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Comparing Tuscany to Provence/Burgundy

Old Oct 28th, 2001, 09:08 AM
  #1  
Chris
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Comparing Tuscany to Provence/Burgundy

I know no two people have the same experience, but for what i't worth, I thought I may as well state my opinion for those of you unable to make up your minds. "Your results may vary".

We spent two weeks last year around Tuscany (Italy), and this year we spent 11 days in Provence and Burgundy (France).

Both places had attractive countryside (green, rolling hills, etc). Tuscany won out here, but only slightly (the cypress-trees, the farmhouses, etc). The small towns in both places were delightful (Les Baux in Provence and 'Beaune' in Burgundy; Cortona and Montepulciano in Tuscany) but again, Tuscany won out - Walking the streets of Cortona was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The larger towns in Provence were clearly less attractive; After seeing the 'palace des Papes', and the bridge in Avignon (spectacular), we wandered the streets to get the feel for the place. Our first impression was one of dog poo - everywhere you walked, you could smell it, and had to zig-zag around the sidewalks to avoid stepping in it. Homeless youth with dogs hung out in many doorways. Quite a disappointment. Arles was 'ok', but the roman ruins were somewhat poor - you paid your entrance fee, and walked around a few urine-stinking passageways. The main square was a charmer, but there were skate-boarders and soccer-players disturbing the peace.

But where Tuscany wins out, hands-down, is on two fronts - the food, and the people. I'm sure there are those who prefer French to Italian cuisine, but I'm not one of them. There is a much wider range of dishes on a typical Tuscan menu, and for me, they are all good! Nothing in France seemed to come close to a refreshing 'Caprese' to start (tomatoe, basil, balsamic vinegar). Every kind of pasta and sauce; and a range of main courses (we always had full-course meals in both places). Only the desserts in France were comparable, perhaps even better. After 4 days of French food, we were craving a change - and found it, luckily, in Dijon (a Cuban restaurant).

So to the people .... I'm not one of those who feels the French are rude. We did not have one bad experience with the French people. But - in Italy, we had 'exceptional' experiences; in every hotel, restaurant, shop, etc, we were positively welcomed; they went out of their way to explain, to help, to make us feel welcome. And just listening to the Italians talk - so animated, so lively.

So for me, I'm going back to Tuscany next year - possibly also to Umbria. My taste-buds are already popping with anticipation!

As for cities, though - Paris is the tops. While Rome has all the history, there is nothing to compare to Paris in terms of sheer beauty (I say that in case you think I'm just anti-France!).
 
Old Oct 28th, 2001, 10:12 AM
  #2  
Jen
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I'll bite...I spent a week in Tuscany (1997) and 2 weeks in Provence (1996 and 1999) and my preference is the exact opposite. Here's my take on it.

Countryside - for me, Provence is better. I found there to be unattractive buildings all over the Chianti region of Tuscany, esp. in the middle of an otherwise beautiful valley. In the Luberon region, you are not permitted to build a structure that does not conform to the scenery - Gordes is a perfect example of that.

OK - I'll give you that Arles isn't great at all. But what about St. Remy? or Rousillion? or Gordes? or Tarascon? Aix? The towns are lovely, with great architecture and vistas. As for the cleanliness of the streets - it's nothing you wouldn't find in Paris.

As for cuisine, Provence for me wins hands down...I'm surprised you feel that the food was so different - I've enjoyed excellent 'Mediterranean' (sp?)cuisine in Provence, inc. pastas that are to die for! Green olive ravioli in Maussane, a great little place in St. Remy that serves an amazing eggplant/pasta dish. My mouth is watering thinking of it. Even farther south you can find great paella...

I found people to be equally as friendly in both places..with people in Gordes directing us when we were lost, to an older couple in St. Remy that invited us in for wine tasting (that lasted for a while!) even though we realized we had disturbed their lunch.

So that's my opinion - for what it's worth. Good luck in Tuscany next year - do go to Umbria as I thought it to be much more interesting and scenic than Tuscany.
 
Old Oct 28th, 2001, 10:46 AM
  #3  
Liz Z.
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My experience was that I loved them both in different ways. I found the countryside of Tuscany more stunningly beautiful, and less "harsh" than that of Provence (though there were parts of Tuscany that looked like a moonscape in October). I thought the hill towns were absolutely charming, more so than the towns in Provence. On the other hand, I found the outdoor markets in Provence (full of fabulous textiles, herbs, faŰnce, olives, and cheeses) far more interesting than those in Tuscany, which seemed to be full of pajamas and underwear, with some leather thrown in (okay, there was that wonderful roast pork in Siena). And though both had some fabulous food, over all I preferred the food of Provence (e.g. bouillabaisse, tarte nišoise, a´oli). Although there was that wonderful truffled tagliatelli in Pienza...and Cano e Gatto in Siena....

As for the people, in both areas I found them to be perfectly friendly and helpful. That surprised me, because while I had already expereinced that the French were far more pleasant than their stereotype, I found the Italians not as effusivly warm as *their* stereotype! Which probably goes to show something, though I'm not sure what.

Liz
 
Old Oct 28th, 2001, 03:43 PM
  #4  
BOB THE NAVIGATOR
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I get that question often from people thinking about independent travel to Europe. For me the answer is easy. Tuscany is my choice for many of the reasons stated above.
 
Old Oct 29th, 2001, 07:39 AM
  #5  
canuck
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Liz kind of says it for me too. We spent a week in Provence and a week in Tuscany last year and then this year spent two weeks in Tuscany. We loved both! But we found the scenery in Tuscany more spectacular but found Provence to have interesting markets and towns. I brought home lovely pottery pieces from Provence - dishes, fabulous fabric but saved lots of money in Tuscany because we found the pottery more gaudish and rougher. I love food but the bread wins hands down in France for me. Italian olive oil though is to die for...it would be a tough call for me to make a choice if I had to...
 

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