t look here for information about Italy’s marvelous Carnivale; we are planning a separate series covering regional Carnivale celebrations. Talk about planning; start organizing your Italian winter holidays now. Keep reading.
The Tuscany region of central Italy is famous for wine and food. Tuscany is proud of their white truffles, one of the tastiest and most expensive “mushrooms” in the world. On the second, third and fourth weekends November, why not visit La Sagra del Tartufo Bianco (Festival of the White Truffle) in the medieval hilltop town of San Miniato? Besides the food you can enjoy craft displays, theater performances, and marching bands. You may be able to get a room at the Convento di San Franceso, and have more money to spend on those delicious truffles. San Giovanni d'Asso, near Siena, hosts a truffle festival the second and third weekends of November and is home to a truffle museum open on weekends.
Talking about food, the thousand-year old town of Suvereto holds a ten-day wild boar festival in late November culminating a feast on or about December 8. They showcase other local products such as honey and olive oil. This festival includes historic reenactments, archery competitions and exhibitions, and other costumed medieval competitions. The traditional wines to accompany boar include Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalchino and Barolo from neighboring Piedmont.
Piazza Santa Croce, Florence, Italy.
Florence Noel starts at the end of November and runs through the first week of December. This family event includes children's activities such as visiting Babbo Natale (Father Christmas). Everyone will enjoy the chocolate, food, music, and nativity village. You’ll find Tuscan Christmas markets in Florence’s Piazza Santa Croce with a German touch, Siena, Lucca’s Piazza San Michele, Arezzo, Montepulciano, and Pisa.
Barga, a beautiful medieval hill town in northern Tuscany, holds a living nativity and Christmas pageant on December 23. Abbadia di San Salvatore, near Montalcino, celebrates the Fiaccole di Natale (Festival of Christmas Torches) on Christmas Eve with caroling and torchlight processions.
If you’re touring Tuscany in January don’t miss Il Palio di Sant'antonio Abate in Buti near Pisa held on the first Sunday after January 17. Festivities start with a procession of people wearing their neighborhood’s colors. The afternoon horse race pits local neighborhoods against each other. The winner receives the special banner known as the Palio.
The small town of Vernio hosts a Chestnut Polenta Festival at the end of February or the beginning of March called the Festa della Polenta o "Pulendina". It commemorates the 1512 famine, broken by the local count who gave the people chestnut polenta, cod, and herring. Don’t sleep in, at 9 a.m. there is a medieval pageant with over 500 participants along the town streets. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Tuscan wines including Chianti, Brunello di Montalchino, and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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Winter events, spectacles, and tourist attractions in Tuscany, Italy