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Your favorite "hidden treasure" in Tuscany & Florence?

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Sep 9th, 2009, 07:10 PM
  #1
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Your favorite "hidden treasure" in Tuscany & Florence?

Will be spending 2 weeks in Tuscany. Want the experience to be more than just the typical touristy fare. What do you recommend as a "must" for an authentically local experience for Tuscany overall & Florence specifically?
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Sep 9th, 2009, 07:30 PM
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You will receive better responses if you provide more info regarding you and your trip. When will it occur? What are your interests--food, wine, art, music, history, active, countryside or urban? I find the agricultural aspects of Tuscany compelling as a story but can't recommend it as a focus to everyone. Give us some details about how you will arrive and depart as well.
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Sep 9th, 2009, 07:47 PM
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Florence = tourists.

What part of Tuscany besides Florence? It's a big area so it would help to know what part you planned to visit.

You will find Italians and tourists at I Fratellini. They guy doing this video is a bit hokey.
http://www.webvisionitaly.com/catego...=&ref_item=200
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Sep 9th, 2009, 08:06 PM
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An authentically local experience is an odd request. To have an authentically local experience in my hometown, you might want to watch football on television.

In Tuscany, a lot of it would depend on the where, when, and how much. In Florence, next to impossible unless you want to purchase tripe.

I'm being a little snarky, but just a little. IMO it is impossible to go to heavily touristed areas and avoid the reasons that tourists are there in the first place.

The most authentic Tuscan experience I can think of is going to the IperCoop on an early Saturday evening. Utter hell but utterly authentic. I promise, NO tourists.

Tuscany is modern and industrialized. An authentic local experience isn't about olive presses any more than an authentic local American experience is about cattle ranching.

Wineries with tours and tastings are available, and you can find historic villas and gardens, and taste olive oil in the Mercato Centrale in Florence. There are enough churches and paintings and medieval and Renaissance art and architecture to fill a lifetime of visits. These are all activities that tourists enjoy.
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Sep 9th, 2009, 08:19 PM
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I will be in Italy for 2 weeks in May. I'm staying in a villa apt about 20 miles outside of Florence. I've been to Italy before as part of a very large travel group. Traveled north to south including Sicily in 10 days. Fell in love with all things Italian but knew I wanted to return and focus on Tuscany. On last trip I only spent 1 day in Florence and 1 day in Siena. I was overwhelmed by the history by the history surrounding me at every turn and somewhat shocked by the extent to which the history and art moved me. I love to cook so authentic cuisine is something I definitely want to experience...not just the food but the people also. The wine of the region is something else I want to experience. I guess I so want to experience it all that I really am curious as to what each person's favorite experience is. I would not have thought of agrIculture but who knows it might just turn out to be something I wouldn't want to miss! I don't anticipate spending the whole 2 weeks in Florence. I don't want to rush from one city to the next either. I'd like part of my experience to be experiencing the tranquility of tuscany. I think it is perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever seen! Hope this helps you know a little more about me and my interests. I can't wait to read your responses.
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Sep 9th, 2009, 08:26 PM
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LOL...Tuscanlifeedit, where I'm from, cattle ranching IS authentic local America! But I understand what you're saying.
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Sep 9th, 2009, 10:11 PM
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Our "hidden treasure" in Florence are the famous Last Supper frescoes there. It is amazing in a city full of tourists that there are some sites that still remain tranquil. Here is a Google map that shows our favorite fresco sites: http://bit.ly/CAOv6
Enjoy your trip, dabieh!
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Sep 9th, 2009, 11:35 PM
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The beautiful cities and landscapes of Tuscany attract millions of visitors each year. And I am always happy to be a part of that. But drive just two hours southwest of Florence and you'll find the little-explored coastal regions of Maremma, Promontario dell'Argentario, and the Tuscan archipelago, a quiet corner where Tuscany and Lazio meet the sea. These quaint seaside villages and quiet islands are a world away from the well-trodden paths of Chianti, San Gimignano and Florence.

Here you will find empty beaches, Etruscan ruins, ancient fishing villages, and Monte Argentario, a small limestone promontory linked to the mainland by strips of coastline called tomboli, formed by a build-up of sand. Within the embrace of the tomboli and the mainland is a lagoon which provides an important resting place for migratory birds.

It is a mystical, magical area, once inhabited by the Etruscans, where fast-moving clouds create ever-shifting patterns of light and shadow. The soil is dry and salty, the vegetation sparse, for the most part light woodland of Holm oaks, cork oaks, olive trees and the low scrub of the Mediterranean macchia.

In 1979, French artist Niki de Saint Phalle settled in the wooded hills near Garavicchio, which isn't far from Capalbio, where she spent almost twenty years creating gigantic metaphorical structures covered in glass, ceramics, enamels, all based on the iconography of Tarot. Many also serve as small buildings and pavilions, and she actually lived inside the Empress for a number of years. There is an Angel standing on a Dome. Inside the Dome is a chapel which is completely covered with a mosaic of mirrors. It is magical to sit in the Dome and watch the flow of reflections as people enter and leave. The artistry and craftsmanship are astonishing, spellbinding. Here are a few photos: http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p57611214.html
and http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p57611213.html
and http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p57611219.html

And look at this: http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p57611210.html It's the roof-top terrace of the Empress.

Thanks to Napoleon, most people have heard of Elba. Less well known is Giglio, also part of the Tuscan archipelago, a quiet summer island resort, mainly for Romans, a port for fishing boats, and a lovely day trip from Porto Santo Stefano for the rest of us. Here are some photos from Giglio, if you're interested: http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p51044145.html
and http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p51044146.html
and http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p57611229.html

And if you're not interested in straying that far off the beaten path, then go to Tirrenia, just a few kilometers west of Pisa, where there is a beautiful beach and interesting rocks to climb about on and a shop to buy a gelato. Then you can sit on the rocks with your sweetheart, just like the Italians do, and enjoy your gelato and watch the children playing and the amazing sunsets with Italian families and not an American or British accent to be heard. Look at this: http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/p6113089.html
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Sep 10th, 2009, 12:07 AM
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dabieh,

Your request is perfectly reasonable -- even intelligent! -- and you don't have to go very far at all to be out of the inauthentic, un-Italian aspects of Firenze (which even Italians avoid, and not because they all just watch football). It's lovely to see such a post on Fodor's, and don't let other tourists discourage you from venturing beyond their limited experiences.

Take a 20 minute train or bus trip to Pistoia, a small, walled Tuscan town just west of Firenze that has piles of first-rate and usual renaissance and art deco architecture and art, and if you see five tourists there, please come back and post your discovery. It has a lively town market for the town folk, charming and historic bars and several well-regarded informal restaurants, including Trattoria dell'Abbondanza, at Via dell'Abbondanza 10.

A five-minute train ride will take you to Prato, which were it not next door to Firenze, would be jammed with tourists gawking at its astonishing church art. Instead, it has piazze filled with locals and well-regarded restaurants and a few tourists who couldn't get rooms in Firenze in high season.

In Firenze itself, some savvy tourists of course make a bee line for Museo San Marco with its glorious, literally wall-to-wall Fra Angelicos, but not many stop across the piazza at old fashioned super-fancy Caffe San Marco to join the local ladies for a hot chocolate or coffee and some people watching while they rest their feet.

Before you go, you might get your hands on a regional bus map, looking at buses that begin in Firenze and fan out. Google up the names of the small towns you see, and click the "images" option on the Google results and look at the pictures. A town like Certaldo (or even smaller) might appeal:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=e...aqi=g1&start=0

Have a great trip!
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Sep 10th, 2009, 07:05 AM
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Thanks kybourbon. I Fratellini looks like something I will definitely try to find while in Florence. I don't want to avoid all the obviously tourist attractions (after all they are part of what draws me to the area), but I really want to balance those experiences with places that local Florentines frequent. The actual place I'm staying is in/near San Pancrazio...do you know anything about it or surrounding towns? Here's the website of the villa: http://villabaldasseroni.com/
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Sep 10th, 2009, 07:41 AM
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julia1,

Your photos are beautiful! I find Giglio in particular quite appealing. Obviously, you have traveled extensively through Italy. I enjoyed looking through a large portion of your photographs. I googled Maremma...amazing! Wish I were in Italy right now!

Thank you.
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Sep 10th, 2009, 08:16 AM
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zeppole,

Everything you shared is just what I'm looking for! The market in Pistoia sounds wonderful. I'd love to know more about it...I'll definitely be researching it more. Hot chocolate with the local ladies also sounds too good to pass up! I am confident we can "recognize" the famous sites in and around Florence, but it is the things we might easily overlook that I hoped to discover through this post. Thank you for sharing some of those with me.
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Sep 10th, 2009, 08:29 AM
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Be sure to visit San Galgano, the roofless 13th century abbey. Absolutely beautiful and very unusual. Although a tourist site, it is usually not crowded. When I have visited in May there were only a handful of people touring the site.

http://www.sangalgano.org/ENG/abbeyofsangalgano.htm
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Sep 10th, 2009, 09:54 AM
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Few hidden treasures:
Montevarchi, Poppi and Sansepolcro in Arezzo area.
Borgo San Lorenzo, Certaldo and Palazzuolo sul Senio in Florence area.
Then, I went last week on Wednesday in a beach town very delightful: Marina di Bibbona in Livorno area and had one of the best lunch of seafood of my life at the restaurant LA PINETA. Oh, my God, I will never forget it !
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Sep 10th, 2009, 05:07 PM
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Pienza-lovely little city with great gorganzola gnocchi, great views, wonderful rounds of cheese....
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Sep 10th, 2009, 05:10 PM
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read trip report on Tuscany walking tour
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Sep 10th, 2009, 06:33 PM
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bm
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Sep 10th, 2009, 06:34 PM
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dabieh,

I'll jump on the Maremma bandwagon! A few years ago we went to Scansano (southeast of Grosseto). It was truly wonderful in that we're-in-the-middle-of-nowhere kind of way. The area is beautiful, and the Italian Olympic equestrian team trains locally.

We stayed in a truly lovely place called Antico Casale di Scansano. Here's the website:
http://www.anticocasalediscansano.it/

Also, check them out on TripAdvisor and Karen Brown. Both high recommends.

We loved the remote feeling of the location, the character of the hotel, and the cooking lessons. Very fun, and something we decided to do on the spur of the moment on a rainy day. We still talk about that as one of our most fun and serendipitous traveling experiences. Other than the usual (great food, wonderful hosts, etc.) this area holds a special place in my heart for it's remote feeling. This is what I think of when you ask for "hidden treasure".

Enjoy!

LisaG
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Sep 10th, 2009, 07:02 PM
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Dabieh, I'm duly chastised and will try to be more helpful.

I suggest getting the Cadogan guide to Tuscany. It gives great details for areas that aren't on the beaten trail. sing the guide, we did a wonderful day's driving tour north from Lucca into the Grafagnana and Alpi Appuane.

http://www.welcometuscany.it/tuscany...garfagnana.htm

There are many interesting small towns and villages, high in the forested mountains. I had the best and cheapest lasagna just outside Vagli Sopra, after leaving Vagli Sotto. These were the wildest and most enchanting mountains and valleys, and totally unexpected. We traveled north from Barga by car.

Colonnata is the home of Lardo di Colonnata, developed for the men who would have to stay out for long days working in the quarries. Lardo is an acquired taste but a very authentic Tuscan food.

Isola Santa is isolated and partly ruined and deserted, but it is knock your socks off gorgeous. This area of Tuscany is truly unique and beautiful, as well as under visited. I suppose the many art treasures of the cities and towns to the south draw the crowds, but if you can make your way into these mountains, you will be rewarded.

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

Lucca is a great food city. Tuscan grain and beans feature in many dishes.

I love Arezzo, mentioned above. Vincenzoda also mentions Montevarchi and Sansepolcro, on the the Piero delle Francesca trail. The Arezzo antique market, on the first Sunday and preceding Saturday of the month, draws people from all over, but it a unique experience, and porchetta sandwiches are in abundance during market weekend.

I hope these ideas help.
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Sep 10th, 2009, 07:12 PM
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Since you like food and cooking, do go to the Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Enjoy the ground floor, which is a lot of fun, but go upstairs where the produce is sold. Tourists seldom come up the stairs and it is a fun experience. There is a vendor at the top of the main staircase that sells dried fruits and nuts. Among the offerings are small squares of dried coconut. They are irresistible and very Italian snacks.

Vinci is a cool little town and Leonardo museum is a must for those who are interested in his many accomplishments. My husband, who loves both art and science, loved this museum.

A very good cooking class, with transportation, taught by Tuscans in an incredible palazzo kitchen outside of Firenze is Good Tastes of Tuscany. Absolutely delightful couple teach the class, and the setting is magnificent.

http://www.tuscany-cooking-class.com/

Whatever you do, don't go to the IperCoop.
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