It was a brisk December afternoon, my wife and I were sitting in the Piazza della Republica in Florence waiting to meet up with our friend Linda Sorgiovanni. You've heard Linda on the podcast before, she owns and operates Italy Customized with her business partner Alberto Bassilichi. However, our afternoon plans were to experience the other business they own and operate, Urban Adventures Florence.
We were excited because Linda was going to give us a sample of the Florence Foodies Walk. The walk, a two-and-a-half exploration of the city streets, where we found some hidden gems and experienced the following:
Truffles. Gelato. Chianti. Olive Oil. All the essentials of the Italian food pyramid were included on this Florence tour. Leave the diet at home and embrace the feast that is Florence.
A local, English speaking guide gives the tour, and for about 75-bucks, everything you eat and drink is included.
We were fortunate to have Linda give us a private walk, but it would have been amazing to have other people to share the experience with and get different reactions.
Our first stop was a new Antinori wine bar/restaurant that included a small museum. Besides giving the history of the Antinori family, the courtyard housed a replica "Crazy Cart," which could haul up to 2000 bottles of chianti.
The next stop was a short walk from the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. We went behind the scenes at Top Bakery, where the owners were making their world-famous Panettone. A sweet cake popular around the Christmas holiday. Close your eyes and imagine the most fabulous smell a bakery can produce. That's what we experienced at Top, and everything we tasted was just as delicious!
It was time to sit down, Linda had something special planned as we walked into Procacci, a wine bar. We stared with the most refreshing glass of Prosecco and followed it up with not one, but two truffle and butter sandwiches that were simply unforgettable!
Our final stop, Forno di Antonio Mattei. A quaint little shop where we sampled biscotti. Not only did we taste several varieties, but the shop documents the history of the family and the business that is still thriving today. We purchased our biscotti in the replica "hatbox" that was traditional before modern packaging.
We ended our tour at Linda's office to record this podcast. Enjoy! You will want to experience one of the Urban Adventures Florence tours. We want to save you some money doing so! When you book online, enter the promo code, TOTAL TUSCANY, and you will save 5% off the purchase price. If you love (or like) food, and wine, Urban Adventures Florence will give you the best day ever!
It was a bright sunny morning mid-December in Florence. My wife and I waited outside our hotel in Florence, about 400 yards from the Duomo. We were meeting our friend Anna Madaffari who operates Cool Tours.
Our plan for the morning was simple. We would walk to Caffe Gilli, have a cappuccino and a pastry, catch up with Anna whom we hadn't seen in a year. In the large crowds walking to and from the most famous landmark in Florence, emerged the spunky Italian with a smile a mile wide dressed in her traditional black. She was bundled up more than we were as the temperatures were cooler for her, but mild for us considering we were coming from winter in the Midwest.
"Buongiorno!" Anna lets out, followed by a peck on each cheek; she repeated the greeting for my wife.
"I am parked around the corner, let's get in the van," Anna said.
"But what about our morning plans?" I said.
"Oh, we will stop and get a coffee, but it's too nice of a day not to go for a drive and see something new," she said.
Anna introduced us to Nicola, who helps manage the estate and the three large but friendly dogs whom Nicola tries desperately to keep from escaping. While Anna made a couple of phone calls, Nicola took the time to give us a tour of the organic farm. The small cellar that houses what we are about to find out are some amazingly great tasting wines. Next, it was off to the tasting room for lunch and food. On the table were red, green, white, and black label wines. Each with its own unique taste that paired perfectly with our appetizers, pasta, and chocolate lava cake for dessert. My wife and I were seduced by the atmosphere, the smells, the tastes and purchased six bottles, two red labels, two white labels, and two black labeled bottles. They arrived at our home in Nebraska about three weeks later.
After about two and a half hours at I Balzini we climbed back into the van to head back to Florence. We made one more quick stop at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial. This is the final resting place for 4,398 Americans who helped liberate Italy in World War 2. It is one of two American cemeteries in Italy and a must-visit for any American.
We left the cemetery in the late afternoon as the sun was setting into the horizon. Anna maneuvered the streets of Florence and was able to find a parking spot on in the Oltrarno side of the Arno river. We walked to a tiny but upscale wine bar where we sat next to a large window overlooking the Arno. Anna ordered water, my wife and I ordered wine. It was like a dream, and I didn't want the day to end. So I counted down, 3, 2, 1, and started interviewing Anna with my portable recorder. The result, the 67th episode of the Total Tuscany Podcast which you can listen to by hitting the play button at the top of this page.
We talked about our perfect day together, her growing business, and what you can expect when you hire Anna to be your guide a day or even longer.
Anna is simply the best! If you are going to Tuscany, do yourself a favor and hire her. Your experience with this sweet, spunky Italian will most likely turn into the most memorable part of your trip. You will see Tuscany through her experienced eye and know the place better.
Happy Holidays! Stop looking for the perfect gift, do all your Christmas wins shopping at CSIWines.com! Our good buddy Anthony Frevelletti is back with us, and he tells us you can have some incredible wine from Tuscany under your tree by Christmas day!
Also, Anthony is super excited to share his thoughts on what he thinks was an incredible harvest for 2019, and what makes it unique, especially for the smaller producers in the Tuscany. If you have heard Anthony on our podcast before you know that he is uber passionate bout wine and he does not disappoint in this episode.
I sat at the kitchen table between my Italian boyfriend, Francesco, and his mom near the sink, trapped in an awkward place where her insults had to pass through me to get to him. All of the blood in her body had rushed into her face as she listed off the many reasons American women make terrible mothers. She lifted a saucepan in the air like she was about to bludgeon me with it, then turned and chucked it into the soapy water, sending a tidal wave of suds crashing onto the counter. When she turned her back to violently scrub the dishes, I snuck out the sliding glass door.
That’s a passage from the book “Naked In Italy”, a memoir by M.E. Evans detailing her not so fairytale adventure of living in Florence. Sure there were the rolling hills of the Val d'Orcia, cheap wine, and good looking Italian men. But as M.E. explains in the book and in this podcast, no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape life.
Our conversation with her is candid. She doesn’t hold back and her humor that is on display in the book comes out as quick wit on this podcast. If you love to laugh, if your cherish honesty, and if you love the roller coaster of life with Tuscany as the backdrop then you are going want to buy Naked In Italy today! You won’t want to put it down.
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Opera In The Kitchen Reviews
``This was an unforgettable experience - one of the highlights of our trip to Florence! Lucrezia is a lovely hostess and a very engaging cook/teacher. We had a wonderful group, enjoyed one of the best meals in Italy, and experienced unbelievable opera while overlooking the twinkling lights of the Tuscan countryside - complete with snow-capped mountains in the background. Highly recommend this experience and Lucrezia. We will definitely come again!``
Without a doubt, the most common question we get asked about from our family, friends, and clients is about wine. Everyone wants to know two things; how good is it, and can you recommend a vineyard tour?
The answers we always give are simple; the wine in Tuscany is fantastic! Also, we can recommend hundreds of vineyard tours.
You want to know makes the wine taste even better? The presentation and the person who is leading the tasting experience.
We first met Anthony Freveletti in October of 2018 as we were leading one of our Total Tuscany Experiences. Our first stop with our private guide, Anna Madafferi from Cool Tours was at this beautiful vineyard outside of Florence, Podere Dell'Anselmo. We were greeted by this American with an Italian last name and an accent that is a mix between Chicago, New York, and Italian. From the moment we stepped out of our van, Anthony was grinning from ear to ear an had a larger than life personality. What followed was the most passionate description of the soil, the vine, the grape, and the process of producing wine we have ever heard. We remember leaving the estate thinking that was the most exceptional wine we have ever tasted! Was it? Who knows, but Anthony sure made us feel like it was.
In today's world of unique travel of experiences, people are quick to rent a property on the internet sight unseen where reviews are manipulated, and pretty pictures don't tell the whole story.
When it comes to a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, or even Italy for that matter, why chance it? You shouldn't and why Parker Villas is the best when it comes to first-class rental properties and excellent customer service and satisfaction.
Parker Villas just added a new property in Tuscany. It's calledCatini Alto. Here's the description from the Parker Villas website:
Strategically situated midway between Florence and Pisa and rising 1000 feet above the famous thermal spa town of Montecatini Terme, Catini Alto offers an unforgettable medieval village experience, unparalleled Tuscan views and a host of luxurious, modern day comforts. Accessing Lucca, the Tuscan coast and the Cinque Terre is a breeze from this stylish townhouse.
Kathy McCabe is turning into the face of Italy in America. Her PBS show, Dream of Italy has skyrocketed in popularity, and her stories are inspiring thousands of people to follow their dreams of traveling to Italy.
On this episode of the Total Tuscany Podcast, Kathy joins us from where else, Tuscany! Cortona to be more specific as she is on a trip with her 81-year old father. However, she is also visiting Under The Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes. Kathy has a special Tuscan Sun episode of Dream of Italy coming out in August. Kathy and Frances have developed quite a friendship and have done several promotional events together leading up to the release of Mayes' new book; See You The Piazza.
Some of you may know, some of you may not. Dream of Italy is a business Kathy Started back in 2002. She was blogging before it was even a popular thing to do. She started and still publishes a subscription newsletter that was printed and mailed to subscribers. As her influence has grown and so has per business. Visit her website now, and you will find a host of offerings from travel planning, travel guides, and a newly launched podcast.
Kathy has no intention of slowing down, season three of Dream of Italy is right around the corner, and who knows may her dreams take her there to live full time, or part-time. Find out as by listening as Kathy gives an inside look at her dream of Italy!
What started as a simple website and blog telling you about the unique and chic in Florence, Italy, has now turned into a 200+ page book.
Nardia Plumridge has published the ultimate guide for the Renaissance City, "Lost In Florence." The travel book is a comprehensive dive to the very best places to eat, drink, shop and explore; so on your visit, you feel more like a local rather than a tourist. Nardia takes you behind the facade of the palazzi to a magical journey down the cobblestone side streets of Florence to discover vintage stores housing designer names, restaurants offering farm-to-table dishes and boutique hotels in 16th-century buildings.
Nardia was a guest on the Total Tuscany Podcast back in 2015. She's a journalist by trade; her passion is telling stories that inspire people to travel and search for the hidden games that are one-of-a-kind. Nadia has contributed to the New York Times and is considered the Tuscan expert for Expedia. The conversation we have with her on this podcast focuses on what went into writing the book, the best times to visit Tuscany and Florence, and where she plans to get "Lost In" next.
The book, "Lost in Florence" features five main sections; Wine, Dine,Fine Sublime and Nine, covering the very best in food and drink, fashion, cultural experiences and Nardia's top nine Florentine markets, Gelatarias, Pizzerias and more. Full day itineraries help you navigate the best of the city, and the day trip section to nearby Siena, Cinque Terre and the Chianti wine region allows you to make the most of your trip.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Nardia as much as you enjoy her book.
Hosting a podcast explicitly dedicated to Tuscany has many advantages. The one we like the most is the network of friends that we have made over these 59-episodes. We hope that when you listen to every episode that you feel you have created a bond of some sorts with our guests as well.
We have discovered that not one size fits all when it comes to travel. Some of you like to do your planning. Some of you are not that detailed and want everything mapped out down to the smallest detail. This service is where Italy Customized comes in and is here to help.
Linda has lived in Florence for the past 18-years; she has dual citizenship, Australian and Italian. Her credentials described on the Italy Customized website tell you she had cut her teeth in the travel and tourism industry.
Our interview covers a lot, like the strangest request Linda has gotten when putting a tour together. She also reveals her hidden gems. Those places off the beaten path that tend to go unnoticed by tourists because they are on the road(s) less traveled.
Linda is part of our network of friends. We share a common passion, a love for Italy and the desire to tell stories or create an experience that inspires you to travel, experience a different culture, and take in a part of the word that still seems it like it was centuries ago.
We would love to hear your stories! Email us your pictures, and where you are at and with your permission, we will share them on our social media channels. The more we share, the more we inspire. The more we inspire, the more we live!
Travis Justice & Pat Campagna have been traveling to Tuscany since 2009. They produce the Total Tuscany Podcast and all the content on this website.